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Friday, November 7, 2008

CRM For Small Business ..... What Works Best?

Contact management for small businesses is a big deal .... often having abig impact on your bottom line. Afterall .... how well you connect and stay in contact with customers (and potential customers) ..... track and manage your sales and marketing data .... and drive business to your company is crucial to your overall income numbers.

Here is a quick "Guide" with strengths and weaknesses of three CRM software packages I'm comfortable recommending:

Salesforce.com .......

PROS: Integration with dozens of 3rd party tools including marketing automation. Hands down the most powerful import functionality of all CRMs my test group ever used. Salesforce.com allows you the most flexibility with mapping of data ..... and gives you full control of what data gets overwritten, merged, and updated. It is also easy to use and quick to navigate.

CONS: Expensive compared to other alternatives. Little to no contractual flexibility.

SugarCRM ........

PROS: Nice interface and powerful customization, most powerful if you count the ability to edit code. Flexible contract terms. More cost effective than Salesforce.com in the OnDemand version ..... and free if you host the Open Source version yourself.

CONS: Little support for third party applications out of the box. Import process is limited in that you can only overwrite, versus update existing data records. This can be bad if you like to regularly update your database and import tradeshow and other marketing data.

QuickBase .......

PROS: Month to month contract terms, ability to host unlimited instances or have unlimited applications. As low as $15 per user per month. Easy customization.

CONS: Tedious import process with no ability to update certain fields versus overwrite. Little to no ability to connect to 3rd party applications.

My friends use Salesforce.com for their sales and marketing. They use Quickbase for delivery of their services.

Tidbits on a few others ...... Act and Goldmine require more IT resources for multi-user environments, and you will have trouble with people not syncing often enough. I have yet to meet anyone who has used Microsoft CRM and liked it.

Whatever program you choose really depends on what are your priorities and needs within CRM. Is it sales driven, customer service driven, internal help desk driven, campaign management drive. There are always some niche tools that are for specific needs and still people develop custom development. Proposal Making is a separate software in the CRM space for instance.

One thing to always remember when selecting, and integrating any CRM product. Installing and running the CRM is the easy part, no matter which one you chose. The hard part is tailoring the CRM's robust feature set to the unique aspects of your business, your sales goals, and the personality of your sales team. This tailoring will cost far more, take far longer, and incite far more arguments than you could ever imagine.

If it's so hard, then why even do it? Because that IS the payoff for CRM. A lot of people spend a lot of time analyzing all the features and choosing one CRM over another, and my point is, the feature sets aren't what matter.

The real beneit of CRM software isn't the automation, it is that in automating, it forces you to have all those tough arguments, make all those tough business decisions, and have all those debates about sales philosophy.

And if you do it right, you will be richer for it, no matter which software you choose.

CRM isn't simply contact management on steroids, it is your company's opportunity to identify best practices in customer life cycle management, codify those practices into defined processes, and an automated system to help your sales force understand and follow those practices.


Mathew Johnson said...

wow - i'd be really curious about your impressions of using blist, a simpler app, for crm:

blist crm

Melissa C. said...

Good article. It's important to consider many different CRM solutions before making make a definite decision. You also want to think about if you prefer having your CRM web-hosted or on-premise.

Another article that may help with that aspect: http://bit.ly/T7jtd

The decision regarding which CRM software to deploy is also contingent upon what kind of business you're operating, as well as the size of your business.
Small companies usually find themselves working well with other small companies because of personalization, etc, so you may want to choose a small-sized CRM development firm that provides personalized customer support along with the CRM, to help you along your way (plus the firm will be helpful tailoring the CRM to your specific needs).

As far as the level of CRM, that also depends on what features you definitely need. This is definitely something to think through, because you don't want to be stuck with a CRM that is a challenge to work with every day.