WisBusiness: New software aims to help small firms with client relationships

By Christine Fox

For WisBusiness.com

MADISON – A new software application, designed to help professionals manage pertinent client relationship information, will soon hit the market for small businesses. The product allows users to track breaking news on their contacts and respond using intelligence that relates to the individual.

The startup company, mendotasoft LLC, has developed the product as a Microsoft Office add-on software tool. Contestant Dan Voell of mendotasoft entered the new software as part of the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest and was one of 50 entrants to move on to the second phase.

The need for this software is simple. Similar customer relationship management products were previously available to professionals within large enterprises. “Our product also comes in at a lower price point than competitors, which will help market adaptation in a market downturn,” Voell said.

“In a recessionary period, building revenue from existing clients can be more important than finding new clients,” Voell said, “Our product will help users reach out to existing customers to help strengthen relationships and grow business.”

Focus groups, targeting primarily financial service firms, have identified a real interest in the market and more than 150 individuals have expressed interest in testing the product based on word of mouth, Voell said. Tester feedback thus far pinpoints that the product strengths lie in its simplicity, ease of use, interface design and security.

Research will be conducted during the proceeding test phase to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product for relationship professionals. The intention once this phase is complete is to initially sell the product within those test organizations.

Further research will provide direction for approaching the market via direct marketing and sales, public relations, trade conferences and free trials for online influencers.

Voell and co-founder Max Lynch hope within the next three months to begin generating revenue. They plan to manage the company and generate revenue before seeking investment capital. To finance growth, both have jobs and have been contributing money towards mendotasoft.

Obstacles have indeed transpired along the journey to market. Developing the product as a Microsoft Outlook add-on interface has increased the time to market.

The two founders could have instead developed their product on the iPhone for Salesforce.com because it has better tools for developers. But Voell said he feels that going the Microsoft route will lead to less competition while providing access to a larger user base.

Competitors certainly exist in the CRM industry, which is projected to hit $22 billion in 2010. Voell believes mendotasoft is differentiated within that market through its ability to work within current business structures.

Indirect competitors include a highly technical e-mail management tool and a contact information provider for enterprise applications. However, mendotasoft intends to compete by being more user-friendly and accessible to small businesses.

— Fox is a student in the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the UW-Madison.