With so many big name vendors dominating the news, it would be understandable to wonder, “is there any room left for new CRM startups?”
With industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle, and others in the game, how would a new company even get off the ground?
Yet, despite the dominance of these larger companies, new CRM vendors pop up all the time.
So, how do new vendors gain a foothold in this crowded field? Typically, they establish a niche and gain traction by doing one or more of the following:
- They develop a new feature or feature set
- They develop a new way to use existing features
- They target a specific need for specific industries
- They target users who don’t want or need what the major vendors offer
Any or all of these can help make a new vendor competitive. Below, we’ll take a look at some newer entrants into the CRM arena, and examine some of the things they’re doing differently.
Claim to Fame: Provides free online tools to attract customers to its inbound marketing platform.
HubSpot is certainly not a new company. They’ve been one of the leading Marketing Automation platforms for most of the past decade. They have a large, loyal following that depends on their automation features. Now they’ve announced their intention to start offering a CRM solution.
This is somewhat backwards, when compared to industry norms. Usually, a CRM vendor adds Marketing Automation features, not the other way around. Yet, HubSpot has built a rabid following with their robust Marketing Automation platform. Adding CRM makes perfect sense, and could really appeal to their existing customer base.
Claim to Fame: Attracts small businesses with a fully featured, yet low-cost, CRM solution.
Although not quite five years old, Nimble has managed to find a comfortable niche in the CRM landscape. They do this by bringing together the many channels used to communicate with customers. Whether it’s email, calendars, contact managers, social media, or other channels, Nimble strives to combine communications into a single platform.
Created by GoldMine founder Jon Ferrara, Nimble takes all social communication channels, combines them into a single platform, and automatically links them to business contacts. While every major CRM vendor is currently building out their social media functionality, Nimble was created around those functionalities five years ago.
Claim to Fame: Integrates with a wide variety of apps already in use by small businesses, making it an attractive addition.
Another relative newcomer to the CRM market, Insightly has just recently turned five years old. They’ve carved out a place for themselves by offering a powerful CRM platform targeted toward small businesses. With a free basic version, and an affordable premium version, Insightly has great appeal for small businesses that don’t have a lot to spend on CRM.
For even greater appeal, Insightly integrates with a wide variety of software and applications used by small businesses. Google Apps, Office 365, social media sites, and more can all be directly integrated with Insightly. For small businesses that need a lot of features for a low price, Insightly is a very tempting product.
Claim to Fame: Provides a simplified CRM platform with a short learning curve–great for busy offices that don’t have a lot of time for training.
ProsperWorks is the newest of this bunch, having just launched from beta a few weeks ago. It’s impossible to gauge their long-term success at this point, but they do have an interesting approach to CRM. ProsperWorks has partnered with Google to create seamless integration with apps like Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and more.
The premise of ProsperWorks is simplicity. They’ve boiled CRM down to what a small business needs, without all the bells and whistles of an enterprise solution. Bells and whistles can be nice, but they can also be cumbersome. ProsperWorks is specifically targeting businesses that need a basic, easy to use CRM solution that delivers results.
Claim to Fame: Connects Salesforce with other popular business apps and software.
Ok, you got us. Cirrus isn’t technically a CRM vendor, large or small. However, as long as we’re talking about small companies gaining traction in the CRM market, Cirrus deserves an honorable mention. They’ve managed to touch on all four ways to create a niche; new feature sets, new ways to use existing features, targeting specific needs, and targeting specific users.
Cirrus provides a connector that integrates Salesforce with business apps and software. This connector allows users to update Salesforce information directly from Gmail and Office 365, or vice versa. Users are able to do more from the platforms they’re already using, without having to switch back and forth.
No CRM vendor wants to give up market share willingly. For a new CRM vendor to make it, they need to create their own space in the market. They can do this either by pulling customers away from other vendors, by pulling new customers into the market, or a combination of both.
These companies have identified the needs of a target market, and positioned themselves to fill those needs better than other vendors. They offer the features that are important to their target markets, while keeping their overall platforms affordable and manageable. While they may not be a threat to the major vendors, they’re not threatened by them, either.