The CRM software industry is highly competitive and while it may be a bit difficult to differentiate one product from another, the fact is that every CRM product available services a specific sector of the market. The CRM industry has three market sectors; large enterprise organizations, mid–market companies and small businesses. No individual vendor regardless of their marketing hype, product brochures or pricing policies does an effective job of servicing all three. Let’s analyze why this is.
The Fortune 1000
If we look at the Fortune 1000 commonly referred to as enterprise level companies they traditionally have complex business requirements. This may be associated with a large number of users, high transaction volumes, customized workflow requirements or the need for multi-language and multi-currency support. Due to the complex nature of these requirements, very few CRM companies can address them. As a result, the enterprise CRM software sector may be the least competitive of the three.
Small Business Sector
While the enterprise sector may be the least competitive, the small business CRM sector is perhaps the most competitive. Why? Because small businesses typically have just a few specific requirements. Some businesses simply want to store customer information. Others may want to manage the sales process more efficiently and some perhaps a bit more. They do not however have the complex requirements of larger organizations and as such, they can perhaps meet their requirements with a simple or basic CRM solution that they may be able to download freely over the Internet. Because it does not require more than a PC and a few hours of development time there are literally dozens of basic low cost solutions available for the small businesses community.
The Middle Market
The mid-market sector is the most challenging one because most of these companies need more than a basic CRM solution to meet their business requirements, but many do not have the complex needs of enterprise class companies. While they may not have hundreds of users they may have 100 or more, reasonably high transaction volumes and workflow requirements. This demands a flexible solution that can be tailored to these requirements. Small business CRM solutions cannot address these requirements and while the enterprise class CRM systems can, they are often too complex to use and too expensive.
What these companies are looking for is something in the middle. A CRM system that offers robust functionality, does not take an engineering degree to use, can support about 100 users with reasonable transaction volumes, and can be customized to meet unique business requirements.
There are only a handful of CRM solutions that match these criteria. The development of a system such as this requires a substantial commitment on the part of the vendor. You are not simply developing a basic contact management system here, but instead a fully integrated customizable solution that can grow and change with the customers’ changing business requirements. It has to be time tested and perform well with a lot of users and transaction volumes, but still be easy to use and affordable.
While there are a few good choices in the sector the one that continues to rise to the top is Commence CRM from Commence Corporation. Commence has been in the client management software sector for more than twenty years. The company has built a large loyal customer base and has developed a lengthy track record for delivering quality products and excellent customer service. Perhaps the one aspect of Commence CRM that differentiates it from competitive solutions is that Commence CRM has always been positioned for mid-market companies. The company states that its CRM solution is designed for companies that need more than a basic low cost CRM system but not the cost and complexity of enterprise CRM solutions. It seems to work because although Commence CRM is not a household name in the industry like Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce.com, the company competes very effectively against these two industry giants. For more information, ask for a free test drive of Commence CRM on the company’s website.
If you are a small business you may have minimal requirements. Perhaps you simply want to store customer information such as contacts, notes, history and e-mail. A basic low cost CRM solution may meet these needs. But it’s equally important to know what they do not provide so that you are clearly aware of what you will be getting and what you won’t.
Let’s start with perhaps one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of CRM software and that’s data security.
The majority of today’s modern CRM solutions operate online in a cloud computing environment. The proper protection of your data is paramount and it does not come cheaply. So if you are looking at a free CRM solution or one where the cost is simply too good to be true, chances are your data may not be as properly protected as you think it is. If you are alright with this then fine but don’t be foolish enough to think that you r getting a high quality service here because you are not.
Smaller companies often have no issue with enabling all employees with access to see all customer information, but larger firms often want to restrict this through the use of what is often listed as security or role permissions. The only problem is that basic low cost solutions do not offer role permissions so if you have any interested in establishing what employees can see or not see, you will need a higher end CRM offering.
Maybe you are not looking to integrate with other third party applications, but you may want to add custom fields, create customer views of information, generate custom reports or enable your staff to create a custom dashboard. This is not going to happen with a basic low cost CRM solution. Once again, this may be fine for your business but if it’s not, you need to step up a notch.
Most CRM systems offer a calendar, but traditionally it’s for managing individual appointments. Higher end CRM solutions may offer a departmental or group calendar so that you can manage the activities and availability of your staff.
Low end CRM systems typically offer very little in the area of reporting. You can most likely do a monthly or quarterly forecast but do not expect a customer report generator or a built in graphical reporting package that you will find in higher cost solutions.
Low end CRM programs offer basic functionality. This is by design and one of the reasons they are so easy to use, but growth and scalability should be of concern if you think your business will require more than they currently offer. Switching CRM systems can be disruptive to your business and cost you time and money.
