Salesforce, Pipeline Deals or Base CRM

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I was recently asked if I had written an article comparing Salesforce to Base CRM. The contractor had also tried Pipeline Deals as a CRM. This got me thinking that I needed to write a blog about the CRMs I personally use the most and the differences between the three. I hope you will find this post helpful if you are in search for a CRM.

Warning: If you are currently using a CRM effectively, do not be quick to jump ship and try another CRM. Before switching, make sure you know the missing link in your customer retention, what it will take to fix it, and if switching CRMs will be the solution. Many times, switching applications just make for more chaos.

In today’s post, I’m not going to tell you which CRM is best for you. They all have their place. I will just share a few highlights and do my best to compare how they are different.

Salesforce SF

Salesforce has been the leading CRM on the market ever since I can remember. Before Salesforce, ACT! was the premium software used by most small businesses. Salesforce came out of nowhere and produced one of the first and best cloud CRMs. Salesforce grew rapidly in the cloud computing world and companies from small, medium and even some larger enterprises began to switch to Salesforce.

In a nutshell, Salesforce can pretty much do whatever it is you want to do when it comes to lead generation, internal communications, exceptional reporting, sales automation, light project management. What Salesforce cannot do out of the box, one of their many APIs or plugins can typically do the trick. They have allowed for developers to build Apps to work nicely with their product. Yet using more features within Salesforce tends to get a bit expensive. On average, a business would need to spend around $125 a user/per month for the enterprise version. Sometimes you can negotiate this price down a bit with Salesforce. If you want to have a lot of flexibility with your CRM, the Enterprise version is most likely where you will be. As you can see, this can add up and get expensive for the small business contractors with 5+ employees.

The one drawback with Salesforce is that it can be complicated. Most of the clients I know who use Salesforce don’t really utilize the program to its full potential. I had one client fly their operations manager to the Bay Area for a several day course on advanced features within Salesforce. That was a couple of years ago and to this day, they are still having problems with Salesforce. This is not Salesforce’s fault! Will they switch? No! They have too much invested in Salesforce. It works fantastic for their call center and sales team. Yet, it comes with a steep price tag too!

Who Should Be Using Salesforce

If you want the best with all the bells and whistles and customization, Salesforce will do the trick. If you have an inside sales team making cold calls, needing some good sales automation (task, reminders, follow ups, emails) this is a great product. If it’s just you, one other sales guy, and you are very analytical and detail-oriented, you’ll be happy with Salesforce.

Base CRM



Base CRM just moved their offices to the Bay Area from Chicago. One of the reasons they did this was to have even more access to the tech community: designers, programmers, engineers etc. They have produced one of the best scaleable CRMs I’ve seen. What I mean is that a small, one man shop can use BASE CRM and a company of 50+ employees can as well. It is capable of just the “Facts Jack” features up to a number of advanced features such as call recording, sales automation, sales, scripts, geo-map location and more. Although this can change from year to year, Base still has perhaps the slickest and most advanced Mobile CRM on the market. It works incredibly well on the iOS devices and even better on Google’s Android platform. When Apple released iOS 8 this fall, my guess is that Base will run even better!

A couple of drawbacks on Base as of July 2014: Exporting data is a pain in the neck. The only way to do this is to export all your data into CSV files. At that point, you can do what you want with it. I get the reason why Base makes it painful. I think they want you to use their reports and not have to do a lot of your own analyzing and reporting outside of Base. That brings me to the other drawback: their reports are good, not great. For most companies, you’ll probably be quite pleased with the slick, easy to read reports. It shows most of you what you want to know; but if you want to dig real deep into your organization, Base CRM’s reports have room for improvement. They are working on this, and I’m sure in a year or so, I’ll have to update this post.

Base also does not have as many plugins and features like Salesforce. It has some basic ones such as Google, MailChimp, Xero to name a few. Yet it is missing some key plugins to small business tools such as Quickbooks. Finally, it doesn’t do a great job of internal communications like Pipeline and Salesforce. You have to rely more on email to communicate with inside/outside sales teams. It would be nice to be able to leave comments and send notifications to other users within the Base. Base CRM and most CRMs lack the customer follow up process too. Most CRMs deal with the pre and during sales process. Once the sale is complete, there isn’t a great way to manage a project, connect to a good project management software or have a system to stay in touch with a customer. Well, there are ways, but it isn’t easy.

