Promotions: Marketing and Sales 8.15. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is one of those catch-all business terms that sweeps into its net a whole tangle of business activities companies engage in to maximize the value of their customers. In almost every one of its incarnations, however, CRM refers to the gathering, storing, and analyzing of information about customers and clients. CRM, then, is more than just sales and marketing; it’s an IT endeavor.

Since CRM covers so many disparate activities, practitioners divide it into three types:

  • Operational CRM: all the practical activities that sales and customer service representatives perform. Each customer contact, whether by a salesperson or customer service representative, is added to a database of customer “histories.” From a technical perspective, operational CRM requires customer agent support software.
  • Collaborative CRM: all the “self-service” activities that customers perform, such as consulting Web customer service pages or calling automated phone response systems. Collaborative CRM requires customer interaction systems.
  • Analytical CRM: as we discussed in Chapter 6.6, customer information databases allow companies to run sophisticated analyses of customer behavior and history to better serve a customer and extract more sales. From an IT perspective, analytical CRM requires data mining and statistics software.

Operational CRM systems that support sales, marketing, and customer service offer one or more of several functions:

  • Sales: an operational CRM system can help organize and rationalize your pre-closing sales process. Salespeople record every customer interaction. The system helps determine if targets are being met and can flag certain sales initiatives as requiring intervention.
  • Opportunity management: although clearly a part of the pre-sales closing process, opportunity management is a special function that allows you to budget and plan a selling initiative directed at a single client or customer. Businesses that generate sales through RFPs absolutely require opportunity management software to help manage the long and arduous process.
  • Lead management: an operational CRM system can process any leads that come into the sales area through various channels (cold calling, Web contact, phone contact, etc.) and classify them into hot (high value, high potential) or cold (low value, low potential) leads.
  • Marketing strategy and campaigns: CRM software really comes into its own when it can translate customer information into targeted and highly effective marketing campaigns, particularly direct marketing or email campaigns. A CRM system may include precise campaign management tools that allow you to tailor your offer and message down to the individual level for either current customers or future prospects.
  • Activity and customer service: your customers deal with you in a variety of formats and CRM activity tracking gives you a full view of how you’re dealing with individual customers and the demands they’re making on your sales and service operations. The software records every customer interaction and, if you have warranties or service level agreements (SLA’s), analyzes those interactions in relationship to your obligations to alerts you if you’re in non-compliance. Customer service information can be fed back into larger marketing strategies and individual campaigns.


Salesforce is indisputably “it” in sales management and CRM software; they are the global leader in the field with an exponentially growing client base, and for good reason. Salesforce is the only operational CRM software package that fits one-person start-ups to international mega-companies. In fact, although it boasts an impressive install base among the largest companies in the world, Salesforce sees its largest potential for growth among small businesses installing operational CRM systems for the first time, so they’ve really done their homework on small business needs.

Salesforce is a hosted solution, meaning that the password-protected data resides on a server which you access it through a Web browser. Even in its smallest business versions, Salesforce is a fully-featured sales management and CRM package:

  • Sales management
  • Lead management
  • Opportunity management
  • Partner and affiliate management
  • Customer service management
  • Marketing campaign management and multi-channel marketing
  • Analytical CRM―marketing, sales, and service

You can sign up for the Group Edition for as little as $10 per user per month or for the full-featured Enterprise Edition for as little as $65 per user per month.

Additionally, Salesforce runs a service called AppExchange which allows outside developers to create modules and add-ons to the Salesforce software. While these additions add cost to your project, this model is rapidly increasing the features available in the system.

Try before you buy! Salesforce offers a thirty day free trial.

8.15.2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is part of Microsoft Dynamics, a suite of Microsoft Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications. This suite includes enterprise applications for finance, supply chain management, and customer relationship management. However, you do not need the use or install the entire Microsoft Dynamics suite of applications just to use the CRM application.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a hosted solution, meaning that the password-protected data resides on a Windows server which you access it through a Web browser. The software comes in two editions: Small Business and Professional. These two versions do not differ in features, but in scalability. Small Business Edition can only be installed on one server running Windows 2003 Small Business server whereas Professional can be deployed across several servers running all flavors of Windows server software.

Features include:

  • Sales management
  • Lead management
  • Opportunity management
  • Quote and order management
  • Email marketing
  • Customer interaction management
  • Marketing campaign management and multi-channel marketing
  • Analytical CRM―marketing, sales, and service

Since integration is the name of the game at Microsoft, their CRM software integrates very powerfully into Microsoft Office products, particularly Outlook and Excel.

Try before you buy! Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers a sixty day free trial. How can you say no?

8.15.3. SugarCRM

SugarCRM started out in life as a free, open-source operational CRM application. Its success inspired the developers to offer more fully-featured commercial versions in addition to the free, open-source version. SugarCRM is by far the best open-source CRM software available and its commercial versions rival Targeted to businesses ranging from one-person shops to multinational Godzillas, SugarCRM is used by major corporations such as Yahoo!, Starbucks, and NASA.

SugarCRM comes in three versions. The open-source version, Sugar Community Edition, contains about 85% of the functions offered in the commercial versions, Sugar Professional and Sugar Enterprise. As with, commercial version are available for a monthly user subscription.

Sugar Community Edition, which is free, comes with the following functions:

  • Customer accounts and contact management
  • Campaign management and multi-channel marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Activity management
  • Lead management including Web-to-lead management
  • Opportunity management
  • Project management

The Sugar Community Edition is constantly being updated and improved by over 2,400 developers in the open-source community making the “busiest” open-source project in the world.

Sugar Professional, which costs $275 per user per year, adds the following functions to Sugar Community Edition:

  • Sales forecasting
  • Sales reporting
  • Advanced project management
  • Quotes and contract management
  • Role management
  • Workflow management

Unlike other operational CRM systems, Sugar allows you to completely access the code, even if you’re running the commercial versions of the software. If you’re of a mind to customize or improve your software―and you have the skills―you can open the hood and hack away.

If you download Sugar Community Edition, you will have to set it up on a server (Macintosh, Windows, or Linux). You can set it up either on your Web hosting server or any server located behind your firewall. For $500, Sugar will sell you a software product called FastStack which installs all the needed components, such as Apache and MySQL, onto a Macintosh, Windows, or Linux server so that you can install the Sugar CRM software.

Once installed, you access SugarCRM through any Web browser.

Try before you buy! SugarCRM offers a thirty day free trial of all its proprietary products.

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