The First Swiftpage International Partner Conference
This was the first major event to be run by Swiftpage since it’s acquisition of the Act! contact manager and Saleslogix CRM products from Sage earlier in the year. As such it was a very significant event in the lives of these products as well as the lives of the partners attending and more importantly the customers they represented.
The Progression of Act! and Saleslogix
I think it is fair to say that Sage was not the best of home for these products. Both Saleslogix and Act! were lost among the rest of the orphans Sage had adopted over the years. It seemed once Paul Stobbart had left Sage, there was no one left in the Sage executive suite who understood these products, so they were left to their own devices.
Subsequently, both products lost ground in the market. Awareness dropped.
Act! retained some of its ground purely by the weight of the amount of users, but in the sensitive world of the larger businesses where Saleslogix is aimed, the marketing power of Sugar, Salesforce and Microsoft gained significant mind share – resulting in Saleslogix losing out.
Last summer Sage announced that they were designating a number of products as “non core”. Was this the final death bell ringing or would they rise again like a phoenix?
It did seem likely that they would be sold, but to who??
Well early in 2013 it was announced that they would be sold, but to what at first glance was an unlikely suitor. A relatively small company called Swiftpage. Not one of the main stream possibilities that had been in the sweepstake list at all.
So Who Are Swiftpage?
Swiftpage are an American vendor who provide an email marketing product. They have been a close partner of, and had integrated with, a number of Sage products including Act! and Saleslogix.
So a small company of around 50 people suddenly buys two significant brand products, increases to nearly 300 employees overnight, gains 3 more offices across 2 continents, extracts products, systems, processes from their previous owner and releases new versions of these products in 6 months!! No mean achievement.
Well we just had to see how they did it and how they were going to maintain this impetus. So we attended the Swiftpage International Partner Conference.
I had a number of questions for which I was hoping to get answers for at the event.
- What is the product road map?
- Was the new team really committed to both products?
- How were they going to get Saleslogix back into the minds of businesses looking at CRM and give confidence to those customers still using Saleslogix to remain with the product?
- Did they have big enough pockets to fund what was required to make all of this happen?
- Did they have a team that could make this all work?
We arrived the evening before the main event to an informal soiree. An opportunity to refresh old acquaintances and have a quiet chat with a few people both from Swiftpage and other partners.
Conversations with Partners
One of the first conversations was with David Wallace, head of the Saleslogix development team. We have known Dave for some years and it was great to see him so relaxed. I commented that “it looks like the shackles are off”, to which he replied “I am now core and unleashed”.
It was great to hear what had been achieved in the last few months and more importantly hear something of the roadmap for the future.
Now taking a small successful company through what must be a very scary process of buying not one but two products from a large, global company like Sage must be daunting. Even with years of experience running your own business.
Fortunately the owners of Swiftpage, predominantly a family lead business, obviously had ideas of significant growth prior to the Sage “non-core” announcement. They had just hired a certain John Oechsle, who’s CV (resume) shows that in the nicest possible way he has been around the block a few times. One of those positive fateful moves.
John and Bob Ogdan, Swiftpage Chairman and one of the founders, explained the story of the day of the Sage announcement, with John saying to Bob, “just tell Sage we will buy them” (Act! and Saleslogix).
They make it sound so simple, but it obviously wasn’t, nothing like this is.
A Positive Move to the #SwiftpageNation
However, they have assembled a team made up of key people from the Sage departments that developed, marketed and sold the products as well as bringing back some people who were involved with the products years ago, even prior to the Sage ownership.
I think this shows the level of dedication and belief in the whole project, with even those in a secure job leaving to embark on this new venture with Swiftpage.
Bob and John explained that they have ‘retained overall control of the business’ – that must have been some negotiation! They also explained some of their funding and provided every confidence in the investment behind them.
Although QGate does not provide Act! I sat through the product roadmap presentation and spoke to a couple of the ACT! partners afterwards. They were very upbeat about their direction.
European partners were obviously overjoyed that the French and German releases of V16 were available only days after the launch of the English version, rather than months which was their experience with Sage.
The formal Saleslogix roadmap presentation was very interesting – and to answer the question on most customers lips, yes the LAN (windows) client is still in the plan – LAN will not be going away any time soon.
Saleslogix Mobile V3
To coincide with the event, Version 3 of the Saleslogix mobile client was released. I later got a live demo from Dave Wallace (at the bar), it is VERY quick and looks great. I have ordered our internal update already.
Saleslogix is a mature product, so new releases do not tend to come with lots of new functionality. V8.1 will deliver new branding of the Swiftpage variety.
It also introduces multiple contacts per activity – something that had been on the Sage wish list for years. When queried how it is can be available after only 6 months of Swiftpage management…. indeed Swiftpage are core and unleashed.
There were other interesting items on the futures list, so the future is bright, the future is, err, well Orange…
Marketing the Products
My biggest question was regarding Swiftpage’s aim and ability to Market these products. It’s all very well having sound technology, but useless unless people know about it.
The answer? Kevin Myers.
If you had been around Saleslogix or Act! in the pre-Sage, Pat Sullivan days then Kevin’s name may be familiar. Kevin has rejoined the team as VP of Marketing. His presentation was, err, awesome.
It is clear Swiftpage will not be doing the same marketing as others in the industry. They will be mixing proven and new approaches to get their message out. And their message is a good one.
Both products will be subtly repackaged and priced, making them surely more attractive to new customers across a wider range of business needs and infrastructure capabilities – yes hosted versions will be available.
From the selfish position of a partner wanting to sell more, I was a happy man by the end of the presentation. Overall, the Swiftpage acquisition will be a positive and exciting move also for existing customers, who may have been potentially concerned about being on the right horse, when that horse never appears to be in the race. Well I suggest checking out the race card again in a few months.
I have already mentioned some of the team involved, obviously, a number of the existing teams moved across, a few new faces bringing expertise needed to succeed in this venture such as John Oechsle and few returning.
What is difficult to convey is the excitement within the team. Obviously, it’s a new venture and being in at the beginning should be exciting, but not for many years have I seen such a glint in the eyes of those now within the Swiftpage Nation.
I went to the event with an open mind, hoping to see something on fire – something phoenix-like. I was not disappointed.
From what I saw I am very confident that our existing customers will be seeing new friends joining the Saleslogix world in the not too distant future for all the right reasons. This is something that hasn’t really happened in any notable numbers for some time.