When companies think about solving software related business challenges they often think about brand name companies like Microsoft, Oracle or SAP. But in one specific industry – Customer Relationship Management software or CRM – businesses are turning their attention to smaller pure play solution providers to address their business requirements. Perhaps this is because these smaller more focused companies can provide the personalized attention businesses are looking for; or perhaps the company has earned a reputation for having a high degree of expertise in a specific area such as sales process management, marketing campaign management or customer service.
There are a myriad of companies all trying to take a piece of the multi-billion dollar CRM software industry and many of the smaller players are rising to the top of the list for addressing specific business objectives. For more than two decades companies selling point solutions, i.e. products that do one thing very well, have been very successful and we are seeing it again in the CRM industry. Some companies are focused on social integration with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter while others are putting their resources behind mobile computing and customer portals that enable customers to access a company’s CRM system to check the status of a service ticket.
The point here is the following. There is certainly a comfort factor when working with a brand name company, but if you are trying to address a specific business problem you may be better served to seek out a company that has a high degree of experience in addressing your requirement than a big brand name that may not.
CRM systems can be low cost basic tools for managing accounts and contacts. More complex solutions can also be used for managing sales, marketing and customer service. Regardless of the scope of functionality, there are few things you can do that are critical to ensure you realize value and a return on your investment from the system you select.
1. Assign a system administrator
The administrator should be the only person who can make changes to the structure of the system. These include system password and security permissions, adding and removing custom fields, or changing views and reports within the system. Failure to control this is often the cause of data integrity issues, inaccurate reports and potential security breaches.
2. Departmental ownership
Management at the departmental level needs to take ownership and support the utilization of the system. Employees catch on quickly and can see if utilization of the system is not a priority to management. If management does not support its use, the employees will follow their lead and the CRM software will become nothing but shelf ware.
3. Change management
Implementing a CRM solution, whether hosted or cloud based, will require change. This may be a change in policies and procedures, or changes in employee responsibilities. It is important once again for the company executives to manage and endorse whatever change is required to improve the overall performance of the company.
If you are not prepared to address the recommendations above due to limited resources or changes in your business environment I would suggest you wait until such time that you are. Managing how your team uses a CRM solution is critical to making your front office business processes more effective, and this will impact how you market, sell and provide service to your customers.
Photo Credit: zirconicusso/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The CRM software sector is highly competitive, but over the years several companies have risen to the top of the list based on the strength of their product and service, their stability, and continued growth in the business sector they serve. The companies listed below have been in the CRM sector for more than a decade, have a large customer base and have continued to invest in and enhance their technology and product offering. Several companies have different product offerings that serve more than one business sector.
If you are looking for a CRM solution for your business, the CRM vendors listed below offer an excellent place to start. See their prospective websites for detailed information about each product offering.
Enterprise Level CRM
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM
- Commence CRM
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Small Business CRM
- Commence CRM
- Zoho CRM
The online CRM software industry is changing and not for the better. More and more basic products enter the space all claiming to be easier to use and cheaper than mainstream alternatives, but when price is your only advantage it’s the customer who loses in the end. Why? Because the companies that offer these solution have only one objective in mind and that‘s to sign you up at any cost. Many of these products are free or just a few dollars a month and that’s because there is hardly a company behind these product offerings. Instead there is a person or two and an e-mail address to send your inquiries to.
CRM software is supposed to be a solution for helping you to significantly improve how you market, sell and provide service to your customers, but this requires more than signing up for a free online CRM solution over the internet. It requires marketing, sales and service expertise along with knowledge of the online CRM software itself, some training and some advice and counsel. If the company and solution you are interested in cannot provide this my advice would be to go find one that does. Having the comfort of being able to talk with a knowledgeable representative from the CRM company will make all the difference in the world and will most likely cost you just a few dollars more per month.
Image “Rabbits on phone” by Martin LaBar on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Small to mid-size businesses can acquire a top rated online CRM solution for a fraction of the cost compared to mainstream CRM solution providers, while offering similar functionality. Commence Corporation, a leading provider of online CRM software, is helping small to mid-size businesses improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers through the use of their CRM software and professional services. “There are three components that companies should be looking for when selecting a CRM solution” says Larry Caretsky, president of Commence Corporation.
- The CRM Software itself – Does it have the functionality we need to improve how we sell and provide service to our customers?
- The Hosting Service – Where is our data, is it safe, properly backed up and how can I get it if I need to?
- Customer Service – Can I get someone to answer the phone if we need assistance, or is support only via e-mail?
Most low cost CRM solutions simply do not provide the scope of CRM functionality, high quality hosting service or the resources necessary to provide world class customer service. Commence gets very good marks across the board. The company has been providing customer management software for more than two decades, has completed thousands of system implementations, and has an experienced staff of support personnel with expertise in sales, marketing and customer service. Add these components together and you have a top rated CRM solution, a best in class hosting service and superb customer service, all at a fraction of the cost of competitive CRM solutions.
How to Get the Most Value from your CRM System
Somehow, someway the world has gotten this perception that customer management software programs (more commonly referred to as CRM software) are quick fix toolkits for managing sales, leads and customer service. They’re not. CRM solutions automate internal processes. If you do not have structured processes for lead generation, management of the sales cycle or procedures for ensuring customer satisfaction, no CRM system in the world is going to fix this problem on its own.
