Tech tools for start-ups: CRM

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This is the third article in our tech tools series, where we compare, contrast and recommend technology for all the major challenges faced by a business. In this article we review customer relationship management (CRM) tools and breakdown their strengths and weaknesses so that you can make an informed choice to suit your company’s unique needs. Don’t forget to check out first two articles in the series; messaging and communication tools and data storage and documentation.

CRM solutions

In this article, we take a look at different customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. The two biggest and most well-known players are definitely Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. But there are other solutions that are making a name for themselves, especially with small and growing businesses: Pipedrive, HubSpot and Freshsales. This article shares everything you need to know about these CRM solutions.

Cut to the chase: our final verdict

We don’t want to waste anyone’s time, so if you’re just looking for the our final recommendation, here it is:

Whether you are a small, growing or established business, the best CRM solution every time is Salesforce. Salesforce suits any size business, and can easily adapt to work with a company if and when it grows. Other solutions simply do not offer the same functionality and scalability, and cost a lot more in workarounds or migration when businesses outgrow their original solution.

It is critical to find the right Salesforce subscription level to suits your businesses needs, and to align with an implementation partner that will guide your success. Businesses can experience disappointment with Salesforce when they invest in a license that is too expensive for their requirements, when they haven’t created their businesses processes, or when they don’t invest in a thorough implementation. Putting in the extra time and investment upfront will ensure that businesses can maximise the full benefit of Salesforce and avoid any unnecessary costs down the line.

If a business is not prepared to invest in Salesforce, the other option we support is Pipedrive. This solution may suit a business that has not yet finalised or mapped their business processes to build into the system, or one that is small with simple sales processes and no intention to grow. Pipedrive delivers the basic CRM functionality that small businesses need, and the migration process to Salesforce (if and when needed) is relatively straightforward.

Read on below for detail reviews of Salesforce, Microsoft Drive, Pipedrive, HubSpot and Freshsales.

The big names

The two biggest CRM players are Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.

Salesforce

A lot of information exists on Salesforce. So rather than regurgitating what you’ve probably already read, we have focused below on what we like most about Salesforce:

  • The tool can integrate with everything
  • The app exchange with connected products is second to none
  • It is the only CRM capable of representing a sales methodology (which is critical for all businesses to have)
  • It can represent all levels of complexity for sales processes whether it is B2B, B2C or B2B2C (note that the platform becomes more complex as your process complexity increases, and businesses need the maturity to manage this)
  • In all the projects we have ever worked on, we haven’t encountered a problem that we could’t solve with Salesforce

If you are a small and growing business, we suggest starting with a basic Salesforce license. As you scale, you will naturally reach your license limitations which will be a natural prompt to upgrade.

Microsoft Dynamics

Microsoft Dynamics gets a no from us. It’s not worth going into a detailed breakdown. All you need to know is that it’s clunky and we’ve never heard anyone say anything good about it. Don’t bother with it.

The smaller players

The three smaller CRM solutions that are appealing to small and growing business are Pipedrive, Freshsales and HubSpot.

The challenge for businesses face challenges using these tools when they scale and mature. With time businesses start to understand that different customers convert better with tailored sales processes. These tools struggle to replicate mature sales methodologies because the user interface and page layouts aren’t flexible. They also don’t scale when moving into multi-currency and multi-channel processes.

Once businesses grow beyond the capability of these tools, the process of migrating to a new CRM ranges from annoying to highly complex. First of all there is the internal change management required to get employees up to speed with a new CRM. Then there is moving data over to a new system. The more businesses have pushed these tools beyond their limits by creating custom fields, the more challenging the migration becomes. In the long run these solutions can cost businesses a lot of time and money.

Pipedrive

If you’re not ready to invest in Salesforce or if you’re a small business committed to finding an alternative solution, we recommend Pipedrive. We actually have a few clients who use it.

The CRM is nothing special, but it’s not badly put together. It offers basic kanban (pipeline management). It also has decent integrations available with marketing automation tools, digital signatures and other common sales optimisation tools.

Pipedrive is a cost effective option for businesses with five or less users and very simple and straight forward sales processes. However, the solution doesn’t scale once sales processes become more refined and more complex. For example, it won’t hold up if you want to include the broader customer life cycle within the CRM. When businesses do reach a point of needing to migrate to Salesforce, we’ve found these migrations relatively straight forward compared with other CRMs.

HubSpot

HubSpot is not a solution we recommend.

HubSpot is a marketing automation platform first and foremost with CRM functionality as an add on (read: after thought). At first glance HubSpot looks like it ticks-off a lot of features compared to other CRM solutions. The truth is that it delivers basic functionality but the additional features advertised aren’t all they are made out to be. For example, the system claims to have multi-touch attribution but the reality is that it’s just a couple of custom fields in a report. The other downside is that it is not a CRM solution that scales

The set-up of HubSpot makes it really difficult for customers to change solution. Businesses often start with free or cheap licenses and then pay more and more for additional features. A business might start running social media posts through HubSpot or will set up their website with them. Once all these components are built into the platform it’s really difficult to leave. HubSpot does provide a version that integrates with Sales Cloud to provide greater CRM functionality, while they retain customers website and marketing services.

Freshsales

Freshsales is a mix between HubSpot and Pipedrive in that it does a bit of everything. While we haven’t had extensive experience with the tool, we generally hear good feedback about it’s look and feel.

We wouldn’t recommend Freshsales as a long-term solution, however it might be a valid option for small businesses while they work out their business processes. It’s highly recommended that within 12 months businesses eventually migrate to Salesforce.

Contact us for more information on finding the right CRM solution for your organisation.


Coming soon is our final article in this series on Content Management Solutions.

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