I do not think you can find a more competitive market sector than CRM software. If you are a small business there are at least 100 options to choose from. There are dozens of free offerings and dozens more for just a few dollars a day. Some are not bad and some are not very good, but it’s clear that CRM has become a commodity market for the small businesses market.
This is not the case for mid-size and larger companies who require robust functionality, the ability to customize the CRM software and integrate it with other third party software programs such as accounting or ERP. If you require the CRM system to automate sales, marketing, customer service and project management functions it narrows done the field quite a bit. There are some very good companies and solutions to choose from, but CRM at this level is anything but a commodity. Selecting a higher level CRM solution will require you to spend the time to ensure the solution you select can meet your unique requirements, can scale as your business grows and that there is a strong support organization in place to assist with the implementation, training and support of the product.
If you are a small business one of the ways to narrow the field in this commodity market is to ask a few simple questions.
1. Reputation of the company
Does the vendor you are considering have a track record in the industry? All you are trying to determine here is if others have been in your position, selected this vendor and are satisfied with their decision.
2. Where do they house your data?
This is perhaps one of the most overlooked questions. Your data is your business and you need to know where it is being stored and how you can get at it if you need to.
3. Is there a telephone number on the website?
If the company does not have a telephone number on their web site it is most likely because there is no one there to answer when you call. This is a big red flag that service will be poor and that your business relationship will consist of untimely e-mails and frustration. Call the vendors you are considering and see how they respond to your questions. This will tell you a lot about the kind of support you can expect after the sale.
Images courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net
CRM is all about building and managing the business relationships with your customers and in order to be effective you have to do this before, during and after the sale. Mid-size and larger organizations realize that this will require a fairly comprehensive CRM solution that addresses four business processes; account management, sales opportunity management, marketing campaign management and customer support. They also realize that they will require professional services, training and perhaps some assistance in tailoring any CRM solution to their requirements. This makes the CRM software selection process a bit easier for these companies because there are only a few high quality solution providers that can meet these criteria. It also serves to quickly differentiate the myriad of product offerings that do not.
The customer support aspect of CRM software is the key differentiator. I am not simply referring to companies that provide good customer service, but instead those that offer a Customer Support or integrated Help Desk application for ticket management. The big differentiator here is that when you access a customer profile you not only see account and sales history, but the service history as well thereby completing the picture and enabling you to properly manage the relationship with that customer. If they have had a difficult service history for example you will want to treat them a bit differently so that you can build trust in the relationship. If you have not captured this information you have no way to know this.
More and more companies are becoming interested in the customer service aspect of CRM. If you think this may be an important part of your decision process today or in the future, you may want to take a look at CRM solution providers that offer this level of functionality.
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Got your attention haven’t I and isn’t this exactly what small businesses want to hear? It sure is and it’s the “tag line” of the majority of CRM vendors who sell to the small to mid-size business community. Why? Because it’s the only way to sell to this segment of the industry and it works.
No one wants to hear that they have to invest time in training or customization to address their business requirements. The darn thing should just work out of the box and make my organization a more efficient sales and service organization.
The Myth of Low Cost CRM
Thousands of small to mid-size businesses have jumped on the CRM bandwagon due to the plethora of low cost CRM systems that you can simply download in minutes over the internet. Despite documented reports that as many as 70 percent of these companies fail to realize any measurable results they continue to buy these programs anyway.
What is it about CRM software that leaves this false impression – that you can improve how you market, sell and provide service to your customers by simply buying an online CRM system over the Internet? More importantly what makes smart people believe this?
The Truth about CRM
Here are a couple of facts to think about…
Fact: CRM software is a tool
Not unlike a hammer or saw, it requires people to take hold of the tool and do something constructive with it. By itself the tool does nothing.
Fact: Easy CRM is not the same as Functional CRM
If the CRM software you select is incredibly easy to use, it probably will not provide much value to you. Certainly if you’re looking to simply get rid of your Excel spreadsheet and get a database of accounts and contacts you will be fine. But if you require much more than this then forget-about-it.
A Successful CRM Implementation is More Affordable than you Think
One CRM software firm that is having a great deal of success in the small business CRM sector is Commence Corporation. Commence offers an affordable online CRM solution that has proven to help small businesses improve sales execution and customer service, but it’s not downloadable over the Internet.
