Commence CRM a Solid Alternative to Salesforce

The Honeymoon is Over

You wanted a robust CRM solution for your business and like many others bought into the hype and fanfare of Salesforce.com.  No one can blame you.  The industry analysts, review sites, and pay-to-play listing services all touted Salesforce.com as the number one solution for Customer Relationship Management.  So, you selected them and paid a small fortune for use of the product and for their customer service. Now one year later it’s renewal time and you are a bit dismayed because you have learned that your staff is not in love with the product and have found it cumbersome and difficult to use. In addition, you have discovered that they are only using a fraction of the functionality you paid a premium to get one year earlier. Now what?  You certainly did not plan to have to change CRM systems after one year, but you are struggling to once again pay an exceptionally high price to renew a service that your staff does not like and is not fully utilizing.

Well here is some good news.  You don’t have to. There are several very good CRM solutions for small to mid-size businesses that are rich in functionality, easier to use and much more affordable than Salesforce.com.

One of these products is Commence CRM, recently listed as a Top 20 Most Popular by the Gartner Group’s Capterra review site.  Commence CRM is targeted at companies that need more functionality and flexibility than the basic, low cost, one-size-fits-all solutions can provide without the cost and complexity of solutions like Salesforce.com.  It’s a comprehensive offering that includes the traditional contact management and sales functionality you find in most CRMs, and additionally provides Marketing Campaign Management, Help Desk Ticketing with a Customer Portal, and a fully integrated Project Management application. This additional functionality differentiates Commence CRM from other offerings, and makes it an attractive alternative to Salesforce.com for companies that may require this level of functionality.

If you have Salesforce.com and are considering a change due to poor utilization and the high cost of renewal, Commence CRM would be a solid alternative.  To learn more visit commence.com.

Commence CRM Automation for Nurturing Leads

If you are a sales representative you know that sales can be a tough and frustrating profession.  At times, you are nothing more than a pin on the map to the sales manager, a quota to the company, and an item called “cost of sales” to the finance department.  You call prospects every day, send out mailers and e-mails, and network on social sites to get new leads only to discover that as many as 50% of them are not ready to buy.  Sounds a bit depressing, doesn’t it? But that’s sales. Experienced sales people have learned to focus their energy on the qualified leads who are ready to buy and are taking advantage of next generation CRM software to nurture those prospects who are not.

One CRM product that does this very well is Commence CRM.  Commence offers a lead qualification feature that allows you to categorize leads based on specific criteria such as hot (highly qualified), warm (not purchasing for 3-5 months), or cold (no specific time frame for purchase.)  The system automatically color codes the leads so that you can immediately determine which category they belong to.

Lead Management

The drip marketing feature allows you to automate how you want to nurture the leads. Here is an example.  Warm leads will receive a direct mail or e-mail every 30 days highlighting your products, a case study in that industry, an invitation to a conference, or a call to action.  The program is set up and completely automated with future time frames for each action to be taken and triggered after the number of days has elapsed.   Cold leads for example may only get contacted every quarter after the initial introduction.

Drip Marketing Schedule

The objective here is to enable the CRM system to nurture these warm and cold leads while the sales team is laser focused on the most promising new opportunities. It’s an easy, efficient and effective tool that can be used by a marketing professional or the sales representatives themselves.  With Commence CRM, every lead is looked at as a potential opportunity throughout the year.  Just because they are not ready to purchase today doesn’t mean they will not purchase tomorrow. Keep your product, your service, and your company in front of them to strengthen your brand, ensuring they contact you when they are ready to buy. Commence CRM can make this happen for your business.  To learn more, see commence.com.

Use Price to Differentiate CRM Solutions

CRM Buyers Guide: What to Expect from Free and Low-Cost CRM

CRM software is considered a commodity market today, especially for very small businesses that have basic requirements such as a need to manage contacts, activities, notes and e-mail history.  Most of the companies that serve this sector now offer their products for free because it’s simply too costly to market, sell, and provide service to customers for a few dollars per user per month.  They use their CRM solution as a loss leader because they often have other products and services to sell you; and now that you’re a customer they have your company name, contacts, phone and e-mail addresses. So, expect to hear from them as part of their free offering.

