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As a founder of SugarCRM, I am often asked the question, “how do you compete against Salesforce?”  After all, they have great buzz in the marketplace.  And because of their position in the CRM space, we must beat them at some stage of the evaluation process every time we sign up a new customer.  How do we do it?

I usually answer this question by talking to the strengths of our product and our company.  SugarCRM customers choose us over Salesforce because of 1) our application design (customers LOVE our user experience and our focus on building for the individual end-user first and the manager second), 2) our technology flexibility (we integrate with EVERYTHING and deploy EVERYWHERE), and 3) our best-in-class customer loyalty (winning the PC Magazine Business Choice award for CRM two years in row says it all).

But there is a lot more to building a successful company than just a killer product and an avid customer following.  How we engage with our prospects and customers is critical to how we beat our competition.  Yeah, that’s called CRM and we live it everyday.

Our own CRM strategy at SugarCRM is the result of some very thoughtful planning.  This blog post will point you to the resources we used to build our brand and define the programs that educate our prospects to choosing Sugar and becoming successful SugarCRM customers.

Let’s be clear.  I am opening the kimono.  This is the secret sauce.  You’re getting a very real view into how we operate behind the scenes.  If you are the up-and-comer in your market and challenging your industry’s status quo, pay close attention.  This is our formula for challenging the status quo in the CRM industry.  You can follow this exact same formula and become the next challenger in your industry.

To begin with, competing against the big boys takes more than just inspiration and guts.  It takes a focused strategy on building a brand that your potential customers will pay attention to and that your existing customers will love.  Every next market leader starts off with no brand recognition and must compete against a category leader that dominates their market’s awareness.  How to do that?

In 2009, Adam Morgan wrote the book “Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders” which describes how small companies can effectively compete against the brand of large companies.  This is good stuff.  Marketing jujitsu at its best.  Building a brand takes a lot of work and this book details your roadmap to disrupting your industry.

Quick Start #1:  I thank Adam profusely for recognizing that most business leaders like me appreciate the Cliff Notes version of business books.  He published an excellent 9-page summary of his book that I recommend to every CEO and CMO.  Read it.  It will change your worldview on how to approach culture, innovation and brand development within your company.

Now to the next step.  You must turn this brand strategy into how your employees engage with your customers.  Creating a sales and marketing execution based on the Challenger Brand requires a different perspective than what is outlined in “Eating the Big Fish.”

In 2011, a consulting firm called the Customer Executive Board (CEB) wrote a book called “The Challenger Sale:  Taking Control of Customer Conversation.”  Building off of the Challenger Brand idea, but focused much more on how to engage with potential customers rather than the market as a whole, The Challenger Sale has become a “must read” book for start-ups across Silicon Valley.

Quick Start #2:  Here is an excellent blog post summarizing the Challenger Sale book into a short 10 minute read.  This is good stuff.  If you have worked with a SugarCRM sales rep, you will immediately recognize how we turn this theory into practice.

But isn’t there a missing piece?  Some smart guys wrote about building a Challenger Brand and executing on the Challenger Sale.  However, a bridge was needed between the brand and the sale.  That’s called marketing.  Translating brand strategies into marketing tactics that support sales execution requires a unified framework for your product marketing, demand generation, field marketing and all other components of your marketing execution. Most importantly, you need a crisp “challenger” message.

The Customer Executive Board created a very thoughtful Challenger Marketing framework that does just that.  It enables your marketing team to tell a disruption story to the market built around the storyline of “the world is changing, old is bad, new is good, we deliver new.”  Challenger Marketing is a rich framework with several key concepts and approaches for building a multi-faceted challenger marketing program within your company.  It takes some time to digest all of the concepts and build them into your content and delivery.  This is where you have to buckle down, pay attention and really think through how to implement these ideas.

Quick Start #3:  Our friends at CEB created an excellent 55 minute overview of Challenger Marketing  in this YouTube video.  Presented by Brent Adamson, customer brainiac, co-author of the Challenger Sales book and co-creator of the Challenger Marketing methodology, this gives your marketing team the details they need to turn concept into reality.  I have to tell you.  Wow.  Mind.  Blown.

Now that you’ve decided you want to “challenge the status quo”, what’s the status quo you want to challenge?  This is where my company, SugarCRM, comes in.

SugarCRM customers have chosen to differentiate themselves in their marketplace by embracing digital transformation to build a killer customer experience.  Don’t you want to win the PC Magazine Business Choice Award for your industry?  I bet you do.  This is where we help you map out your company’s customer journey and translate that into an easy-to-deploy set of business processes built in a killer app called Sugar.  Gotta love that name.  Puts a smile on my face every time.

