CRM Growth This Year
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) cloud programs are a hot item for small businesses in 2013. I received a lot more emails and calls this year than ever before asking me what CRM is the best. That is a very difficult question to answer, because most of the programs all have strengths and weaknesses. I am a firm believer that whatever CRM a company selects, it will most likely do a good job if they are committed to using it. The number one reason CRM programs fail is not the CRM’s fault. It is because the businesses that signed up don’t use even 25% of the features and just give up. I know folks who are paying a monthly fee for CRMs and have not even touched it in probably over a year.
So before I list the top CRMs I’ve seen on the market in 2013 and what to look for in 2014, I’ll put another plug in there for you all reading this to do one big thing(s) in 2014:
- Find a CRM you will like
- Don’t get a free version or you won’t use it.
- Learn how to use it (Train yourself and your team)
- Commit to use the CRM
- Use it
Top 2013 CRM Programs on the Market
Base, by FutureSimple is the CRM program that I use and like. I’ve used it for almost 2 years straight. That says a lot, because I test and login to other CRMs often! The desktop version is getting better every quarter (lots of really cool features coming in 2014…so stay tuned). But the real selling point of Base is the amazing Mobile Apps they’ve developed. You can pretty much use Base from a tablet or smartphone without logging into the desktop version: that is how good it is. To learn more about some of the latest features in 2013, read this blog among others. Sign up for a Free Trial of Base
Most of my paint clients are using Pipeline Deals CRM and have for the past 3 years+. I’ve been working with Pipeline for over 4 years now and really like their team. They have produced a very simple and straightforward CRM for small and medium size businesses. The key CRM features are in place: contact management, deals, custom reporting, scheduling of appointments, and so on. Read a more thorough review of them here. The program is not buggy…it is super clean. I believe this is because their development of the cloud app is slow and careful. So when they release a new feature, it has been thoroughly tested. The downside is that there are not new features very often. So those of you looking for something specific or custom may be disappointed with Pipeline Deals. Their mobile development, for example, has been a slow process. The good news is they do have an iPhone App that works pretty well and a soon-to-be-released Android App.
Cork is a new CRM that seems to be focusing its marketing on painting contractors. Being that my audience is typically painters, I’m excited to see the role Cork’s CRM will play in 2014. They have asked me to look at the program and write a review. I’ve done a little bit of testing. At this point, I’m not ready to fully endorse it for my clients, but I do believe they are off to a good start. They have included a few features other CRM companies have left out: scheduling and light project management.
There is not much to say about Salesforce except this: it is probably the most powerful CRM on the market. It can do just about anything you want to do: sales, marketing, project management, invoicing and more. There is a price tag for all those features, but if you are truly committed to using a CRM, Salesforce will not disappoint. To really use Salesforce, you will need thorough training. I’ve had customers send staff members (on a plane) for several days of training. The only thing I think lacking with Salesforce in 2013 was the lack of mobile development. They are behind Base CRM on this. They have deep pockets though, so I’m sure their mobile apps will be improved in 2014.
I do not know a lot about ImproveIt360 to write much on this post. I do know that they are doing something right because Salesforce recently acquired them. I did go through a presentation about their product several years ago and was turned off by the poor UX and UI features (user experience/user interface). I didn’t like how it looked, felt and performed. Again, with Salesforce behind this program, I’m sure the features will only get better. It is one of more expensive CRMs on the market too. None of this is meant to be critical. This program is meant to really help a contracting company with a lot of key sales and marketing features. I would probably have a contractor look at ImproveIt360 before Salesforce, because it is geared toward the construction industry.
Zoho CRM has been a key player in CRM development alongside Salesforce. If you want a cheaper alternative to Salesforce, go with Zoho. From all the time I’ve spent inside Zoho’s platform, it seems to do just about everything Salesforce does for less money per user. Their mobile apps are also pretty clean and strong.
Nutshell CRM is a smaller and simple CRM. Overall I like Nutshell. My only hesitation to endorse it for my clients is that it seems more geared to selling products (inventory), not services.
I have not spent much time in recent years inside of Batchbook. I’ve reached out to them to allow me to use their product, but they have not responded. 3+ years ago, I remember enjoying the simplicity of Batchbook. They were one of the first CRMs to release a native iPhone app too. They are one of the cheapest CRMs on the market too. It is not as powerful on the custom reports that Base, Pipeline and Salesforce can give you, but all in all Batchbook (for the price) is worth looking into.
This company started out as the free CRM for businesses and had fantastic integration with Google Apps. They kept that free status for several years as they increased market share. Over a year ago, they added more features with premium accounts (paid). The paid version is very good and works well. I think they are slow on development as well, so don’t expect fast upgrades and changes in 2014. If you are a Google user, you’ll probably like Insightly. They have Androit and iPhone apps and one of the ONLY CRMs that has a built in Project Management program. This feature is not as good as Basecamp and for internal use. But hey…it is there and it works.
So there you have it. I’ve only listed the ones I have spent time reviewing and using. The two I use the most are Base and Pipeline Deals. In 2014, I believe we will see even more key features on these CRM programs. Base has not allowed me to release some of their “cool” features and plans for 2014, but I can say I’m excited about what they’ve told me. The one thing I’d like to see in 2014 would be more integration with a good project management program like Basecamp. Even better, I’d like the CRM to have an amazing and easy to use project management feature built in! A CRM is not just about selling. It is all about the post sale too.
Let me know what CRM program you are using now or plan to use in 2014.