OK, well I haven’t done a grind the axe blog for a while so here I go J
With the launch of the latest version of MSCRM one of the things we were most excited about was the Dynamics Marketplace – finally a solution from Microsoft that let us stick to being a professional services firm, but give us an outlet for some of the cool stuff we build. We see too many partners fall into the trap of being really good professional service firms…..they build something really neat……decide the world will jump up and down to buy whatever they built……launch a product and find themselves in a world of hurt. As soon as you put it out there you find out why being an ISV is a completely different business model and all the differences. Don’t get me wrong we love some of the stuff ISV’s put out, but they typically don’t make good VAR’s and instead build out a channel of partners selling their stuff.
So where does that leave us – the good old fashioned VAR?? Until now between a rock and a hard place! In the past we would build something cool – write a blog about it and maybe even promote it a bit. This is great for showing we know our stuff and it was always a great way to win deals and differentiate ourselves from the masses, but then the calls and emails start…..”hey saw your blog and we would like to sell that for you”….”hey can we have that for our customer”….”hey how are you pricing that and what does unlimited support cost”…..you get the idea – it gets messy real quick. In steps Microsoft and they setup a great store front called Marketplace – we think this will solve our problems, but after digging a little bit we decided we needed to take it a step further.
So what was it lacking in our opinion – that true “App Store” experience. Folks started putting all sorts of stuff out there – we did it too – but after talking with our customers what they really wanted was the same experience they have on their phone. They wanted a place to come and search of an “app” and give it a try with no string attached (no sales reps hounding them – no giving up the first child to get a demo – no upsells – no time investment). We stepped back and scratched our proverbial heads and said what’s missing here – how can we make this as close to phone experience as possible and not try to be something we aren’t? Microsoft gave us the storefront….people can search for stuff….I guess we need to pick it up from there and take it the last mile.
So the awesome PowerObjects team went to work doing what we do best and said let’s solve this with the technology we love best …. .NET and MSCRM! We created what we call internally the “Click-Try-Subscribe” experience. Sounds cool Joe but what the heck is that? Thanks for asking J …… this was the start of the line we drew in the sand that said anything we develop need to be able to:
1. Run in any deployment type for MSCRM (on-prem / Online / partner hosted)
2. Import as a managed solution
3. Be configurable by a non-developer (yes your average JoeCRM) right from the solution
4. Have a 30 day trial always
5. Allow people to subscribe to the solution without talking to anyone
Sounds easy…ya right…well I can say I think we have made it pretty close. The caveat here is that we think people want “Apps” not full point solutions – meaning they have something great (like their phone – WP7 phone of course) and want enhancements that make it better. So would this work if you had a solution to make CRM a custom system for people selling and doing oil-changes….probably not….that would take more than an installation – might get you close, but John’s oil emporium will probably have a slightly different process than Joe’s, gonna take a little consulting to get it finished. So I might advertise a template that configures the system for oil-shops, but it wouldn’t pass our 5 guiding principles above so not something PowerObjects would put in a Marketplace.
So what does work??? We think usability enhancements / Apps / Add-on’s are the ticket….these make a great system even better. At PowerObjects what we look for are the little things that people ask for over and over…..some we take a little farther, but for the most part in each add-on you can say “that makes this even better” As an example here is what we currently have out there:
PowerGlobalSearch – Best single page cross entity search tool out there
PowerFind – Great tool if you are just searching for people in the system
PowerSurvey – Complete tool for doing cloud surveys and collecting the data back in MSCRM
PowerPhoto – Fun enhancement for adding pictures to entities with drag and drop
PowerMailChimp – Full integration with MailChimp for you monkeys out there – yes we are close and no I can’t give you the date J
PowerWebClick – A marketing dream for knowing who is doing what
PowerBarCode – Generate and add barcodes to emails (yes we get requests for this)
Power??? – many more to come
The next thing we thought about was pricing – talk about a sticky conversation! Where did we end up….well we started with looking at the pricing for CRM Online = $44/user/month, so unless we are bringing more to the table than Microsoft we needed to be priced significantly below that. I mean really – when the software is that inexpensive what can we do other than a complete custom implementation that will come close to adding the value that the underlying systems brings to the table? So with that thought we have gone ahead and priced everything we offer at $1-$2 per user per month. (please no Dollar Store jokes) Seems simple enough, but at this price point we need something that is pretty hands off and doesn’t take man-hours to implement. So in each of our solution we give people the ability to register for a trial or go ahead and subscribe – all from within their CRM system. Each of our add-ons has a configuration screen – this gives you tabs to customize reading panes, set system parameters, and enter your information to try this out. Hit submit….talk to the “cloud”….. and wham you have a 30 day trial. At the end of the 30 days you can decide if it adds enough value to pay the buck a month – if not delete the solution file and it’s all cleaned up. BTW – you don’t need to enter CC info in trial mode – only if you want to subscribe!
So know you know how PowerObjects feels about a Marketplace experience – let us know what you think. As always the CRM Experts at PowerObjects are here to help with the complex stuff, but if you just want to give your CRM system a little more sizzle give one of our PowerPack add-ons a try.