For those familiar with it, ACT! -- the contact management application from Best Software -- conjures up the picture of a remote salesperson, perhaps working at home, trying to keep track of leads and phone calls. That picture is accurate, according to ACT! division general manager Greg Head. But Head told CRM Buyer Magazine that the application increasingly can be found on the PCs of corporate employees in large enterprises, too -- and not all of them are salespeople.
"The reality is that a large portion of our customer base -- somewhere just under half -- is comprised of not salespeople but others with a relationship focus, such as PR people, CPAs, accounts receivable staffers," he said.
In the Back Door
How does Head think that such a relatively small application has worked its way into so many enterprise departments? Word-of-mouth from individual employees is the company's main channel into the enterprise, he said. When one department worker uses the calendaring, contact and communication application to advantage, others tend to want it, too.
"About thirty percent of our sales are to corporate customers that buy more than five copies at a time," said Head. Company spokesperson Kristina Frankel added that Best Software has nearly doubled the number of its corporate accounts in three years, from 7,000 to 13,000.
Customers who have used ACT! and another of Best Software's offerings -- SalesLogix -- tend to be loyal and strong supporters, Aberdeen Group research director Karen Smith told CRM Buyer.
Outlook Integration Leads Upgrade
ACT! 6.0, which retails for US$199, was released in August of this year. The main attraction of the new release is a new e-mail client and improved integration with Microsoft Outlook. The e-mail function stands alone or integrates with Outlook, Outlook Express, SMTP/POP3 (Internet Mail) and Lotus Notes e-mail folders from within ACT!
Tracking the history of e-mail correspondence is a critical part of contact management, the company said, so three history options are available when sending messages from ACT! or Outlook.
In addition to such traditional e-mail history options as including the subject line only in the notes section or attaching the full e-mail to the contact record, users now have the option to attach the subject plus the text of the message as a note. This option, said the vendor, is especially useful to corporate customers with large workgroups working from a single database.
Additional new e-mail features include the ability to send and receive HTML messages from ACT! and to instantly add new contacts to any ACT! database, as well as the ability to access both ACT! and Outlook address books, regardless of which application the user is currently running.
Remote User Support
The product links with Peachtree and QuickBooks accounting programs, both popular with small businesses. And version 6.0 includes Web access for remote or home workers.
For mobile workers who use handhelds instead of a laptop, the ACT! license includes a free copy of ACT! Link 2.0 that synchs the desktop version with the Palm version and allows users to download up to 10 notes or contact histories to the Palm device. Head said the company is working on a similar link to Pocket PC, due later this year.
Small Footprint Appeals
ACT! has a great deal of functionality not included in small applications, such as address books and calendaring software, but it dodges the negative aura associated with enterprise software, Head noted, including sales force automation programs that include similar functions along with more powerful features.
This appeals to smaller firms that have few if any dedicated IT people and companies that simply shy away from enterprise software due to its reputation for huge project delays and cost overruns. They are willing to do without all the bells and whistles of enterprise apps to avoid the possible pitfalls.
"This application appeals to a lot of companies because they don't want all that high-end complexity," he said. "We're dealing with the backlash of the high-end CRM packages overselling monster software."