There is no such thing as the best CRM software.
There are several products that may address your business requirements better than others, but there is no top CRM solution or best CRM system. Sorry to disappoint you. There is a lot of hype in this industry sector and millions spent on marketing and branding, but the best CRM software for you is the system that best meets your current and future business requirements. It’s that simple.
Mid-sized enterprises and large corporations understand this. Smaller businesses tend to make their decision based more on name recognition and price than on business requirements. If I said Microsoft Dynamics CRM was the best CRM solution no one would argue, or perhaps the folks at Salesforce.com might. Now if I said Commence CRM was the best I am sure this would generate a few replies such as “Who?!” That’s because companies like Commence do not sell into the enterprise market or have the marketing budget of a Microsoft or Salesforce.com. But if I told you this company has been servicing the customer management software requirements of small to mid-size companies for more than two decades and has several thousand customers around the world this might get your attention. You see my point?
While I do not know your specific business requirements, I can offer some advice with regard to your selection of a CRM solution.
- Buy from a trusted name, but not necessarily the most branded name. For example, say you are a small business in the recruiting industry and you have uncovered a CRM solution that successfully addresses similar requirements to yours; they may be a better fit than Microsoft CRM – even if they are not as well known.
- How long has the company been in business? This is a scary industry and many of the current CRM solutions providers may not be around in the near term. Find one that has had staying power and a large customer base.
- Ask where your data is. Most of the newer CRM solutions are cloud-based which means someone else is storing your data somewhere. Find out where and make sure it’s a world class hosting service that will be protecting your data.
- Does anyone answer the phone when you call? Many low cost CRM solution providers only provide e-mail support, probably because they don’t have the staff to support your business. How comforting is that?
- Product enhancements – should you expect any? Will there be any? The technology sector moves at the speed of light. You will want to partner with a solution provider that continues to invest in their product, and protects your investment in theirs.
Good luck and good hunting.
You don’t have to be an 800 pound gorilla to provide a quality product and make an impact in the CRM software industry. In fact, pure play CRM solution provider Commence Corporation has been doing it for more than two decades and has a large and rapidly growing customer base.
So what does being a pure play vendor really mean? “It means developing and supporting Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) is all we do” says Todd Pape, Chief Technology Officer at Commence. “Because we are focused on one aspect of the business we can in fact be better than the industry giants.”
“The rapid evolution of cloud computing means that smaller organizations like Commence can build software solutions using the same underlying architecture as enterprise software companies like Microsoft, Oracle or Salesforce.com” continued Pape. “The functionality may be different and that’s exactly why companies like Commence can be a better fit for the small to mid-size business sector we serve. While the enterprise companies are focused on addressing multi-language requirements, high transaction volumes, and integration with ERP and other disparate systems, companies like Commence are focused on delivering a CRM solution that’s comprehensive, but also easy to use and affordable. It’s our core competency and what has differentiated Commence CRM for the past two decades” says Pape.
“We are focused on adding new features requested by our customers while the big guys are instead ripping out functionality that small to mid-size businesses don’t want. They need to do this in order to make their product less complex and costly. Surely a product designed specifically for small to mid-size businesses is going to be a better fit than one that’s been re-engineered to address the requirements of a different business sector.”
Then you have the issue of service. “CRM is a service oriented sector” continued Pape. “Customers often require assistance with importing data from other systems, training, customization and integration with other software programs. Companies like Microsoft are poorly equipped to provide high quality service to their customers. They instead use local value added resellers who more often than not are not properly trained or don’t have a great deal of experience with the product. The customer may think they bought a CRM product from Microsoft, but the implementation, service and support comes from someone else.”
This does not mean you should not buy a CRM solution from companies like Microsoft. It simply means that a pure play CRM solution provider like Commence CRM, that is laser focused on providing an excellent product and service, returns exceptional value to customers in the small to mid-size sector.
Image by Roger Luijten on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Now that the enterprise CRM market has become saturated, CRM solution provider Salesforce.com has set their sights on the small to mid-size market. But they are running into some stiff competition in this sector.
Salesforce.com has done an excellent job at building their brand and creating name recognition. How have they done this? With a lot of money and some tricky marketing. The problem is that they have a cost structure that’s not really designed for small to mid-size enterprises. Let’s face it, Salesforce.com was designed for enterprise level companies that have unique business requirements – features that people simply had to pay dearly for if they really required them. I am referring to things like multi-language and multi-currency support and the ability to support several thousand users.
