3 Forever FREE CRM systems to try for the New Year!

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A lot of small businesses I know are currently using spreadsheets to manage their contacts and are finding a lot of issues with using this as a way to manage their contacts (understandably!).  They have told me that they really need a CRM system for the new year but don’t have a big budget and also have no idea where to start or where to look.

So fear not!  We are here to take out all the hard work for you in finding a system that fits your business AND your budget.  Our Christmas and New Year gift to you is a list of 3 FREE (YES FREE!) CRM systems that do a darn good job of managing your contacts and some even have other bonus features that can supercharge your business to propel you forward in 2014.

So without further ado, here they are!

1. Bitrix 24

Bitrix 24, we believe, gives you amazing features  for  FREE! It is more than just a CRM system.  It is a united work space which handles the many aspects of daily operations and tasks in the form of a cloud based social intranet.   Some of the great features the free version has are:

  • Free for up to 12 users!
  • 5Gb of online storage
  • Social Communications
  • Tasks and Projects
  • Calendars
  • File and Documents (sharing and collaboration)
  • and last but not least – a built in CRM which includes:
    • Contact management
    • Sales/pipeline management
    • Invoice management
    • An advanced business process  workflow builder (it has a great GUI interface)
    • Website integration -connect your online store and your contact forms to pass sales and leads data directly into your CRM.

It doesn’t include a case management/support module in the free version, but for most small businesses, the existing features are more than sufficient.

2. Capsule CRM

Capsule CRM has a great, user friendly interface which is quite simple to use.  The features in their free edition are:

  • Free for up to 2 users
  • 10Mb Storage
  • Calendar and Activities
  • Automated workflows
  • Contact management (up to 250 contacts)
  • Opportunity/Sales Pipeline Management (unlimited)
  • Case Management (unlimited cases)

There is no module for invoice management but if  you want to upgrade  to the professional plan for only $12 per user per month, you have access to integration with Xero cloud based accounting software which handles your invoicing.

3. Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM has grown in leaps and bounds in the past few years and now offers an Enterprise version which includes territory management.  However, it still offers it’s free version for small businesses with the basic CRM  functionality to cater for their needs including social media integration.   It Features in the free version include:

  • Free for up to 3 users
  • 250Mb file storage/organisation
  • Lead, Contact and Account management
  • Opportunity/Sales Pipeline Management
  • Tasks, Calendar, Call Log, and Notes
  • Integration with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • 2 Email templates
  • 1 Web-to-Lead form for integration with your website
  • 1 Web-to-Contact form for integration with your website

The great thing about all 3 of the CRM systems featured here, is that they give you the opportunity to upgrade at any time as your business grows.

So what are you waiting for?  Get 2014 off to a great start for your business with a brand new CRM system and watch your business thrive!

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Chamber of Commerce Gains Hundreds of Hours by Using CiviCRM

Fremantle Chamber of Commerce

We have been privileged to have one of our CRM projects featured as a case study in the CiviCRM July Newsletter.

CiviCRM helps organizations grow and sustain strong relationships over time. It is a web-based, open source CRM software geared toward meeting the needs of non-profit and other civic-sector organizations.

We were approached by one of the co-founders of CiviCRM (Dave Greenberg) to feature our project as their case study of the month.  The article can be found below.  For more information on CiviCRM, please visit www.civicrm.org.

The newsletter can also be found here.

Case Study

The Fremantle Chamber of Commerce (FCC) champions policies and strategies that improve the business environment in Fremantle (Perth, Western Australia), enhance community prosperity and develop a sustainable mix of business and lifestyle opportunities for Fremantle’s future. They act as an advocate for the business community, a conduit for information and a promoter of Fremantle’s position in the regional landscape. The Chamber currently have over 500 members, ranging from major corporate organizations to small micro-businesses.

FCC required a CRM system to manage their members, events and organizational activities more efficiently. The main challenge, as is often the case when moving to a new system, was importing and cleaning the existing data which existed in different locations such as multiple Excel sheets and Outlook.

It’s really interesting to see how CiviCRM is being used by these types of associations, as well as smaller not-for-profits. As Brian Shaughnessy of Lighthouse Consulting and Design says“CiviCRM provides a robust set of tools for professional, trade, and community associations. Configure the membership options to track fixed period and rolling memberships, build reports to view new, current, and lapsed memberships, while empowering your members to manage their renewals and personal contact data through self-service forms. Coupled with the event registration, case management, and other tools, CiviCRM creates a single, web-based, centralized database for your association’s data management needs — creating system efficiencies, improving the quality of your data, and allowing organization staff to better serve your members!”

