Top CRM Programs for Contractors

Posted by David Chism | Sat, Jun 12, 2010

Update to This Post 5/2015 This post was writ­ten a cou­ple years ago. As you know, the small busi­ness CRM mar­ket changes rapid­ly. All of the CRMs men­tioned below are still in busi­ness and all have their place in this world. As of 2015, I’ve kept my eye pri­mar­i­ly on the fol­low­ing CRMs for Con­trac­tors (ones that work well with Google Apps for Work)
  1. Per­son­al Favorite: Base CRM (Sim­ple & an Incred­i­ble Mobile/​Tablet Ver­sion for iPhone, Android & Win­dows) Not the cheap­est CRM, but very easy to use. Lots of great fea­tures: $25 – 75 a month per user (range)
  2. Pipeline Deals: Good iPhone Ver­sion, Great inte­gra­tion with Google, Lots of con­trac­tors use this one (native app) ($24 – 48 a month). Most of my con­trac­tor clients use Pipeline
  3. Sales­force: The pric­ing is more com­pet­i­tive than it used to be. It is a full force CRM…does just about every­thing. It would require a lot more train­ing and com­mit­ment from your team if you choose to use Sales­force. (Zoho CRM is an alter­na­tive to Sales­force. It is less expen­sive but does basi­cal­ly the same things)
Back to the Orig­i­nal Post I’ve been on the hunt for a num­ber of years for the per­fect” Cus­tomer Rela­tion­ship Man­age­ment (CRM) pro­gram for paint­ing con­trac­tors pri­mar­i­ly and remod­el­ers. My goal was to find a pro­gram that was easy to use, afford­able, acces­si­ble any­where and mobile. A lot of pro­grams claim to have all these fea­tures, but I have still yet to find the per­fect pro­gram. Most of the CRM pro­grams I’ve test­ed out lack good mobile capa­bil­i­ty at this point, but every few months I see bet­ter upgrades. Below I will list the top pro­grams I have found for con­trac­tors and a few notes to why I like them and or what they lack. I will focus pri­mar­i­ly on cloud” (online) CRMs and not as much on the desk­top ver­sions. Note: This post is for those who already have a knowl­edge of what a CRM does. If you are not famil­iar with a CRM, just con­tact me! Top CRMs for Con­trac­tors (110) 1. ACT! by Sage (Desk­top): ACT! is prob­a­bly the most rec­og­nized CRM for con­trac­tors on the mar­ket. It can do just about any­thing. It is a stand alone pro­gram with 3rd par­ty inte­gra­tion for mobile phones. ACT! is ful­ly cus­tomiz­able for your busi­ness, but it can be a very expen­sive process to pur­chase the pro­gram, get it set­up, and oh yeah…learn how to use it. The pric­ing is per user with a min­i­mum amount. Approx­i­mate cost for a small com­pa­ny of 5 – 6 employ­ees min­i­mum of $1800 plus train­ing. ACT! is not a cloud-based pro­gram, but it can be accessed through a remote shar­ing pro­gram. I’ve heard it is a lit­tle slow and not as sta­ble. So ACT! con­tin­ues to be desk­top based, and I hope some­day con­sumers can choose ACT! for desk­top or in the clouds. 2. Sales­force (Cloud): Sales­force is the lead­ing CRM pro­gram for all sizes busi­ness­es. For the con­trac­tor, the price is expen­sive if you want all the fea­tures you get with ACT! A good starter pack­age is $25 per user/​month. To me this is very expen­sive if you have an office staff of 5 peo­ple. I’ve also dis­cov­ered that the best pack­age that has all the prop­er report­ing fea­tures is $65 per user/​month. This is the rea­son I don’t rec­om­mend Sales­force all that much, because in a few months, you could have pur­chased ACT! for the same price. Sales­force needs a con­trac­tor ver­sion that is afford­able. If you only have 1 – 2 employ­ees, this might be an option, espe­cial­ly if you want mobile capa­bil­i­ty. You can down­load a native iPhone App for Sales­force, and it works great. The only down­side I’ve seen with the mobile Sales­force App is the reminders for Events and Task are not an option at this time. As I said, every pro­gram has it’s weak­ness. I use reminders and emails all the time so I don’t miss appoint­ments. All in all, Sales­force is pow­er­ful, easy to use and cus­tomiz­able. 3. Zoho CRM (Cloud): Zoho CRM is a direct com­peti­tor of Sales­force. You get almost the same fea­tures with Zoho but for a lot less. A typ­i­cal con­trac­tor with all the fea­tures of Zoho CRM would prob­a­bly spend around $20 – 25 a month com­pared to the full $65 a month Sales­force pro­gram. If you are a small shop, you can use more than enough fea­tures of Zoho CRM for around $5 a month per user and be quite hap­py. Zoho just released an iPhone brows­er-based CRM, which also works pret­ty well. If you want­ed to have a very inex­pen­sive CRM pro­gram and have some decent mobile capa­bil­i­ties, you’ll like Zoho. It real­ly is going to be a threat to Salesforce…especially when they release their native apps. The native app is com­ing to the iPhone soon. I’ve used Zoho quite a bit and real­ly like a lot of the fea­tures. It lacks good inte­gra­tion with Google Apps but does work ok with Out­look sync­ing. One oth­er neat fea­ture is it inte­grates with Quick­books and Gmail for Google Apps. The cal­en­dar is not good! I use Google Cal­en­dar instead. 