(When) Will Google Do CRM?

Introduction

What’s the boldest service that Google could release in order to appeal to companies with an online presence? Cloud CRM.

Google already targets their products toward productivity and collaboration. In a more general sense, their focus is on being the crux of where information is exchanged. They even say it on their company page, “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The key to their message is the part about being useful. Information about a lead may exist, but the initiative represents more than just the storage of that information: It includes the goal of collaboration, aggregation, and presentation of useful information that’s organized to meet a sales person’s needs.

Doesn’t it seem obvious, then, for Google to step into the CRM market? Let’s take a step back and look at what building blocks Google already has in place and discover how this would benefit the consumer market for a Cloud CRM SaaS offering.

Benefits to the Consumer

1. Adoption & Popularity

Google apps is already used by many small businesses and startups. The framework (Gmail, Drive, Calendar, AdWords, Analytics, etc) is already widely adopted and has become a staple for an online presence.

2. Integration Method

Google APIs are developed for many applications already. With some development (Google has the resources), the API could be expanded to include support for CRM related data exchange.

3. Technology Capital

Support for information storage and accessibility can be supported by the existing Google infrastructure. They already offer Cloud SQL with multiple tiers of service to support increasing levels of queries, data bandwidth, and storage.

The Possibilities

Imagine that capturing data from a contact form is as easy as dropping in a code on the page (just like Google Analytics). It could use an algorithm to detect form inputs and send them to the database on successful validation. Or imagine that google gives a tool to manage contact forms: Similar to Contact Form 7, you could design a form and simply call it with a small reference on a page.

Now, imagine that your business now has the ability to detect what city each specific lead comes from as well as their Google+ profile information. All of the sudden, the amount of potentially leveragable information for salespeople has grown based on consolidating services that already exist with social media intelligence. Essentially, the idea reflects an industry shift from sales people entering data to the leads volunteering their own data. That would leave the sales team with more time to focus on what’s important – establishing a business relationship.

Sales insights

What if the pool of leads was sorted by relevance based on user interest, history of searches, which SEM campaign they’re attributed to, and number of interactions with the site? Seems almost too good to be true. Of course, it isn’t true…yet.

Accessibility

The account interface would be accessible online (by computer or mobile device) from anywhere there’s an internet connection. This is an important feature for salespeople who are mobile.

The interface would also be familiar to those who have used other Google tools (like Gmail). Training time would be minimal compared to other, “heavier” solutions.

For Android users, the CRM could integrate with Tasks, Calendar, and Maps to help keep mobile users connected with the information they need. For example, a calendar reminder that includes a location could be recalled on the Google Now search interface to provide directions and client information in advance of a meeting.

Information Organization, Metadata, & Tagging

The schema of microdata related to a person has already been established (see Schema.org’s page related to schema & attributes for a Person). So, Google can further the idea of a person’s identity online by aggregating this info and present relevant information to salespeople to assist them in forming new business relationships with potential clients.

Privacy and Security Compliance

Privacy

Users could choose what information is available to businesses using the Google CRM platform. The benefit is an improved guarantee of privacy (compared to interacting with another CRM platform where a lead has little to no control about what information is stored there).

Security

Google’s data centers can help small business stay compliant with the leading security standards. This benefit of this initiative is that it improves the reputation of data exchanges online. Essentially, while you might not trust the business, you know you can trust Google to keep your information secure.

What’s keeping this from happening?

There’s already been suggestions for Google to purchase industry leading CRM software provider, Salesforce. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry published an article on Business Insider in 2010, Google: Just Buy Salesforce Already. So what’s keeping Google from moving forward into the market?

There’s some speculation by Lauren Carlson, a CRM Analyst, that a move into the CRM market may damage Google’s existing relationship with Salesforce. However, there may be some room for Google among the leaders (Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics) among small businesses and startups. This may be the golden opportunity that keeps Salesforce happy and Microsoft on their toes.

As Brent Leary, Co-founder of CRM Essentials consulting/advisory firm, mentioned on his blog, a Cloud based CRM could be a significant consideration in the competition between Google and Microsoft combined service offerings.

Summary

The demand exists, especially from small businesses (where Google can get a foothold and hopefully maintain a relationship after they’ve grown or provide an exit path to other CRM SaaS providers). I imagine there’s others like myself that would appreciate this turning into a reality. Google, if you’re reading, we’re ready for you.