Quick Start #4:  Learn how to look at your business through the lens of your customer, by reading this short ebook on how digital leaders use customer journey maps to guide business transformation.

There you go.  A four-step recipe for success. And I do wish you the best of success.  I believe there is no better satisfaction that taking on the big boys and beating them.

Want to carry on the conversation we started here? Connect with me on LinkedIn.  I look forward to meeting you.

I just returned from a jam-packed two days at the Gartner Application Strategies & Solutions Summit in Las Vegas. While there, I met with analysts, existing SugarCRM customers, and a lot of prospects and IT leaders looking for the next “big thing” in application software.

gartnerimage002After dozens of great conversations, it is exciting to know that the IT and line of business leaders who attended are driving change in their organizations – mainly around the customer experience. And, perhaps more important, they are doing so in ways that align perfectly with the vision we have here at SugarCRM.

Here are some key takeaways I brought back from the event. I think they are pretty telling about the state of the industry and where we need to be as solution providers for businesses of all sizes looking to reinvent the ways they interact and build customer relationships:

Disruption is a serious issues for nearly ALL industries. I spoke with (and spoke to during my breakout session) individuals from all types of industries – both old, establish firms and even some startups. They ALL said they feel disruption BOTH from digital native upstarts as well as see the changing demands of the customer as disruptive forces.

Transformation over Migration/Modernization. I LOVED hearing that those with older technologies performing CRM functions were looking to go broader and truly transform their cultures and engagement strategies, and NOT simply put in more up to date systems. Right now is a time for transformation, not migration.

You gotta have a platform to win. In nearly every conversation we had with those managing a transformation, or even a broad CRM initiative – they indicated the need for a process-driven platform at the heart of the project. We built the Sugar platform, and embedded advanced workflow, with these types of projects in mind.

CX and CRM are Merging. Well, maybe to be more accurate, as one Gartner analysts described to me – “CRM is becoming a subset of CX.” Meaning, all businesses need some sort of core CRM tool, which can be a foundational system to power broader, more inclusive, end-to-end and omni-channel CX initiatives. I think the attendees are still bewildered around how to create a wholly inclusive CX strategy, but we as an industry need to be experts and be there to help guide them.

Value Matters, Always. We had hundreds of people coming by our booth at the conference and one overarching theme was that a lot of companies simply do not feel they are receiving value for the biggest and entrenched enterprise CRM players. We had a lot of productive conversations about how to drive value inside a CRM/CX initiative – and as more CIOs and business leaders are pressed to do more with less, we will continue to strive to be a leading value-oriented provider for all types of businesses.

Ultimately, it is comforting, energizing and exciting that we have built up a portfolio of offerings and solutions that align well with the needs and visions today’s business leaders see as necessary to remain successful in their respective markets. Thanks to all of the attendees and analysts with whom I had the pleasure of speaking to at the event. It was an awesome few days of learning and sharing ideas!

SugarCRM is thrilled to report that our submission to the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework has been accepted. We are now certified.

First some background: the “EU-US Privacy Shield Framework,” was introduced earlier this year to succeed the now-invalid Safe Harbor agreement, which had been in place for decades. The Safe Harbor agreement allowed transfer of personal data from the European Union to the United States. Safe Harbor was invalidated by the European Court of Justice in October 2015 because of the perceived risk of US government spying on EU data.

The new arrangement, worked out earlier this year, imposes a range of new safeguards for transferring personal data from the European Union to the US:privacy-shield

  • US companies wishing to import personal data from Europe will need to commit to robust obligations on how personal data is processed and individual rights are guaranteed.
  • The US has given the EU assurances that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight.
  • There will be a dedicated new Ombudsperson role in the US State Department to address complaints from European privacy regulators on behalf of individuals.

What does this mean for SugarCRM and our customers? SugarCRM has committed to applying the Privacy Shield’s principles and safeguards to EU-U.S. transfers of personal data. No action is required on our customers’ part to benefit from the protection of this framework.