Who Should Be Using Base CRM

Because I love mobile technology so much, I’ve settled on using Base CRM for my company. I love the updates and features Base brings on a regular basis. I like the task and sales automation features too. It works really well with Google Apps, which I use for my email and calendar. I’d say if you really like a slick design, easy to use CRM features, Base CRM is a great CRM. It also has plans to go neck to neck with Salesforce. So I suspect the next 12 months, Base CRM will really make some great updates to their product. Each one I’ve seen the past few years has been fantastic. An inside sales team that wants to make calls from their computer, have sales scripts and call recording will also benefit from Base CRM.

If you are a small service business that will be using Google Apps for your business and want a quality CRM, Base will do the trick. It does not have as many bells and whistles as Salesforce, but it has the potential to do quite a bit out of the box. The cost is a bit more reasonable too. Most small businesses (contractors mainly) can benefits from spending around $45 a month per user. I know a few that do just fine at their starter package too: $15 a month.

Pipeline Deals

pipelinedeals-1 pipelinedeals-2 pipelinedeals-3

I like to call Pipeline Deals “Old Faithful.” This does not mean that Pipeline Deals is old and out of date. Not at all. Pipeline Deals has quality apps for the Android and iPhone and has some of the best reporting features for a simple CRM. It also has great internal communication features. So if I get a call from a client, I can type in a note about the call and tap a button to notify someone in the company about the call I had with that particular client. Pipeline is just a rock solid CRM. They have perhaps the best customer support/service I’ve ever experienced too. You can call, chat, or email them just about anytime and get a live person in seconds! They are more than willing to help small to medium size businesses setup their CRM as well.

Pipeline basically is a simple CRM for those who just want the basics: enter and keep track of customers and sales. The company does make updates to their product a few times a year, and the updates are very well thought out and bug free.

A few drawbacks to Pipeline Deals would be the fact that it really is a simple CRM. It does not come close to what Salesforce can do, and I don’t think Pipeline Deals thinks of Salesforce as a competitor. Although Pipeline works with Google Apps, it is not without a few issues. I think it is a bit clunky and don’t bother with the integration. Their sales automation is also a bit dated and not as automated and worry-free as Salesforce or Base. For example, setting up follow up task in Pipeline can be done, but getting reminded about them is a bit of a chore. Finally their mobile apps are pretty basic. If you want a robust mobile solution, Pipeline has a bit more work to do here.

Who Should Use Pipeline Deals

I have an account with Pipeline Deals and do keep up on all their updates. I also know that many of my painting clients use and like Pipeline Deals. These guys don’t need a complicated CRM. It’s  very easy to learn how to use Pipeline Deals and the cost is reasonable at $24 per user/month. For that rate, it’s easy to have a large staff use the basic or advanced features of this CRM.

I trust you have found this post helpful. If I did not address your questions, comment below or send me an message.



Are You Too Busy For Referrals?

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The Referral Mastermind: Brian Buffini


Used by Buffini & Company on Stationary.

Ask just about any realtor in the country if he or she has heard of Brian Buffini and you will hear a resounding YES. Brian came to the U.S. from Ireland in his early twenties to live the American dream. He became a real estate agent in San Diego. Brian quickly became a very successful and highly recognized agent not only in San Diego but also across the U.S. for his unique way of growing his business by referrals.

I used to go to the same church as Brian and worked with him on some summer side business endeavors while in high school. Brian could sell just about anything. He was such a positive and upbeat man destined for helping other realtors to succeed in the art of selling by referrals.

After a number of years of being one of the top real estate agents in the country, he moved into the consulting world, which he called Buffini & Company. He developed a complete lead generation and coaching business around the art of asking for referrals. Brian has taught thousands of realtors to use a rather simple technique to grow one’s business. You may have heard it: “I am never too busy for referrals!” You might see this quote at the bottom of an email, marketing piece, or perhaps a realtor will wrap up a conversation with those words. I’ll admit, it can seem a little cheesy and fake when I hear it, only because I know where the phrase became popular. Yet it got me thinking about my contractor friends and asked myself, “Are they ever too busy for referrals?”