But small to mid-size companies often do not require this, and if you compare the features you get in the Group and Professional Editions to competitive CRM products you will discover that Salesforce.com can cost twice as much or more. You see, when people evaluate Salesforce.com they tend to focus their energy on what they will be getting when they should really be looking at what they are not getting. Here are just a few examples you will find right on their pricing page.
- For $25 dollars per user per month I see that I get Dashboards. That’s great, but if I want customizable dashboards, well that’s $65 dollars per user. Tricky marketing I would say. The problem here is that many of Salesforce.com’s competitors offer customizable dashboards as a standard component of their product for a lot less money.
- What about role permissions or security settings? That’s also part of the $65 dollar per user per month Professional Edition, but a standard feature in competitive products at half the cost.
- Want graphical reporting? No problem, $65 dollar per user per month. But once again, half the cost with competitive offerings.
So what am I getting with Salesforce CRM at the Contact Management or Group Edition level?
- How about limitations with the number of users you can have. The Contact Management and Group Editions are limited to only 5 users. Add a sixth and you have to upgrade to the next edition and pay much, much more – really?
- Perhaps it’s world class customer service that’s attracting you. The website says send an e-mail and you can expect a response within 48 hours. Of course you can also pay if you want to talk with a human being. So much for customer relationship management!
So what is it about this company that makes people buy? Is it the badge of honor once bestowed to companies like IBM in the 70’s? I really don’t know, but it does look as through the path to winning the small to mid-size community may be a bit more difficult for Salesforce.com. These are savvy businesses that have learned to do a lot with very little, and are more price sensitive than enterprise corporations. With strong competition coming from companies like Microsoft and Commence CRM at half the cost, the water may get a bit choppier for Salesforce.com in the months ahead. We will have to wait and see.
Image by Nathan Rupert on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Competition in the online CRM software sector is intense and growing as more players seem to enter the space every day. While companies like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com CRM are mainstream players that are trying to be all things to all people, several other CRM software providers are now challenging these companies with similar offerings that have been designed specifically for small to mid-size businesses.
One of these products is Commence CRM from Commence Corporation. What makes Commence appealing to this market sector is the product’s ease of use and lower price points.
Let’s face it, small to mid-size companies just do not have the comprehensive requirements that enterprise programs like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com are designed to address. As the enterprise market became saturated, both companies introduced a version of their product for smaller businesses at a reduced cost. But lowering the cost does not reduce the complex nature of the offering. So what you have here is a product that’s just not the right fit for the SMB sector. For most small to mid-size businesses, the biggest challenge is getting people to use a CRM system. Make it hard and forget-about it, you’ve thrown money right out the window.
Commence CRM has been designed specifically for small to mid-size businesses. The company has been providing customer management software to SMB’s for more than two decades. It’s their core competency. I am not suggesting that Commence is a better company or product than Microsoft Dynamics CRM or SalesForce.com, just a better fit for this segment of the industry. Commence CRM offers a number of advantages over other CRM players serving this sector. In addition to having a large customer base and a successful track record spanning 20 plus years, the company uses a world class data hosting service and has experienced personnel that provide an array of professional services to its customers. These services have been instrumental in ensuring that Commence customers realize the maximum value from the CRM software. Learn more about Commence CRM features or signup for a free test drive.
Image by Timothy Vollmer on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Commence Corporation, a leading provider of online CRM software, is helping small to mid-size businesses tackle the grueling process of lead generation, lead qualification and lead management. “This is one of the biggest challenges facing the SMB sector” says Larry Caretsky, president of Commence Corporation. “Many of these firms do not have highly experienced sales management or their sales staff may not have worked with automated programs like CRM software before. As a result, there are a lot of manual processes in place that work but are highly inefficient and costing these companies time and money.”
Commence is addressing this challenge by coupling a set of services and best practices with the company’s CRM software. The services include helping companies create targeted marketing campaigns that are generated and executed right from within the CRM software. Once the leads are generated they are color coded and placed in specific categories which automatically determine how they will be managed going forward. Highly qualified leads are immediately turned over to the sales team. Others are placed in an automatic “drip marketing” program that automatically sends information to these prospects on a pre-set timetable – traditionally weekly, monthly or quarterly.
The lead management process is highly effective and ensures your sales organization is focused on new business opportunities that have a chance to close in the near term. The remaining leads are automatically nurtured by the Commence CRM system.
Commence offers an array of professional services that have served to differentiate the company from competitive CRM firms that only sell software.
