Customer Relationship Management (CRM) remains a topic that is heavily analyzed and debated among business consultants and academics. In the 1990s CRM became a buzzword in business management, spawning a legion of CRM experts and software applications meant to automate the CRM process for companies. CRM specialists have defined the entire sales process as critical to maintaining customer loyalty and satisfaction.
There is a wide variety of CRM software applications available to help companies collect, analyze, and manage data about their customers. Choosing the right one for your business is critical. Unfortunately, the variety of CRM software applications, designed to work with virtually any sized business, can bewilder even the most savvy small business owner. As a result, working with a CRM consultant to select the software that best fits your business’s structure and needs is often a good idea, particularly since most CRM software is meant to supplement a CRM strategy that has already been properly designed to fit your business.
The following is a selection of some of the more popular CRM software applications:
ACT! (Pro: $229.99; Premium: $459.99) Produced by Sage Software, ACT! platforms have been a constant companion for many salespeople for two decades. The software provides comprehensive scheduling of telephone calls, meetings, and correspondence, as well as archiving of all details of the sales transaction. The 2011 edition of the program integrates easily with Microsoft Office, synchronizes with Outlook for easy exchange of data and use, and now includes a remotely accessible Mobile Live function that lets your sales staff tap into it while they’re out on the road. The more affordable Pro version is probably sufficient for small businesses with 10 or fewer users, but if your company has a need greater than that, you’re better off with the more scalable Premium platform. There are also additional ACT! CRM versions tailored specifically for real estate and financial professionals ($299.99 each). Click here for more on ACT! products and to test-drive a complimentary, 30-day trial.
Goldmine (Enterprise, Premium, and Corporate prices only available by quote). FrontRange’s Goldmine is a reliable CRM and activity tracking application that permits team-based forecasting, mass mailing, and project collaboration. Similar in some ways to Sage Software’s ACT! platform, Goldmine products allow for integration through various mobile devices and provide a variety of forecasting, lead management, marketing, synchronization, and contact management options. Its entry-level offering, formerly known as Standard and priced at $275 per user, is now called Enterprise and is quoted individually, depending upon each client’s unique needs. For larger or rapidly growing companies looking to do more than just passively monitor customers and track data, Goldmine’s Premium edition offers more features to satisfy those needs. The most extensive Goldmine platform, called Corporate, which in the past was priced at roughly double the Standard tier, combines both Enterprise and Premium functionalities and adds several other features as well, among them web service support. Click here to see a Goldmine product comparison chart and find contact information for a price quote.
Infusionsoft CRM (Basic: $199/month; Deluxe: $299/month; Pro: $499/month) Infusionsoft’s web-based software offers a robust, integrated approach to all areas of sales and marketing beyond simple contact management. The software, part downloaded and part run from Infusionsoft’s servers, permits management of individual sales, the creation of sales times, and the distribution of leads and sales opportunities to team members. The software combines and meshes sales and marketing efforts and allows tracking of online and off line orders and sales. The software pricing scales upward based on the number of users and contacts, with the Pro version accommodating 10 separate users and 100,000 contacts. Beyond those limits, Infusion offers an individually quoted Enterprise system. To learn more about the different versions, including a 15-day trial edition, and compare pricing, click here.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 (Pricing and versions TBD) Though a Dynamics 4.0 version is currently available, a newer version of Microsoft’s CRM software will be arriving in late January. And take note, to entice current CRM users to switch over to Microsoft’s new 2011 platform, the company is offering up to $200 in incentives to some qualified customers. All the specifics about the new platform were not yet known at the time of writing, but a beta version that has been circulating since September offers several clues. For example, the next generation CRM platform will include cloud-based as well as on-premises versions and Microsoft promises its new software will integrate into more of its products than ever before while allowing for increased user personalization. Pricing is still to be determined as well. As a general guide, however, you could look at the costs of the Dynamics 4.0 versions, which have one-time costs of roughly $1,000 for a full-use license and run from $2,100 to $2,600 to $5,200 for the Professional, Workgroup, and Enterprise server editions, respectively. For more on the launch of Microsoft’s new CRM software, click here.
NetSuite CRM+ ($129 per user, per month). Another more comprehensive, web-based CRM system, NetSuite CRM+ offers a broader view of all sales and customer management related activities to authorized employees, including complete purchase histories for all customers, territory tracking and assignment, commission tracking for salespeople, deal expiration notification, lead generation and follow-up, and enhanced sales forecasting. NetSuite’s CRM+ platform also includes remote smartphone access as well as robust back-office functionality, letting a small business owner track inventory, order fulfillment, and accounts receivable. To read more about CRM+ details or schedule an online product demo, click here.
Prophet 5.0 (Personal: $199.95; Advance: $349.95; Premium: $499.95). Designed to work seamlessly with Microsoft’s popular Outlook mail program, Avidian Technologies’ Prophet line of CRM products eliminates the need to switch between separate contact databases and other applications since all CRM functions are nested within Outlook. According to Avidian, its 5.0 versions of the Personal, Advance and Premium releases are more designed for individuals, but because they offer a wide variety of features, including sales and quote management dashboards, an instant, customizable quote generator, and an array of new project-tracking reports, many smaller business owners will find this product tier capable of handling their CRM needs. For businesses with larger sales teams and more complicated reporting needs, however, Avidian also offers Professional and Enterprise versions (price quoted per user) of its Prophet CRM software. To compare editions and try a complimentary 15-day trial, go to the Avidian website.
Salesforce Sales Cloud 2 (Five different editions with pricing that ranges from $5 to $250 per user, per month). Salesforce’s CRM products are tiered to fit the customer relationship needs of everything from a one-person startup to a multinational corporation. Beyond Sales Cloud 2’s many contact management tools and customer relationship tracking features is another functionality of particular note: a new “Chatter” feature, which functions as a kind of internal social networking tool for businesses, letting employees quickly and easily collaborate on projects in real time. Its popularity has already skyrocketed among Salesforce’s larger customers, like Dell, Sony, Amazon.com, and Yahoo, and has the company planning many add-ons to enhance its ability in helping companies to coordinate better and sell more. To understand the differences in Sales Cloud 2 tier capability, pricing, and scope, check out this comparison of Salesforce CRM versions.
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