Please recommend a CRM tool.
July 6, 2011 7:31 AM   Subscribe

CRM Filter: I have a very small, but growing, business and we're at the stage where we need a CRM tool but Salesforce is really too much for us. What can you recommend that will be small enough that we'll actually use it but powerful enough that we won't outgrow it within a year or two?

We're five people right now, expecting to grow to about 20 over the next two years. We need to share the basics such as contact information, records of client interaction and history; and set tasks and reminders. In due course we'd need more functionality (of the sort that I see on Salesforce), but we're starting off with fairly basic requirements.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Something hosted like Highrise? Or self-hosted, like SugarCRM's Community Edtion?
posted by holgate at 7:42 AM on July 6, 2011

I'm curious why you say Salesforce is too much? It's designed to grow with your business.

Note: I have no relationship with Salesforce in any capacity. I just don't understand the "really too much" part of your question.
posted by dfriedman at 7:57 AM on July 6, 2011

CRM systems that interface with your general accounting package save some redundant data input (especially for accounts that are billing, have recievables, and may also be requesting new quotes). What are you using for a financial package? If it's QuickBooks (as about 92% of North American small business startups use), you might take a look at QuickBase, for that reason alone.
posted by paulsc at 8:01 AM on July 6, 2011

Response by poster: Highrise - thanks, I'll have a closer look.

Salesforce too much - it's quite daunting for a smaller company to have so much functionality in your face all at once (which is perfect for a larger company though); that's all I mean. It was my first choice and I've been using it for a couple of weeks but I worry that we'll drown in the possibilities and not end up using any of the functionality as well as we could. I could be wrong. It's happened before.

Quickbase - yes, I would love a CRM system that interfaces with my accounting package but I'm not using Quickbooks I'm using Twinfield. Thanks for the suggestion though.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 8:08 AM on July 6, 2011

There are comparisons out there, like this one (which requires registration). I have an old version of that whitepaper that compares 15 different products and lists the features for each. Seems like a good place to start.
posted by mullacc at 8:09 AM on July 6, 2011

Using Twinfield cuts down your options for interoperability significantly, and I suppose you should think about how much "Web drive" you want/expect from your clients, to your CRM, too. Do you operate a customer facing Web site/extranet already? Do you want to provide customer completed business documents like Sales Information Request, Request for Quotation, Purchase Order, Electronic Remittance in the same Web system that also supports your CRM? Does your CRM need to drive mass email communications, Web surveys, or social media? Do you have ISO 9001/9002 issues?

Drupal is a modular Web content manager, that has developed modular links for Twinfield, and for some CRM solutions, including Sugar_CRM and CiviCRM. Drupal is more of an overall Web framework, that you could use, module by module, to build a customized business system, but having said that, you might well, over time, spend nearly as much doing so as you would implementing an already proven business management system like SAP.
posted by paulsc at 8:51 AM on July 6, 2011

What do you want/need it to do?
posted by Lyn Never at 8:55 AM on July 6, 2011

For really small shops you can just buy ACT, but its more of a sales tool than a proper CRM. You may want to look into Sugar CRM which is open source. Salesforce is popular because its easy to use and web-based, thus no install/config/backups/servers on your side of things.

I'd stay away from MS CRM, its expensive and much more complex than SF.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:56 AM on July 6, 2011

D'oh, sorry - I read that but didn't retain it.

So, you could do what you needed at this point with a shared speadsheet and Outlook. Or the free version of Sharepoint containing a spreadsheet and using tasks and reminders.

I've worked in CRM-adjacent software and most of the time it gets implemented and never used, so I think you need to ultra-seriously prove the concept before you pay money.

Alternately you could use a web-based project management application that includes contacts, tasks, and reminders. I'm using Zoho for a project right now, some people like Basecamp, there are others and they all have slightly different featuresets.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:58 AM on July 6, 2011

The company I am with now started small with Onyx and now is transitioning to SalesForce and everyone wishes we could have had SalesForce from the beginning because transitioning is a mess and it is really the best system out there.

We are also using project management software (instead of trusty excel docs) and got a system (VersionOne) that is a little too big for our britches and I hardly use any of its functionality, but the idea is that we are going to grow into it.
posted by rmless at 9:24 AM on July 6, 2011

Response by poster: @Lyn - thanks, and yes you're totally right - for now we could continue with a spreadsheet and outlook but we'll grow out of that over the next year and that seems to require even more discipline (that we don't have) in order to make it work. Part of the reason I need a system is because between the 5 of us we have some people making notes on little scraps of paper, some people using Outlook, others using a spreadsheet and there is zero knowledge sharing going on. So I see value going down the drain. We all buy into the idea of CRM so now if we implement a system and sell everyone on it we should, at least, be taking a step in the right direction.

@paulsc - thanks, that's very helpful. We won't be using the web to drive any of our business. A few email drops perhaps but no online orders, surveys or social media. And no ISO issues yet. I'll definitely have a look at Drupal

@rmless - that's what I'm afraid of (the transition issues). Thanks for sharing your experience.

@mulacc - thanks, I registered but it hasn't come through yet for some reason, it looks like it should help though, I appreciate that.

@damn dirty ape - thanks, I really need less of a sales tool and more of a CRM tool. I appreciate the link, I'll look into it. And thanks for the advice on MS CRM, that's what I had been considering as an alternative to Salesforce so I appreciate your opinion.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 10:09 AM on July 6, 2011

If SalesForce is too much for you, you don't really need a CRM (and probably have bigger business problems in your future), if for no other reason than SugarCRM, M$ CRM, Quickbase, etc. are *not* less feature rich or necessarily easier to use. I've used SFDC for everything from my singular employee, independent consulting gig to a sales-driven IT services company with a 1,000 employees and $800m in revenue. It's just not that difficult, loaded with templates and educational material, scales from 1 to lots, and you don't have to manage the infrastructure.
posted by kjs3 at 9:00 PM on July 6, 2011

Response by poster: @kjs3 - thanks (I think). I get the message.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 9:00 AM on July 7, 2011

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