SugarCon09: Times - Bad, SugarCRM - Good; Customer Retention - Good

How to retain your customers in a recession isn't always obvious and certainly is never easy. But tools, strategies, techniques and tactics are there to do just that -and acquire customers in the bargain - even in a downturn.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

I've just spent the last two days at SugarCon09 - SugarCRM's national conference (duh!).  It was held at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, a decent place but one that clearly shows it old style grandeur - and age. Because I just got back from Mumbai (more on CRM and India next week - amazing), I missed the key first day but was there as a speaker in any case.  But I would be remiss in my duties as a.....an.....a....an...a....something if I didn't make a few cogent comments before I got to the gist of what this blog entry is all about.

SugarCRM Rocks On

There were friggin' 600 people at this event from mostly the small and midsized business world.  That's a roughly 50% increase over last year and yet, they maintained the same undiluted enthusiasm that I saw last year from the smaller crowd - a Sugar high only bigger.  SugarCRM really has devoted fans.   I like that. Who doesn't want to be loved? They sure are.

But what I found particularly noticeable was attendees chatter about the Sugar product - it wasn't as much the straightforward use of the CRM solution that got the chatter going - it was the use of the platform. After I spoke I had half dozen people come up  and talk to me about their use of the Sugar platform.  Not SugarCRM per sé.

Does this surprise me? Nope.  That's a trend that I think I'm seeing more and - CRM solution providers or enterprise applications providers increasingly becoming focused on their platforms. I've now seen it with SugarCRM, salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM,  NetSuite, and numerous others. Interesting it's the mega uber ginormous players like SAP and Oracle, both of whom have sorta platforms. - SAP has their Netweaver platform. Oracle's is a little more murky as a platform with AIA and Fusion - really incredibly sophisticated middleware that seems to take on some platform-like characteristics. But neither company is emphasizing the platform all that much. Its noticeable that its typically the SaaS providers who are talking platform-speak.  Though, take a note here, SugarCRM is delivery-agnostic. You can get it on premise or on demand. Your call.

Don't get me wrong. SugarCRM is still pushing their now socially-enabled (somewhat) and rock solid CRM solution. They are constantly improving the core features and functions and now, with version 5.2, adding social features and characteristics to the mix.  Its just that the platform buzz was there noticeably  - where last year it really wasn't, though Sugar paid a bit of public homage to it - I suspect because they saw what was coming.

The Model Changes at SugarCRM...To Be Continued

SugarCRM - at least according to what I heard (honestly?...that I overheard from both SugarCRM and partners) - is going through some business model changes - moving to the channel as the sales machine for the company - with what seems to be an exclusive emphasis on small and midsized business.  This may have been reported somewhere else - I don't know. I also don't have final confirmation and even if I did, its not world shaking - the recession is that.   Do I think it's a smart move to do what seems to be 100% channel sales and 100% small and midsized. I'm not sure yet.  Once I figure it out, I'll of course, shoot off my mouth as all New Yorkers are genetically encoded to do - and then I can continue my imitation of an analyst. (Eat your heart out, Darrell Hammond).  I'll keep you posted.

John Roberts Rocks Again!

But here's what I was really there to do.  I was there to see if John Roberts, the very, very cool CEO of SugarCRM blew rock music lyrics from his laryngal pipes this year at their boat party better than he did last year when the SugarCRM rockband played at their winery party.  As some of you who saw my SugarCRM report of last year, you saw what I thought then . Here's a picture of him rocking out last year. Unfortunately, this year I missed the party (I missed the boat, to state the obvious cliché), but because I was on a stage I had an opportunity to find out from the crowd through shows of hands - especially those who had heard him last year - if they felt he had improved.  Yes, I really did that.  John is confident enough and just outright egoless enough to handle that. AND as it worked out, the majority of those who had seen both singing engagements thought he was better in 2009 than 2008.

Kudos, dude.

Customer Retention In A Recession

Actually, though I was there to speak on Customer Retention During An Economic Downturn and I was in a really adrenal mood when I did. I was leaping off the stage and walking into the crowd - around 600 strong and throwing out what you see here as the core of practical advice on how to implement the tools, strategies, tactics and techniques for maintaining your customer base in this rapidly increasing recession. I'm hooking you up with the presentation.  If you want to read a good article on what I actually spoke about without going through the entire presentation, go here. Do me a favor either way, don't only comment on the good or bad quality of the presentation or the article. Let's use this to start working together to refine tips and strategies and identify tools that will help those who want to hang on to their customers do just that. Get the conversation rolling so we can all figure out how to handle this.

Here 'tis.

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