There is an interesting battle taking place down in the trenches of SMB. Microsoft and Salesforce.com are peripherally aware of it, because both of these major CRM platforms have expressed some interest in SMB, but the opposition ranks are growing.
The Giant Awakes
SMB (Small and Midsized Businesses) has finally woken up to CRM. Long assumed to be the province of Enterprise, SMB is suddenly getting a lot of messaging about CRM directed at them. From the Microsoft camp, the CRM folks could not have cared less about SMB, and payed no attention to it at all… until Office 365 launched. Office 365 is arguably the fastest growing business technology today, and its success is largely due to SMB. After years of SMB hardly registering on the dials at Microsoft, overnight it pegged the meters. The red-headed step child that was SMB has been moved to the front of the class at Microsoft. Realizing that there is significant money to be made in SMB, Microsoft now has SMB focused teams for just about every product, including… CRM.
The Sudden SMB CRM Phenomenon
Salesforce.com has had some level of SMB messaging for a while; and now that Microsoft has joined in, other Enterprise CRM vendors, like SAP are also joining the party. And just like that, SMB has become a darling. Indeed, there have been other products aiming at CRMish capabilities pointed at SMB before; Goldmine, ACT, ZoHo etc. But previously, none of these efforts were considered as competition to the big players, and today, they are. A new “CRM” for SMB SaaS product is being launched almost monthly right now. Here’s a couple that I found: 1CRM, AbsoluteBUSY, Act! Essentials, Agile CRM, AllProWebTools, Aplicor, Apptivo CRM, Avidian/Prophet, Base, Bitrix24, Bluenose, BoomTown!, bpm’online, Buddy CRM, Bullhorn, CampaignerCRM, Capsule, Centerbase, CiviCRM, Commence, Concursive CRM, Contactually, Daylite, Elements CRM, EssentialCRM, Fiitfu, FreeCRM, GoldMine, GreenRope, Hatchbuck, Highrise, Hubspot CRM, InfoFlo, Infusionsoft, Insightly, iSEEit, KarmaCRM, LaserPointCRM, LeadMaster, Maximizer, Method:CRM, MX-Contact, NetSuite CRM, Nimble, Nutshell, Odoo, OnContact, OnePage, OpusFlow CRM, OroCRM, Pipedrive, PipelineDeals, Pipeliner, Podio, Prophet, Really Simple Systems, Radium CRM, Raynet, Relenta, Sage CRM, Salesnet, SalesNexus, Snapforce, SugarCRM, SuiteCRM, TeamWox, Vtiger, Workbooks, X2Engine Sales CRM, Zurmo, Zoho CRM.
Clearly, CRM for SMB is white hot right now.
How many ways Can you Skin a Cat
With so many “CRM” products targeting the SMB market today, it would seem to be a challenge for the SMB customer to decide which way to go. While I am obviously biased, I will still share my biased perspective with you. The first thing you need to know is that many so called CRM products are actually “Contact Managers”. The CRM label is being liberally applied to a lot of things today, that I personally do not think qualify as CRM. CRM is an acronym for “Customer Relationship Management”. Just listening to these three words strung together should have you realizing that it is bigger than Contact Management.
This is not to say that CRM is better, and if all you really need is basic Contact Management, then forget about CRM; I gave you a nice list of alternatives above. If you are currently managing your contacts in an email client, then Contact Managers will do a better job. Contact management tends to be more of an individual need, where CRM is more of a company need. At an individual level, contacts are simply contacts, at a business level Contacts are one piece of a larger relationship with a “Customer”. Even for B2C companies, where a contact is the Customer, there is more to the relationship than just thorough contact details.
Can you Start with Contact Management?
The question is not so much where you start, but rather where you hope to eventually go. Many of the products I listed above are not really designed to take you very far; if you don’t plan to go very far, they may be just fine for you. But I am guessing, since you clicked on the title of this post, you have other plans. In the SMB segment, CRM makes sense for the confident optimists. If you are bullish on your company’s future, then you should be going straight to CRM, and not tip-toeing around. Before you could reach half of your ambitious goals, you will have outgrown Contact Management. If that happens, you are looking at a disruptive, momentum stalling, process of migrating to a CRM.. so just start there.
A big jump to CRM made small
The appeal of Contact Managers is that they are cheap and easy, of course this is offset by the fact that they won’t take you very far. But many SMB customers feel like CRM is a big first step, and ordinarily they would be right. <<Shameless Plug Warning>> It is exactly for this scenario, that RapidStart CRM was purposely designed. <<End Shameless Plug>> As I am re-reading this post, I am realizing that I may be talking directly to customers more so than our partners.