Buying CRM software is a pain in the ass. Each suite starts with a different premise. Most software firms have a single core expertise but pretend to know everything or claim it’s easy to bolt on automation tools or ERP software. Rarely do the day-to-day users get a voice in the choice.
Prospects confront a tsunami of techno-blab focused on features and functions, which rarely translates into a clear understanding of how this stuff will actually work to meet your practical business needs. And then there’s the money part.
The software costs X. You must spend Y to install it. Then caught up Z for training. Then there are costs for add-ons and upgrades. (This Total Cost of Ownership number often makes the high priced offer seem more affordable.) Usually, a team undertakes the search and makes the decision. A line executive or CFO type assesses strategic value. A CIO or IT guy looks under the hood. And a procurement or business affairs person negotiates the deal.
Until recently, the only source of help were consulting firms who evaluate, rank and display the relative positions and merits of competing software vendors. The problem with this is three fold. In some cases the evaluators are not technicians but journalists who can be manipulated by vendors. The evaluations are an amalgam of undocumented opinions with no way to evaluate their validity, weight or bias.
And the consultants are not independent like Consumer Reports. They sell the evaluations to vendors and to buyers. So there is a financial incentive not to slaughter anyone and a natural tendency to give everyone the equivalent of a “B.” Buyers are still left trying to figure out which one is the best.
Now Matt Gorniak, and fellow software sales refugees, thinks they can crowdsource software reviews to yield better, more genuine, more democratic and more practical insights to help buyers. A belief in word-of-mouth advertising led them to create G2crowd.com, a customer ratings site for software featuring 2000 software products in 200 categories, with a name reminiscent of the designation for military intelligence (hopefully skipping the oxymoron).
According to Matt, the average buyer asks, “How do I make a good decision among a set a complicated products with an endless array of claims?” His answer is to look at software the way you look at travel (TripAdvisor.com), restaurants (Zagat.com) or contractors (Judyslist.com) by relying on the wisdom of the crowd. Relying on multiple identified sources, you get unbiased software reviews that come at the products from a variety of perspectives. Reviews can be filtered by function, price and vendor. The stated goal is to fairly review software products away from the influence of vendor marketing.
Reviewers are vetted by being forced to sign up/in with their LinkedIn ID. Supposedly the sheer mass of users and the diverse points of view will give buyers enough insight, direction and intelligence to make the right decision. Importing a B2C technique into the high-ticket B2B universe, G2Crowd.com aspires to be the Yelp.com of software and knock off Gartner, Forrester and their competitors.
And while the freemium model sounds goofy, especially to someone like me who worked at SAP, its probably worth a try. G2 will try to make money by selling deeper, richer reviews and reports to more serious buyers. I’ll be watching to see what happens.