In addition, Commence strongly suggests that its customers take advantage of the company’s expertise in sales, marketing and customer service by engaging in what Commence calls its on-boarding program. The on-boarding program ensures that Commence customers realize immediate value from their solution. The program engages the professional services team at Commence to tailor the CRM system to meet your unique business requirements and then train your staff on CRM workflow automation. It’s a small one time investment that returns measurable results and has helped catapult Commence to a leadership position among small to mid-size businesses seeking customer relationship management software.
Image “Hard at Work” by Will Vanlue on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Small to mid-size enterprises looking for a Customer Relationship Management solution may find that online CRM software best suits their business requirements. The current economic environment has placed a great deal of financial pressure on the SME sector. Many companies have found themselves with limited resources and working with a dated IT infrastructure that will cost a large amount of money to upgrade and maintain. “It’s simply too hard to manage and maintain desktop software today” says Patrick Murphy, managing director at SiliconCloud, a provider of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) solutions. “We switched to CRM Online, which has alleviated any additional investment in hardware or software and enabled us to focus one hundred percent of our time on growing our business. Having our CRM system online has also provided us with access to our data anytime and from anywhere via an Internet browser. Prior to this we were tied to our desktop computer.”
“There is clearly a significantly higher interest in CRM online today” says Tom Gibson, sales manager at Commence Corporation a top rated provider of CRM software. Customers want to be up and running quickly, without having to worry if they have the proper hardware in place. In addition, they now demand access to their data from mobile devices such as a tablet PC or smartphone. Online CRM software provides this traditionally at no additional cost. This is driving SME’s to consider online CRM vs. desktop solutions.”
Image “Foster Launches Seminars to Boost Business” by DUP Photos on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Small to mid-size enterprises that are looking to implement a CRM system to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers have become comfortable with on-line CRM software programs that operate in the cloud, but this was not always the case.
Early Challenges of Online CRM Software
Just a few years ago users of traditional contact management and sales management software which reside on desktop computers were initially concerned with the reliability and security of on-line CRM software that operates over the web and for good reason. Early entrants into this space had difficulty meeting several basic challenges; reliability, scalability and customization. Small to mid-size businesses that tried to take advantage of these early on-line CRM systems found reliability to be a significant problem and one that they rarely encountered with desktop software. This was because many of the early on-line CRM systems were not designed for performance or scalability and customers found themselves with periodic downtime, lost data and being told to run large reports overnight rather than during the daytime when utilization was high. In addition, many of these CRM systems offered basic out-of the-box functionality with limited to no customization leaving customers with nothing more than a web based contact management system.
Meeting Today’s Business Requirements with Online CRM Software
Today, several CRM software providers have moved the bar to an exceptional level and now offer solid performance and reliability, scalability to hundreds even thousands of users and the ability to customize their product to meet unique business requirements. There are still quite a few that do not and customers need to pay close attention to the following.
Reliability – simply means up-time. While the internet has proven to be a reliable access portal to data, this does not mean your CRM vendor’s program will be. Many of the low cost programs have not been architecturally designed with performance and reliability in mind. This takes a whole lot of time and testing and cost tens of thousands of dollars to perform. Many smaller firms or start-ups simply do not worry about this and believe if their product is successful, they will deal with this issue at that time, unfortunately at the expense of the customer. The cloud CRM service provider is also something that is critical. Level one cloud service providers are the best in the business, but their service costs a lot of money. Low cost on-line CRM systems typically use tier three or four service providers which saves them money at your expense.
Performance – this relates to how the system performs when there are a large number of people using it. Remember this is an on-line CRM system not one that resides on your desktop computer. On line CRM programs operate in what is known as a multi-tenant architecture which means you are sharing an environment with many other companies. If the system was not designed to support high transaction volumes, you may find yourself with a system that does not perform as expected.
Customizability – On line CRM systems are simply not yet as mature as desktop programs that have been around for decades, but this is changing quickly. Most quality CRM systems offer a reasonable level of customization without programmer intervention. With programmer intervention, many can match the customization level of desktop programs. This level of customization is often quite expensive so customers that require a high degree of customization should make sure they understand the cost associated with its completion.
For companies just starting to investigate on line CRM software, top picks for enterprise level companies would include Oracle and SAP. Mid-size companies will find good solutions in Salesforce.com and Commence CRM.