Being Busy Is a Good Thing, Right?

Going on inside a business owner’s head right about now: “The phone is ringing off the hook. I’m working 70-80 hours a week. I’m selling jobs at the price I want. I am having a hard time hiring new crews to keep up with my workload. Customers seem happy with my service. Employees aren’t complaining. I am so busy. My business is growing, so life should be good right about now.” If this sounds familiar, you know you have that gut feeling that some big things are still missing. Chances are you have become so busy with the day to day operations and keeping your head above water you are perhaps missing three very important things:

  1. Ending a job as though it is your only job: Customers don’t care you are busy. They care about their home and their schedule only. They can tell when you are rushing at the end of a job to rush off to the next project. This will begin to create doubt and question the quality of your product if they feel you are hurrying through their project. They might start looking around for things you missed or feel you are too busy for referrals. They don’t want to recommend you to a friend and feel embarrassed if you drop the ball because of being busy.
  2. No follow up plan once the project is complete: This is a pretty common mistake even when you are not busy. If you don’t use and work with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program, chances are, you’ll miss this step. It is a good practice to make sure you always have a follow up plan. I know a few clients who use a system called “Send Out Cards” when they finish a project. They have it customized up front to send out personalized greeting cards for the next couple of years until a free warranty inspection can take place. No follow up means no contact with your previous customer, and this will cause your customers to begin to forget who you are or feel that you again must be busy and not need the referrals or future work.
  3. You are too busy to ask for a referral: This one important step might be one of the key driving factors as to why your company does not get more referrals.

Taking Action Should Not Be Painful

No matter how busy you may get this time of year, you should consider making it a practice for everyone in your company to ask for referrals. This should start at the beginning of your relationship with a customer. Tell them that most of your business comes by referrals and repeat business (if it does). Tell them you plan on giving them the best possible service start to finish. Be genuine about this! Plan on multiple ways to hug your customers (read the book) throughout the entire process: especially the end.

Finally, why is working by referrals so vitally important even though it sounds like a lot of work and a royal pain? Close to 80% of my dad’s painting business is repeat and referral work. The extra 20% of his revenue comes from things like the web, trucks, yard signs, sponsoring events and so forth. That takes a lot of time and money to produce that 20%. Also the final 20% are typically the least profitable jobs because he has to spend his resources hunting down the work and being extra competitive on pricing. So we are continually looking for ways to increase that 80% to 85% and someday 90% and more. The more you can work by referrals the less time and resources you need to spend chasing down jobs that will not make you much money.

I’d love to hear by email, on the social networks or in the comments below how you build your business by referral. What do you do now or purpose to do to keep customers happy and referring your services.

Begin Your Fall & Winter Planning This Summer

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Plan-Do-CheckThis has been one of the busiest summer seasons for most of my painting and remodeling clients in over 5 years. That is a great thing, to be busy, right? The only problem with being busy is that the marketing plan begins to become a thing of the past. Planning for the fall and winter is also the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. Yet, July and August are perhaps the two best months to really begin thinking and planning for the slower seasons. You know they are coming. It happens every year. 

So a few quick tips: 

  • Create an event and do not move it: This is an important event that should not be rescheduled.
  • Plan a meeting away from your office: It is too easy to get distracted at the office. I’ve had some clients go away for an entire day with their staff to plan and catch up.
  • Create an agenda with things to discuss: review current and past leads, your marketing budget, how much are you ahead or behind for the year, when to put the plan into place, what happens if we don’t hit…etc
  • Brainstorm & Planned Discussion: Discounts, Emails, Calling Clients, Adwords, Newsletter, Gifts to top customers, Appreciation Party, etc.
  • Action Items: Once the brainstorming is done, begin creating an action plan and timeline of when things should be done. Some companies do this in a very organized 30 to 90 day action plan. Decide on the completion date and who will “own” the action. Make sure that the actions are doable and that a follow up plan is in place.

How do you prepare for the fall and winter time and when? What things would you add to the list and how has planning ahead helped your business?

