Which One is Right for Your Business?

By: Peter Marsh, VP of Marketing, NEWSCYCLE Solutions


The very smart folks at Gartner predict that the global market for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is expected to top $37 billion by the end of 2017. The equally bright analysts at Forrester concur with this prediction and note that 55 percent of all businesses have implemented – or are in the process of implementing – a CRM solution.

These are interesting statistics from two highly respected industry research firms. However, what’s perhaps most surprising is the observation that over 40 percent of businesses report that they have replaced their original CRM systems and are currently running on their second or third generation CRM platform.

Why all this switching of CRM software? Is it price? Performance? Features and functionality? Supportability? All of the above?

For some companies in mature or highly-specialized industries, there is a growing realization that horizontal CRM solutions – such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM, Oracle and others – aren’t always great at supporting the specific business requirements of these vertical industries.

Big monolithic CRM programs like Salesforce and their ilk are typically packed with features. They offer a broad range of capabilities that can be used in industries as diverse as healthcare, shipping, manufacturing or consumer packaged goods, as well as – of course – media and publishing.

Such rich functionality often translates into higher price tags. Horizontal CRM solutions can also be quite costly to customize and maintain. User experience can be hampered by superfluous features. Users get bogged down with workflows that are not completely relevant to their businesses. And, managers get frustrated when users seem to spend more time “working in the CRM” than they do selling.

A recent CIO Magazine article predicts that the expense and complexity associated with horizontal CRMs will lead to a greater migration toward vertical CRM platforms. “The ‘verticalization’ of CRM solutions will be accelerated,” says CIO. “Companies are increasingly realizing that they could benefit from using industry-specific CRM solutions [with] built-in best practices and processes to provide a level of expertise that companies just don’t get with a generic CRM solution.”

As Carevoyance CEO Anatoly Geyfman observes in the CIO article, “Horizontal CRMs will start being replaced by industry-specific vertical CRMs that help you navigate the specific challenges of your industry.”

In a sweeping 2017 review of the CRM technology landscape, Forrester Research says, “Generic CRM solutions abound, but only vertical-specific CRMs delivers the industry-specific best practices, business model, and workflows that increase productivity, drive sales, and improve service.”

Forrester cites three reasons why vertical CRMs might be the best choice for businesses with specialized requirements:

  • Leveraging industry-specific best practices
  • Focusing technology management resources on innovation and differentiation
  • Decreasing time-to-value and ROI

What does this all mean for news media companies? Is our industry so specialized – especially as it pertains to advertising sales and customer account management – that a vertical CRM is better than a horizontal solution?

With the Newscycle Advertising platform, we have built an integrated CRM product that is part of our SalesLink application. Unlike Salesforce, Dynamics and others, SalesLink CRM is directly connected to the Newscycle Advertising / AdBase database. It’s vertical because SalesLink CRM is designed specifically to meet the requirements of the news media industry. It’s also vertical because it’s an integral part of the Newscycle Advertising system. The same customer database. The same billing system. The same application to manage customer relationships, contact lists, inventory views, sales history and orders. A single point of access to real-time information.

SalesLink is built with responsive design, which means the application automatically adapts to any screen size or orientation. As a result, it can be used on any device that supports a web browser. This responsive design applies to both ad order entry and CRM functionality for
managing print and digital orders.

SalesLink lets sales reps quickly accomplish tasks such as creating new customers, leads, tasks, events and opportunities. Events are created in SalesLink and sent to an email calendar, keeping sales reps in sync with their appointment schedules. Order history and billing information can be accessed immediately during customer meetings, and newly-signed contracts can be uploaded securely via standard internet connectivity.

With SalesLink CRM, the Newscycle Advertising system continues to be the database of record for managing customers and orders, as well as all booking, billing, reporting and analytics functions. SalesLink is the main user tool for sales reps, and integration with HubSpot will provide the link between marketing campaigns, opportunities and orders.

