I’m writing to ask you about the CRM tools that you use, so that we can make an informed decision and share some knowledge with the community. As I’m also doing some due diligence for Adaptive Path, I can also share some of what I’ve learned as an introduction to the conversation. The CRMs that I’ve looked at thus far are: Netsuite, Sage, GoldMine, Sugar, and Open Object. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a Netsuite customer before while working at a great beverage company called Adina.
At Adaptive Path we’ve been using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool called SalesForce to manage our client relationships, and we’re considering upgrading to a higher level of subscription so we can access features like the new Content offering, and so that we might integrate e-mail fulfillment for our newsletter, and our registration database for our conferences.
One important feature of CRMs that I’ve picked up on is that there is quite a range of development models. For example, Sugar and Open Object are open source options that have development communities adding features and functionality. There are also third party development partners available to build what you need on the platform. The issue here is that development can take significant resources if what you need isn’t already out there, though the base service costs less than the proprietary options. With Sage and GoldMine you’re essentially buying a turnkey system (GoldMine is not hosted and runs on windows, Sage can be hosted online or on your own server). These two seem to be hangers on from a previous generation of CRM and it’s unclear how they’ll keep pace moving forward, though they can be less expensive if you’re just using the base service. SalesForce seems to offer the best of both worlds because they’ve opened their API to higher level subscribers, and have many third party partners who are working directly on their platform to add functionality (e-mail fulfillment, event registration, project management, accounting, etc). The challenge with SalesForce is knowing in advance if you can get what you need through their base tool plus the AppExchange. Also, while SalesForce is definitely going to be around in 5 years, some of their partners may not be. Lastly, Netsuite has gone for the kitchen sink approach. Their product is fully integrated beyond CRM to include accounting, supply chain management, e-commerce and more. They do have some partners as well, but that is happening mostly behind the scenes. While it has the highest subscription fees, the nice thing about Netsuite is that you can do everything in one place. The not nice thing is that the user experience isn’t so hot.
Actually, the user experience for all these tools is dissapointing. Because we use SalesForce currently it’s started an internal conversation about how much we’d like to improve the experience. We think there is a real opportunity for the right CRM to stand out by providing a great experience. There’s obviously lots more to say about these tools, but I really want to hear from you. If you work in client relations or marketing and I know you’re out there. Tell us: what CRM do you use?What are the challenges? How do you use it? What advice do you have some firms that are just adopting a CRM?