Is Your Web Site an Integral Part of Your Business?

Almost every business today large or small has a web site.  Some companies have done a good job of making theirs interactive and engaging while others have created little more than an electronic brochure. Yet most business owners will agree that their web site defines their business, outlines the value they offer to customers and may be the single most important source for brand awareness and communication with prospects and customers.  Why then, is it not an integral part of their business?

The Customer Experience

Your web site is not for you — it’s for your customers and prospects.  Their experience with the utilization of your site and attaining the information they need may play a larger role than you think with regard to customer retention and customer satisfaction.   Many companies are working to improve the customer experience by adding educational materials, white papers and videos to their home page and this is great, but with the right partner more can be done.

CRM and The Web

Companies like Commence Corporation are helping small and mid-market companies to make their web site an integral part of their business.  Commence provides Customer Management software applications for contact and account management, sales management, marketing, project management and customer service, but we take CRM to a whole new level by integrating your web site with our web CRM software.  This integration enables you to more effectively manage customer relationships before, during and after the sale, providing you with a competitive edge over your competition.  Outlined below are just two examples of how Commence can help you to make your web site an integral part of your business.

1-     Sales & Lead Generation

Every business wants to generate more leads and implement lead management software to ensure that they are properly followed up and do not fall through the cracks.  Have you ever considered using your web site for this?  Why not? Web based CRM solutions like Commence CRM offer integrated lead forms that reside on your web site. Once the form is filled out and submitted the information automatically populates the CRM system and alerts the territory sales representative that they have a new lead.   They can then follow-up on the lead without any additional data entry.   In addition, upon submission of the lead form, the prospect is automatically notified that their inquiry has been received and someone will be contacting them shortly. This provides the prospect with a comfort factor that you provide a quality service before the sale and that your company is seriously interested in their business.

2-     World Class Service — The Customer Portal

Your customers are your lifeline, so why not provide them with the best quality customer service you can by using your web site as a vehicle for improving your communication with them.  In today’s competitive market the difference between you and your competition may not be the product you offer but instead the level and quality of service you provide.  CRM software like Commence CRM provide not only a comprehensive ticketing system, but include a customer portal that offers additional services to your customer, including the ability for customers to update their profile, submit a service request, and review a knowledgebase of product information or frequently asked questions. These features are provided as an integrated part of your web site. Best of all, these integrated services are available to your customers 24/7 and will serve to actually reduce the call volume to your service organization.

Make Web Integration Part of Your CRM Software Decision

Most small and mid-market companies are thinking about CRM software to improve contact management and sales forecasting and there are certainly many low cost solutions that can deliver this functionality. The real value of CRM however will be realized by those companies that select a CRM solution provider that can help them integrate their web site as an integral part of their business.

Are Desktop CRM Solutions Giving Way to Software as a Service (SaaS)?

Businesses looking for customer management software solutions better known as CRM, have numerous alternatives to choose from, but for those looking specifically for desktop or on premise CRM software, the options appear to be fewer and fewer.  There are still a few low end contact managers such as Sage ACT, Avidian Prophet and Highrise, but they are not CRM solutions and the desktop CRM players that are still in business appear to be giving ground to more popular Web CRM software offerings.

Take the recent article that appeared in Tech Vibes titled Hui Family takes over Maximizer software. The article indicates that Maximizer CRM has experienced a significant decline in revenue due to recession related issues.  While it’s clear that most CRM companies are not hitting too many home runs, this revenue decline may have more to do with the migration of small to mid-size businesses to Web CRM software than economic issues.  Maximizer does not offer a web based CRM solution.