Sankhya Consultants were chosen for the CiviCRM implementation. The project was funded by a grant from the Western Australian government as part of a project to train businesses the benefits of CRMs. The benefits of that for the wider community are that the team at Sankhya had to submit a report on the implementation, so we have that unusual and precious thing – measurable success!

One of the most marked improvements from having their new CiviCRM in place was the streamlined efficiency of the event management process. Before Civi, the average time spent on recording each event participant’s attendance, tracking payment, sending reminders, raising invoices etc was around 70 minutes. Since Civi that average time has gone down to 10 minutes. That’s a saving of around 1 hour per contact, per event!

There are lots of other really impressive stats in the report, such as:

  • Updating memberships: Before Civi, 5 mins to contact each member individually, for 1,500 members that’s 125 hours every membership renewal cycle. Since Civi, with automated reminders for the entire database, it takes something like 10 mins admin time per cycle. That’s 125 hours saved!!
  • Searching for contacts, to find all the contacts that fulfilled a certain criteria (e.g. lived in a certain area): Before Civi this was a manual process of checking through numerous spreadsheets, taking an average of 2 hours. Since being able to search with Civi’s built-in contact search, this takes less than 5 minutes. Time saved – just under 2 hours!

See a report of the outcomes 3 months after the CiviCRM implementation.

Read the entire case study here

 

How Implementing CRM Can Fulfil Your Top 10 Business Wishes – Part I

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In my 10 or more years in the IT/CRM space, I have come across many businesses from various industry verticals.  However, all of them have the same business needs no matter which industry they are from.  I have compiled the Top 10 needs of most businesses and will explain how a CRM strategy and implementation can fulfill this wishlist.  Here we go!

1. “I want a central place to store all my customer contact info and interactions (appointments, emails, tasks, etc). I currently have to rummage through Outlook emails and countless Excel sheets. I want info to be accurate and not have duplicates.”

A CRM solution captures all your prospects and client information in a central place (usually accessible from a web browser or any mobile device).  You can integrate your Outlook tasks, contacts and Calendar (if need be) and also capture all your incoming and outgoing client emails so its all accessible from one place.  Most CRM systems alow you to import your data through excel CSV files and even have a duplicate checking function so you can clean up your data quickly and easily.

2.“I want customer demographics info at my fingertips. E.g. I may want to send a promotion to all my customers who are in the Tourism industry and live on a certain street  in the central business district.”

If you have your data in excel sheets and Outlook it may be difficult to find specific client or prospect information to carry out targeted marketing.  A CRM solution can give you this information a the push of a button with it’s powerful search and querying facilities.

3. “I want to keep track of customer purchases, know who my repeat customers are and which products /services they purchased.”
A CRM solution is very flexible and can be integrated with other solutions such as a shopping cart on your website or accounting software.  This allows you to capture information from various sources but have all your customer data in sync and up to date.  Knowing who my repeat customers are and which products or services are selling best is very powerful market intelligence which can help me identify cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
4. “I want to track enquiries and make sure they have been attended to promptly. If I am sick or my staff changes, the business should continue running as per normal – all customer info and interactions should be accessible by the people taking over.”
This is a major gripe with most businesses where all client information and interactions are stored in separate systems.  A CRM system has information on all customer (or potential customer) calls, meetings, proposals, quotes etc  in a central location which can be accessed by the appropriate staff members with permission.
5.“I am doing a lot of things manually in my business like preparing quotes, and tracking and sending follow-up emails.  I would love to have some of these tasks automated.”
I really get thrilled when I can help my clients save their precious time by automating everyday manual tasks such as event management, preparation of quotes, follow up emails and reminders etc through a CRM system.  A lot of solutions have ‘workflows’ which can be configured to automate a lot of tasks that you normally would have to do manually.
There are even more wonderful things a CRM solution can do for you.  So stay tuned for Part II.

Dr Vish Ramakonar – CRM Consultant/Analyst

Sankhya Consultants

http://www.crmconsulting.net.au
photo credit: cbcd04 via photopin cc

CRM For Pets!

