On-demand CRM: Lunch is (Almost) Free

Will Microsoft eat’s lunch with their freshly announced pricing for hosted CRM? There is a heated debate on the subject, with longtime enterprise software guru Josh Greenbaum declaring that Microsoft is about to eat’s lunch:

“2008 promises to be the real year of on-demand CRM: It’s’s market to lose, and, unless something changes dramatically in their favor, lose it they will.”

Josh has been bearish on for a while, declaring it the next Siebel. It’s a bold call, but calling it ahead of the curve, based on fundamentals, going against the trend is what makes a real analyst. does not seem to be worried about their lunch-ticket though:

“What it looks like is that Microsoft is just marking down an inferior product to what customers are actually paying right now. “

says Bruce Francis, vice president of corporate strategy on Tod Bishop’s Blog. Ouch! He goes on:

“Also, one thing that I haven’t seen is the url where I can sign up for a 30-day trial.”

Well, I can point to such a URL, albeit not at Microsoft: (Disclaimer: I’m an advisor to Zoho)

I’ve long stated that Zoho’s product is actually more than just CRM: with Sales Order Management, Procurement, Inventory Management, Invoicing functionality Zoho seems to have the makings of a CRM+ERP solution, under the disguise of the CRM label. The company also stated they are working on Accounting and HR, they have a database/application Creator, and the best-in-class Office Suite: can you see the Big Picture?

Now, for the best part: pricing. Microsoft is heralded to undercut with their $44/$59 per user pricing. That’s still a hefty price, if you ask me – Zoho CRM is free for the first 3 users, then $12 per user. I don’t know who is eating whose lunch, but if you are a business user, $12 bucks for CRM+++ is as close to a free lunch ticket as you can get.smile_regular

How can Zoho do this? They are passionate about the real meaning of the On-Demand revolution: bringing good quality yet affordable software as a service to the masses. They are an efficient development “machine” and manage to cut out “fat”: Sales expenses, traditionally representing 70-80% of costs in the enterprise software business. We have an ongoing debate in the Enterprise Irregulars on whether this inexpensive “pull” model is hype or reality. The nay-sayers point to, or the new IPO-hopeful NetSuite: sales costs are sky high, and for all the “no software” revolution Marc Benioff has brought about, he employs a rather traditional enterprise sales staff, a’la Oracle. The key differentiator IMHO is the target market:

“ is focusing more of its efforts these days on capturing larger enterprise accounts”

-says Phil Wainewright, and that means traditional, expensive sales. Viral Marketing, demand generation, try-online-then-sign-up works better with the Small Business market, which is what Zoho is focusing on. The Street only seems to value the large corporate market, so it’s understandable that venture funded, IPO-driven or already public companies strive to move up the chain; Zoho is privately owned, and can afford to grow their business as they wish – apparently they see the goldmine waiting to be explored on the SMB market.

Related posts on TechMeme:, Enterprise Anti-matter, Software as Services, Steve Clayton, Techdirt , CNET, Microsoft News Tracker ,Zoho Blogs

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  1. Ramana Kovi says


    I have to disagree with you on this. Zoho business apps require lot of depth before you can quality them as usable applications. There are not even in the Netsuite league which falls way short of salesforce and Microsoft application depth.

    Salesforce have nothing to worry from Microsoft announcement. They are just as short as Zoho is.

    Ramana Kovi

  2. Ramana Kovi says


    May be I am out of touch, does Zoho or Netsuite have Workflow engine, rules engine, summary [pivots] reports, APIs. I you think Zoho is competitive in feature list to salesforce CRM may be I need to relook at my competitive analysis workbook.

    ePlatform is not as nimble as some of your portfolio companies.

    Ramana Kovi

  3. Zoli Erdos says


    Summary statements without specifics don’t sound too credible.

    Zoho CRM is not announcement-ware, it is used by real paying customers (3,000 businesses, 50,000 users) including a good number of converts from, who obviously must have done some analysis before the move and found it worthwhile.

    I also know NetSuite users who went through a fairly detailed selection process and picked NetSuite over

    As for Microsoft, it’s a new announcement, so we’ll just have to wait and see, but I wouldn’t simply write them off.

    How is ePlatform doing nowadays?

  4. Off topic but can’t see the relevant post – classy design, nice job, well executed.

  5. Find information on Small business crm and the benefits of crm for small business community.

  6. It is definitely’s market to lose. Zoho is great and you might also want to try, another site that offers free CRM and contact management plus other free services like free teleconferencing. They’re also integrating Web 2.0 features such as a business network that is tied in with your contacts list.

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