If one of these basic cookie-cutter solutions meets your business requirements that’s great, but if you’re thinking that ‘all CRM solutions are the same… why pay for one?’ you’re dead wrong. Many people differentiate CRM solutions by price alone. It’s not a bad approach because price does in fact differentiate the basic low-cost or freemium solutions from those that cost more. The key is identifying what you may or may not be getting for the price you are willing to pay. Here are just a few things to consider before making your decision.

Free and low-cost CRM solutions come with limitations

Traditionally there are limitations on the number of accounts and contacts you can have, number of reports you can generate, number of custom fields you can add, number of e-mails you can send, and no group calendaring. More importantly there is often no online data security, no permissions (so all data is visible to all users), little to no customization, no system integration, and no phone support.   If you do not want these limitations – expect to pay about $30 dollars per user per month for a good solution.

Data Hosting Service

If you are concerned about the storage and protection of your online data (and you should be), it is important to note that the top tier data storage companies like Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, and others are not free which simply means the following. If you select a free or low-cost CRM solution you are not getting the high level of data security and protection service that is provided by higher cost CRM solution providers. If you are OK with this, it is still important to ask the vendor where your data is being stored and how you can get to it if needed.

Security Permissions

There are times when you need to ensure that certain data is only viewed by specific internal resources. Perhaps you want to make sure a sales representative in San Francisco cannot see the leads or accounts being worked on by a representative in New York. Or maybe there is a major account in the system only accessible by the management team. This is simply not possible with low end or freemium products.

System Integration

If you need to integrate your CRM solution with a third-party software program chances are this is just not offered by low end or freemium solutions. This feature is in the higher cost products.

Customer Service

Let’s be real here. If you select a free or low-cost CRM solution, you have no right to expect that you can get on the telephone with a company representative and get free advice and counsel. The best you can hope for is the ability to send an e-mail and hope someone responds, or that you can get your questions answered via the company’s web site.  Higher cost products traditionally provide telephone support and have a named account manager assigned to your company.

There are, of course, other things to consider when selecting a CRM solution. My objective here is to ensure buyers fully understand that all CRM systems are not alike and that there are limitations associated with low-cost or freemium solutions.

About the Author

Larry Caretsky represents Commence Corporation a provider of CRM solutions for small to mid-size businesses. Commence CRM is rated as a Top 20 Most Popular CRM solution by the Gartner Group’s Capterra review site.  Commence CRM offers a robust set of applications for sales, marketing, customer service, and project management. The product is affordable and easy to use making it a popular alternative to higher cost programs like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com.

A Common-Sense Approach to CRM Selection

Selecting the right CRM software for your business can be challenging. This common-sense approach can make your life and selection process a lot easier.

Advice for CRM Buyers: Get the tool that gets the job done. | Commence CRM

Step one is to simply document why you are looking for a CRM system. What problem(s) are you looking to solve? You may have heard the old adage: People don’t buy a drill because they want a drill. They buy a drill because they need a hole.  CRM is just a tool; it’s the drill. You need to buy the CRM solution that will address your specific problem(s).

Once you have determined what you want to achieve you can narrow down the options very quickly because despite the number of solutions available they all fall into one of three categories.  At the most basic level there are a myriad of low-cost out of the box solutions. These are for small businesses that may be tired of using an Excel spreadsheet to run their business.  They are designed as one size fits all, so typically what you see is what you get. But if you are simply looking to capture, track and share customer data such as company names, contacts, notes, activities and perhaps generate a sales forecast then these products may be perfect for you.  Keep in mind that they are cheap for a reason.  There are typically limitations with regard to the number of accounts or contacts you can store, reports you can run or the customizations you can make. Once again this may not matter if you are a small business with limited requirements.  I do recommend that you ask the vendor where your data is stored and what kind of customer support they provide. Remember the majority of these solutions are cloud based and due to their low cost the solution provider cannot afford to provide best-in-class data hosting.  If you comfortable with who is storing and backing up your data and that you can get to it in case of an emergency that’s fine, just check it out. Also, make sure you are ok with customer support which is typically self-service and e-mail only. Products in this category range from free to about $20 per user per month.

