Small Business CRM. Do you need one?

I spent some time yesterday looking at CRM products (Customer Relationship Management). Since I am in the service business I have to organize many aspects from web development to sales.

What I was looking for was a CRM that would allow 3 main functions which MS Outlook cannot perform well. These include: 1.Organizing my client data. 2. Adding products and services. 3. Forecasting sales. The latter being the most important as it tends to be the thing I least like to do and also one of the most important activates. It also had to be easy and simple.

Price was important as was being able to export my data back to my desk top. I did not want to host the product or have to run it off my own computer. Thus I was interested in a web based platform.

So as not to cheapen the aspects of CRM, I will say that CRM choices are complex and sophisticated at the same time. There are many different aspects to delivering accurate data. With Social Media relevance and tracking on the rise, CRM’S are likely to become even more technical. If you want a detailed breakdown of CRM’S I find that Wikipedia does a pretty good job.

Back to the task at hand, I narrowed down my selection to 4 possibilities.

CRM Free
Version
Base
Price
Sales
Forecasting
SalesForce.com yes $65 paid version
Zoho.com yes $12 paid version
SimpleSalesTracking.com yes $15 paid version
vTiger.com(open source) yes Free yes

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If you want any amount of functionality to perform anything beyond MS Outlook you have to go with a paid version, vTiger withstanding. However if you want to use vTiger you will have to install it on your server if you have one or use a web hosting company. I do happen to have my own server and went through this exercise already with SugarCRM, another open source product. It was a pain then and I don’t expect it will be any more fun now to set up vTiger.

Bottom Line: If you are a small business chances are you are not going to host your own CRM so you are better off going with a paid version of one of these more well known products.

In summary you have to decide whether it is worth your while to make time to use this tool. As the saying goes,” the output is as only as good as the input.” I am an Internet Marketing Consultant and Trainer. It’s me and my wife Maria. We get to do all the work! I find these products take time to use. When I owned part of a health club in Toronto and had hundreds of customers and several employees, it made sense, but for now, until someone comes out with a simpler product I think I will stick with Outlook.

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