Andrew Yates, Artesian: Social CRM is the intelligent part of sales intelligence

10th Aug 2012 speaks with Artesian Solutions CEO Andrew Yates about the vendor’s approach to social CRM leadership.

Cloud-based vendor Artesian Solutions has had a busy year so far, as it seeks to establish a leadership role in the competitive social CRM market.
Already enjoying 200% year-on-year growth, Artesian secured £2m in Series A financing from Octopus earlier this year and also appointed CRM and Cloud industry veteran Dr Steve Garnett as chairman of the board of directors in manoeuvres designed to take it the next level in a market that is increasingly compelling to businesses.
“Smart businesses have realised that today’s customers have all the power; they are connected, empowered and leading a social revolution. As a result, modern businesses need to be agile, engaged and transparent in order to engage with both clients and prospects,” explains Andrew Yates, Artesian Solutions’ CEO. “Social CRM is extremely compelling in this regard, as it is a philosophy, a strategy, and a set of rules and technologies that are all geared towards obtaining mutual value out of trusted relationships.”
He continues: “In the last 15 years there has been a shift from a ‘top down’ to a ‘bottom up’ approach to CRM; one that is reacting to the rise of savvy customers. As a result, the way in which salespeople communicate with their customers has changed dramatically.
“In the past, sales teams used to control the messaging during their interactions with customers, but these interactions now revolve around cultivating customer intimacy to increase sales. As such, it’s vital that new technologies (and social media in particular) can be integrated into the sales strategy so that salespeople listen to their customers effectively, and thus better understand where the opportunities and issues exist. At the same time, the evolution of tools that are convenient and easy to use, for example Outlook, Twitter, Facebook and Gmail, means that sales teams now expect a simple user interface from any technology that is introduced to aid the sales process.”
And Yates is keen to emphasise the role that social CRM can play in providing businesses with sophisticated insights into their existing customer relationships, as well as enabling them to connect with new audiences in a meaningful way.
He says: “Social CRM enables a much more personalised experience since it can provide businesses with intelligence about their customers’ and prospects' opinions, which in turn can be used to shape conversations, review the brand, and enhance services. This approach can help sales-driven organisations build strong and deep relationships with customers, and then translate those relationships into revenue.
“Social media opens up a number of new channels that can be used to generate customer intimacy - everything from internet forums and blogs to social networks can now be used to deliver insight into brand sentiment, customer preferences and recent activity. However, organisations need to be able to filter their way through a huge amount of social interactions to obtain the most relevant information about customers – and they need to do this correctly.”
This is where the ‘intelligent’ part of sales intelligence comes into play, according to Yates. And with a strong portfolio of brand surveillance software, Artesian is perfectly positioned to capitalise on this.
“Artesian uses the power of natural language processing to determine context and relevance in a way that seamlessly deals with the complexities of managing social data and delivers the specific information that users need to know,” the CEO elaborates. “With this approach, Artesian can deliver commercially valuable insights that shape conversations around the customer and totally change the way in which businesses engage with their customers and prospects. Artesian also enables organisations to leverage their investments in mobile technology by portably pushing the key insights users need to their chosen mobile device in support of a modern mobile way of working.”
Entrepreneurial spirit
But Yates concedes that in order to stand out in the competitive social CRM space, Artesian will have to demonstrate a strong differentiation from the other players in the increasingly packed playing field. To that end, he points to the fact that Artesian can deliver a unique service to each subscribing customer and personalise the output to each business user; that it spiders over 2 million articles a day, in about 3.5 million sources, every minute; that it looks for insight and information from about half a million companies and over 4,000 business topics - the equivalent to 2 billion Google searches.
“This impressive scale means that sales teams can cover all the bases for literally thousands of customers by only serving the sales intelligence that is needed to find and close the next deal,” he adds.
He also points to other evidence of leadership pedigree, with his company listed in the Deloitte Fast 500, named a Gartner Cool Vendor, a key accredited partner and a recent graduate from the Microsoft BizSparkOne programme where it was one of three companies named Global Start-up of the Year, selected from 40,000 companies.
However, keen to maintain momentum, the Cloud-based vendor moved swiftly this year to lock down some additional financing and add the expertise of Dr Garnett to its board of directors – something that Yates believes will be a boon for Artesian.
“First and foremost, Dr Steve Garnett will be working with the team to maintain the company’s operational excellence, helping Artesian continuously improve on performance as it becomes a serious player in the social CRM space. This will be underpinned with a major focus on customer success – the cornerstone of his success at
“Dr Steve Garnett has played an active role in advocating Software as a Service (SaaS) and leading the development of Cloud Computing, and will be using his experience to help Artesian develop. Through his significant experience in helping early stage businesses to develop and grow, he will also be offering his valuable support to Artesian as it looks to drive forward developments in the social CRM field.”
Garnett’s heritage in the Cloud arena is a good fit for Artesian’s own Cloud foundations. And it does raise the question of how important this is to the vendor’s overall proposition.
Yates is bullish about its significance. “Cloud Computing is now an essential part of modern business; was one of the initial companies to advocate this change and now the market is following this vision,” he emphasises.
“At the same time the world is moving and becoming more social, more mobile, and so any companies that aren’t already using Cloud Computing are being left behind. Millions of people are now accessing social media sites every day, all over the world, so for business users, cloud is a revolution. Plus, on a more practical level, cloud enables customers to access solutions like Artesian on demand without having to put any IT infrastructure in place, whilst businesses can benefit from the flexibility, speed and agility that Cloud can provide, and which are vital for sustainable growth.”
With the finance and expertise locked down, Yates is firmly focused on the leadership role in the social CRM sector. But, as is befitting of a social CRM business, he’s aware that it’s the customers that will have the final word on how successful the firm will be.
He concludes: “Artesian has a very close-knit team that is united by a shared passion to be the best at what we do. As we continue to grow, it will be vital to ensure that we maintain this same basic philosophy, and that we have the tools in place to communicate and support this vision effectively. We need to work with the best customers, delight them and retain them. Our customers will become, and already are, our best advocates. When a company is growing so quickly, it's vital to keep hold of the entrepreneurial spirit that has underpinned the company's development thus far, and which will help to inspire even greater innovation in the future.”

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