Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The CRM search

Customer Relationship Managers - CRM.

So, my first attempt at CRM was the same as many folks; outlook on my personal laptop. I was simply looking for way to manage client conversations and an easy follow-up system. While it worked great for my email, outlook seemed too cumbersome for this task.

So I migrated to a similar product called Chaos Intellect. I found it much simpler, friendlier and flexible in managing emails and accounts. But the functionality for client conversations was simply not there.

I hired a telemarketing company last year who did some impressive and significant work on a shared outlook database. While I found it fastinating and useful, it was cumbersome and was not delivering what I was looking for – there must be an easier way, I kept thinking.

With my limited success I began searching for a web based product. Alas, all the CRM systems out there seemed horrendously expensive, in fact many did not even quote a price on their site. So I set about to identify what I want this software to do.

Here's my list so far;

1) Manage my contacts. Keep my contact information at my fingertips and be available anywhere I want it, anytime.
2) Conversation tracker and followup reminder. I have many people that I touch base with and need a good reminder system to ensure I am regularly following up with prospective customers. Several prospects that I missed calling back signed on with other companies. Sucks when you drop the ball.
3) Relationship tracker. People move about quickly these days and its good to know where they worked before and in what roles.
4) Campaign scripting. Unfortunately, cold calling is still a big requirement at this stage of the game. What I learned early in my career (and again from the telemarketer) was that scripting not only helps, its absolutely essential.

A few cool tools may be on the radar for the future, but they are not needed just yet. These include:
a) While sharing my data with others in the sales team is coming, its not high on my agenda right now.
b) an auto-responder for signups on my website with inclusion in my contacts list.
c) tag tracking for emails, newsletters and websites so I can see which of my contacts are interested in what topics.
d) Newsletter (email) delivery and tracking software.

The first stab at developing a CRM came from a family genealogy search I was doing. I created the site which looked quite promising. But other demands pulled resources from the project and it lay dormant far too long.

The second stab at CRM came as a result of a job search. I created the website as a search engine and built a CRM into it. While it worked fairly well, its interface was not as simple as I envisioned it should be. Back to the drawing board!

So I set about to “build a better mouse trap”. As part of the business made easy suite, I've included a CRM in the frey. Surely I'm not the only one looking for this! So its being tested and released for free use by all. As I get feedback on what works and what doesn't, the mousetrap gets better!

So if you find yourself in the same boat, post your thoughts on what features you need. The voice of the customer makes the best product, so I’m all ears. Try the pilot at Lets build an affordable and power packed tool for the small business entrepreneur.


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