Startup launches Web analytics for salespeople

US startup Genius launched its first product Monday, a Web analytics service to provide salespeople with more insight into customer prospects' behavior.

Genius, a startup focused on Web analytics, Monday debuted its first offering, a service that aims to provide salespeople with insight into prospective customers' online behavior.

The startup is one of many companies looking to fill perceived gaps in current sales force automation (SFA) and customer relationship management (CRM) software.

For Genius to stand out from the competition, the company needs to generate evangelists for its particular approach among its users, according to Sheryl Kingstone, analyst with Yankee Group.

Typically, sales personnel receive weekly aggregated Web analytics reports from their peers in marketing, said David Thompson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Genius. The SalesGenius Web service aims to establish a more direct relationship between salespeople and their prospects, he added.

When targeting a prospective client, a salesperson creates an e-mail through Microsoft's Outlook software or via SalesGenius and includes one or several links to their company's Web site in the message. The startup's Genius Tracker technology then alerts the salesperson via an instant message-style dialog box when the prospect opens the e-mail and clicks on the links. The salesperson is able to see which Web pages the prospect views and how long they spend looking at those pages in real-time or replay that visit in its entirety later.

Around 22 staff at online meeting services provider WebEx Communications beta tested SalesGenius for two months, according to Chris Hardeman, the company's national sales manager. During that time, he estimates that each salesperson significantly increased their number of qualified leads generating more than US$100,000 in new business.

Genius has around 100 beta SalesGenius customers, mostly in the IT and medical industries, according to Thompson. Users can try out SalesGenius free of charge from the Genius Web site -- http://www.genius.com/ -- with e-mail recipients limited to 400. The company plans an official launch for the service Wednesday in San Francisco.

SalesGenius costs from US$49 per user per month with the number of e-mail recipients capped at 2,000 per month. The company plans to release a team edition of the product this summer, according to Thompson, incorporating support for CRM player Salesforce.com's AppExchange integration network.

"SalesGenius is as applicable to marketing as much as to sales," he said, reflecting on potential future directions for the startup. The company has also talked about possible applications in human resources, according to analyst Kingstone, but she believes they should stay focused on the sales and marketing arena.

Privately held Genius has its headquarters in San Mateo, California and employs 24 staff. It has already established server farms to support its operations in both London and Texas, according to Thompson. The startup received US$5.1 million in Series A financing in March.

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