Keeping Up With Your Customers: Choosing The Right CRM
Business is going great! We’ve been experiencing steady growth in the web design industry since the start of the new year. You might say that we’re starting to see a strong upturn in the economy; or maybe more companies are starting to realize that there are smarter ways to do business on the web. Whatever the cause, this inherent growth has prompted us to get better organized in order to keep up with the demand.
This month, Rio will be deploying a new company-wide Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. We thought we’d share our process with you, and in this post we will uncover the different types of CRM solutions available out there.
What is a CRM?
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution is a set of tools for managing and nurturing your interactions with customers and prospective customers.1 It includes tools that help automate business processes, like tracking sales interactions, monitoring marketing campaigns and providing comprehensive customer support. The overall goal is to find, attract, and win new clients or nurture and retain those your company already has.
Open Source CRM Solutions
Who said great software has to cost an arm and a leg? Open source software allows you to study, change and improve on the software because the code is released publicly. Due to the free-spirited nature of open source software, large communities are often formed around open source projects allowing the code to develop over time for the greater good of the community.
You can download, install, and customize open source software to suit your needs as your business grows. You get greater flexibility, but are required to keep up with your own maintenance, bugfixes and upgrades. These are the top three open source CRM solutions we reviewed:
SugarCRM was founded in 2004 as an open source project on Sourceforge. It was an instant success and has grown to house over 150 employees with $46 million from investors. SugarCRM comes in 4 editions which all share the same code tree. This means that while you have to pay for the enterprise edition, you can download and run the community edition for free. Talk about a bargain! Community edition contains roughly 85% of the core functionality of the enterprise edition, yet you are not required to pay a dime! Sugar runs on the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, mySQL and PHP) as well as other platforms that support PHP. It features all the functionality you would expect from a robust CRM, and since it is backed by the enterprise edition and a great open-source community, SugarCRM can rival the many paid CRM solutions out there.
Fat Free CRM
I first heard about Fat Free CRM in an article Nick forwarded to me from Inc Magazine. It is an open source Ruby on Rails based CRM platform that features out-of-the-box group collaboration, campaign/lead management, contact lists, opportunity tracking and more. Just as the name implies, the goal of Fat Free is to focus on simplicity. The easy-to-use interface lets you track leads generated by your advertising campaigns on Facebook, Google, Craigslist, etc. Anything that you can’t do out-of-the-box can be easily extended by a developer and you can also run it on your internal server for added security. One word of caution: Installing Fat Free is a bit tricky, especially if you’re not comfortable looking at software code, but once the application is installed, you definitely don’t have to be a developer to use it.2
openCRX is a professional open source CRM system featuring rich functionality in sales force automation, customer service and support, marketing automation and analytics. It also delivers a rich set of groupware features like e-mail, calendaring, and even a full-blown wiki. openCRX is easy to customize via its XML-based customization system and can be extended by writing your own workflows or developing your own extensions. The true power of openCRX shines when you unleash its ability to track and improve your complete business process. Connect it to your external systems, like ecommerce and order handling systems. However, be sure to read the instructions carefully, as it can quickly become overwhelming. Not to worry, the extensive documentation provided is a great resource to help you through.
Paid CRM Solutions
The name says it all: with paid CRM solutions, well, you gotta pay! These CRM services usually charge either an upfront fee for desktop based software (take a look at ACT), or the ever popular web based software applications who charge a monthly subscription fee for their service. With a paid web-based CRM, the software is updated and maintained for you, so you never have to worry about installation, upgrades or server management. However, you are trusting a third-party with your data and your downtime, but this type of solution is still great for small companies without an internal IT department since it is maintenance free.
Salesforce is a subscription based CRM founded in 1999. It is available in 16 different languages and caters to over 55,400 customers around the world.3 The Salesforce CRM can be broken down into multiple modules that cater toward all aspects of your business, like sales, service/support, partner relationship management, marketing, content, ideas and analytics. Salesforce is primarily a web based service accessed through your web browser, but also includes a SOAP Web Service API to interface with your other applications, adding great flexibility and automation possibilities. The Salesforce AppExchange allows third party developers to build additional add-ons to Salesforce and currently features over 800 applications that are waiting to help you run your business more efficiently. Be sure to check the current pricing, as at the time of this writing the prices are pretty steep.
Highrise lets you track your leads, contacts, and deals providing you with a smarter way to keep track of the people you do business with. Know who you talked to, what was said, and when to follow-up next. Get business done. Highrise is the answer to the avalanche: so many people, phone calls, emails, notes, follow-ups, and tasks. Who is this person again? When did we last speak? What did we talk about? Has anyone else in my company talked to this person? What’s supposed to happen next? Highrise keeps track of it all. Monitor pending sales leads, proposals, wins & losses. Manage email better by easily forwarding or BCCing your emails right into Highrise. Easy import & export of Outlook, Excel, CSV, vCard, ACT! and Basecamp contacts.
Tactile CRM can track conversations, sales and contact history. With Tactile CRM you can keep track of the people and companies you do business with, opportunities in the pipeline, communications with them, and what needs to be done next. Tactile CRM lets you easily record every email, telephone call, note, activity and meeting, so that you and your colleagues can quickly see every interaction. Easily search contacts – organizations, people and recently viewed. Set up activities to remind you of outstanding actions against each organization, such as calling them back. Assign organizations and activities to other users with optional email notification. Share information on clients and contacts with others in your organization by using our simple access control, or let everybody see everything. Categorize your contacts by status, source, classification, rating, industry. Import and Export data from csv files, vCards, Google, Microsoft Outlook and more. Download into Excel at the click of a button. Create mailing lists to send mail-merged letters or emails using the powerful tagging system. Work with the email client of your choice with its easy-to-use email integration – including Outlook, Mail.app and GMail.
- Customer relationship management, Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customer_relationship_management) ↩
- Bryce McDonnell, How One CEO Uses Open-Source CRM, Inc. Magazine, Dec 2009. (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20091201/how-one-ceo-uses-open-source-crm.html) ↩
- Salesforce.com, Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salesforce) ↩