This post is part of an occasional series on the AppExchange as Salesforce.com celebrates the seventh anniversary of its launch. The series will focus on some of the most interesting AppExchange applications of the last year.
KnowWho is a great example of a long tail application made possible by the AppExchange. It’s a database service for companies and non-profits that do business with federal, state and local governments and contains accurate and up to date information about elected officials and their staffs that supplements the business processes enabled by Salesforce CRM.
When we think of CRM and sales force automation (SFA) many people immediately think about selling products in the private sector. But in the public sector selling often involves championing ideas and informing and convincing elected officials is a key part of the democratic process. Obviously, corporations may seek to inform an official or a staff member responsible for staying abreast of an issue. However, this need also extends to the non-profit sector as well. Various trade associations and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations — like the Red Cross for example) and the like have a need to identify and communicate with officials to convey their ideas and information.
Elections constantly change the landscape and staff changes happen in government just as they do in the private sector and that’s where KnowWho provides a valuable service. The company maintains data on a list of 145,000 state, fed, county, local, government officials and their staffs.
KnowWho has a staff of 28 editors keeping the information up to date — 5 just to monitor congress — and record and distribute data changes which the company founder and CEO Bruce Brownson says reach 1,500-2,000 changes per week.
But the real importance of the database is that it informs the Salesforce SFA system, which enables users to pursue their agendas to efficiently inform government officials about issues. Subscribers to the database import the data into their Salesforce instances where they can make additional notes, schedule calls, record pertinent facts about meetings and perform the same actions that any other user would.
KnowWho is not the first company to conceive of this idea. Government data and lists have been popular for a long time. But earlier versions of these services relied on weekly distribution of CD’s or other media and rather tedious synchronization processes. Using Salesforce.com and the AppExchange as the distribution system enables KnowWho to circulate data much faster than older approaches. More importantly, the Salesforce CRM solution provides an efficient application for making use of the data within a sales process.
The whole government database business has advanced and become more complex than simple distribution. Today, companies and other entities that seek to influence public officials must keep meticulous records of their activities and be able to report on them. For these purposes, Salesforce CRM along with the modifications that KnowWho has made — such as a Lobbyist Activity tab —provide the ability to capture encounter data and produce reports of all activities for legal compliance.
KnowWho has produced an interesting and useful application and service for a highly specialized market segment. This is a classic long tail application that the AppExchange is ideally suited for. It is also a proof point for the flexibility of the Force.com platform and the notion that if you can conceive of an application, you can build it and take it to market using this ecosystem.