4. Sug­ar CRM (Cloud) Sug­ar is sim­i­lar to Sales­force and Zoho. They do pret­ty much the same thing. The pric­ing is less than Sales­force but more than Zoho. If you decide to try out Sug­ar, I’d wait a few more weeks til Sug­ar 6 hits the mar­ket. Sug­ar 6 is sup­pose to come with some amaz­ing upgrades includ­ing some mobile native Apps: pri­mar­i­ly the iPhone again. (Sor­ry Black­ber­ry and Droid). By the way, iPhone apps are easy to cre­ate, which is why they come out first. Droid is now sec­ond but catch­ing up. Black­ber­ry phones are for cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca. Don’t buy one now that you have Apple and Android devices. 5. Prophet (Desk­top): Most con­trac­tors are use to using Out­look for their emails, con­tacts and cal­en­dars. If you want to stay with Out­look and you don’t need a lot of mobile capa­bil­i­ties, Prophet is per­fect. It embeds itself right into your exist­ing Out­look pro­gram. Prophet is a full CRM pro­gram. It is not as pret­ty” as ACT! or Sales­force, but it does the same things. Because Prophet is a desk­top-based soft­ware it has an upfront cost sim­i­lar to ACT! Their train­ing and sup­port over at Avid­i­an Prophet is excel­lent. A few oth­er CRM pro­grams that are large, yet I have not spend time sam­pling them: Max­i­mum CRM, Microsoft Dynam­ics, Land­slide and Ora­cle. All large CRMs and sim­i­lar in price to ACT! Lighter CRMs All the light CRM pro­grams I’ve tried are well designed and easy to use. I liked them all! They all just lack two way inte­gra­tion on mobile devices. The big fish still win on hav­ing most fea­tures. If you are not real tech­ni­cal or have the time to learn all the fea­tures of a full-blown CRM, start with one of these pro­grams. They are all quite refresh­ing and sim­ple. 1. Tac­tile CRM (Cloud and Google Mar­ket­place): Tac­tile CRM is a very sim­ple CRM. It man­ages con­tacts, oppor­tu­ni­ties, task list and runs reports. It is well designed and straight-for­ward. To be hon­est, the only neg­a­tive I had with this pro­gram is the lack of Mobile inte­gra­tion. Tac­tile CRM told me they are fin­ished mak­ing an iPhone App and just need to get approval from Apple. This native App will have the same func­tions as the online ver­sion and will have a 2‑way sync. One of the best things about Tac­tile is the price too! It is around $10 a user per month. If they don’t charge more for the iPhone App, I’d sug­gest most painters and small con­trac­tors give this CRM a try. I’ve spo­ken to many con­trac­tors who nev­er use all the func­tions in the big pro­grams like ACT! So start with Tac­tile. It does a lot, and if you want more…move to the big fish. 2.High­rise CRM: Updat­ed 9/18/16: High­rise CRM is a sim­ple yet very use­ful CRM. The cur­rent own­ers of High­rise have been work­ing very hard to keep up on the demands of their users. The over­all design has not changed much in the past 6 years. They’ve done minor UI improve­ments. Yet this is a time­less CRM that just is so darn easy to use. If you are look­ing for the eas­i­est CRM on the mar­ket, High­rise might be it! It still lacks the full cal­en­dar fea­ture. The workaround is you can cre­ate task in High­rise (which is awe­some) and then feed” those task into your every­day cal­en­dar (RSS feed). So if I use Google Cal­en­dar as my pri­ma­ry sched­ule, I can see my High­rise task in the cal­en­dar. High­rise also has a few new fea­tures, like being able to send emails direct­ly from High­rise using their gmail plu­g­in. This saves the steps from hav­ing to bounce back and forth between your CRM and gmail if you are work­ing on sales. Orig­i­nal Post about High­rise in 2010: High­rise is more of a Con­tact Man­ag­er than it is a full CRM. High­rise is great for man­ag­ing leads, cus­tomers and small projects. It does not have a cal­en­dar pro­gram. To use a cal­en­dar pro­gram, you need to pur­chase a sub­scrip­tion to it’s sis­ter Back­back (a 37signal prod­uct). I’ve used Back­pack, and it is nice if you are by a com­put­er all day. The mobile sync­ing is not good and does not come close to Out­look or Google Cal­en­dars. Back­pack is meant for sales peo­ple that sit at a desk. I use High­rise for a cou­ple of things: tasked (that are emailed to me, yeah) and man­ag­ing cus­tomer infor­ma­tion. I love the new iPhone App too. I’m always typ­ing in to-do items, which are then synced to High­rise and emailed to me when the items are due. Down­side to High­rise? It lacks a great cal­en­dar fea­ture and a full mobile ver­sion for the cal­en­dar! If it had a cal­en­dar, it would be my num­ber one pick! 3. Cap­sule CRM (Cloud and on Google Mar­ket­place) Cap­sule is sim­i­lar to Tac­tile. It works well. I remem­ber lik­ing the cal­en­dar fea­ture bet­ter on Tac­tile, but again, Cap­sule is one of my favorite light CRMs too. This, like Tac­tile, lacks a good inte­gra­tion with the mobile devices. 4. Pipeline Deals CRM Updat­ed 9/18/2016 — see my com­ments at the begin­ning of this post.  (Cloud): I enjoyed try­ing out Pipeline. It has a mobile brows­er-base pro­gram which is nice, but lacks the 2 way inte­gra­tion to mobile devices.

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.


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