Dear John: Your CRM Just Isn’t My Type-zapier

Customer Relationship Management Systems: Should You Make Up or Break Up with Yours

What makes a great customer relationship management (CRM) system and why are so many vendors screwing things up in this target-rich environment?

Needed: Laser focus on one industry / segment of the small business world

As one of my friends said, “the riches are in the niches.” This is a key element many software as a service (Saas) vendors forget. It’s so much easier to make a specific group happy than every group happy. For instance, CRM for service professionals such as coaches would be monumentally successful. Our needs are different from those of my contacts with physical locations looking for foot traffic.

Harness the Power of One Thing at One Time

I’ll just admit it, I have attention hyperactivity disorder – but we all have a touch of that don’t we? The power of one means designing the CRM tool to bring the user along step-by-step when entering data and tracking each customer for their business. Many CRMs are intimidating just by the sheer amount of information on the first page. Busy business owners don’t have time for all of that. One thing at a time – and this adds up to getting things done well.

I’m Fine with Paying – Just Be Clear!

Customer relationships are so important to me I will gladly pay for a solid tool to help me keep track of our communications, sales stats and to-do items. It’s an investment. Yet some vendors offer complicated fee structures based on either:

– the amount of clients uploaded AND the amount of people in your organization using the tool, or

– the amount of projects open AND the amount of users

– flat rate with add-ons for critical tools such as drip campaigns, invoicing and workflows

I’m not all that interested in how many people around the world are a vendor’s CRM tool. I just want to know if it will work for my business. Then I’ll research other people’s experiences – and that will usually be in my personal network of contacts. Tip for CRM vendors: Trick out Facebook Connect to show me how many of my peers like your page. When I visit your page, I’d like to see at least one or two mentions about your greatness from one of my connections. That will convince me to buy. Period.

Finally – Connect Me to My Other Tools

With awesome systems such as Zapier, I can make up all kinds of ways to let me applications talk to each other. For instance, whenever I get an email from a specific client in Gmail, it instantly creates a row in one of my spreadsheets in SmartSheet. Awesome! The CRM tool that wins my heart will be integrated into the playground that is Zapier, otherwise you’ve completely lost my attention.

Here are the vendors I’ve tried, which one I’m using now and which ones I plan on trying in the future (with corresponding grades and in alphabetical order). I sound like Sister Mary Catherine with that one!

Basecamp – C minus

Not CRM-friendly at all. Its cousin Highrise has better features for CRM. If they worked together, it would be one of the better CRMs for me

Asana – C minus

Crazy Expensive and large-team centric.

TeamWork – D minus

Clunky user interface. Better CRMs out there with better email drip campaign features.

Salesforce – D minus

Rabbit Hole (almost 90 degree learning curve)

Zoho CRM – B minus

It’s what I’m using now. I always come back to it as it’s the only one that comes close to meeting all my needs. The learning curve is about 50 degrees (for me) but there are certified specialists to get you up and running fast, fast, fast.

Insightly – want!

I’ve heard good things. I plan on trying it out since it integrates with Chrome, my favorite web browser

Nimble – D minus

Supposedly the social CRM solution allowing us to spy on our leads and clients on social media. Just not robust enough for me. Very light on the financial side. First and foremost, follow the money. (Hat tip: The Wire.)

Highrise – C minus

As mentioned above, it needs more of a robust sales tracking, customer management tool. It’s mainly a customer holding place. Better yet, it’s a prettier spreadsheet.

Capsule CRM – D

Ugly user interface. Not robust enough in terms of finances.

PipeDrive – I want a test drive

Will take a look at this one, too as it comes highly recommended from a few people in my extended network.

SmartSheet – C minus For CRM it’s a super-steep learning curve and a lot of work once you’ve summited the curve.

B plus For internal task management, workflows, budgets, and time tracking.

After all, we have to use one of these. It’s too important to our businesses not to have one. We may have to cobble several tools together, but that will have to suffice until our friendly neighborhood CRM vendors get their acts together.


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