11 Top CRM Solutions For Your Organization

Thinking of getting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application? Below, there are 11 terrible ones. Sure, they are all popular, budget friendly and mature. Offered their features and functionality you ‘d believe they ‘d be great tools for a lot of small and medium sized companies.

Salesforce.com is probably the most populared of these applications. And deservedly so. The company practically designed cloud-based CRM and continues to be committed to its future. Like the items listed below, Salesforce.com CRM provides sales, marketing and service management abilities to its little and (extremely) huge customers. The application is only offered through the cloud and can range in price from $60 to $125 per month per user for the common corporate version (although prices can be less for very basic features or more depending on the included modules acquired).

GoldMine is even more of an innovative contact manager than a complete blown customer relationship management system. But the aging product has actually been around for several years and still keeps a huge following. The software, which is on-premise only, is targeted primarily at groups of 5-25 users and costs about $3,000 for a five concurrent user system. It is quick to setup, easy to use, synchronizes with Outlook and QuickBooks and sold through a national network of resellers and partners.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is available in both on-premise (around $1,100 per named user and approximately $5,000 for the server software) or via the cloud at $44/month/user. Characteristics CRM has grown significantly over the past couple of years, primarily because of its ease of use and seamless integration with all-things-Microsoft, from Outlook and Office to Sharepoint and its other company applications like Characteristics GP. Dynamics is incredibly adjustable, scalable to larger, enterprise-size workgroups and serviced through Microsoft’s partner channel.

ACT! Yes, it’s still there, even though it’s been recently sold by Sage to Swiftpage. ACT! excels mostly with very small user groups but I’ve seen it used effectively with dozens of people at a time. Many salespeople I know love it. Priced similar to GoldMine above, ACT! is primarily an on-premise application with cloud-based options.

ZohoCRM is a relative newcomer to the CRM marketplace and has found a huge niche as (I like to call it) the “poor man’s Salesforce.com.” ZohoCRM is just one of a suite of business applications from Zoho that include efficiency, office, job management, invoicing and recruiting. The Enterprise version of ZohoCRM runs $35/month/user but a free, stripped down version is available for less than three users. ZohoCRM is completely cloud based, integrates with many Google GOOG Apps and syncs with QuickBooks and Outlook. There is also a growing army of Zoho designers and partners with devices to further customize and incorporate the product with other systems.

Nimble is a web-based application that provides most of the common functionality you would anticipate from today’s CRM systems with the added specialized of deeply integrating with social media services like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Nimble is also a relative newcomer to the marketplace but has obtained significant traction over the past two years. For only $15/user/month Nimble will let your users listen in on social media activity to identify opportunities and provide all the activity, communication and contact management tools to make sure those opportunities do not fall through the cracks. Nimble also has a growing number of third party apps for more advanced tasks.

Insightly claims more than 300,000 users of its powerful small business, cloud based CRM application. Like ZohoCRM, Insightly provides a basic free version for up to 3 users and then runs up to $99 per month for its deluxe plan which allows as much as 40 users to take advantage of its advanced CRM and project management capabilities. What sets Insightly apart is its deep integration with Google’s products like Google Apps, Gmail and Google Drive (although there is integration with Office 365 and Outlook 2013 too).

SugarCRM has been a popular selection for many small and medium sized companies over the past few years, mainly since the company offers both budget friendly on-premise and cloud based versions and makes its source code available for those intrepid enough to want to develop innovative modifications and deeper integration with their own systems. SugarCRM can run from $35 to $100 per user per month or you can just buy it outright. The company has steadily built a good partner channel for implementation and prides itself on its industry particular editions. Integration with Lotus Notes has also been a unique feature.

Highrise CRM is an excellent choice for those who already benefitting from the great project management features of its sister product Basecamp and want to expand into sales and marketing management. Also made by 37Signals (the makers of Basecamp), Highrise’s cloud based pricing ranges from $24/month for 6 users to $99/month for 40 users.

Sage CRM can be rented online for $39/user/month or purchased outright so that corporate users can take advantage of its sales, case, project and e-mail management functionality. Sage CRM is a mature, powerful CRM application that any user of a Sage product (i.e. Sage 100– formerly MAS or Sage 300– formerly Accpac) should seriously consider. Sage has a strong partner network and deep financial resources.

NetSuite is a good selection for those with a big budget and the desire for a fully integrated, cloud based business system that will not only provide CRM functionality but also handle everything from purchase order management to inventory control, e-commerce activity and human resources. NetSuite is powerful, mature and offered through a network of partners. It comes in lots of industry certain variations and offers devices for designers to further customize. Pricing is available from their resellers but many of the clients I know who are using the product are paying anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 per month for the use of its lots of modules for their users.

Each and every one of these applications are excellent in their own way and I wish I had enough internal resources to provide them all to my clients. But unfortunately they are all likewise terrible. Why? It’s not why. It’s when.

They are terrible when they are not implemented the right way. They are horrible when companies don’t appreciate that all of these magical applications are nothing but databases and don’t put the right processes in place to ensure that all interactions are become part of this database so that the data can be properly used for further sales, marketing and service interactions. They are terrible when companies don’t assign strong administrators, or cut corners on training or try to do too much at one time. They are terrible when senior managers don’t pay the attention needed to make these systems successful and instead cave in to the complaints made by lower level employees who do not really want to do the additional work. These applications are awful when managers don’t insist on the reports they should be using, don’t impose rules for entering new chances and don’t commit to long-term, consistent and repetitive drip-marketing and communication projects using the information maintained by their CRM system to keep their prospects informed and their customers close.

Yes, these CRM systems are terrible. As terrible as an automatic rifle given to a kid or a nine-iron handed to a monkey. But placed in the right hands, like a soldier or a professional golfer, a CRM system (like the popular ones listed above) can be an effective tool for growing a company’s profits and enhancing its value. So is your CRM system awful? Or is it you?

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