The next level up are CRM solutions that offer more robust functionality and flexibility.  They are scalable to support a larger number of uses and can manage a high volume of data and transactions.  Let’s call these mid-market solutions. In addition to the basic account and contact management features found in low end solutions, these products help automate the internal business processes that impact sales, marketing and customer service.  The advanced functionality allows you to capture, manage and qualify leads; manage the sales pipeline from introduction to closure; generate marketing campaigns; and keep track of the experience your customers have had with you via automated ticketing and problem resolution. These programs also offer advanced reporting and analytics that provide a graphical snapshot of sales, marketing, and service activity. In addition, the ability to customize these solutions for your business is significantly greater than lower cost products and customer service is very good as companies at this level have highly qualified personnel on board to ensure that you realize exceptional value from their product.  In fact, the entire business relationship with the solution provider is different at this level.  You are not just buying a software package over the internet that you can use and pay for on a month by month basis.  You are buying a solution coupled with the expertise that ensures the product is properly implemented, tailored to your requirements, and that your staff is well trained on how to use the software to manage your business.  You can find good quality products in this category from $25 to $65 dollars per user per month based on the applications you select.

Lastly, you have enterprise level solutions. These products are traditionally differentiated not by their CRM functionality, but by the fact that they are highly scalable and capable of supporting several hundred to several thousand users.  In addition, enterprise level CRM systems are often a component of a total solution that includes Accounting and or ERP functionality.  Those that do not offer this have built integration capabilities to the leading Accounting and ERP systems.  These programs traditionally start at $75 per user per month and can end up as high as a few hundred dollars per user per month when all is said and done.

So, there you have it. Chances are you fall into one of these categories.  If you are a small business with very limited requirements the world is your oyster as there are several hundred basic low-cost solutions to choose from.  Because the functionality of these programs is so similar, the level of service they provide coupled with their data hosting service could be a good way to differentiate one from the other.

My choice for companies of 10 to 100 users (i.e., mid-market) is Commence CRM. This is because Commence offers a robust set of functionality the rivals several enterprise level solutions at half the cost. In addition, the company continues to introduce new functionality that differentiates them from the competition. A new fully integrated Project Management module is a recent addition that is getting very good reviews. Commence also has a reputation for providing outstanding customer service and has been in business for two decades.

In the enterprise space, Salesforce.com is the recognized leader for those businesses seeking a feature rich scalable CRM solution. However, Oracle and SAP or NetSuite would be better choices if you are looking for a CRM solution fully integrated with Accounting and or ERP functionality.

Compelling Reasons to Select Commence as your CRM Provider

2 Reasons CommenceCRM is a Top Choice for SMBs

There is a lot to consider when selecting CRM software and with several hundred options, choosing the right one for your business can be a grueling exercise. While the press typically highlights industry giants Microsoft Dynamic and Salesforce.com, recent news has been about an up and comer that is quietly gaining market share. That company is Commence, makers of Commence CRM.

The company is firing on all cylinders and was recently listed as one of the Top 20 Most Popular CRM products for small and mid-size businesses by Capterra, who periodically reviews industry software products. Commence CRM also made the Gartner’s FrontRunners Quadrant for CRM solution providers and is listed by Business-software.com as a Top Choice for small to mid-size businesses.

Commence CRM is targeted at businesses that need more than the traditional low cost, one-size-fits-all solutions can provide, but who do not need or want the cost and complexity of higher end enterprise level systems. The company offers a number of compelling reasons to select them as your CRM solution provider.

First, the product offers a comprehensive suite of applications that rival enterprise level products at half the cost. In addition to the traditional Contact Management and Sales Automation found in most CRM solutions, Commence CRM offers:

  • Marketing Campaign Management
  • Group Calendaring
  • E-mail integration
  • Activity Management
  • Help Desk Ticketing system
  • Knowledgebase and FAQ
  • Customer Portal
  • Reporting
  • Built-in Analytics

Commence CRM also recently added a fully integrated Project Management application that is getting much fanfare.

Furthermore, the applications are all modular in design, which means you can select only the functionality you need for your business today and add functionality later. Commence CRM is an all-in-one that you will not outgrow.

Commence CRM also includes administrative functions for easy management of the product, multi-level security permissions, and a high degree of customization that is simply not found in competitive products at similar price points. Add a top tier best in class data hosting service, outstanding customer reviews, and customer support that is provided by an assigned account manager and you have a solution that is tough to beat. Visit commence.com for more information and ask for a free trial.