In our 15 years of helping Small and Mid-sized customers implement CRM systems (originally Salesforce.com, and for the last 7 years, Microsoft Dynamics 365), we have heard a lot of questions. Far and away, the number one question has consistently been: “What is the difference between a Lead and a Contact?”.
Let’s face it, most CRM systems are either really complex, or too basic to provide any real value. This is a challenge for businesses of all sizes, but is particularly acute for the Small or Midsized business.
Outlook and Spreadsheets
We see many businesses using a combination of Outlook and Spreadsheets to manage their customer relationships. This often includes not only sales processes, but also Service and Project Management processes. What Outlook and Excel offer is a high degree of “familiarity”. Outlook is an application most of us have open all day, as our primary communication platform. A new customer relationship may well begin from a “Contact Us” form on your website that sends you, or someone in your business, an email. You send a reply, and a conversation ensues. This conversation may lead to a phone call, or a meeting. Ultimately it may lead to a proposal, and hopefully a new client. Email will continue to be the primary means of communication through the performance of your project/service, or delivery of your product. Once the proposed effort is completed, email will continue to be the primary communication tool for post sales support, as well as the potential sale of additional product/services. In addition to email, you will of course have many phone calls and meetings, which you may also track in Outlook. Outlook is awesome!
As your business grows, two things ultimately will happen. The number of customers will increase, and the number of people in your business will also increase. With many people, now having many conversations with many customers, Outlook starts to present some challenges. Even with extensive use of rules, categories and sharing, it becomes difficult to find all of the information related to any particular customer, even for a master of Outlook search. Information starts to get spread out across the different people who engage with your customers, and silos begin to form.
In an effort to summarize and consolidate key information, many businesses will add Excel to the mix. A common first use, will be for tracking Sales Opportunities. For most businesses this will be a spreadsheet with rows of customer data and columns like “Probability”, “Estimated Value”, “Hot-Warm-Cold”, “Estimated Close date”, etc. It is also pretty easy today to share this spreadsheet with your team so everybody can update it. You may have even gotten a little fancy and added some charts and graphs to it for your Monday morning Sales Meeting. If you search your network drive, you will probably find many spreadsheets, created by many people, for keeping track of many things, and this does not even include the ones that individuals created for themselves. More Silos.
The primary purpose of most CRM systems is to consolidate much of this siloed information into a single place, accessible by all your people. What used to live exclusively in Outlook, now also lives in CRM. What used to live in a smattering of Spreadsheets, instead now lives in CRM also. A good CRM will expose all of the relevant information, about all of your customers, to all of your people who need it… in one place. Every minute, of every day, a business somewhere is thinking that it may be time for a CRM solution. If there was only one, it would be simple, but there are actually hundreds, maybe even thousands of CRM options. The search for a CRM system for your business is no small task. If you make the wrong choice, it could be costly in both time and money.
The Power Tier
In your search for a CRM system, you will quickly encounter the Power Tier players in the space: Salesforce.com, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics 365. Each of these offerings can do the job, but also do a lot more than what you were thinking. These competitors have been in a continuous battle for years, and their weapons of choice are “Features”. Hundreds and even thousands of features. For many businesses, advanced features and capabilities are the key to their selection criteria.
For businesses considering moving to a CRM for the first time, these Power Tier solutions may seem overwhelming and very expensive. In addition, it can take quite a bit of time and effort to make them work for your needs, and configure all of the available features to your liking. After that, you may have difficulty getting your users to adopt a complex system, for what used to be a pretty easy effort with Outlook and Spreadsheets. It is not uncommon for users to revert to the “tools they know”. Low user adoption is the number one cause of failed CRM initiatives.
The Middle Tier
The Middle Tier is significantly larger than the Power Tier, and includes many options including Open Source projects, and industry specific options. For almost any industry you can think of, there is a CRM system built specifically for it. Open Source is a good option if you have a development team on-board, otherwise it is best to avoid these. Industry specific solutions can be attractive, provided your business runs they way they expect you will. But today, conforming your business to fit your software is a dated notion. Also, many industry specific solution providers have trouble keeping up with the basic features we are all expecting today, like mobile access for example.
The Simple Tier
This is the largest tier, and consists of many “Simple” CRM solutions, as well as solutions that are focused on a very specific aspect, like “Social CRM”, or “Lead Pipeline”. The ones that focus on a single aspect, tend to create new silos of information. While they may go fairly deep on a particular aspect that you might like, they tend to stop there, leaving you to pick up from where they leave off, to complete your end-to-end process. The many “Simple” CRM solutions are often indeed easy to use, and may fill a gap in your growth path. Certainly a step up from Outlook and Spreadsheets alone, these solutions can start to put you on the path of reducing silos. Unfortunately, many of these solutions assume you will stay small, and your needs will continue to be simple. While this is certainly the case for many businesses, others will continue to grow, and at some point will need to migrate to something more robust.
The particular gap in the market that we identified, was the growing business, wanting to move from Outlook and Spreadsheets, to a simple, end-to-end CRM solution, that they could never outgrow… no matter how big they became. The business, that some day expected that they might actually want or need many of the advanced features of a Power Tier solution, but was concerned about adoption, as well as the initial, and ongoing costs. One option for us, was to build a simple CRM from scratch, and become yet another Simple Tier Solution, but that would not fill the gap that we identified. We found our ideal solution in the Microsoft Cloud. RapidStart CRM is the first end-to-end CRM built on the Microsoft “Power Platform”, the same platform that powers Microsoft Dynamics 365. With the Power Platform, we were able to build an easy-to-use, robust CRM solution, that could be easily extended, or upgraded to the full power of an enterprise grade Power Tier solution. With the “flip of a switch”, a business could move from the Simple Tier to the Power Tier, or anywhere in between. Today, RapidStart CRM is one of a very small number of solutions that have been “Certified for Dynamics 365” by Microsoft.
If you are curious about what a “Simple Tier” solution can look like when built on the same underlying platform as a “Power Tier” solution, we recommend you take a Test Drive of RapidStart CRM today.