Yodle Buys CRM Company Described as ‘Demandforce on Steroids’

Yodle logoLast week I wrote about ReachLocal and its move into transaction management and CRM tools for service businesses. Today independent SMB marketing platform Yodle is announcing that it has done something similar with the acquisition of Lighthouse Practice Management Group.

Yodle CEO Court Cunningham characterized Lighthouse to me as “Demandforce on steroids.” The company, which describes itself as appointment reminder and relationship marketing software, also operates in the dental market.

According to the press release:

Yodle will now have a strong relationship marketing complement to its customer acquisition marketing offerings, currently used by 30,000+ small business clients.  This acquisition expands Yodle’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform offering, which now accounts for nearly half of the company’s revenue.

Just as Reach’s new ReachCommerce CRM and related capabilities complement its marketing tools, Lighthouse does much the same thing for Yodle’s marketing services.

For example, Cunningham and I spoke about the visibility that Lighthouse will offer into ROI and attribution. As the company expands Lighthouse into new categories — those where there is a recurring relationship with the customer — Yodle will similarly expand its ability to “optimize SMB lead generation based on actual transactions.” Unlike Reach, however, Yodle is not getting into payments transactions.

Key Lighthouse personnel, including CEO Brian Smith, will join Yodle to continue Lighthouse product development and its expansion across key verticals.

One of the other points stressed by Cunningham is that Lighthouse is compatible and integrated with all the major dental back-office systems. Rather than build their own back office, as Reach has done with ReachCommerce, Yodle decided to acquire a scheduling and CRM provider that was tied into legacy software systems.

Big picture time: Lighthouse offers “operational support” for SMBs and puts Yodle services at the heart of day-to-day business operations rather than at the margins (where advertising resides). This is part of a broader move among SMB channels and service providers to develop a broader array of services than simply advertising or marketing.

Once at the center of an SMB’s operations churn becomes less and less likely. In addition, as mentioned, the CRM and “back office” capabilities will give Yodle and its advertisers greater insight into which marketing channels actually delivered the best value. That enables Yodel to optimize for those channels (by vertical) and deliver a better service overall.

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21 Responses to “Yodle Buys CRM Company Described as ‘Demandforce on Steroids’”

  1. Eaco says at

    This is exactly why the inhouse IT team at Australia’s Service Central have spent the last few years building up our own inhouse business management system. The directory and lead management space is getting very crowded and it has now become imperative that you provide much deeper value for SMB clients.

    Providing clients with back office software not only provides you with “network independent value” (i.e. gives clients value even when you’re not generating leads), it also provides extremely valuable insights into how your SMB clients run their businesses and what other opportunities lie within (such as payments, financing, saas sales, etc).

    We have also seen this trend with Groupon’s purchase of scheduling software.

  2. Greg says at

    Agree. Groupon, Reachlocal, Yodle, ConstantContact, Intuit. There’s definite movement beyond marketing services. 

  3. Cunningham DDS says at

    I’ve had the pleasure of using both Lighthouse and Demandforce and must say that Lighthouse is definitely not Demandforce on steroids. Maybe steroids after they turn you into a flabby worthless pile of flesh. I don’t know how Yodle can justify saying this just because they are in the same industry.

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    So you’re saying that Demandforce is the superior product then? 

  5. Michael Smith says at

    When I did my research on the two I noticed that Demandforce had won the Dentaltown Townie awards for best communication system along with other awards for 3 years in a row. Since you have to be a Dentist to vote I found that compelling. Also, Demandforce had been endorsed by Texas, California, Florida, New York, Michigan, Virginia, Arizona, etc. Dental Associations and I found zero associated to Lighthouse. I would assume that these organizations did their due diligence before they recommended a service. Same with Henry Schein who also endorses them.
    Hopefully, Yodle didn’t take their word for it.