Everyone knows that the CRM software industry is highly competitive with companies like Microsoft making a whole lot of noise and spending millions of dollars to market their solution. So how does a smaller player like Commence Corporation continue to make a name for itself and win decisions over this industry giant? “It’s easy if you understand what you provide and your competitors do not” says Tom Gibson, sales manager at Commence. “Of course some people are always going to make their decision based on name recognition, but Microsoft’s reputation in the CRM sector is sort of ‘good company, so-so CRM product’ and it has been this way for years.”
Commence is a pure play CRM solution provider with a mature product that has been designed specifically for small to mid-size businesses. The company has serviced this sector of the industry for more than twenty years and is highly recognized for having a top rated product and outstanding customer service.
“We know this market well” says Gibson “and we have a CRM solution that addresses the requirements of the SMB sector. It offers comprehensive functionality, is easy to use and affordable. Where we differ from other companies, especially Microsoft CRM, is in the level of value added services we can provide to customers. Small to mid-size businesses are looking for a partner not a vendor when it comes to CRM software. They often rely on the value added services that Commence provides. In addition to instructional training these services include sales training or implementation of a structured sales methodology, customization, system integration and the design and execution of marketing campaigns. Commence has a staff of people with experience in sales management, marketing and customer service. They have completed hundreds of CRM system implementations and are instrumental in ensuring that our customers realize extensive value from our product.”
“Microsoft CRM is sold through value added resellers and while I am sure many are very good, they simply do not have the in-depth experience with the product that we do with ours, nor can they offer the scope of value added services Commence can. This all leads up to a successful implementation and a high return on investment for our customers” concluded Gibson.
Commence is a cloud based CRM system that operates online and is sold and supported directly by Commence Corporation.
Image by JD Hancock on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Small businesses have the same challenges as larger businesses. They want to improve how they market, sell and provide services to their customers. They want a dashboard that provides a snapshot of current business activity and they want real time reporting so that they can make informed business decisions.
CRM software offers an array of automation that can meet this challenge, but smaller businesses have one disadvantage larger firms do not, and that’s resources. Due to the low cost of newer online CRM software programs that you can purchase and download over the internet, smaller business have been purchasing CRM software in record numbers and failing just as quickly with them. Why? The answer is simple. They are not prepared to make the investment to ensure that the CRM system gets properly implemented and utilized.
Becoming a more efficient sales and service organization isn’t just about buying a CRM system. It’s about automating internal business processes that in many small businesses don’t exist. So now you have a CRM system and don’t really know what to do with it so it becomes shelf-ware. In addition, many of the lower cost CRM systems offer only basic functionality which is why they are so cheap. Businesses that select these free or low cost solutions are often quickly disappointed when they cannot meet their business requirements.
One of the leading small business CRM companies that services the small to mid-size community is Commence Corporation. “What has made Commence CRM a leader among small businesses is not just the software” says Tom Gibson, the company’s sales manager, “but the value added services we provide. Many of the firms that select us are looking for guidance in establishing a structured approach or methodology for managing leads and the sales process. It’s new to them and a sales process has to be established first before it can be automated. Our professional services staff can help customers implement business processes in sales, marketing and customer service. Because the software is so flexible it can be tailored to meet unique vertical industry requirements and ensures that new business processes are adopted by the customer’s staff.” says Gibson. “The impact is substantial and is often the difference between realizing a return on investment and shelf-ware.” To learn more about Commence CRM, visit the company website at www.commence.com.
Leads are the bread and butter of every company. Properly capturing and managing leads can make the difference between closing more business or wasting time on tire kickers. Despite this, most small to mid-size companies do not have an efficient process for lead management and conversion. The good news is that they can.
The process of capturing, managing and converting leads can be easily addressed using online CRM solutions like Commence CRM. Commence is a lead management solution that automates the process of lead management and lead conversion.
Leads can be generated from multiple marketing channels such as trade shows, direct mail, e-mail campaigns, customer referrals or cold calls. Once captured, systems like Commence classify the leads by placing them in individual buckets. This allows you to determine which of your marketing campaigns is producing the best results.
Cold Leads categorized by Marketing Source and color-coded ranking
The lead management tool then helps to qualify each lead by color-coding them according to pre-defined criteria. Leads can be red for hot, yellow for warm and blue for cold. The color-coding serves two functions.
- First, it ensures that your sales team is working on qualified new business opportunities; those colored red.
- Secondly, it enables you to take the warm and cold leads that are not ready to make a decision or engage with your sales team and place them in an automated lead follow-up program.
Automated Lead Followup
The automated lead follow-up system sends out a marketing email message on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. The message can contain product information, customer testimonials or news clips for example about your product or service. This ensures that these warm and cold leads are being nurtured without robbing valuable selling time from your sales team.