Companies like Microsoft and Salesforce.com spend millions of marketing dollars trying to convince small to mid-size businesses that their CRM software will cure just about everything from generating new leads and producing more sales to providing world class customer service. What they do not tell you is that in order to get the most value from CRM software you need to invest in creating structured policies and procedures that can be automated and managed by people, not their datacenter.
Invest in your CRM Success
Small businesses continue to suffer from failed implementations and broken promises because they make the same mistake when selecting CRM software. They tend to focus like a laser beam on finding the product with the most features for the least amount of money. Instead, try to determine what you will need to invest to ensure you realize value from the system. When I talk about investment I am not referring to money; I am referring to resources or people. For example, many small to mid-size companies do not have experienced sales managers. As a result, they may have no documented sales process or no reporting structure for evaluating where each new business opportunity is in the sales cycle.
Best Small Business CRM
Small businesses need sales process management expertise to complement their CRM system. CRM vendors don’t typically provide this service, with the exception of one vendor that services the small to mid-size business community. The company, Commence Corporation, has been providing CRM software applications to the SMB community for more than two decades. And while not as popular a name as Microsoft or Salesforce.com, Commence customers continue to realize exceptional value from this CRM solution. This is due primarily to the value added services Commence offers these businesses. Commence is staffed with a group of seasoned professionals with expertise in lead generation, sales process management, marketing campaign management, social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) and customer service. Commence CRM fills the gap by providing a top rated CRM solution and small business expertise that ensures companies will improve how they market, sell and service their customers. This has become a “winning combination” for small to mid-size businesses and is the reason Commence enjoys one of the highest utilization rates of their product in the industry.
The point here is this: CRM software is not an appliance that you buy, plug-in the wall and it just works. You need to invest in your people or outside expertise if you want to become a more efficient sales and service organization. While mainstream players like Microsoft and Salesforce.com do not provide these value added services to the SMB sector, Commence Corporation does. It’s the reason so many customers have chosen Commence as their small business CRM partner.
Images owned by Chris Potter on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
If you are wondering if there is any Salesforce.com competition available, you will be thrilled to learn that there is. Salesforce is a well-known product, and maybe it serves its purpose for large corporations, but it is just not practical for smaller businesses. If you are a small business owner, you need a product that works for you. You don’t want to be forced to tweak things here and there for your needs, no matter how recommended the product is. This is where Commence comes in.
We are the Most Preferred Salesforce Competitor
If you ask around for Salesforce.com competition, there is a good chance that someone will refer you to Commence CRM. This is because Commence offers all the great features of Salesforce, plus a few extra. The biggest difference is that it is designed for the small business, so it is user-friendly and easy to navigate. This is important since you are likely doing the work that five people would do in a larger corporation.
Plus, Commence is extremely customizable, so it allows you to easily tailor it to your specific needs. We understand that every business is different, which is why we make sure that our software will work for you. Why should you adapt to CRM solutions designed and made for large corporations? You have better things to do with your time, don’t you?
Salesforce is another fairly popular CRM program; one that many people compare to Commence. However, if you take a close look, you discover that there really is no Salesforce competition at all.
Is Salesforce Competition?
When speaking of Salesforce, competition for Commence may come to mind, but the two are very different. Here’s why:
- User-friendly – Our software here at Commence is about the most user-friendly software you wil find. Users are able to quickly and easily learn how to review projects, manage leads, schedule activities, complete emails and a lot more, all on one main page.
- Functionality – You would have a hard time finding something that our software does not do. Although there are a lot of similarities between the two, Commence adds on a few extra features, such as integrated project manager solution, automated organizer chart and an account scores feature.
- Platform – Although Salesforce is great for enterprise level companies, it is not necessarily ideal for small to mid-size companies, or those that are still growing.
Although there are key differences to explore, if you are comparing the Salesforce competition, you will also want to take a look at cost, system deployment, data security, customizability and customer service.
Your online CRM makes sales opportunities more efficient
Your sales team doesn’t want a complicated sales process to understand, but having a CRM program that will keep them organized and on top of everything is beneficial. This is how online CRM can play an important part in your company. Using your online CRM, you can manage the entire sales cycle. Leads can be imported into the system and then automatically categorized and assigned to the appropriate person. You can then record all interactions you have with customers and potential customers, including emails and documents. The sales reporting features will allow you to see a number of different things that can help you manage your business.
How to decide what online CRM is best for your business
When deciding what online CRM software is best for your business it’s important to do some research. You can try out demos and see for yourself which CRM software solution would be the best fit. It’s important to get a system that can be customized to your needs so you can use it for exactly what you need it for. Visit Commence.com to learn more about different CRM options and to see a demo.
Centralized project management with your CRM
Set up a project management database with your CRM to stay on track with your tasks, deadlines and proprieties. Give all authorized personal access so that everyone knows what is happening and the status of project tasks. They can also upload important resources and documents so that everyone can collaborate together. Manage tasks and time sheets so that you can make sure there are enough resources for the project and know when you have to provide more resources. Get visibility into the project so you can be aware if any issues come up and ensure that corrective measures can be taken. Pre-built and customizable CRM reporting options allow you to ensure that the project stays on track.
The many benefits of your CRM
Besides project management features, your CRM can help you with a number of different areas in your business. Improve sales efficiency and have better lead management. Improve your marketing strategies and be able to run marketing campaigns and keep track of everything in one system. Integrate your email and other programs so you don’t have to keep switching from program to program and stay organized. Visit Commence.com to learn more about the many benefits CRM can provide.