The official Privacy Shield Website where you can find SugarCRM’s listing is here: https://www.privacyshield.gov/list

(Editor’s Note: the following is a guest blog post from Rachel Brink, the marketing manager at 3CLogic. It originally appeared on the SugarCRM Community)

customer-serviceFor most of today’s consumers, customer service plays a larger role in purchasing decisions than both price and product. And this fundamental shift has led many businesses to invest more resources in innovations that enhance the customer experience, including CRMs, Marketing Automation platforms, and contact center software. But despite an increased focus, there continues to exist a large gap—while 80% of businesses think they are delivering a superior customer experience, only 8% of consumers agree. How can organizations make better use of their data management and customer engagement solutions to streamline and automate customer service processes, and boost customer satisfaction?

 

1- Help customers help themselves

customer-service-channelsConsumers are increasingly gravitating towards self-service channels to resolve their problems and inquiries—in fact, self-service recently exceeded phone as the most used customer service touch point. Sugar Enterprise and Sugar Ultimate each offer a self-help portal, enabling customers to create cases, upload notes, track case statuses, manage subscriptions, and update account information. They also offer a searchable knowledge base where customers can find FAQs, troubleshooting guides, and product updates. Platforms such as 3CLogic’s contact center software also offer the ability to enable self-service via IVR menus—all of which will help decrease support costs, and boost customer satisfaction.

2 – Leverage client data to optimize queue management and call routing

While every customer is important, certain instances may require the need to prioritize specific incoming calls due to the client’s size, the urgency of their need, or their status (i.e. Premier Customer, etc.). When integrated with Sugar, 3CLogic’s contact center solution can automatically prioritize calls in the queue based on the clients’ information stored in Sugar records. It can also intelligently route calls to the individual best suited to address them based on a number of factors, including language, who the customer has worked with in the past, and the complexity of the case/agent skill level.

3 – Offer users immediate access to client records and cases

3clogic-sugar-integrationWhen assessing why certain cases were not resolved on the first call, customer service managers have found that more than half the time, it is due to the agent’s inability to quickly access customer information. But by leveraging Sugar in combination with a cloud communications platform, help desks can automatically populate agent screens with each client’s record and open cases upon every incoming call, facilitating fast and seamless customer support. Users will also have access to click-to-call functionality within each customer record or case for enhanced efficiencies.

4 – Automate the recording and documentation of callscrm-call-data

Less than ten percent of interactions are entered into the typical CRM, largely due to the fact that it is an extremely time consuming and manual process. And this lack of interaction data can inhibit service rep and managers’ ability to adequately understand previous as well as existing client issues. But by using a solution such as 3CLogic’s telephony platform, businesses can automatically save all call recordings and call details within each Sugar record or case, enabling reps and supervisors to better understand each customer’s service history. Call recordings can also be used by managers for coaching, and quality and training purposes.

5 – Measure, measure, measure

The only way to truly understand how your customer service team is performing, how satisfied your customers are, and what product or process changes need to be made, is by properly documenting all case information, interaction details, and customer feedback. Thanks to Sugar, this is quite easy to do using its reporting Module, offering actionable business intelligence including support team responsiveness, customer satisfaction scores, and incident frequency. Combined with call center data, managers can gain a better understanding of their team’s efficiency and where improvements should be made to cut down support costs and improve CSAT scores.

 

Is your organization using Sugar to automate sales, marketing, support, or in some other unique way? Have you gained benefit from the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the Sugar platform?

Then it’s time for your voice to be heard.

pi

Gartner’s Peer Insights is an innovative new concept from the analysis firm. Rather than have potential decision-makers hear only from analysts, who may or may not have hands-on experience with the software they recommend, Peer Insights gives potential buyers first hand analysis from actual users.

These reviews, combined with other steps in the evaluation process, can better equip IT and line of business decision-makers with the tools they need to best address their CRM initiatives.

Want your voice heard? Simply provide a review by clicking HERE.

We look forward to reading your thoughtful reviews!

Last week, SugarCRM hosted more than 1,200 attendees at SugarCon, its annual conference for customers and partners. The SugarCon 2016 theme was “Transform Relationships” as we gathered to talk about how industry after industry is being disrupted by ridiculously fast evolution of technology – and what that means for the customer experience.  

It was a great week, with more than 35 breakout sessions from SugarCRM customers and partners, a fabulous list of main stage keynotes, and demos that wowed the crowd.

SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin kicked off the show by outlining a four-part strategy for companies to adjust their operations to thrive during the era of digital transformation. Clint Oram, SugarCRM’s co-founder and CMO, followed with a demo of the some of the new capabilities that are coming to the Sugar Platform and mobile app.

