This week, we had the opportunity to speak with Larry Caretsky who is the CEO of Commence Corporation – a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management Software serving small to mid-size enterprises
Please describe the story behind the company: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?
Incorporated in 1990, the original concept that drove the company’s inception was to create a tool that enabled people to Capture, Track, Manage and Share vital customer information with the people and departments that needed it to efficiently do their jobs. At that time there were very few integrated solutions and as such, people were constantly working with multiple systems and silos of information. It was very inefficient.
The first product released to consolidate information was Lotus Notes in the early 1990s, but this was targeted at enterprise-level companies and was simply too expensive and too hard to use for small to midsize businesses. The mission at Commence Corporation was to fill this gap by developing a solution whereby one single central database would enable people to store, manage, update and share customer information thereby improving operational efficiency. In 1991 the company released Commence RM Version 1 and it was a big success.
Commence RM, operated on a standard personal computer using the Microsoft desktop operating system and could be networked so that the information could be shared within a workgroup. The product used a relational database and was very customizable. This attracted a large number of value-added resellers who would sell, implement, customize and support the product. Within a few years, the product was being sold and implemented in 35 different industries in more than a dozen countries around the world.
Now thirty years later the product has evolved into a comprehensive scalable solution for managing customer relationships (CRM) and operates in the cloud as software as a service.
What is the mission of Commence?
The company’s success has been driven by the following. First, we have stayed within our core competency which is serving the needs of small to midsize companies. The CRM software sector is highly competitive but fragmented.
There are several products designed for enterprise corporations such as; Oracle, SAP, Salesforce.com, and Microsoft CRM and a myriad of basic low-cost cookie-cutter products that offer very basic functionality at a very low cost. Our mission is to serve those businesses that need more functionality and flexibility than is provided by the low-cost solutions, but who do not need or want the cost and complexity associated with the enterprise products.
It’s about filling the same gap that we saw 30 years ago (the Middle Market). We know the target audience that we serve better than anyone else and have a go-to-market strategy that targets them.
What services do you offer?
Commence offers an array of services to assist customers with the implementation and use of our CRM software. In addition to product training, we offer programs for Sales and Marketing Enablement whereby we help customers design and automate a sales methodology or structure so that they can properly manage the selling cycle from introduction to closure.
Our Marketing Enablement Program assists customers that may not have a marketing resource with designing and executing marketing campaigns. These types of services are traditionally only offered by enterprise solution providers, so it’s a big differentiator for us.
In addition, we offer an array of self-service programs, such as white papers, end-user and administrator guides, and training videos.
What separates you from other similar websites/companies?
While Commence CRM offers functionality that rivals many higher-cost products the services mentioned above really separates Commence from the competition. Enterprise-level solution providers offer an array of services, but they are just too expensive for small to midsize companies.
The low-cost providers offer very limited services. This is simply because the cost of their products is so low that they cannot afford to maintain a staff of highly trained sales, marketing, and support personnel to assist customers with implementation and onboarding services. This is what makes Commence unique in this sector.
We have coupled our software with a staff of highly trained professionals that assist customers before, during, and after the implementation of our product. This has not only led to successful implementations, but we have one of the highest customer retention rates in the industry.
Who are your typical customers, and what do you think is the main challenge that your product solves for them?
Commence customers are small to midsize companies that are looking to automate and improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers. Most tell us that they need a better way to capture and track leads that seem to keep falling through the cracks or are not followed up on a timely basis. In addition, they need to better manage the sales pipeline.
These are two areas where Commence really shines. Our solution provides the ability to rank and color code leads based on criteria that are built into the system. It’s all automated and ensures that the sales team is laser-focused on the most promising new business opportunities. The system also documents the date the lead was captured and when someone followed up with it keeping any lead from falling through the cracks.
The pipeline management system allows sales management to track where every new opportunity is in the sales pipeline which enables them to take a proactive approach to engage the prospect and move the sale towards closure. Another area of significance in project management. Very few CRM solutions have a fully integrated project management application along with CRM functionality. Commence does – it’s another differentiator.
How has COVID impacted your customers and business?
The Covid virus has had a negative impact on our business in 2020, but we are starting to see the improvement. We have had some smaller customers go out of business while others have merged with larger organizations using alternative solutions.
In the United States, we are seeing a lot more hiring of new people and our customers are adding users to our system. This is very positive for us. We expect Europe to return to normal as well in the second half of 2021.