The Vertical v. Horizontal CRM Conundrum
SalesLink CRM is a vertical customer relationship management solution that is built-for-purpose to meet the very specific requirements of the news media industry. As a vertical CRM, it does not have the hundreds of functions, options, bells and whistles that are found in horizontal CRM system like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle or SugarCRM. That’s because horizontal CRMs are designed to handle the needs of many different industries, while vertical CRMs are built with industry-specific features, functionality and workflows in mind.

Which model is right for your business?

While no clear winner exists today, more and more Newscycle Advertising customers are going vertical and choosing SalesLink CRM. Here are some of the key reasons:

  • Ease of use for advertising salespeople
  • Simplified user operation (e.g. fewer extraneous features that are not relevant to news media)
  • Workflows that are instantly familiar to media ad departments
  • Real-time updates for accounts, ad orders and inventory data
  • Single point of access to critical customer information
  • Simplified administration (e.g. little or no synchronization required as with third-party CRMs)
  • Lower software licensing costs
  • Lower costs associated with software support and customization

There are also the longstanding relationships that Newscycle has with its advertising system customers, the strategic account plans already in place, and the established support and services network that provide industry-specific knowledge and best practices expertise for news media companies. And, of course, there is the “one throat to choke, one cheek to kiss” argument to be made in favor of dealing with a single vendor to manage and maintain the complete contact-to-cash advertising ecosystem.

While software companies like Salesforce, Microsoft and Oracle can boast amazingly detailed product roadmaps and massive support operations that would dwarf Newscycle and other vertical CRM providers, these operations are not entirely without flaws.

In the most recent Forrester Wave report on the top horizontal CRM providers, the Forrester analysts had this to say about Salesforce: “Customer references comment that the product is expensive and that the supplier has lost its personal touch as it has grown. Salesforce best suits organizations looking for a partner to help realize customer engagement transformation goals.”

The latest Gartner Magic Quadrant report on CRM found similar criticisms from Salesforce users: “Gartner found that customer references gave Salesforce the lowest score of all providers for perception of product value. They also gave Salesforce comparatively low scores for contract negotiations and pricing flexibility. Reference customers cited concerns about Salesforce’s relatively low capability in content management.”

For Microsoft Dynamics CRM, analysts caution that the system is supported by two different technology stacks. “Clients and prospects with significant customizations should be aware that Microsoft plans to migrate all Dynamics CRM Online services to Azure, but has not yet publicly committed to a cutover roadmap with firm migration dates,” Gartner said. Forrester Research adds that “Microsoft [Dynamics] is best suited for B2B companies that are committed to the Microsoft technology stack and leverage other Microsoft solutions.”

In addition to high costs and low customer references, industry analysts like Forrester and Gartner also found some of the most popular horizontal CRMs to be lacking when it comes to third-party integrations. For example, an in-depth June 2017 Computer Weekly article reviewing the pros and cons of CRM systems made this observation of the Oracle (formerly Siebel) CRM platform: “One of the criticisms raised by Forrester was that some customer references found integration between the various products was neither sufficiently broad nor deep. This was also mirrored by Gartner, which stated: ‘Oracle received comparatively low satisfaction scores from its reference customers for its systems integration partners. References noted issues with getting access to qualified implementers with the quality of product knowledge, and with the quality of the implementation work performed.’”

Conclusions and Next Steps
At $37 billion, the CRM market is one of the largest enterprise software categories in the world. When investing in CRM, the news media industry – like many industries – needs to decide between general-purpose and industry-specific solution providers.

For a growing number of Newscycle Advertising customers, the decision to implement SalesLink CRM reflects a preference for a solution that is built specifically for the needs of the media and publishing industry, and which is integrated with the main advertising database. Price, ease of use, and ongoing support are also reasons that Newscycle Advertising customers cite when talking about SalesLink CRM.

Perhaps most compelling is the argument that SalesLink CRM provides a single customer database and a direct point of access to real-time advertising and account information. This last value proposition is described succinctly by the CRM experts at Resultist Consulting: “A CRM helps tie the efforts of your sales, marketing, and account management teams together. By operating off one database, the team benefits from access to a shared intelligence that keeps everyone in your organization on the same page.”

On the same page, indeed … in print, online and on mobile.