Are Your Blogs Boring?

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Blogs Are Not Dead

The majority of the contractor websites I see today have a blog. Many of these blogs are not active. I’ll see just a few post for awhile and then nothing for months. I understand this problem as it is very difficult to keep up on a blog. Typically a business owner is asking himself things like:  Read More

3 Important Words To Understand in Your Business

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Marketing, Advertising & Branding

Three words, or terminologies, are kicked around often in the mind of many small business owners when it comes to growing one’s business: marketing, advertising & branding. Many times branding and advertising are combined into the one word, “marketing.” So when one thinks of branding, he is thinking “marketing.” Or another might say, “I need to do some advertising”, he typically is thinking, “I need to market my business”. These important terminologies are actually quite different from each other and yet play a significant role in working together. Read More

Should I Use Google+ For My Business

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What Is Google+

Google+ can be described as simple as a social network like Facebook but it does quite a bit more. It allows users to create communities with similar users, hangouts (online conferences / phone calls), private or public posts or shares and more. Perhaps most significantly, Google+ provides authorship or authority to content on the web. What I mean is this, you can connect your blog post to your Google+ account, making you the author of your content across the web. Here is an example of how that content might look on the web when a person has verified his/her authorship on Google+. Read More

Base CRM Adds Events & Accounts

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During the past several months, the Base CRM development team has been very busy providing many valuable updates to their simple yet effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) cloud software. I have been using Base for the past couple of years for my own business. After the last couple of big updates, it has become an even better tool for my company. I use it daily, and if you are still looking for a great CRM, you should give it a try yourself. It is built for small and medium size businesses. Read More

Should I Advertise on Yelp?

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Yelp Shows Up Great on Search Results

Yelp is one of the fastest growing and highest ranking directories on the web. Do a quick search, such as “painters in Boston” and chances are you will see Yelp results towards the top (picture below: #2 spot).

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 3.02.23 PM

Because of the clout Yelp has with search engines and the number of reviews, Yelp is far reaching, even to the mobile apps such as Apple Map and Siri results. Try using Siri on your iPhone to look for a local restaurant. It will typically show you Yelp reviews.

This all sounds good. So a construction business should definitely be on Yelp, right? Read More

Freshbooks, Easy to Use Invoicing for Small Businesses

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5 Years of Using FreshbooksFreshbooks Logo

I am just wrapping up my 5th year in business as I write this blog (April 2009 is when I incorporated). When I opened my doors for business I knew I needed two programs to help get me going and not cost a lot of money. I turned to Google Apps for Business to run my emails, contacts and calendars. I then needed a program that would send estimates, invoices and track my business expenses. I landed on Freshbooks. My web designer, David Guy, was using it at the time and loved it. So the decision was easy and it is where I plan to stay as I start my 6th year in business.

Can A Contractor Use Freshbooks?

Since my embracing and using of Freshbooks a lot of fantastic invoicing and accounting (cloud-based) programs have surfaced. I have tried most of them. The ones listed below all have their place in the market and are high quality products.

Most contractors I know have settled on Quickbooks or Quickbooks Online and are happy with the products overall. It makes sense for most contractors to stick with a trusted company like Intuit. They really are the leader in the small business accounting world. I have had a few contractors use Freshbooks for some more seasonal businesses (like Christmas lights) because it is really just a simple system for sending estimates, invoices and receiving payments online. Even though I personally use and LOVE Freshbooks, I’d say that most contractors should probably consider Quickbooks as their billing solution. It would be difficult to switch between the two programs. Freshbooks does not offer some of the key features, like Job Costing.

Freshbooks does have a number of plugins and integrations, as does Quickbooks. So if you really do want a simple solution to start, check out their Add Ons Page.

I tried Quickbooks for myself for awhile, but stayed with Freshbooks for 3 reasons:

  1. My accountant approved
  2. My customers have never once complained about using it to pay their bills
  3. It is a piece of cake to use.

So, if you happened upon this post in search for a very simple and easy to use invoicing system, Freshbooks takes the cake. If you need a more robust accounting system with a lot of bells and whistles, try Quickbooks (for contractors) or check out Xero.


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