An Analysis of Customer Resource Management for SMB
Once a business gets large enough that it is considering a deeper dive into its marketing, it needs to track the efficiency of its efforts and get help in facilitating some of the customer tracking and engagements. This is where a customer resource manager (referred to as a CRM for short) comes into play.
There are many CRM tools available to the global community. Some are focused on specific industries, some are custom made, and some are fully developed platforms sold to a wide range of businesses. Some of the most well-known platforms include SalesForce and HubSpot, but there are many more.
As a small business, Lighthouse Ledgers has experimented with several CRMs, trying to find the best fit for the smallest impact on their cash flow. Below is a review of the requirements they were looking for, in order of importance, for their size and operations:
- Affordable Price Point
- Mobile and Syncs Across Devices (Both Mac and Windows)
- Integrates with Web Forms (Especially to Import Leads)
- Customizable Fields for Leads, Contacts, Accounts, & Opportunities
Would Like to Have:
- Integrates with Email (Currently using Outlook 2016)
- Allows use of Email Templates
- Provides Document Storage (Preferably Linked to Specific Accounts)
- Integrates with Accounting System (QuickBooks Online)
- Tracks Phone Calls via Mobile App
- Campaign Management Tools
- Sales Pipeline Reports
- De-duplicates entries
- Additional Integrations Considered (Tools of interest include: Toggl, MailChimp, SurveyMonkey, Buffer, Social Media, IFTTT, etc.)
The platforms used and analyzed by Lighthouse Ledgers included Salesforce, HubSpot, ZohoCRM, MethodCRM, and WordPress CRM.
Salesforce is one of the most well-known CRM systems and a leader in SaaS. They paved the way for other SaaS applications to become available to the market. It is easy to use, web-based and spans across multiple devices, integrates with a large number of third-party services, and popular enough that a knowledgeable sales staff may have already been trained on it. The price point is higher than the other alternatives for a small business (starter account is $25/mo), so it did not make the final cut for Lighthouse Ledgers.
Hubspot is a free to use CRM that has some additional features in Marketing and Sales bundles available for the paying customer. It integrates well with Outlook 2016, adding a tracking code with each email that will notify the CRM when an email is picked up and read by the recipient, adding it to the activity tracking dashboard. The free version also provides some web form integrations for importing and managing generated leads, imperative with a company that is often reached through its website. It also provides five customizable templates for the free user, customizable fields for the contacts, organizations, and opportunities, campaign management, mobile applications and integrations with ChimpMail and SurveyMonkey.
This is the SaaS that Lighthouse Ledgers decided to work with in 2017 to 2018, however, the pricing plans scale up very quickly if additional features, like A/B testing is needed. Therefore, it is not clear if Lighthouse Ledgers will scale up with the same CRM moving forward.
ZohoCRM is also a free CRM and has a number of useful features and can be upgraded to a paying plan. The free version includes helpful features, like integration with Zoho Docs (a document storage option), call tracking on the mobile version, web-to-lead and web-to-contact forms, and many others. The Zoho brand has been building out its own environment of business tools that the CRM will also integrate with, such as ZohoProjects and ZohoDesk. However, the free version of Zoho is missing some more highly impactful features with Hubspot, such as customizable fields. It also proved to have some difficulties in usability, where some features needed to be tweaked to be useful to Lighthouse Ledgers. Therefore, it is highly useful, but came in second compared to Hubspot. When it comes to scaling, it may be a useful option moving forward, especially with all the integrations, but the usability would need to be improved.
Method.me is an industry specific CRM that the accountants have been raving about. This caused Lighthouse Ledgers to pay the subscription cost to join the SaaS and even pay for the additional features, like campaign management. The application syncs with QuickBooks Online and even provides a portal for the company’s customers to access and pay their bills and view their statements. Method had a lot of promise, and is continuing to grow today. However, the available features were too few for the amount of money they were requesting, and the majority of their unique offering is built around their QuickBooks integration, which was buggy at times. Since the QuickBooks integration became a less important aspect of contact management for Lighthouse Ledgers, this service was ultimately cancelled.
WordPress CRM is a completely free WordPress application that creates website users to track activity and collect information like contact information from the potential buyer. This feature caused a lot of security risks on the website, was incredibly clunky to navigate, and did not make it through all the testing stages. Therefore, it was abandoned very quickly and serves as an excellent reminder that not everything that is free is worth an investment in time.
Small Bytes and Customer Management on a Global Scale
When it comes to Small Bytes, sister company to Lighthouse Ledgers, a customer management and marketing tool is also necessary. However, the question is whether or not they should share the same CRM. At first glance, it seems that it would be the simplest solution. Since the companies share all other resources, like office space, human resources, and assets, they could easily share the same management tools.
But it comes down to the market and the purpose of these related companies. Small Bytes was created as an informal setting to help instruct small business owners how to manage their business using their own abilities and skills in a very limited set of time. Lighthouse Ledgers, on the other hand, was developed with the idea that there would be an element of enlightening the owners regarding the nature of their books, but the majority of the work would be conducted by Lighthouse Ledgers instead of the owners. The difference in markets and vision is what caused the businesses to split so each one could be more effective at serving their specific target market. With that in mind, it makes sense that either two CRMs must be used to keep them separated, or a CRM that has the ability to track multiple businesses can be used possibly by issuing tags or classes to separate the activities. With the price points in mind, it will likely be far more feasible to use two CRMs than it is to pay for a customized one.
What is the right fit?
When it comes to choosing the right tools for the right job, nothing beats actual implementation and experimentation. Lighthouse Ledgers worked through several CRMs before landing on HubSpot, and may test others as the industry continues to bring new competitors to the market. The most important thing is to make sure that a tool is used to help analyze the efficiency of the marketing efforts and facilitate continued customer engagement in the easiest way possible. A good tool should be one that you are interested in using and can become familiar enough to use without investing too much of your time after the initial customizations have been made. In addition, it should be a tool that you can see yourself using as the company grows and that it has the ability to grow with you. A majority of the applications come with free trials, so grab one, give it a test drive, and see what speaks to you most.