Our blog now has a slightly different look and feel. That’s because we are writing about more topics! In addition to our product, HaystackCRM, Xtern Software has developed a content management system (CMS) called HarmonyB2B. It is powered by a database called CruxDB.

We are looking forward to writing more about Xtern Software, our products, our team, our culture, and life in Greensboro, North Carolina! Thanks for reading 🙂

[Xtern Software] Why B2B expertise matters

On our website, we proclaim that Xtern Software is “Built for Business.” What exactly does that mean? And why does that matter?

Built for Business means that we have decades of experience working in the B2B space. We don’t shoehorn our B2B customers into B2C products. We have the breadth and depth of experience to know the key differences between B2B and B2C.

This matters because utilizing a B2C playbook can be costly and ineffective for B2B businesses. Here are some key things to consider if you are a B2B business looking at revamping your marketing efforts:

1. A win is a referral to a dealer. A win is *not* a shopping cart checkout. 

For this reason, it’s vital to have a robust dealer locator that is treated like a Google search, not an afterthought. A customer to the website needs to be able to easily locate a retailer who sells the products. 

2. SEO is still important. 

Even if an individual customer can’t buy from your business, it is still imperative that your business can be found on the web. 

3. Though UX matters, it needs to be utilitarian. 

B2B buyers are not browsers. They are at your website with a very specific purchase in mind. Search and filter options need to be powerful so that a user can find exactly what they need. It is unlikely that they are interested in a “suggested” product, so it’s important to cut to the chase and serve up whatever they are searching for. 

B2B marketing can be a very complex endeavor because you are marketing to customers and customers *of* customers. At Xtern, we are happy to guide our customers through the key differences and create technology that works seamlessly in the B2B space.

[Xtern Software] Our partnership with Connected Commons

We’ve grown the past few years, and along with the growth has come new projects. Although we often work with B2B manufacturers, we enjoy flexing our muscles on diverse custom software projects. 

Xtern Software was founded in 2002 and now has a team of 11. Of those 11, seven are graduates of UNCG, two are spouses of UNCG grads, one an Elon grad, and one attended GTCC

A recent project of note was working with Boston-based Connected Commons on their Agility Accelerator, a rapid organizational network analysis platform. Connected Commons is an intentional network dedicated to developing the research, relationships, and resources that enable individuals and organizations to thrive in the Connected Economy. Over the past 25 years, Connected Commons has engaged with over 300 highly regarded organizations, including Pfizer, Cisco, and General Mills. 

The challenge

Though the team at Connected Commons knew they had a great concept, software development proved to be a challenge. “The initial code was restrictive, and developed without an eye to performance and growth,” says Director of Operations and Applied Research Deb Zehner. “And our initial surveys could only handle 200 participants, which we knew would prevent us from scaling.”

The solution

Enter Xtern Software. We cleaned up the code, made it scalable, and moved all the data to Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting. Founder Keir Davis is a certified Amazon Web Services (AWS) Solutions Architect, so he had the training and background to engineer such a move. From there, Connected Commons had the ability to include up to  2,000 participants in an assessment. 

Connected Commons set to work on their largest project yet, with a multinational human data sciences company, only to encounter an unexpected roadbump in early February: the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The project could not get off the ground without an immediate and seamless transfer of the platform from US servers to European servers to comply with GDPR. Otherwise, the project would be shut down. 

Our team worked tirelessly, logging many weekend hours and evenings, to seamlessly move the platform by mid-February – in only two weeks. The system functioned flawlessly with no downtime or disruptions to service. The project launched successfully without delay, and Connected Commons delivered a successful project. 

Xtern enabled Connected Commons to bring an innovative product concept to market, scale it tenfold, and deploy the platform to companies across the world. 

Companies like ours are proving that the Triad can develop and retain tech talent. With highly regarded Computer Science programs at both UNCG and A&T, as well as several community-based efforts to incubate tech startups, the Triad is quickly gaining on that other three-pronged region in NC. 

[HaystackCRM] Happy birthday to us!

April is an exciting month for us. Our parent company was founded in April 2002 and HaystackCRM was founded in April 2017. There’s something about early spring that gets our creative juices flowing 🙂

HaystackCRM was born out of the need to help Xtern manage its rapidly growing customer base.

Our story

It became challenging to keep our sales pipeline full, while simultaneously doing our day jobs. We realized that we needed a centralized location to manage disparate customer data.

— Some of us kept spreadsheets

— Others of us jotted notes on paper

— A few of us just kept the information in our brains, perhaps never to be unearthed again!

This type of information all took a backseat to the actual work of building custom software. 

— Meetings we had with leads

— Events we attended to market our business

— Sales prospects we were cultivating

We couldn’t move nimbly from one project to the next, and we were leaving potential new business on the table. 

We searched for an existing CRM that would seamlessly integrate our sales workflow into our daily work. The products were:

— Too bulky to use gracefully 

— Too expensive for our small business 

We also wanted something that:

— Could be used on our phones, with an elegant design similar to apps we were using as consumers

— Could be used to jot (or voice-narrate) notes when we were running from meeting to meeting 

— Had a mapping feature so we could easily locate meetings while we were on the road 

What we did to fix it!

We couldn’t find what we wanted, so we took our wishlist and created something cost-effective and devoid of technological clutter. We now have a product for users that value a lean feature set and transparent pricing

Our users help us improve our product by sharing feedback, both positive and negative. Don’t be surprised if you get an email from us asking how things are going (with HaystackCRM that is!) Though, feel free to tell us how things are going in the rest of your life 🙂