Image “raising-the-bar” owned by tatkinson785 (cc)
Image “Twitter user overload picture” owned by Ged Carroll (cc)
Small businesses have been engaged in acquiring CRM software in record numbers and for good reason. New cloud based CRM offerings coupled with low price points have encouraged small to mid-size businesses to join in on the success they have been hearing about for the past few years. For many of these businesses however, success has not come easy. In fact, there are a staggering number of failed implementations among SMBs and even the ones that get implemented often have very low utilization rates. The reason for this is simple and can easily be fixed if management begins to understand that you have to invest time, energy and money to be successful with CRM.
The problem lies in the fact that most businesses view CRM software as some sort of turn-key “out of the box solution” like an appliance that you plug-in the wall. It’s not. CRM is complicated and requires proper training and customization to address unique business requirements. Part of the problem also comes from a failed CRM selection process whereby management has not taken the time to outline their business requirements. As a result, they often select a solution based on popularity and price only to find out later that they made the wrong decision.
Small to mid-size businesses looking for help with the CRM selection process will find substantial value in the attached white paper, available from the link below.
Don’t Make a CRM Buying Mistake – 7 Points to Consider
Image “We Deliver” owned by Chris (cc)
Companies seeking Customer Relationship Management software solutions (CRM) traditionally focus their attention on industry giants Microsoft and Salesforce.com, but if there is a true David vs. Goliath story in this industry it’s lesser known Commence Corporation.
For the past two decades Commence has been quietly providing high quality customer management software and services to customers around the world and boasts one of the highest customer satisfaction rates in the industry. Commence’s origin comes from a team of Bell Laboratory engineers who founded the company and engineered one of the most flexible and reliable desktop CRM solutions in the world. Better known for its engineering savvy vs. sales and marketing, Commence’s desktop solution was sold under a private label agreement with several enterprise giants like IBM, AT&T and Compaq computer. These relationships enabled Commence to better understand customer requirements and design software solutions that were easy to implement and easy to use.
Today, the company’s CRM offering has evolved into a robust suite of applications for sales, marketing, project management and customer service and is one of the few CRM systems that may be deployed on premise or hosted via the cloud. Under the direction of industry veteran Larry Caretsky, the company is expanding its sales and marketing organization throughout North America and Europe and is enjoying a great deal of success against the competition.
“Commence is simply easier to use, less expensive and offers the flexibility you don’t find with enterprise level solutions.”
CEO, Commence Corporation
“This industry is full of hype” says Caretsky, “bolstered by the deep pockets of companies like Microsoft and Salesforce.com who continue to market the ‘one size fits all’ approach to CRM. This simply is not the case. If you are an enterprise organization that requires several thousand users and 10 different languages then these products make sense. If you’re a traditional mid-size company or small enterprise however, Commence is simply easier to use, less expensive and offers the flexibility you don’t find with enterprise level solutions.”
Commence CRM offers several unique features that businesses have found extremely valuable. First, there is the account scoring capability that enables companies to color-code their customers based on the value they provide to their business such as, the revenue generated, profitability, cost to provide services and future growth potential as examples. This scoring feature is also incorporated in the lead management module which helps the sales team qualify each new lead based on pre-defined criteria. Integration to Microsoft Outlook, Gmail and accounting systems like QuickBooks as well as full mobile integration is all part of Commence CRM. In addition to these unique features Commence also offers a world class cloud CRM service via a strategic relationship with Rackspace, one of the top application service providers in the industry. Added together, it’s no wonder that Commence is a top rated CRM solution for growing businesses.
To learn more about Commence CRM visit the company’s web site at www.commence.com or call Commence sales at 1-877- 266-6362.
Do you know who your most profitable customers are? Which ones require a high level of service or which ones have potential for up-selling or cross selling? You would if you had Commence CRM. Commence Corporation a leading provider of cloud based CRM software has released an enhanced version of their popular online CRM software that is taking customer relationship management to a new level. The enhanced version now offers a built in customer ranking system that quickly identifies the value that each customer provides to your business. This automated business process ranks and color codes each customer based on a set of pre-defined business criteria. Some examples include customer size, revenue, fulfillment cost, service level requirements, profitability, future growth potential and customer retention. Best of all, the criteria are completely customizable.
