CRM and How SMBs Can Utilize It

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Larger enterprises have deployed CRM suites for years. As the focus of SMB Research LLC represents companies with less than 1, 000 employees we wanted to see exactly how these SMBs were using CRM. Over the last few weeks we spoke to some CRM vendors including SugarCRM, Sage Software, Results Software. These are just 3 of hundreds of vendors and they serve as a few examples of what is available and has been deployed at hundreds of SMBs.

In looking at vendors, SMB Research LLC wanted to talk with vendors that had a significant customer base with SMBs. For example, companies with less than 1000 employees represent a big sweet spot for SugarCRM. They offer a number of software versions depending on the user needs including a free version for less than 5 users.

SMB Research was specifically looking for live deployments of SMBs. The following SugarCRM client examples reflect their ability to offer an on premise solution for those with more IT resources and the need to customized as well as an OnDemand solution for small IT shops that don’t have the resources to customize.

  •  Athena Health –This $200M+ health care provider utilizes Sugar Professional and integrate this with their revenue-cycle management system. Sugar CRM helped with their task and case management. While the company did extensively modify the system to suit its needs, it benefited from open source to more tightly integrate to its internal systems.
  • Milsoft Utility Solutions – Customized Sugar CRM Professional to refine its sales processes and provide improved bug tracking and product management to customers.
  • M.E. Group — Selected Professional Edition OnDemand to up to 10 users for marketing activities. The company had limited IT resources and needed to improve their ability to track marketing opportunities and leads across all its offices.

Another vendor we spoke to that has had a strong presence in SMB CRM for many years is Sage Software. While Sage offers a number of CRM related products, we focused more on the SMB market place where they offer SageCRM, SageCRM.com, and SalesLogix. The biggest difference between Sage CRM and Sage CRM.com is just what the customer is comfortable deploying.  SageCRM.com has somewhat less security and companies that tend to like to customize things or a lot of configuration would go with the Sage CRM instead of SageCRM.com. SageCRM.com is more appealing for organizations without a lot of IT staff. Apparently there is little difference really between the 2 products for functionality and that will get less and less as they bring the 2 products together. According to Sage, Sage CRM is used by 10,000 businesses and 250,000 users so that is about an average of 25 users per account. In contrast Sage’s higher level SMB offering, SalesLogix, claims 9,500 businesses and 600,000 users or more than 60 users per account. We know on the ERP side, more than 80% of Sage’s customers have less than 50 employees so no surprise that Sage CRM does well the smaller end of the SMB marketplace.

One vendor we spoke to, Results Software, would not normally be on the list of CRM vendors that usually show up in industry research reports. However, they were at the ASCII SMB IT Conference that we attended in Woburn, MA a few weeks ago so we had some time to spend with them. They seem to focus on the “S” side of SMB with many clients that have less than 25 employees. Results Software has been around longer than some of the better known vendors as they opened their doors in 1985. While the do offer a CRM suite they position this as an Integrated Business Management platform. This includes Customer Service and Support, Sales and Marketing, Billing and Collections and Operations and Service Delivery. The latter includes areas like scheduling, document tracking and project management. However, it does seem like many of its case studies on its web site are very focused on specific, less broad functionality.

Some Results Software client examples include:

  •  Clean Office – This building services company primarily uses the product for tracking and managing sales, service orders and inspection activities.
  • Farm Credit Services – This financial management provider uses the product primarily for project management, invoicing and managing their documents centrally. While there were some service needs, the key functionality here was on the Business Management side and less on areas like Sales and Marketing
  • Mogul Manufacturing — This OEM manufacturer’s key need with CRM was integration to Quickbooks. In addition, other keys focuses for them were visibility for Sales and Operations departments, Contact Management and Scheduling

Unlike Zoho and Sugar CRM that offer free versions of their software for a limited number of users, Results Software does not operate this way. In addition to cloud offerings, they do offer some basic on-premise packages for under $1,000 for 3 users. They also offer integration to products such as Quickbooks, Outlook, Constant Contact and Sharepoint, which some of the free offerings would not. One thing they do not offer which SugarCRM does as one of its for pay offerings is Mobile capabilities. This is at least 1 year away for Results Software. SMB Research LLC believes this may allow Results Software to move further up stream with larger users where companies may demand more visibility back and forth from its sales or support staff.

For vendors with a credible SMB focus, the future should look good. According to AMI Partners there are 570,000 SMB Saas CRM users currently. This is expected to undergo double-digit year-over-year growth in the next five years. This research by IDC is referenced in U.S. SMB SaaS CRM Market Set to Triple by 2015.

Advice for SMBs considering CRM

Many of the examples we looked at for SMB CRM were not really full suites of traditional CRM like customer service, sales force automation, marketing, and contact management. In the past it has not been uncommon to hear of large companies that were not able to successful deploy CRM suites. So it is not surprising that even at SMB implementations, the key value proposition can be very focused on a specific functionality most important to a company. We believe the examples listed in this research point to that such as sales and service order tracking, integration, and streamlining marketing opportunities.

In researching this SMB market there appear to be a number of hot technology features that SMBs should consider:

  •  More effective contact management systems
  •  Pipeline analysis
  •  Tight data integration
  • Analytics/Dashboards
  •  Alerting
  •  Mobile applications

In closing:

  • If you are a large SMB – Consider your mobile sales and service needs now and in the future. A number of vendors do not offer this yet. Consider the other functionality listed above in your selection.
  •  If you are a small SMB—There are hundreds of vendors out there. We can try to help sort it out. If you have 5 or less users, strongly consider trying some of the free software on the Cloud that is available. If you don’t need to do too much integration to other systems, these may do the trick. Consider the functionality listed above in your selection. But also look at what functionality would help you move the business to the next level in terms of being better able to compete, add new clients, and grow revenue generated from existing clients. There may be vendors that offer exactly what you need and have a unique focus that suits your company very well. SMB Research LLC can try to help figure it out for you.

As always, if you are an end user we want to hear from you on your CRM challenges (with your current system) and your questions on the marketplace. If you are a vendor we always want to hear your take on the market and success stories. I can be contacted at mprescott@smbresearch.net or 339-933-0643.

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