A serviceable social engagement platform should have several parts including ways to capture social data, ways to analyze it, and ways to put the resulting information to use. In addition, a social engagement platform has to be comprehensive by which we mean it should be applicable across a wide swath of the front office form marketing through sales and into customer service. In other words it should cover the customer lifecycle. At this stage of the market’s evolution with CRM adopting social and with new social companies emerging into the CRM space, integration is also a critical component. That’s a tall order for an emerging company but that’s where the bar is set.
Next Principles is a well-conceived social engagement and analytics platform aimed squarely at the market sweet spot of enterprises in need to a soup to nuts solution. Given the requirements, setting their sights on the top of the heap is a smart approach to ensuring they get the revenues they need for the buildout. Or as Willie Sutton once said when a reporter asked why he robbed banks, “Because that’s where the money is.”
This emerging company did well in CRM Idol last year, not winning but making a good showing and this year they are back with a more complete product and a more detailed roadmap.
The company is still embryonic. It has fewer than ten people and it is completing its series A funding campaign having gotten this far on angel financing and some revenues from the aforementioned enterprise world. Added funding will make it possible to expand sales and marketing so that the company can be competitive in a larger market of enterprise companies. So far, Next Principles has been able to snag some impressive customers but for contractual reasons they and we are not able to name names. Suffice it to say you know these companies’ identities and that’s good.
If the company is still embryonic so is the market, which is good, and some of the data the company offers is on point. They quote analyst studies among enterprises suggesting that 38% can’t measure benefits and 34% say they have insufficient resources for social engagement. This is a classic early market profile and the company is aiming directly at those pain points.
So Next Principles aims to make integration with CRM systems easy by including built-in integration in the product and they’ve done everything they can to streamline implementation and use, even to the point of hiding much of the complexity of the analytics. Also, Next Principles say they aim at the whole customer journey rather than simply at marketing or sales.
Next Principles has also made great strides in developing integrations with some of the best known CRM systems including Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce.com and SugarCRM. The company has also expanded to a larger universe of partners including Marketo and IBM.
Analyze, engage and integrate are all important parts of the company’s approach but it would be good for them to spend some time discussing the community they collect data from since it is the raw material of any socialized process. They are a defacto community tool so why they haven’t formally embraced community is one of the very few flags we see.
Several community strategies are available to the company and they actually could support all three, 1) take anyone who knocks on your door, 2) actively recruit a limited number of members and change them after 90 or 120 days, 3) assume all customers are or will become community members. The issue with options one and three is consistency of the base. While it might be nice to be able to offer an open community as in 3, often many members lose interest over time leading to poor response or engagement rates.
Some might say low rates are to be avoided, but especially in business, it may be impractical. So the company has some thinking to do about how it evolves. Is it a tool for sifting the entire customer base or is it more research oriented in which case it needs to sample data from a representative cross section of customers a la Gallup or Nielsen. Each option has merit and picking one would help Next Principles refine its mission.
Next Principles has come a long way and built a good product. Perhaps their next objective, along with raising some cash, is to think about how to position a Next Principles community methodology.