Ranking and segmenting customers according to their value to your business can play an important role in defining future service level agreements and marketing activity. You may for example choose to modify your service contracts for customers that consistently require a high level of customer care thereby increasing profitability. In addition, by segmenting those customers with the highest potential for up-selling or cross selling, you can create specific marketing programs targeted at this customer segment. The color coding feature enables management and each end user to quickly identify the top rated or most profitable customers allowing you to pay special attention to them and provide the type of service that ensures customer retention.
Automated Customer Ranking Process
Account Summary View
Commence Corporation continues to be an innovator in the field of customer management software providing advanced functionality not offered by industry competitors, Microsoft and Salesforce.com. The company has been providing CRM business solutions to mid-size and small enterprises for more than two decades. For more information about Commence’s CRM software solutions, call 1-877-266-6362 or visit the company’s web site at www.commence.com.
CRM software provider Commence Corporation has taken their online CRM solution to the next level by incorporating real time analytics as a component of their CRM offering. The analytics program is designed to provide senior management with a complete snapshot of business performance so that they can take a proactive approach to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers.
Designed for mid-size companies and small enterprises Commence CRM is a top rated CRM solution that is continuing to attract companies looking for a comprehensive easy to use affordable online CRM system. Commence provides a suite of customer management software that automates the front office business processes that directly impact sales execution and customer service. One of the areas that differentiate Commence CRM from competitive CRM offerings is the product’s multiple levels of reporting. In addition to pre-built customer management reports Commence CRM also incorporates a report generator, similar to Crystal reports, that enables customers to create custom reports to address unique reporting requirements. The addition of the analytics module makes the reporting capabilities of Commence CRM one of the best in the business.
The analytical reporting provides customers with a graphical analysis of key business metrics for lead management, sales pipeline management, marketing campaign management and customer service. Designed specifically for executive level management the analytics reporting gives management the information they need to make informed business decisions and has shown to significantly impact the lead generation process and close ratios.
The analytics identify how many leads were generated each month or quarter, what the source of the leads were, how many of the leads turned into sales opportunities, how many of the opportunities turned into new business and what was the value of that new business.
The CRM analytics program also provides real time sales pipeline data illustrating the sales opportunities by month by outcome, the top ten sales opportunities by revenue and by close date, as well as a corporate funnel by sales stage that enables sales management to manage the movement of each sales opportunity from introduction to closure.
Commence CRM also provides real time executive level reporting for customer service and displays information such as all open service tickets by representative, all open service tickets by age and more. This enables management to ensure that they continue to provide world class service to their customers.
Commence continues to raise the bar in Customer Management software. The addition of the analytical reporting component is just another differentiator between Commence CRM and alternative CRM solutions.
About Commence Corporation:
Commence is a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) for mid-size and small enterprises. The company has been providing both desktop and web based CRM software for more than two decades. Commence CRM is highly regarded for the products robust functionality, customizability and ease of use and is now delivered as a cloud based CRM offering. To learn more about Commence CRM software, visit the company’s web site at www.commence.com.
For more than two decades Commence Corporation has been providing high quality affordable CRM software for mid-size companies and small enterprises. While certainly not a household name like Salesforce.com CRM or Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Commence CRM is utilized by several thousand companies serving more than 30 industries in 22 countries around the world. Commence Corporation’s success is driven by pinpoint product positioning and by delivering a top rated CRM solution at an attractive cost.
Commence is cleverly positioned as the CRM solution for companies that require more than basic contact management and sales automation and forecasting functionality, but not the cost and complexity of enterprise level CRM product offerings. Commence CRM offers a well designed user interface which makes the product extremely intuitive and easy to use.
Commence CRM is a true middle market CRM solution. In addition to the basic contact management and sales automation and forecasting features provided by low-end small business solutions, Commence offers a level of functionality traditionally only found in enterprise level products such as: lead management, activity management, marketing campaign management, a document library, project management, a help desk solution with a knowledgebase, FAQ and customer portal, an accounting interface, analytical reporting and integration with most popular mobile devices. The full set of CRM application modules rivals that of Salesforce CRM at a fraction of the cost. “We simply have a better, easier to use and less costly alternative for the middle market” says Larry Caretsky, president of Commence Corporation. “Those that look at our CRM product offering quickly agree.”
Commence CRM is offered as a cloud CRM solution or an on-premise CRM program and lists Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM as its major competitors. For more information about Commence CRM for the middle market, visit the company’s web site at Commence.com.