What’s the best CRM?

I often get asked or see on-line posts asking this question and people seem surprised when I, as an ACT! Evangelist, tell then that it can’t be answered without more detailed information. This is especially important in the SME market where there is a greater range of options available than in the Enterprise space.

Any recommendations without this info would be like asking for the best car or religion, and any suggestions would be akin to the adage "If the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails"

You need to identify your needs:

  • How many users are you expecting to have? Now and over the next 12-18 months.
  • How many records (contacts and/or companies)? Also now and over next 12-18 months
  • Where is your data sourced from (initial setup and on-going leads)?
    For example: your web site, external companies, social media, Excel, paper entry
  • What do you want to do with the data? Reports, email merges, news letters, etc
    You need to involve internal users at different levels (sales, marketing, management)
  • Do you want to integrate with legacy systems – accounting, ERP or other software?
  • Do you want to integrate with new technologies – social media, Twitter, LinkedIN, etc?
  • Do you want remote access – remote offices, laptop users, smart phones?
    If so, do you have reliable internet connectivity?
  • What sort of security is important to you? Eg should all users be able to see/edit all records?
  • What sort of infrastructure do you have – operating systems, hardware, network.
    Would you be prepared to invest in improving this?
  • Do you have your own IT? If so, will they need training to administer the new system?
  • What sort of support do you think you’ll need?
  • What sort of budget do you have?

One common issue is looking at management needs (administration and reporting) over usability... if the users find it to complex to use or un-helpful to them, they won't enter good data. Then any reports will be meaningless.

Remember that your customer database can be one of your most valuable assets and equipping your business with the right tools to mine that asset can produce valuable returns – especially when financial times are perceived to be tough.

Often the best way to to it right is to speak to a consultant in the field to provide some advice. Here is an article that I did on picking a CRM consultant: How to pick the right CRM Consultant

When speaking to vendors, and even many consultants, remember their competitive info isn't always accurate. You need to do your own research if you are comparing products.

You really want to know “What’s the best CRM solution for YOU?” Anyone who makes a recommendation without knowing or asking these questions can’t possibly be answering that.

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Preston Ehrler, Webvantix said...

Great piece Mike, and you are exactly right, one cannot pick the best CRM unless you know specifically what your needs are--there just is not a one-CRM-fits all scenario. Perhaps you should write a post that lists some of the most popular, along with there strengths and weaknesses. I still think that for the cost and functionality, Act cannot be beaten for a small business, especially now with the strong ties to e-mail marketing through Swiftpage!

Preston Ehrler, Webvantix

GLComputing said...

I also agree that ACT! is at the top for usability, function and value and I can make it do things that many say it can't. But I do sometimes tell a user to look elsewhere when the task is not suited to the user's needs.

I didn't want to do a comparison as I know ACT! so much better, it wouldn't be fair ... Even if I tried to look without bias. In fact, that was one of the points I made suggesting to treat such info from one source with less weight.