Main content

Zoholics 2019 show review - assessing Zoho's big market play and learning from Zoho Analytics customers

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed April 11, 2019
At the end of Zoholics day two, the big story remained the same: the rise of Zoho One. But the context deepened - from software pricing disillusionment to the need for savvy partners. Zoho Analytics stories resonated.

Rick Tudor of CARS Protection Plus at Zoholics

As day two of Zoholics 2019 winds down, the biggest story remains the one that didn't have a formal announcement.

As I wrote in Zoholics 2019 review - Zoho One customer Purolite shares lessons on cloud adoption and adapting to change:

The big story of the show is the increasing focus on Zoho One and its 40+ apps, based on a simple “all the apps you can eat” pricing model.

At the partner panel for media/analysts that just finished, partners talked about how Zoho One is a whole new ball game for them. It opens up sales channels to CEOs, bringing Zoho partners in sales competition with players they haven’t encountered before, like NetSuite – even though Zoho goes out of its way not to use the term “ERP,” preferring the “operating system for business” tagline instead.

During my problematic, wind-heavy outdoor Zoholics podcast with Brian Sommer, we discussed the analyst question du jour: "Is Zoho an ERP product now?" Sommer said:

Cindy Jutras is the one who actually asked the question. But I think a bunch of us were thinking the same thing. They've expanded the product line. Here's a company that started in the CRM space originally. They've added the back office functionality - that's been there for quite a while. They have their own version of Microsoft Office as well. Now they've really expanded into retail, as well as a bunch of online e-commerce capabilities - which puts them butting right into NetSuite's space.

Sommer's take was validated by the partners we heard from yesterday. How well Zoho will capitalize on these new market opportunities remains to be seen. During Brian Sommer's keynote chat with CEO Sridhar Vembu, Zoho customers validated Zoho's simplified pricing model, sharing war stories of "wallet fracking" from other vendors. As Sommer said to me by the podcast pond:

That was probably one of the most interesting validation things. I shared that with some of the Zoho executives afterward. A lot of their customers really want to vent their spleen. They have been raked over the coals by other vendors with bad pricing, bad integration deals - ever-growing amounts of overreaching by vendors. The audience apparently really loved that concept of wallet-fracking. That really resonated with them quite well.

Customer proof point - CARS Protection Plus

Which brings us back to Zoho customers. Whether or not Zoho chooses to call itself ERP, Zoho faces similar challenges/opportunities with value realization. Not every customer uses all the Zoho One apps they could - or extracts the type of value that their leadership team looks for. That was a factor for the Zoho team at Purolite. They earned a different level of executive buy-in after digging into Zoho Analytics, surfacing data into relevant dashboards.

I had the chance to explore that issue with another Zoho One customer: Rick Tudor, Director of Operations at CARS Protection Plus. CARS Protection Plus does just what it sounds like: it offers car warranties that pick up when your original warranty runs out. Have high mileage? Not a problem. Tudor told me they accept vehicles with up to 200,000 miles at the time of sale. Headquartered in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, CARS Protection Plus is now supported in all fifty states, with 110 employees driving the operation.

Tudor's first experience with Zoho came when CARS Protection Plus chose Zoho CRM to solve their CRM-related woes. It was a good problem to have: growth was pushing the limits of their homegrown CRM. As Tudor told me:

We were acquired by a private equity company three years ago. Their goal was to double us in the next five years. We had a homegrown system for both administering our contracts, adjudicating the claims, and CRM all in one system. They had their experts come in and look at it; it truly wasn't scalable. So we had to find an admin platform. There are only a handful off the shelf in our industry, none of which would have anything in the way of CRM.

They kicked tires on Sugar, Salesforce, and Microsoft AX, but decided Zoho was the best fit. Why? The price was right, and Zoho's UI was the most intuitive, familiar with what they had before. Add in the flexibility to add more pieces, and it looked like a good fit. As the leader of the Zoho initiative for CARS Protection Plus, Tudor is always looking for more ways to make Zoho stick. Zoho Analytics has proved to be an asset for dealer relationships.

Deepening value with Zoho Analytics

Supporting dealers is central to CARS Protection Plus. Prior to Zoho, they lacked visibility into those relationships. Tudor showed me Zoho Analytics screens that allow them to connect with dealers pro-actively:

Before Zoho, if a dealer falls out of, we'll call it a normal cadence, we wouldn't know that we were losing a dealer - until one day, they were just gone. We had no real predictive ability to say, "Hey, he's submitting less," or "He always submits this often, and isn't."

Zoho Analytics flipped that script. Now Tudor's team can pull analytics views into a CRM dashboard. A dealer that sells at high volume should send a contract every fifteen days. If they don't hear from that dealer, a Zoho alert goes to the sales rep, and their supervisor. A follow up task is automatically assigned.

Now, the zone manager can grab just their territory and quickly identify, "I've got two of my big accounts that haven't been touched. I can filter this just to view the accounts that haven't been seen yet."

Did Tudor have this kind of capability in mind when they selected Zoho? Short answer: no. So how did they figure it out? Once Tudor started looking at analytics and what they could quantify, their partner, Geoff Boulden of Twelve/Three Marketing advised them on what was possible.

The only trick with analytics is tying it back to ROI. How does Tudor view the benefits from Zoho Analytics?

We have more visibility into the servicing of our dealers, or the reps we're employing, working at the cadence we need them to, to make sure the dealer feels like he's getting enough attention.

Zoho has kept their hiring needs down:

If we lose a rep in a territory, you know what? My guys are so efficient now, I'm not going to hire another person. I'll let this rep take half, and the person next to them take half.

Extending that data to sales teams on the road via mobile has been a boon. Reps can see contact history and account notes on their iPad at a glance:

They know exactly what's going on with this dealer when they walk in.

Moving into Zoho One, one app at a time

Analytics isn't the only way Tudor's team have extended Zoho. He's now a Zoho One customer. Piece by piece, he's been replacing third party apps with Zoho One apps, and the cost savings of doing that - given the inclusive pricing - are paying off.

We needed an instant messenger that wasn't public, trying to get around, so we used to have something called Bopup. We replaced that with Click. I've replaced Survey Monkey. I had a different password keeper that we paid for, now we use Vault. Join Me we used for meetings and dial-ins. I don't have to pay for that anymore. Go-to-Assist for supporting our reps in the field on their devices. We now use the Zoho Assist, which is fantastic.

The list doesn't end there: Tudor moved their expense reporting to Zoho One also:

Our whole expense reporting was so painful, it was handwritten, it was paper receipts, and then we're trying to scan them ourselves. The Zoho Expense application has saved probably eight to ten man-hours a week with Expense. It's fantastic; I can't say enough about it.

That's the land-and-expand approach that should serve Zoho well. Companies are wary of multi-year tech overhauls with distant promises. Tudor is taking it one win at a time, which makes change easier on users as well.

Tudor does have one thing he wants from Zoho though: more sales collateral. He wants product PDFs and business cases he can bring to his CFO to make the case for switching even more into Zoho One. I'm guessing he won't get much resistance from Zoho on that one.

A grey colored placeholder image