Are Competitive Digs by CRM Companies Effective?
CRM Software Vendors Have a Long History of Trading Barbs for PR and Headlines
Oracle Open World was bill boarded by CRM pundit Esteban Kolsky as an event where Oracle would "trash every vendor in the universe and tell you why they rule." To that end, Larry Ellison wouldn't disappoint and in his Sunday keynote delivered an assortment of digs at a few software technology companies, but mostly toward Salesforce.com. The Oracle CEO claimed Salesforce.com wasn't really a cloud company, it was just a 10-year-old company that made software, but it wasn't a cloud company like Amazon. That statement was a head scratcher in a few ways. The cloud doesn't really work without cloud software and services, and Oracle bagging on a company because of the age of its underlying software foundation is ironic as the Cloud itself is only a decade old.
CRM software buyers and customers have witnessed a lot of sniping between CRM software companies, usually with Salesforce as the lightning rod. Probably in part because of their success, and in part as they were the original party crashers back to the days when they would try to spoil Siebel's annual user conferences - and other CRM software maker conferences as well. Salesforce's CEO Mark Benioff spoke today at Oracle's OpenWorld and dispensed a few zingers of his own – clearly reacting to the barbs tossed Salesforce's way on Sunday night ("We come in peace!") then lampooning Ellison's "the cloud in a box" hardware announcement. Like an awful lot of vendors, SugarCRM has also taken some shots at Salesforce at its event and even staged a mock counterprotest at Dreamforce last year. And the CRM conferences go on and on.
It's creative and all - "look, we're saying things that ends up in the media!" - but I think it's probably not the most mature or wisest behavior to engage in from a CRM, sales and reputation point of view.
Here's what I mean - in many cases, software competitors take shots at Salesforce or Oracle or SAP or Microsoft not because their products are bad - they do it because they have lots of customers. Oftentimes the point of the dig is that those customers are getting ripped off, or they're getting substandard technology, or they don't get the functionality they need or there's a better CRM software product available. Which may be true for some.
However, there are many more customers who are getting what they want, who went through systemic CRM software selection projects to decide the product they're using. Slamming their CRM choice is a bit of a slam at those customers. These public relations oriented digs may be fun to dish out, but they say little about why you're better, so they don't give users a real reason to switch. Instead, they suggest that you already have a low opinion of them. Why would a customer want to switch to a company that thinks they make uninformed choices?
This goes to a more disturbing issue in the CRM software market, which is a lot of CRM companies are actually pretty bad at the discipline of Customer Relationship Management. The relationship part goes far beyond just collecting and collating data; it's also about being a helpful and respectful partner in the community. If you're speaking with customers in mind, you don't lead with a slam against Microsoft or Oracle or SAP or Salesforce.com. You say, "here's something that would be helpful to do, and something our system uniquely delivers. And here's exactly how that will help you."
Then it's not about a vendor bashing, it's about solving problems by using CRM in new and more effective ways.
While the trading of barbs between CRM software vendors appeals to those inside in the industry, those are 'Inside Baseball' types who are immersed in the politics of the vendor versus vendor market battles. That's not customer-centric, or even useful. In fact, if you have a broader vision of business it can be detrimental. But talking trash gets headlines, and it seems to be fun for the talker - and who in the organization has the power to tell a Larry Ellison or Marc Benioff to knock it off?