24
Mon, Jun
3 New Articles

Free CRM Solutions Can Brighten Up a Recession

Customer Relationship Management
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

 

With budgets tight, anything free that can materially improve business efficiency is a sure winner.

 

The economy is pressuring people in odd ways and seems to be making some people more self-centered. So when you run across a business person who takes the opposite tack and makes a deliberate gesture of generosity--whether or not it costs them anything--you take note and smile and perhaps listen to what they have to say. I received such a gesture in an email today in the form of someone who was recommending to his clients that they try a free CRM solution for which he provided the link.

 

It was a nice gesture on the part of the business owner, an entrepreneur who is dedicated to marketing small businesses. The message came through: he is actively thinking about his clients' welfare and offering them something tangible that can improve their business operations. The fact that it is free software doesn't matter since most people didn't know about it and weren't using it.

 

Hopefully, all of the MC Press readers are familiar with the term CRM, or customer relationship management, as it applies to software, but ironically, many people aren't, according to one survey. CRM vendor Avidian Technologies, maker of Prophet CRM software, took a survey and discovered that some 70 percent of SMBs are unfamiliar with the term "customer relationship management." Only 47 percent reported ever hearing the term.

 

Given that CRM solutions were, until this year, on a steady growth path for the past four or five straight years, it's a wonder that so few people know what they are. About a third of those who are familiar with CRM associate it with Microsoft Outlook and QuickBooks, and the majority of those want CRM data stored within Outlook. Two of the top five CRM vendors, Salesforce.com and Microsoft, experienced large revenue jumps in CRM solutions in 2008. Salesforce.com's revenues rose by more than 42 percent over those in 2007, and Microsoft's CRM revenue jumped 75 percent over the prior year. Much of this can be attributed to the companies' investments in technologies to support customer retention, analytics, and online cloud (or SaaS) solutions.

 

Another finding of the study is that the companies who have implemented CRM solutions have had results that exceeded their expectations. These include increased efficiency when working with customers, increased sales, better business insight, and increased visibility into future sales (the sales pipeline). Most SMB managers are interested in ease of use and a solution that requires little support. They also want the ability to customize the solution to match how they approach the sales routine.

 

As budgets tighten with the recession dragging on, it may be that organizations will slow down their adoption of CRM solutions, probably the worst decision they could make. For smaller businesses, which must try harder to win and keep customers, CRM software can be vital. In today's economic climate, the need to attract and maintain customers is more important than ever. CRM solutions can save SMBs time entering data, but it can also track interactions with customers to better understand their buying habits.

 

In recognition of the extreme budgetary forces we realize IT managers are under these days, and in the spirit of expressing our feelings of concern, we will pass along the names of several very good free CRM solutions that IT can deploy at no cost.

 

At the top of our list is Zoho CRM, which is free for three users, but beyond that you have to cough up either $12 per user per month or $25 per user per month, depending on whether you opt for the professional or enterprise edition. This is an online service that has a basket of modules and the ability to integrate with existing applications through a set of APIs. Just a few of the many modules include security, workflow, Webforms, plug-ins, sales force automation, marketing automation, dedicated customer support, activities and calendar, product customization, inventory management, reports and dashboards, and file storage. Zoho API service is available for all editions.

 

The enterprise edition of Zoho CRM is for managing multi-level organizations. It supports complex data-sharing permissions with security and offers advanced data administration tools and greater file storage.

 

The professional edition is a sales automation solution for small business that is suitable for a growing company. It streamlines sales activities and provides maximum flexibility for ease in managing customers while integrating into sales and marketing operations.

 

The free edition is an easy-to-use, hosted, full-featured, on-demand CRM solution for entrepreneurs and startups. It improves tracking prospects, contacts, accounts, and business opportunities and can help daily organizational management.

 

FreeCRM is free for single users, but even for more people it is still one of the best values for the money among hosted CRM solution vendors and compares favorably with larger and more expensive vendors, such as Salesforce.

 

SalesForce CRM is among the best-known CRM solutions today in the SMB space. The company used to offer a free personal edition, but alas, now offers only a 30-day free trial. Different editions--from the five-user group edition to the unlimited edition--range in price from $9 per user per month up to $250 per user per month.

 

Mx-Contact is an Outlook-based CRM solution that is fully scalable to match a company's growth curve. This is a CRM, contact management, and sales automation package that runs inside Outlook. The personal edition of Mx-Contact is free, but there are six separate editions to meet a variety of needs.

 

EssentialPIM offers a free contact manager that includes a scheduler, a contact manager, and an outliner. The company also offers a for-pay Pro version.

 

Keepm is a free Web-based contact management tool for that allows you to share and manage an unlimited number of contacts.

 

Hopefully, the free CRM solutions I've listed will give anyone not already using CRM the confidence to try it during a time when you can't just throw money at something and then have people not use it. By using the free edition, you can perhaps evaluate whether the for-pay version is worth the investment after all.

 

 

Chris Smith

Chris Smith was the Senior News Editor at MC Press Online from 2007 to 2012 and was responsible for the news content on the company's Web site. Chris has been writing about the IBM midrange industry since 1992 when he signed on with Duke Communications as West Coast Editor of News 3X/400. With a bachelor's from the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in English and minored in Journalism, and a master's in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Chris later studied computer programming and AS/400 operations at Long Beach City College. An award-winning writer with two Maggie Awards, four business books, and a collection of poetry to his credit, Chris began his newspaper career as a reporter in northern California, later worked as night city editor for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and went on to edit a national cable television trade magazine. He was Communications Manager for McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, Calif., before it merged with Boeing, and oversaw implementation of the company's first IBM desktop publishing system there. An editor for MC Press Online since 2007, Chris has authored some 300 articles on a broad range of topics surrounding the IBM midrange platform that have appeared in the company's eight industry-leading newsletters. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:
$

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: