Free Alternatives for Small Business Contact Management
2 Free Alternatives to Salesforce.com for Small Business CRM
Believe it or not, there are alternatives to Salesforce.com for small business CRM (Customer Resource Management) Salesforce has become such a juggernaut in the world of contact management that sometimes it’s difficult to remember you actually have any options. Print advertisements in magazines and online ads pop up at every turn. They’ve done a great job of marketing directly to the techy community too, so when you go to your neighborhood “IT guy” or “computer guy”, Salesforce.com is the only option discussed.
During a recent meeting with a company interested in reorganizing their sales force, their Marketing Manager asked me what I thought about salesforce.com. They had just implemented it for their 3 salespeople and small customer service staff. After a quick review on my part, pointing out that it’s powerful, but not particularly user-friendly, and informing him that I use “ACT!” for my own business, he was incredulous. “What about the “cloud”, integration with online apps, social media, Adsense?” (I’m paraphrasing). Keep in mind that their small business that needed contact management consisted of 3 Salespeople that do not travel a few customer service personnel and the Marketing Manager himself. After further conversation I discovered that he not only hadn’t considered any other option, but couldn’t really name any option other than Outlook.
Contact Management and Customer Resource Management (CRM) are not strictly the same thing, but if you’re running a small business and trying to keep track of your customers for sales/marketing purposes, they may as well be. Being a small business owner myself, the main things I look for first in a software application are:
- Ease of Use
- Easy set up
Fundamentally, a CRM application is a place to keep your customer and prospect information, notes on the last time you had contact, and when you should contact them again. It should be easy to set up and simple to use. The very best thing about a web based application..okay, a “cloud” based application..is that you can get a great one for free! Free meets number’s 1, 3 and 6 of my requirements listed above.
Using LinkedIn to get some recommendations, I found 2 solid, free to use online CRM applications to use as an alternative to Salesforce.com?
Capsule it technically free, but only if you have 2 users. Great for a home based business or those of us who are self-employed, doing consulting on their own or independent sales rep. CapsuleCRM has the simplest interface I’ve seen on any contact manager and so allows you to get up and running immediately. The Home screen greets you when you first sign up and encourages you to add contacts, add organizations and start tracking business opportunities. Once you load your information in, just move your cursor over the icons at the top:
- Home: where your Dashboard is. Keep track of your tasks due, opportunities to follow up on and the most recent updates on your connections.
- People and Organizations: a great place to find who you’re looking for. You can make lists of companies and people and sort by any field in your contact information.
- Sales Pipeline: Take a graphical look at what should be coming in and get estimates on your sales.
- Calendar and Tasks: You’ll spend most of your time here. The most usable calendar I’ve found, including ACT!
- Cases: Not so useful for a very small business, but if you plan to grow this is where you’ll keep track of those growing pains.
Try Capsule at www.capsulecrm.com
Zoho is a much closer match to Salesforce.com’s interface. If you’re a current user of the 600lb gorilla, you’ll get it right away. Just like any of the current CRM packages, you’re greeted by the Dashboard screen when you log in, and that’s incredibly useful for a salesperson. You can customize any part of Zoho to fit your own workflow, but there are 10 tabs and 8 links across the top of the screen to choose from at any time! This does violate requirements 2 and 4 listed above in spades.
Many of the links and buttons will have no relevance to a small business person, or at least make things unnecessarily complicated (just like Salesforce.com):
Tabs: Home, Leads, Accounts, Contacts, Potentials, Campaigns, Reports, Dashboards, Activities, and Cases.
Links: New Lead, New Account, New Contact, New Potential, New Campaign, New Task, New Event, New Call
In spite of the 6 – 12 options I would not use as a small business, here’s why I still find this a good alternative:
- The New Lead and New Task links – because you are hopefully creating new business all the time, having easy access to recording new prospect information and attendant tasks is a big plus.
- Search – There’s a global search box on the left of every screen. Incredibly handy for switching from one activity or customer to another.
- Home – the dashboard section of Zoho is just like the one I use in ACT! and have used in Business Contact Manager, Goldmine and others. It’s a great place to start your day with your Task List and what is scheduled to close this month.
Check out www.zoho.com for more information and to start a trial yourself.
Capsule and Zoho are both great online CRM applications for Small Business that you can use for free and solid alternatives to Salesforce.com.