The adage "information is power" especially applies when it comes to dealing with your customers. Whether you're trying to prospect for new customers or service (and grow) your existing ones, the more you know the better.
While larger companies have in recent years embraced customer relationship management software, small businesses also benefit from knowing which customers are hot prospects, which are unhappy, which owe you a lot of money and so on.
That said, CRM is not an easy concept to grasp nor is it an inexpensive application to deploy.
Among larger businesses, horror stories abound about CRM deployments that dragged on for months with costs in the six-figure range. Even on-demand, or Web-based options, such as Salesforce.com or NetSuite typically cost tens of thousands of dollars per year.
Click for larger image of iRadeon screen
The problem is that while the software carries no cost, you still have to outlay cash for setting the server hardware, security, consulting and maintenance. iRadeon is looking to offer the best of both world. Today the Roseville, Calif.-based company announced that it will offer Sugar Open Source CRM version 3.5 as an on-demand Web service.
Pricing for the on-demand, browser-based software starts at $75 per month for 10 users or $150 per month for 25 users, according to Jeff Minich, vice president of strategy at iRadeon. iRadeon's customers, Minich said, will come from two groups: companies looking to move from more expensive Web-based CRM software such as Salesforce.com as well as first-time CRM users. (On its Web site, Salesforce.com quotes prices for its Team Edition starting at $995 a year for five users.) iRadeon said that it will offer Salesforce.com customers a 90-day free trial
However, the real market may be the pool of businesses that haven't jumped into CRM yet. The company points to data from AMI Research that reports that only a small fraction of the 7.5 million small businesses in the U.S. (and the 40 million worldwide) use CRM software.
"Businesses of all sizes still have information-sharing problems. The emergence of reliable open source solutions for customer relationship management, project management and learning management offers businesses a new way to bridge information gaps," Minich said.
iRadeon's features include the following, according to the company:
- iRadeon's Auto Deployment System, or iRADS, is designed to let customers with up to 100 users order online at iRadeon.com and begin using its Web-based software within 10 minutes.
- iRadeon's customer control panel is built to give clients a single integrated view of their account, allowing them to add new applications, upgrade service plans, request support, perform database downloads, manage billing information and more.
- iRadeon offers 24-hour support for issues such as bug reporting, troubleshooting and network and application performance. Plans include managed firewall protection, SSL encryption and free automated backups to iRadeon's remote servers.
SugarCRM 3.5 lets businesses generate online summaries for metrics such as sales pipeline, sales performance and outstanding opportunities; schedule follow-up activities with prospects; and manage account contact info in a single database. It also offers unified views of all related information (tasks, leads and so on) for each Contact and Account.
It's also designed to provide online access to marketing materials and customer documents stored in your CRM database; a search engine to locate data; the capability to track open sales opportunities with real-time views of your sales pipeline; a calendar and schedule manager; a portal to integrate Web-based application; and case tracking for customer service.
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