Small businesses often struggle with how they manage and execute their marketing message, lead generation programs and sales opportunity management. This is because they typically do not have the expertise on board to implement or automate the internal business processes that drive these requirements. What’s worse is that many believe that the mere purchase of a good CRM software program will fix the problem; then later learn that it won’t. Want to know why? Because CRM software doesn’t run your business – people do.
Price without value
As a provider of online CRM software for small to mid-size companies most of the businesses we deal with have one thing in mind when it comes to CRM software and that’s price. It’s the first question that is asked which is a clear indication that the cost of the software may be more important than the value the software actually provides.
Seems a bit silly doesn’t it? But it’s true and it’s the primary reason so many small to mid-size companies fail with CRM.
Small businesses cannot attract or maintain experienced sales or marketing personnel and that’s ok, but no CRM software program on its own is going to address this problem. What will address it is a CRM software provider that can provide an array of sales and marketing services as part of their overall CRM solution. You will not however find this with the typical low cost out of the box solutions that you purchase over the internet.
CRM solution providers like Commence Corporation, have done an excellent job of differentiating themselves by providing a software solution that is complemented by an array of services that fill the gaps the customer cannot. These services include marketing campaign management, lead generation services, and automating the sales process. The results are measurable and include targeted marketing campaigns, better quality lead generation and a significant improvement in the management and reporting of the sales process. This is what a quality CRM solution provider will offer.
If you are firmly set on improving how you market, sell and provide services to your customers you need to be willing to invest your time and money to engage this level of expertise. If you are not, and price is the driving factor for engaging in CRM, re-think your decision. You will be glad you did.
Image ‘#price without #value’ by Francesca Romana Correale on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
You have concluded Step One of the process and have narrowed down the category of CRM solution you are most interested in. But you are not ready to select a specific vendor or product yet and still have some evaluating to do. Most people will spend the majority of their time testing and evaluating a product’s features and functions and perhaps ask for a free trial or test drive of several products. This is certainly an important component of the decision process but it’s not the only one and here’s why. Regardless of which category of CRM solution you have chosen (small business, mid-market or enterprise) you’re not going to find a single vendor whose product is so superior or unique to the others that selecting them is a no-brainer. In fact, you’re going to find more similarities than differences which is why selecting a product based on features and functions alone is such a difficult task, and why Step Two of this process is so important.
Step 2 – System Architecture and Hosting Service
If you agree with the above and have found that the features and functions of CRM systems within a specific category all appear similar, then you will have to make your decision based on other criteria. The good news is that you should be doing this anyway because what I am going to discuss is equally important in making the right decision for your company.
Most people pay little attention to the system architecture or the hosting service provided by the CRM vendor. This is simply because they do not understand the impact this can have on their business. The system architecture is of critical importance for companies that expect to realize growth in the number of users and the volume of data they capture, store and share with people within their organization. We can say with confidence that Enterprise CRM solutions handle this quite well, where “out-of-the-box” systems simply do not. Of course I am not talking about businesses of 10 people or less, but instead about mid-size and larger firms where this has and will make a difference.
There are two components to system architecture. First, the platform itself is traditionally Java or in the case of Microsoft CRM their proprietary .NET architecture. Both are excellent proven platforms for scalability and performance. So if the vendor you are interested in is not based on one of these two platforms this may be a reason for concern. But there is more to performance than a scalable platform. There is the software itself and its ability to take advantage of the platform. You may have heard some of the horror stories from customers who were trying to do queries or searches that took 20 minutes to run; or those who were trying to generate quarterly or annual reports and when they failed to print, the vendor suggested that they run the report overnight. Ouch! This is a sign of an immature system that was not designed for maximum performance.
If you’re a small business you need not worry about this, but if you are expecting to grow and add people and functionality to the system, you will want to make sure the CRM system you select has a proven track record for addressing growth in the number of users, number of transactions and database size. Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor what the architecture of their system is and how well the system responds to large data queries and reports.
Another equally important component of your decision process should be the hosting service itself. If you are considering a cloud based solution, remember that the vendor is storing, hosting and managing your data and that this is typically done by a third party provider. Find out where is your data is, who is managing it, what type of backup and recovery procedures the vendor has. Also ask how you can get access to your data if there is a disaster or if you wish to terminate the service. Hey – for all you know your data may be inTimbuktu.
Congratulations, in Step One, you selected the category of CRM vendor best suited for your business and now in Step Two you narrowed down your choices to 2-3 vendors. Don’t miss Step 3 which is equally important to your decision and will help you to differentiate your top choices even further.
Image “Cold Aisle” by Phil Windley on Flickr under Creative Commons license.