How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

It’s pretty much a given – pets are big business. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) industry trends report predicts that US households will spend just north of $50 billion on pets in 2012. Increasingly, businesses in the pet sector are finding success using customer relationship solutions to build customer loyalty and attract new buyers.

Over $7 Billion a Year in Pet Food

Dick Van Patten, a comic actor baby boomers might remember best for his lead in the 1970’s TV series Eight is Enough, began Natural Balance Pet Foods in 1989 with the intention of “developing the best natural pet food on the market.” Today his products are sold globally to an expanding consumer market of pet owners with a lot of buying power – according to a study on ibisworld.com, the pet store industry has pulled in $14.7 billion so far in 2012, with 58% of that coming from pet food sales. That’s a lot of chow, and a lot of loyal customers to curry. To accomplish just that, Natural Balance has signed on with SugarCRM, one of the leading customer relationship management companies.

Natural Balance needed a solution flexible enough to be tailored for the pet sector, across a worldwide landscape and, according to SugarCRM “to provide the ultimate customer experience.” When your ultimate customer is someone’s dog or cat, their ultimate experience is the food – do they eat it, or turn up their whiskered noses at your offering? There are a lot of foods that pets will eat – certainly dogs show little discretion, although cats can be fussy – so a key goal of the CRM is to create an emotional bond between the company and the pet owners that differentiates one brand from another. The ibisworld report concludes that pet sales are driven even during tough times by “an increasing number of ‘pet parents’ – pet owners who treat their four-legged friends as family members” and want to indulge them with purchases like all-natural and organic pet food – a good trend for Dick Van Patten’s product line.

CRM Aimed at a Market that Reaches 70 Million Homes

According to the American Pet Product Association survey, 62% of US households own a pet, and pet ownership has been growing slowly but steadily for the last two decades. 76% of dog and cat owners consider their canine or feline companions to be part of the family. 72.9 million American homes are homes with pets, and a CRM that interacts with the owners by sharing a passion for these pets, can grow customer loyalty. The big pet store chains are all crafting loyalty programs now as a facet of their CRM solutions, offering discounts and personalized sales opportunities based on customer purchasing habits.

According to a recent article on petbusiness.com, the most popular loyalty perk is “a discount at the register. There are many subsets of these loyalty programs designed to target different types of subscribers, including relationship marketing, database marketing and reward-based programs.” Leslie May, founder of Pawsible Marketing, a firm that helps pet businesses build their brands, notes, “As pet lovers increasingly become concerned about the health and safety of what they purchase for their pets, brand loyalty and customer loyalty programs involving continuous and evolving communications are key to keeping customers.” That’s what CRM does best, and in the pet sector, customer relationships become even more important, because pets are a part of our emotional lives, where our hearts sometimes lead our sales decisions.

By Leslie McCreath – Inside CRM
photo credit: Natalia Romay via photopin cc

 

CRM in Hollywood!

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The Walt Disney Studios job board has a new listing – Supervising VP of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). According to the listing, the key job responsibility of the VP will be to best leverage marketing campaigns and materials to engage consumers, drive increased global theatrical box office and long-term consumer loyalty to the Disney brand. The VP is also tasked with designing and executing an integrated social media/CRM strategy.

How important is customer relationship management to the movies? If a feature film doesn’t open big on its first weekend, it usually doesn’t get a second push. Theaters don’t hold over a film that performs poorly its first week, so movies, to survive, have to create a relationship with their customers quickly. Accordingly, just before every major feature film release, studios saturate the market with ads, spending often as much as half of what the film cost to produce.

It’s All about the Hype

These ads are aimed at creating and increasing brand awareness of the studio involved but, more so and primarily, for the specific film, because moviegoers are loyal, not to the studios, but to their favorite stars, directors and multi-film franchises like the Harry Potter series. Ads are targeted at creating an engagement with fans powerful enough to drive ticket sales that first critical weekend.

To help build the “buzz” for a movie opening, every major film is preceded by a web site designed to engage moviegoers early and pull them into a relationship with the film by focusing on the cast, behind the scenes of the production and even providing interactive elements for the fans. Over the last few years, studios have also added “social” to their CRM to help sell tickets by enhancing the personal and social experience around the film. Film companies are partnering with social media venues like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr to broaden their appeal . How influential these social efforts are, is still to be determined.

Does Social Drive Ticket Sales?