  6. Greg Sterling says at

    @Michael:

    Demandforce wasn’t available so this may have been the next-best thing and Yodle is putting their PR spin on the acquisition 

  7. Brian Schaefer says at

    There have been nothing but postive reports from Lighthouse users. I have attempted to get the same from Demandforce users, but they seem to be content to finish out their 2 yr locked in contracts with DF before they move onto Lighthouse. Lighthouse does not need a contract to keep their customers.

  8. Dr. Lorne Lavine says at

    We support around 400 practices using services like this. Around 300 of those are Demandforce users, 50 are Smile Reminders, 25 Lighthouse, and the rest a mix of smaller companies. I agree with Michael Smith, Demandforce has won all of the awards and has the endorsement of 10 major dental associations, no other company even has one that I know of. Lighthouse is definitely a good product, but saying that they are “DF on steroids” is pure marketing gobbledygook. 

    I would also be shocked if Yodle is happy with the “no contract” philosophy. I would imagine their deal prevents any immediate changes, but don’t be surprised to see that change over time.

  9. Diana P Friedman says at

    Great point about the integration of front and back office systems being critical to optimizing business efficiency. Digital communication channelss are quickly converging and effectiveness demands a more complete and comprehensive approach to consumer engagement. We have integrated into our solution not only a patient portal with reminders and internal marketing functionality, but also web presence, social media management, SEO, SEM and mobile device accessibility.

  10. Court Cunningham (Yodle CEO) says at

    Thanks to everyone for their comments over the last few days. I would like to respond to all the points.

    1. I believe that Lighthouse+Yodle is a far superior investment for the SMB than Demandforce. And, yes, Lighthouse really is Demandforce on steroids.

    Consider this: Dental practices right now have the choice to work with Demandforce and they’ll simply get basic appointment reminder software, or for the SAME PRICE, they can use Lighthouse 360 in order to reach 100% of patients, while having a much more robust and accurate patient recall system, a truly automatic confirmation system, and the opportunity to combine all messages to family members into a single message.

    Beyond that, Lighthouse customers will soon have the opportunity to acquire new patients because of Yodle’s great marketing features that include optimized desktop and mobile websites, SEO, and listings syndication to over 70 sites across the web.

    2. Yodle believes deeply in short term contracts for SMBs. We were one of the first in the industry to offer three month contracts when the standard was six months. As a media campaign can take some time to fully optimize, we do require this minimum three month commitment on our acquisition marketing products so that our customers can fully start to see the results that we’re delivering for them. Relationship marketing is very different and we love that Lighthouse lets the product speak for itself with no contractual commitment.

    3. It’s correct that Demandforce has won the Dentaltown “Townie Choice” award over the last three years. However, the question asked in the survey on Dentaltown to determine the winner of this award isn’t “what company do you like?” but is actually “what company do you currently use?” In other words, potentially dissatisfied customers who are locked into a multi-year contract with Demandforce still have to “vote” for them. It’s also worth mentioning that between 2011 and 2012, Lighthouse’s votes increased by more than 250%, while Demandforce actually got slightly fewer votes. I’m looking forward to seeing the 2013 results!

    Our goal is to double the value of our product offering every year for the SMB – Lighthouse more than does this for 2013 and we are not done yet!

    Best

    Court Cunningham
    Yodlle

  11. Dave says at

    Wow Court. To say, “they’ll simply get basic appointment reminder software” shows a pretty big lack of understanding. I’m not even a big fan of Demand Force but I know better than that. Even if Ligjthouse is a better deal than Demand Force this statement alone implies that you must not have done looked into the competition that much.

    And in order to reach 100% of the patients doesn’t the Dr. need to spend extra for phone calls or is that all included in the normal monthly price? I didn’t think it was.

  12. Court Cunningham (Yodle CEO) says at

    Dave,

    At Yodle we spend very little time focused on competitors as chasing the competition is not the way to win markets. We spend most of our time focused on customers and their needs/ problems. What we have heard from customers is that Lighthouse is MUCH better at getting 100% coverage/ contact rate with patients than other solutions. Given the extremely high customer satisfaction rates, customers feel the price is well worth the value.