If you are thinking about implementing a CRM solution do your homework and make sure you select a solution that will support your future business requirements. You may find some good solutions that cost only a bit more than the basic low cost ones.
CIO Magazine published an article providing 13 Tips to Get Business Teams to Use Your CRM System:
Having a great new customer relationship management system won’t be worth much until you figure out how to get everyone to use it. CRM experts provide tips on how to get members of your sales, marketing and customer service teams to actually use that expensive new CRM system.
You can read the full article here, courtesy of CIO Magazine.
Business 2 Community has an article asking Will Cloud-Based CRM Systems Really Improve Your Customer Service?
With cloud-based everything dominating the tech-world landscape these days, it’s reasonable to consider the pros and cons of migrating your CRM systems to the cloud. However, before you start exploring the nuances of cloud-based CRM mobile app options, scalability, or security features, keep in mind the most important question of all: Will cloud-based CRM systems improve your customer service?
You can read the full article here, courtesy of Business 2 Community.
CRM Buyer has an article outlining 5 Things That Kill CRM ROI Dead:
CRM is light years ahead of where it was a decade ago, but if it’s no longer a money pit, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily delivering the most bang for the buck either. Businesses can get better ROI from their CRM if they avoid some common mistakes: creating a siloed CRM system; letting sales and marketing squabble; ignoring reports; blasting messages on social media; and turning a deaf ear to customers.
We also provide these tips and resources for customer success that will help you with your CRM implementation along with our Commence CRM White Paper: Don’t Make a CRM Buying Mistake : 7 Points to Consider Before Selecting Your CRM Solution.
Commence Corporation, a leading provider of online CRM software for automating the sales process, has invited professional sales managers and trainers to share their sales tips and best practices for sales execution. Sales training topics include:
- Fundamentals of key account selling
- How to become the best sales person
- Strategic plans for effective selling
- Are sales people made or born
Check out this library of articles on improving sales performance available for free on the company website.
Selecting a CRM system for your business can be a daunting exercise. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to make a decision about a product or service that you do not feel educated about. You don’t have the time to dig into the details of every CRM product offering, but you may not have to.
Commence Corporation, a leading provider of online CRM software, has created a white paper to help you in your selection process. The paper called “Don’t Make a CRM Buying Mistake – 7 Points to Consider…” outlines seven critical decision points that you should consider before making your selection of a CRM solution. The paper offers unbiased advice and does not put forth Commence Corporation or the Commence CRM as the right solution for all. It has been downloaded by hundreds of people and has received excellent reviews.
To read more visit the Commence Blog or download the paper using the link below:
Image “Ducks on Fence” by ykanazawa1999 on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Want to improve your marketing and brand awareness, generate more leads and close more business? Of course you do and you can with the right tools and business processes. Today’s online CRM programs offer excellent functionality to help you become a more efficient sales and service organization. But it’s hard to use CRM to automate your internal business processes if the processes themselves don’t exist.
Sales Process Management
Many businesses struggle with managing their sales organization simply because they have no structured sales methodology or process that they consistently follow. CRM software does not invent policy it simply automates it. If you want CRM to work for you, you will have to establish the steps of your sales process first, and then use your CRM software to automate and streamline the process. By doing this you can view where each sales opportunity is in the sales cycle, determine the next steps toward closure and generate accurate sales forecasts.
Customer Service History
The same concept applies to how you provide service to your customers. Many good CRM software solutions offer a customer service module, often referred to as a ticketing system. This allows you to keep track of customer inquiries, complaints or return merchandise and automate the process by which your service team manages the customer interaction. All interactions are viewable in the CRM system so that you have a complete historical record of their service history.
The point here is clear. In order to have CRM software work for you, you first have to put the policies and procedures in place, and then streamline them with your CRM system.
…remember that a CRM system is a tool. What you put into it is what you will get out of it.
Investing in a Small Business CRM
Is CRM Software really worth the investment for your small business? Check out this article from V3 Kansas City Integrated Marketing and Social Media Agency for good points about what CRM can do for your business.
CRM Software is just a Tool
One of the key points “…remember that a CRM system is a tool. What you put into it is what you will get out of it.” mirrors our thoughts in the blog article CRM No Commitment – Means No Results.
Small to mid-size businesses looking to acquire a CRM software solution may wish to visit the Commence CRM Blog.
This site offers valuable information to help you compare the different types of CRM offerings such as desktop, hosted and cloud based CRM.
Several CRM white papers are also available for how to select the right CRM software program, best choices for small and mid-size companies and mistakes to avoid during the evaluation process.
The site also offers a series of best practices and sales tips from sales training expert Dave Kahle.
Images from the Value Story series by Jurgen Appelo on Flickr under Creative Commons license.