A survey by Ipsos MediaCT’s Motion Picture Group indicates that 42% of moviegoers under 35 check with social media to see what friends thought of a movie before going. Conversely, a recent article in the Los Angeles Times reported that, “films are considering cutting their spending on Facebook ads, just as carmaker General Motors Company did last year, when it dropped an annual $10-million Facebook campaign, deciding the ads didn’t help sell cars.” The studios’ love affair with Facebook may have become less passionate when Facebook changed the algorithms that determine what users see in their news feed, making it less likely that fans would see messages from the films they “liked.” Even so, you won’t see a movie released without its Facebook page.

So, does social involvement sell tickets? A survey of social network users ages 13 to 49 from The Hollywood Reporter and Penn Schoen Berland reported that more than half of the respondents believe “social media sites are important tastemakers in determining what to watch.”

Whatever the power of tools like Facebook or Pinterest to drive ticket sales opening day, they can’t sustain a growing box office. No volume of “likes” can make an audience like a film. Social media can extend the conversation around a movie, but the nature of the conversation will always depend on how good the film is. Just like a great cast, a great CRM can’t overcome a bad script, but it is essential to marketing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

By Leslie McCreath – Inside CRM
photo credit: Disney ABC Television Group via photopin cc

CRM is Now the Best Friend of Sales

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Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is today’s name for what every successful shop owner has known throughout the ages – that meeting each customer at the door with a handshake and a smile, knowing their names, and what they want to buy is how you make sales. Inspire loyalty and bring buyers back. Social networks have extended that smile and a virtual handshake ten thousand fold; and new mobile applications are enabling CRM on every form of smart device.

Gartner predicts an exceptional growth rate of 500% by 2014 for mobile CRM. One of the key drivers for this growth has been the hiring of more and more remote workers by small business and large corporations alike. Companies are discovering that worker productivity goes up when work can be done at anytime and from anywhere on mobile platforms.

A new benchmark report from the Aberdeen Group concludes that, “While not all companies deploy sales mobility, those that do, outperform those that do not,” and today, there are many ways to go mobile.

A recent Forbes.com article noted that today there are 110 CRM applications in the Apple App Store and 47 in the Android Store. A survey by IFS and IDC of 450 C-level executives worldwide voted CRM as the most wanted mobile business app on company wish lists. 31% of firms see CRM as the mobile app that would most significantly impact their business. Mobile CRM puts real-time customer data, inventory, follow up and Internet lead tools in hand, anywhere.

Would You Buy a Used Car from this App?

A1 Software Group has just announced the release of its newest app for the iPhone, Salesman’s Best Friend CRM, which boasts an innovative search option for inventory and customers. The app allows sales reps to sort customers, based on their buying needs, and the company’s real time inventory. It allows users to set appointments and save them directly to their iPhone calendar, and the salesperson can even email or call a client directly from the app.

This app is particularly well suited to the automotive industry where sales reps often have a customer who is looking for a specific vehicle that is not in stock at a particular dealership. With Salesman’s Best Friend, the list of every vehicle that clients are currently looking to purchase is cross-referenced with a real time inventory. When any new vehicle is added to the inventory and becomes available, the search feature narrows down potential customers looking for that vehicle or similar vehicles, so salespeople never miss a lead.

The app supports both English and Spanish, includes international measurements and currency and allows the salesperson to have a personal backup of client information on their mobile. The app has no advertisements and no subscription fees. A1 Software Group is currently working on an Android and iPad version.

By Leslie McCreath – Inside CRM

photo credit: Kaptain Kobold via photopin cc

 

How the Marketing and Sales Game Has Changed

The science of marketing and sales has progressed significantly over the span of a few decades. With new advances in methodology technology has taken on a larger role to provide the tools necessary to enhance and support the needs of sales and marketing teams.

Advertising, sales, and marketing have advanced drastically since the days immortalized by AMC’s series Mad Men. The Don Drapers of today’s industry require smart planning, brilliant execution and intelligent tools to be affective.

Marketing and sales are no longer untargeted, spray-and-pray campaigns with little indication of effectiveness or qualitative analysis. Today’s top marketing and sales teams rely heavily on qualification and know that the right tools make the difference before, during, and after a campaign.

Check out the infographic by Ziff Davis from Inside CRM entitled: “Marketing, Sales, and Customer Relationships-The Game has Changed”, to compare how much things really have changed for the better.