Small businesses may not have the resources that large, enterprise-level companies have, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play with similar toys.
That’s one of the main reasons why a lot of CRM systems are being made specifically for small businesses. The latest edition of the TrustRadius CRM Software TrustMap, for example, lists over a dozen CRM systems for small businesses and just four for enterprises.
The Top Rated CRM Platforms in the TrustMap include WORK[etc]. As an integrated system, WORK[etc] gives users access to features well beyond those found in the usual CRM software package. In addition to CRM, it combines project management, time tracking, billing, customer support, and more in one cloud-based system.
WORK[etc] is our way of enabling access for small businesses to the same toy box large enterprises have. However, 56 Group president and bestselling author of CRM at the Speed of Light, Paul Greenberg, says that exactly what that toy box contains is starting to change. Blurring the lines between best of breed apps and CRM suites is now more important than ever.
Ecosystems overtaking suites on the enterprise level
Greenberg is one of the most well-respected voices in the CRM industry. I had noticed that small businesses needed their own integrated CRM system over five years ago when I first started building WORK[etc]. It’s no wonder then that his piece on the decline of CRM suites and other “all-in-one” systems in the face of ecosystems caught my eye.
Greenberg says the decline can be traced to better interoperability between different apps. “Interoperability and integration are commodities now,” he explains. “The need for (CRM) suites becomes less and less manifest, but the best of breed could be found with the integration with one of the suites.”
The first sentence of that quote needs explanation. Interoperability means that two apps can work with each other’s data without having to make any changes to either of them. Integration usually involves making at least some changes to one or both so you can connect them to each other.
The second part of Greenberg’s statement may be true on the enterprise level, but research and advisory firm Software Advice has found that the opposite is happening in the realm of small businesses.
In its latest Small Business BuyerView report, the company shows that more and more small businesses are moving away from best of breed apps. Instead, they’re opting for integrated solutions.
The number of small business buyers in the United States that want integrated CRM software suites has made a massive jump, from just 7 percent in 2013 to 42 percent in 2014. Similar signs of growth have also been evident in the United Kingdom (26 percent) and Australia (34 percent).
Why the disparity? It all boils down to resources. A small business simply can’t field the same amount of resources that an enterprise-level company can, be it money, effort, or time.
All-in-one CRM software is a better fit for small businesses
Greenberg, however, doesn’t give best of breed apps a pass, either. “The reality is that best of breed, even with the interoperability at its optimal, doesn’t provide enough of what customers are looking for any more,” he says. Instead, he touts ecosystems built around best of breed apps and suites as a better solution.
Now, a CRM ecosystem built using multiple best of breed apps and hand-picked suite tools may be the ideal, but for small businesses it’s a very expensive proposition. You need an app for customer targeting and acquisition, another for retention, yet another app for collaboration, and so on. These costs quickly add up.
It’s not just a money issue, either. To get the most out of your CRM ecosystem, you’ll need to train each of your team members how to use all of these wildly different apps. If it takes a week to get someone up to speed on one app, then get ready to spend a month getting him or her sufficiently trained in four apps. And that’s just for one person!
These problems lead to one solution: integrated CRM software. A complete system that combines CRM, project management, billing, customer support, and other business-critical modules in only one app eliminates the need to purchase separate apps. The training time gets slashed too — after all, your entire team is being trained how to use only one app instead of several.
These advantages become even more apparent when each module within the system is comparable to best of breed apps that can only do one thing. Instead of running your small business using a half-dozen different apps, you only need one.
Slotting into existing business processes
Finding and getting a complete CRM system is just step one, though. A user also needs to consider how it fits into their current business process. Let’s take email, for example.
If a business uses either (or both) of these popular email services in their day-to-day operations, their CRM system must play nice with them. WORK[etc]’s Gmail and Outlook gadgets are examples of how an integrated system that also allows third-party integrations can fit perfectly into a business’s existing process.
If you conduct most of your business over Gmail, for example, you just turn the gadget on and you basically have a Gmail CRM. The same thing with Outlook; turn on the Outlook gadget and you can manage your entire business without ever leaving your inbox.
A gadget that allows users to create a new lead, add a new task, and update an existing project all without leaving their inbox is a definite step towards increased efficiency and productivity.
Blurring the line between suite and best of breed
Greenberg’s take on ecosystems and how they blur the line between suite and best of breed apps is spot on: both are necessary to provide the customer what they seek.
Just because one system can take care of practically every stage of the customer lifecycle doesn’t mean it can successfully exist as a closed system. You need to think about customer choice as well.
That’s why integrating with other apps, even for complete systems, is still a key consideration. CRM systems that integrate well with other popular business management apps, therefore, are the best options for a small business.
Finance, for instance, is such a specialized area that integration with apps such as Xero Accounting and QuickBooks Online is practically a requirement for small-business CRM software. Even if the system itself already has a financial module, you can supplement it at any time with additional software. The choice is entirely yours.
And that right there is the beauty of a CRM ecosystem built around a multi-functional, integrated CRM system. The system takes care of a large chunk of the CRM ecosystem, leaving you free to focus only on those aspects you feel require separate specialized apps.