Getting the Gold from GoldMine.*

You don’t have to be in business very long before coming to the realization:  keeping track of prospective customers can be a huge challenge.  Storing your stash of business cards and post-it notes in a drawer will work for a while, but eventually you’ll want to find better ways to manage your ever-increasing mountain of data.  Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software applications were written to address this very need.  And, they can shorten your sales cycle by helping you keep your company’s name in front of potential customers on an ongoing basis.

 

CRM software for the small- to medium-sized businesses market falls into two categories, based on core functionality.  The first category can best be described as desktop-based contact managers.  You install the main components on your laptop or desktop.  These PC-based software applications do a great job of tracking name, address, phone numbers and email addresses.  This category includes ACT!, Goldmine, Maximizer and Microsoft Outlook Business Contact Manager (included with Microsoft Office Professional Edition and Small Business Edition 2003).  We won’t go into great depth here explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each.  But a few words about the two industry leaders.  ACT! was originally designed with individual salespeople in mind.  More recent versions are written to accommodate larger sales departments.  Goldmine offers similar features as ACT!   Larger companies with larger sales staffs might still choose Goldmine over ACT!   But a common complaint is that Goldmine’s user interface is confusing.

 

The second category of CRM software includes the more robust, full-fledged Customer Relationship Managers.  These focus on managing the entire customer relationship—from the prospect stage through the entire sales cycle.  Most CRM applications in this category tend to be web-based—accessible either from a web server installed at your business (“on-premise”) or via a hosted web server (“on-demand”).  The leaders in this market are salesforce.com, Microsoft CRM, Sage CRM and Onyx CRM.  For those who are interested in an open-source alternative, check out Sugar CRM.

 

Which CRM software application will work best in your business?  As is true with most software, one size certainly doesn’t fit all.  It depends on a number of factors. 

 

Here’s a four-step blueprint to help you realize the best return on your investment of time and money:

1)     Spend plenty of time up front defining what you want to accomplish, and where the work will be done.  Know your target user, but also know the target machine.  Will the application be used in your office only, on laptops only, or both?  Will you need to synchronize data between systems?  While it is useful to pay attention to software reviews, it’s even better to evaluate each application for yourself.  Most CRM vendors offer functioning evaluation versions of their software.  So don’t just review their sales literature—test-drive the software as much as you can.  Get feedback from the people in your organization who will actually use the software.  Find other companies in your networking circles who’ve purchased CRM solutions, and learn as much from them as you can about their likes and dislikes—and what they would have done differently.  The more time you spend up front, the more likely you’ll reap benefits down the road.

 

2)     After you’ve made your decision and purchased your CRM solution, get the software installed and running.  Depending on which version you buy, how many users will access the data, and what kind of environment your software will be running in, this can be a larger task than you might want to even think about.  But if you’re not sure about how to install the software, consider delegating this job to your network support professional.  S/he should be able to take care of this task for you within a few hours’ time.

 

3)     Next, be sure to adapt the software to reflect the way your company does business.  This involves customizing the data input and output to reflect your product lines and your customers’ needs.  If you have the staff available, identify one or more employees who can research ways to use the software to your best advantage.  Then apply the necessary resources to customize the screens, variables, mail merge documents, email headers and reports.  Your goal is to make the new software work for your business—not the other way around!

 

4)     Finally, get excited about the new adventure you’re about to embark upon!  Figure out a charismatic way to get everyone on board.  You can invest in the best CRM system in the world, but if your people refuse to use it, you probably won’t gain much productivity.  While it is important to offer basic training on how to use the software, it’s even more important that everyone understands how this wonderful new tool will make everyone’s job a little easier.  Enthusiastically walk through sample scenarios—add a few new customers and contacts—explaining how this solution will benefit both your company and your customers.  Marvel aloud at how much you’re looking forward to viewing the magnificent data you’ll be able to collect when everyone does their part.

 

If you want to start mining the Gold from GoldMine or get some ACTion from ACT!, remember that you’ll only get out of a CRM package what you put into it.  It can be a big challenge.  It can also help move your company miles ahead of your competition.  Take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to vault your business to the next level.

 

Basic Contact Managers

Outlook 2003 with Contact manager Add-in

 

http://www.microsoft.com/office/outlook/contactmanager/prodinfo

ACT!

 

http://www.act.com/

GoldMine

 

http://www.frontrange.com/ProductsSolutions

Maximizer 8

 

http://www.maximizer.com

 

Robust Customer Relationship Management software

Sage CRM

 

http://sagecrm.com

Salesforce

 

http://www.salesforce.com

Microsoft CRM

 

http://www.microsoft.com/dynamics/crm

Onyx CRM

 

http://www.onyx.com

Sugar CRM

 

http://www.sugarcrm.com

 

 

 

Dave Martin

I/O Technologies, Inc.

Email:  dmartin@iotechno.com

Phone:  414-774-1995

 

* This article first appeared in the May/June 2006 edition of Magazine Soho