Commence Corporation had been in a similar space, selling desktop customer management software and sales force automation software to small and mid-market companies. For many years we competed directly with the FrontRange Goldmine product, SalesLogix and later with Microsoft Dynamics after they entered the market, but even at that time it became clear that things were beginning to change in the SMB space.  Software as a service (SaaS) solutions from companies like Salesforce.com were beginning to pave the way for a migration from desktop solutions to web CRM software that were easier to implement and easier to use. While several of the companies outlined above stayed the course, Commence migrated its award winning CRM software to the web and introduced Commence On-Demand, a web CRM solution  specifically designed for small to mid-size businesses. While we still sell our desktop product, 80% of the inquiries we receive each day for customer management software are for our web CRM product and even through the economic conditions are not much improved, Commence On-Demand has experienced growth in both the number of subscribers and in revenue.

It’s clear that this trend towards web based CRM software vs. on premise CRM software will continue and those companies that do not have a “software as a service” or SaaS offering will continue to experience a decline in their customer base and revenue.

CRM Price Wars Continue, But Who Wins In The End?

It seems like manufacturers of Customer Relationship Management software are doing almost anything these days to add new subscribers.   Some are offering free utilization for the first few months, others money back guarantees and a few are even offering utilization of their software as a monthly service with no contract at all.  Price points are all over the map and they have consistently changed to attract new customers.  It’s gotten so crazy that if you need a CRM system right away some vendors will allow you to enter your credit card and for a few bucks you’ll be up and running in minutes.  In some cases the service is even free.  But wait a minute.  Is this a business solution that is going to address my requirements for improving how I sell and provide services to my customers?  It sounds more like I am buying an out of the box contact manager.

The fast sale & low cost craze must be working however, because CRM vendors like Salesforce and Microsoft — two of the recognized leaders — have continued to repackage their offering and lower their price.  Just a few weeks ago a small company of two people could purchase Salesforce CRM for $9 per user per month.  A few months earlier up to ten users could take advantage of this offer.  Recently the program changed again and now five users can purchase the product for $5 per user.  I appreciate that CRM vendors are having a tough time differentiating themselves, but are they now convinced that the sole driver of CRM decisions among small to mid-size companies is price?   This CEO is not.

Warren Buffet once said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Seems appropriate here doesn’t it.   My firm Commence Corporation has been providing CRM software solutions to small and mid-size business for two decades. Most of the executives we work with are entrepreneurial and savvy operators.  Sure they want the best price they can get, but they are more interested in addressing their business requirements and improving their business than finding the lowest price.   Sometimes their requirements are as simple as data consolidation.  They may be managing their customer data using excel spreadsheets or a contact manager and are unable to consolidate and share the information with the people and departments that need it to efficiently do their jobs.   Some are frustrated with their inability to organize and manage their sales organization and are looking for tools and expertise to assist them. But one thing is for sure: they recognize that a CRM tool on its own at any price is not going to solve their business needs.  They want a CRM partner.

Value Added Services, the True Differentiator

So what do I get for $5 dollars or $9 dollars per user anyway?  What level of service should I expect?  Do I get a documented installation plan that will ensure the successful implementation of the CRM system?  Do I get assistance with data migration? What about training?  Is the CRM vendor available to assist my staff with best practices for data consolidation and data sharing, sales optimization and measurement of sales performance?  Will I get the services I need to address my business challenges and improve my business?   After all, this is why I began the search for a CRM system in the first place.

CRM Partner vs. CRM Vendor

Addressing your business challenges will not be met by the selection of a low cost CRM solution, but instead by engaging the expertise and domain experience of a true business partner. A partner will take responsibility of the successful implementation and utilization of the CRM system.   A partner will provide a high level of service before, during and after the sale and supply the industry and product expertise to ensure that you realize the maximum value from their solution.  The only problem is you cannot get a partner for $5 per user.

Commence Differentiators

Commence Corporation has taken pride not only in our top rated CRM software, but in the world-class service we have provided to our customers.  For more than two decades Commence customers have relied on our expertise and domain experience to ensure the successful utilization of our product and the growth of their business.  This partnership between Commence and our customers have ensured their success as well as ours.

See what customers say about Commence and take a look at my white paper “Don’t Make a CRM Buying Mistake” at www.commence.com.