Part 7: Tools of the Trade – CRM Conclusions

Finally, there are many more options like Salesnet and SugarCRM. These are probably good solutions, but their websites and approaches to attracting smaller, entry level customers leave a lot to be desired. SugarCRM’s free version requires installation of PHP, a webserver, and a database?! How much time does a customer want to invest in an initial, exploratory level of research? In mature niche technology companies, they might be motivated to spend quite a bit of time. In this case, the resources available should be well organized, clear, professionally presented, and easy to find. With newer niche technology companies, most customers will decide in less than 30 seconds if the company has a viable product or service offering. In this case, the resources available should be well organized, clear, professionally presented, and easy to find. The challenge in both cases is the same. Therefore, it is a good idea to focus efforts by taking the time to regularly ask these key questions:

  • Are product / service webpages attractive, uncluttered, and up-to-date?
  • Are photos modern and professional?
  • Are offerings and free trials explained clearly? If there is “a catch,” is it clearly disclosed?
  • Are pages logically organized? For complex products, are configuration tools available?
  • Are customers required to log in to get detailed product information? This is a controversial topic, but for now, be aware this can also be done painlessly by providing a “reward” for providing contact information (maybe an e-book or webinar recording).
  • Are inquiries followed-up promptly and professionally without being too invasive?

The last one is especially important. A couple of days into the free trial of Salesforce.com, one simple question came up. The answer from an inside salesperson was simply, “No, it can’t do that.” That would be fine if I was already a customer, but I suspect this was a very junior salesperson following-up on hundreds of inquiries a day. I lost interest after that. This started a thought process about Salesforce.com and Insightly.com CRM. As much as I wanted to like them, something felt wrong. Salesforce called me again and was very helpful. I almost switched even though their product was not a perfect fit. Insightly was working well, but their product was just a little behind the curve technically. Then Insightly sent an email linking to their blog article about choosing the right product for the right price. It highlighted the question: what really is “the right product” in this case? For me, it was modern, fast, low cost, basic CRM with high quality mobile access. A smaller company called “Base CRM” seemed to fulfill those criteria. It still wasn’t an obvious decision, since there were not many reviews for the product itself, but the iTunes and Android App Stores showed that many people liked their mobile apps. Their “Built for People” tagline and the way they highlighted some of their key customers were also appealing.

basecrm

In general, addressing issues like the ones above can have immediate results on your sales and marketing efforts, and of course, your bottom line!