(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
When I speak to people who are looking for a new customer relationship management system I always encourage them to focus more on the company, not just the product. Of course, the actual software is important. But thanks to the cloud, today’s mainstream software companies are watching each other closely and matching feature to feature with quick updates that can be timely released. Features are important. But what really sets a software product apart from its competitors is the company behind it.
How good is the CRM company? To answer that question, you have to consider a lot of factors. How many customers does the company have? What is its financial condition? How often is it introducing new capabilities? Who are the company’s leaders? It’s backers? And most importantly…how strong is the company’s community?
To get an idea of a CRM company’s community a prospective buyer should monitor their activities online, interview a few existing customers and maybe even consider attending a conference or two. But there’s one other thing that sets apart the grownups from the children: the strength of the company’s marketplace or as some call it, the app store.
Zendesk has learned this. A long time provider of a great cloud based service application, the company purchased CRM software Base in 2018 and is integrating it into its core offerings under the new name of Sell. Now this past week Zendesk announced that it is launching a “marketplace.”
Called the Marketplace for Sell, the new site is the home for third party developers, partners and other application providers to sell their wares, all which happen to integrate with Zendesk. You’ll find add-ons from popular email marketing services like MailChimp, marketing tools like HubSpot and accounting connectors for QuickBooks and Freshbooks, not to mention storage support for Dropbox and Google Drive.
“Zendesk obviously has a very large community of independent developers, hundreds of them, who are [developing apps for] our support product, and now we have another product that they can support,” Matt Price, SVP and general manager at Zendesk told Techcrunch. “The marketplace is…taking Sell from being a really great sales tool to being able to handle anything that you want to throw at it because it’s extensible through apps.”
The marketplace for Zendesk’s CRM app has a long way to go before it catches up with the more expansive community offerings from the likes of Salesforce, Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics and even accounting applications like QuickBooks and Xero.
But it’s an important start. And also very important not only for its existing customer base but for any future prospective user. That’s because good software companies have strong communities behind them. They realize that they can’t do it all and therefore partner with other good software companies to provide links to their applications. Today’s cloud based application tools make it easier for systems to speak to each other and other – like Zapier and Workato – are also readily available to connect applications where no third party product exists.
So how good is a CRM company? The answer is in its community. Which is why a marketplace – or an app store – is an important, if not fundamental consideration for any prospective customer comparing CRM solutions.