Microsoft Announces Internet Lead Management Platform

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 24, 2000 — Microsoft Corp. today introduced the new ClearLead TM lead management service platform, designed to help businesses build lifetime customers through the flexibility and power of the Web. Scheduled for general availability in the second quarter of this year, Microsoft® ClearLead is built from the ground up for the Internet and will enable third-party developers and solution providers to integrate ClearLead functionality into eBusiness solutions for specific industries. As the Internet becomes the focal point for the day-to-day operations of many businesses, a system that automatically imports leads from Web sites is becoming an essential tool for managing and expanding a business.

“ClearLead represents a major step in delivering online solutions that link people and knowledge, making it easier for businesses of all sizes to create closer relationships with their customers,”
said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft president and CEO.
“It demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to helping our partners develop world-class services on our platforms.”

The ClearLead Web service will give businesses the ability to quickly and easily respond to and manage the real-time inquiries of its Internet customers. ClearLead is an Internet-based platform that runs on Microsoft server software; therefore, companies without information technology staff or server infrastructures will benefit most from ClearLead.

“Microsoft ClearLead provides a common and extensible Web-based platform that gives developers an easy way to implement user friendly, vertically targeted lead management functionality. Microsoft’s CRM and eBusiness partners will be able to offer their small-business customers access to an Internet ‘lead clearing house’ that incorporates the Web services and capabilities most appropriate for their specific industry,”
said Christopher Fletcher, managing director of Aberdeen Group’s CRM practice.

Developing customized solutions with specific industry-related features will be easy using the open architecture of ClearLead. Automobile dealers will have the first opportunity to take advantage of the new lead management tools later this spring. Separately today, the MSN TM CarPoint TM online automotive service announced that its car-buying Web site ( ) will be the first service to implement the ClearLead platform. Its new version of the DealerPoint lead management system, powered by ClearLead, will help auto dealers more easily manage their Internet sales, respond to more customer inquiries in less time, and cut average per-car selling costs.

In addition, VerticalNet Inc., a leading portfolio of business-to-business trading communities, is licensing the ClearLead platform. VerticalNet will incorporate the platform in its vertical markets to help small- and medium-sized businesses better manage customers online. Microsoft announced a strategic alliance with VerticalNet last week. In the coming months, additional businesses and industries will be announced as well as a small business offering on Microsoft bCentral TM online business services.

“ClearLead is a flexible engine that allows us to build a critical customer management tool for auto dealerships so they can integrate their lead-generation and sales efforts with their inventory systems,”
said Lindsay Sparks, CEO of CarPoint.
“This flexibility allows our dealership partners to better track their performance and sell more cars.”

ClearLead innovation stems from its ease of use and automated tools that utilize the Web for lead management. The Web service will automatically manage multiple tasks, simplifying many of the traditional prospecting and customer-acquisition processes. From the home page, users will be able to view to-do lists, contacts, and contact histories easily. ClearLead will also enable nimble, timely responses to customer leads through a variety of automated features, including lead importing, rule flow, task lists, post-sale follow-up, and pager support. For example, sales representatives can set up automatic forwarding of urgent customer requests directly to a pager or cellular phone. These tools allow companies to focus on their core customers, saving time and allowing them to close sales and expand their business.

About ClearLead

ClearLead is an Internet lead management platform that helps businesses build lifetime customers through the flexibility, ease of use and power of the Internet. ClearLead gives any business the ability to deliver world-class customer service through an easy-to-implement Web solution.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software — any time, any place and on any device.

The information contained in this document relates to a prerelease software product that may be substantially modified before its first commercial release. Accordingly, the information may not accurately describe or reflect the software product when first commercially released. This document is provided for informational purposes only, and Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to this document or the information contained in it.

Microsoft, ClearLead, MSN, CarPoint and bCentral are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

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