March 30th, 2009 by Marshall Lager, contributor, CRM magazine

Maybe not news, exactly—I’d be posting it on destinationCRM if these were properly-written news articles—but recent developments that deserve a little cheerleading. Three items have crossed my desk recently, and I wanted to be sure to share them. All three deal with information sharing of one sort or another, each from a different perspective.

Thing One: the (mostly) internal perspective. ShareMethods has a new product called ShareSpaces, a sales and marketing collaboration environment. Beyond keeping salespeople and marketers on the same page with customer opportunities, ShareSpaces has contract management and partner tools as well. Examples I saw included contract collaboration (complete with electronic signature), agency collaboration for developing creative, and branded partner space that looked like more than just a portal. It takes inspiration from social networking and makes it work for content management—no mean feat.

Thing Two: the (mostly) external perspective. Sendside is launching Sendside Packages, what it calls a “customer communications portal” that improves on email’s ability to engage and convert prospects. It doesn’t replace email—in fact, one delivery method is through email—but makes content delivered that way do more. Sendside Packages embed live documents within an email without requiring the recipient to download anything, or go to an external portal. Delivering content this way appears to open up the possibilities for discussion, real back-and-forth, on matters at hand. The format allows much greater security, as the sender can choose what parts can be printed or forwarded by the recipient. It also allows better use of analytics, because each part of a package can be tracked separately and delivered to the right people—salespeople instead of marketers, for examples.

Thing Three: the community. Just announced today, Sage North America has launched the Sage SalesLogix Online Community, serving Sage’s customers, partners, employees, developers, and pretty much anybody with an interest in CRM. It’s analogous to Sage’s Act! online community, which has received no small amount of praise. David van Toor and other Sage execs will be participating, so we can expect some life in this one as well.

Each announcement takes a different road to a central concept: One-way, blind broadcasts of business information becoming less and less valid. If you don’t know what’s happening at the other end, and don’t have a way to encourage use, reuse, and discussion about what you’re offering, you may as well not send it in the first place. The tools mentioned above are just that—tools—but they let clever and creative people find new ways to exchange ideas, and maybe generate some revenue. What could be bad?

It could be that I’m seeing these announcements through rose-colored glasses. I don’t deny that anything that opens up communications possibilities makes my business-journalist side smile. But ShareMethods and Sendside both briefed me recently, and each meeting provided an “Aaahh…” moment when I had the sense that they got what I’m on about. Also, Sage has had considerable success with its Act! community so far, and creating one for SalesLogix—a more complex and robust system, reflecting its lower-midmarket customer base—will only make that product more attractive. Plus, whenever Mr. van Toor gets into the conversation, it will move in interesting and sometimes visionary directions.

As part of Sendside’s team I appreciate the mention Marshal. When Packages is released I’ll be sure to stop by and leave a personalized one here in you comments. (That sounds a little odd.)

Comment by Jeff Barson — — April 3, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

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