SugarSRM SugarCon 2016 in San Francisco, California, Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (Photo by Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

 

Dr. Catriona Wallace and Rich Green, SugarCRM’s chief product officer, provided some serious brain power on the second day of keynotes. They dazzled the audience with details about how the rise of platforms as replacements for individual applications, machine learning, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and predictive analytics are the key technologies that will shape the future of CRM. Rich introduced the crowd to SugarCRM’s new Sugar Intelligence product line and “Candace” our future intelligent assistant.

Catriona pic

Announcements that we made during the show included:

  • Sugar is now available on IBM Cloud in a single tenant, dedicated private cloud environment. SugarCRM has extended its relationship with one of its closest partners. Organizations now have more flexibility and control over their CRM data with new IBM Cloud deployment options, including bare metal servers, OpenStack-managed clouds and virtualized, multi-tenant cloud services.
  • SugarCRM’s vision for Intelligent CRM begins with the Sugar Intelligence Service™. The new service, currently in development by SugarCRM, combines data from best-in-class external sources with internal data to provide a more comprehensive view of the customer. Further, the Sugar Intelligence Service adds predictive analytics capabilities to make intelligent recommendations for next best actions in customer interactions.
  • A sneak peek at “Candace,” an intelligent agent that guides and assists users in interactions with customers, helping them plan meetings, build deeper connections, recommend best actions, and respond to breaking developments as relationships evolve.
  • A new advanced plugin for Sugar — the Customer Journey Plugin from Addoptify. This new enterprise solution helps SugarCRM customers unite best-practice CRM with their customers’ decision journeys. This infuses the customer’s entire decision process with internal efficiency to streamline processes, boost sales performance and strengthen customer engagement across all departments.

Thanks to all who attended and shared the week with us. Videos of the keynotes will be available shortly for you to (re)watch. In the meantime, please save the date for SugarCon 2017.

SugarCon2017-SavetheDate

We have just returned from a bit of a whirlwind week of events: the trio of CRM Evolution/SpeechTek/Customer Service Experience shows in Washington D.C. and thecrossrdGartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit in London. Throughout the week, we heard a LOT of insightful and innovative ideas from analysts, practitioners and other industry experts around the present and future of customer engagement and customer relationship management in general.

One item that stuck out in my mind was Gartner analyst Ed Thompson’s keynote, which focused on the “defining moments” that shape our personal lives as well as the world around us. Note, these are very different than “moments of truth,” those small, but far more frequent interaction points that can make or break your relationships with customers. Defining moments, as Thompson explains, are far more infrequent, think of a major breakthrough such as the market availability of the first digital camera (or even the first camera phone), and have far more profound and lasting impacts.

These moments affect not just the way individuals see the world, but also shape the way businesses (and really, the world in general) operate.

When I look at the industry in which SugarCRM operates, that of front office software, it is easy to see several defining moments. These monumental shifts have been both in the way the customer relationship has evolved, and also about the nature of the technology we create and use in business. And of course, these two are inextricably linked.

A few examples of defining moments that have shaped CRM: the introduction of email into the customer relationship, the emergence of SaaS delivery of apps (and the eventual evolution into cloud software), the iPhone making mobile CRM apps a must-have, Facebook and Twitter becoming de-facto customer conversation channels, etc.

Looking at these defining moments, a few observations become clear. One, the pace and breadth of defining moments in our world is increasing, due mainly to the insanely rapid pace of technology innovation. Second, those that refuse or simply fail to take advantage of the changes pushed forward from these moments do so at their own peril.

We talk a lot about “disruption” and “digital transformation” – but in the light of defining moments these should not be considered single “projects” or a one-time transformation endeavor. Rather, the pace of innovation and the onslaught of more customer channels, data points, and expectations means that businesses must be in a constant state of development, with total openness to change. Sure, change is hard, but you need to aggressively embrace new business models.

One great example is SugarCRM customer CitySprint (who just happened to co-present their transformation story on stage at the Gartner event). While CitySprint is a leader in its space as a last mile delivery and logistics provider in the UK, they saw the disruption curve coming – from new digital technologies like Uber, Amazon Prime, etc. Rather than risk getting left behind, CitySprint is incubating its own startup to shift its business from simple delivery into providing technology, solutions and tools for businesses across the UK to create more effective customer experiences. (CitySprint will be telling more about this story at SugarCon in June FYI.)

So, no matter what your industry, one thing is clear: disruption is coming in some form or another. And, it is going to keep coming. Those who embrace the pace of change and respond accordingly will win. Those who do not will face steeper and steeper uphill climbs in an increasingly competitive marketplace. On which side of this equation would you rather be?