    Yours in the service of delighting SMBs with marketing excellence,

    Court

  13. joeo says at

    My experience for demandforce, smilereminders and lighthouse have all been positive and negative. The one thing I can say is making sure you have the right team member taking the lead on the product (hence the variance). I do not agree with Demandforce on steroids comparison. One of my offices just recently signed up to lighthouse. Set up went great and implementation so far has been subpar. From incorrect time zones set up to multiple messages which caused incorrect time confirmations. Can you imagine the phone calls! When my dental relationships touch their patients electronically I prefer them to be in a positive light. Not a House of Horrors… Thumbs up on DForce support! Since this is what really matters after the sale.

  14. Marg/Administrator says at

    No one seems to talk about Practice Mojo….Here is a great service, similar to Lighthouse, better than Demandforce, because of the way it similarly connects with patients both electronically and in paper. A great value; I like the way it’s connection with SmartPractice allows it to offer beautiful images while sending messages which enhances the communications.

  15. Jamie Alexakos says at

    Our two optometry offices just ended our relationship with Demandforce. And…btw…they are still billing us. I am impartial…tried very hard to make it work…but bottom-line is; I would never recommend Demandforce to anyone. I am willing to privately discuss our experience with Demandforce; if anyone has specific questions.
    Jamie in Chicago

  16. Lorina Leung says at

    jamie Alexakos, can you tell me what you use as an alternative to demand force then and why did you quit? my email: lorinnal@gmail.com

  17. Anonymous says at

    We just ‘dumped’ Demandforce and signed up with Yodle because we were promised that we would be ‘blown away by the technology’ of Yodle. 

    During the demo, we were excited to see all that Yodle had to offer. 

    We are on day five of our exciting new venture with Yodle, and let me just say it’s been nothing short of a complete disappointment. 

    Not ONE of our patients this week has gotten a reminder text/email, etc. unless I manually sent it to them. 

    I am now BEGGING my Doc to go back to DemandForce, as at least THEY were reliable! 

    I’m really bummed. 

  18. Diana says at

    Hi there ‘Anonymous’, sorry to hear about your poor experience. May I suggest you connect with Sesame Communications and learn about Dental Sesame? This is a comprehensive automated reminder and patient engagement platform that has received the industry Best-of-Class award 3 of the past 4 years. If you are interested in learning about us please check our website at http://www.sesamecommunications.com or call us toll free at 864-641-3369. Thanks for giving us an opportunity to present our solution to you, Diana

  19. Allen Jorgensen says at

    Dear Client,

    As an actual dental practice owner – I am very sorry to hear about this.

    As one of the original Lighthouse founders, I will personally look into whatever has happened and commit to getting your office running with the full power of Lighthouse.  We never take any office for granted, because each and every month we have to earn their business because we do not lock offices into contracts.

    Please feel free to reach out to either myself or Court Cunningham – CEO Yodle Inc – cunningham@yodle.com and allow us to address your issues so you can realize the full power of Lighthouse.

    Allen

    Allen S. Jorgensen
    VP Client Services – Lighthouse Co-Founder
    T/F: 888-427-5454 x 2604

    allen@lighthouse-pmg.com

  20. Chet Gray says at

    I have been with Demand Force since 2010. I have been frustrated with their customer support. We have had many problems with them, that we couldn’t get resolved. Finally today Ken Whitfield called me from DemandForce, concerned because I am cancelling. He told me that the company has been under some changes and they are trying to fix the problems. Here are my problems. 1. Poor communication, until you have had enough and want to cancel. 2. Sending e-mails to the wrong people, and then charging me for it. 3. Not updating with out schedule. We change an appt with a patient less than a week from the appt. date. They don’t update their info, and continue to send the patient the wrong date and time. If I could have gotten those things resolved, I would have stayed. I am now looking for a new company, and am trying to compare Lighthouse with Practice Mojo. I would appreciate your experiences with either one of them.

    Midlanddentist@aol.com

  21. Roger Percival says at

    Don’t see how how demand force won awards it is not very good at all,not now not with so many great cloud based companies. It seems broken in their back office and demo takes you to not available page

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