A Texas company is heading north to round up Canadian resellers for its Microsoft Office-based customer relationship management application.

IDB Group (www.idbgroup.com) hopes its CMPro application is just what small and mid-sized companies need to keep on top of their businesses. So it plans

to begin campaigning next month for select resellers here to handle the new product, which was recently introduced in the U.S.

“”We’re not looking at 200 resellers in Toronto,”” says Robert Para, the company’s Whitby, Ont.-based vice-president of sales and marketing for North America.

Instead it’s looking for integrators who understand how to install and set up applications.

“”This is an opportunity that allows resellers to open doors.””

CMPro costs less than Microsoft Corp.’s upcoming customer relationship management (CRM) application, he said, but will have more features than contact management applications such as Act! and GoldMine. By limiting the number of VARs CMPro will allow chosen resellers to differentiate themselves from competitors, he says.

It also allows users to take advantage of their knowledge of Office applications such as Word and Outlook.

“”What’s available in the SMB marketplace is either a phone book with some bells and whistles, or you spend thousands of dollars per seat, which is not affordable,”” says IDB Group president Mir Ali. “”Between the two is a bunch of tools you use to get to the same place, some of which work, some don’t.””

At $249 a seat for up to 10 licenses, CMPro Small Business Server lets users perform contact management through a central database, itemize phone calls, publish and manage documents and keep track of appointments. A wizard allows the creation of templates for sales and marketing calls or action items.

The base version runs on Office’s Access database. Companies with more than 10 users need CMPro Enterprise Server, which comes with Microsoft SQL Server and costs $1,000.

A separate $500 management tool kit lets managers assign contacts, track sales and marketing activity and set strategic goals. There’s also a $200 system manager application.

However, there are no versions for industry verticals. Para hopes resellers will see an opportunity to create industry-related templates for CMPro or customize the application to users’ needs.

But one industry observer doubts that’s a viable strategy. CMPro is new, says Warren Shiau, senior software analyst at IDC Canada, who questions why developers would spend time writing applications for it.

If CMPro doesn’t have special functions or address a niche market it could have trouble, he says.

Still, he adds, the application might be appreciated by small companies who have what he called “”jury-rigged”” contact management solutions.

Ali used to work for Microsoft on the Access and SQL Server development teams before forming a consulting and custom application development company with four others in Dallas.

CMPro evolved from a CRM application based on Excel he built for a New Orleans oil and gas firm he worked for as a mechanical engineer before that. After he’d gone into software consulting his ex-employer called hoping the application could be updated. That’s when he saw the need for an Office-based solution.

Resellers will get a 25 per cent discount on the application, which goes up to 30 per cent when sales hit $150,000.

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