Thursday, September 01, 2011

Clear Books Spotted with Foot in Mouth

Previously I had hinted that I intend to dig a little deeper into Clear Books, along with Liberty Accounts and LiquidAccounts. The reason - each had swum against the tide of their 'competitors' by deciding to build their own integrated payroll modules. A not insignificant undertaking for a 'start-up' accounting vendor with minimal resources, minimal paying users and with so many other sexy, unique, differentiating features that they could be focusing on instead and, I would argue, a foolhardy undertaking. Reasoning I feel that is backed up by the main players in this space who do not entertain wasting their precious resources on something that would be nothing more than a distraction from their core competency and pretty pointless, as they have willing partners who already do it fantastically well. I hope to follow-up soon with analysis on what I see as a classic case of throwing technology at the problem of not getting the rate of market traction expected. History shows that the winner is rarely the most bells and whistles - in small biz SaaS I can guarantee that's the case.

Anyhoo, I digress. The screenshot above is from a post that appeared briefly on the Clear Books blog on Wednesday evening. It got pulled pretty quickly once the belly laughs of pundits began to reverberate around the planet, i.e. the guys at the SalesForce gig in San Francisco got involved on Twitter. Kind of ironic as the annual Benioff sales-pitch is probably the biggest 'SaaS'/cloud gathering on the planet, i.e. a good place to embarrass yourself.

Unfortunately Clear Books have got some form for this sort of thing. TBH, Clear Books would make an ideal case-study on how not to take a 'secure', online small business accounting app to market. Tempting though it is to catalogue these disasters here, I shan't. Restraint and all that. Hey we all make mistakes right? It's not like I'm holier than thou - no Pearly Gates for me I expect. Actually I just can' t be bothered. Maybe later!

Just to be clear the above post is a Comparison chart, where they seem to have Googled every online accounting product they could find, proceeded to list them and then proceeded to claim that none of them have any features whereas Clear Books does absolutely everything bar make you a coffee in the morning - though that's probably on a road-map somewhere!

This is the sort of thing that identifies those that don't get it. With a huge land-grab going on  from ignorant, cumbersome incumbents. Where Sage producing a 'SaaS' type offering that works for a change, validates your sector who do you go after? I can only presume they've got confused and think they are one of the global CRM vendors who expect to have mud thrown and hurl it back with glee. Probably be a patent suit next against someone for using the term 'invoice' or similar. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.

But it's also that subtle messaging thing. Your users and potential users and lots of other vociferous observers have inbuilt bullshit detectors. All your good work - and Clear Books is a good product - is undone in an instant. To be Clear, it's not the best product who wins, but the most loved. My concern is that the foot was just first course before Clear Books proceeds to eat itself.

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