Small Business CRM Buying Guide

by Drew Robb
Small Business CRM Buying Guide

Sage, Zoho and NetSuite are just three of the vendors covered in our SMB CRM guide.

Our first two CRM buying guides covered the enterprise CRM and midrange CRM markets.

This article will focus on the small business customer relationship management (CRM) market. Note that it ignores companies like Microsoft, SAP and Oracle, who increasingly serve the low end of the market, as they were covered in our first article. Those included in this guide are Sage CRM, Avidian, Aplicor, Zoho, NetSuite and InfusionSoft.

Prophet CRM by Avidian Technologies

Avidian CEO James Wong says users want to make every customer contact more meaningful and more profitable. That means CRM systems must have a low barrier to entry in both cost and usability that will create immediate return on investment (ROI). Mobile CRM is also in demand among SMBs, he said.

"I don't think some of these customers know exactly why they want mobile CRM or how they will use it, but they know they want it," said Wong. "Approximately 30 percent of our customers are requesting mobile CRM, but roughly only 10 percent are actually taking advantage of it."

Avidian's flagship product is Prophet CRM, based on Microsoft's .NET platform and integrated with Microsoft Outlook. The logic is simple: most salespeople spend much of their day in Outlook, so why not take CRM to them rather than have them come to the CRM? Prophet, then, has been designed to take Outlook beyond tasks, calendaring and email, with centralized and secure contact management, sales opportunity management, flexible reporting and easy sharing and controlling of customer information. It is available in on-premises and cloud-based versions, plus a mobile edition works alongside both.

A newer feature called Prophet Mobile Web provides any mobile device with a browser to remotely access their Prophet CRM data. Another version known as Prophet Ultimate enables businesses to tailor Prophet's existing sales opportunity tracking capabilities to meet the needs of departments beyond the sales force. Groups such as customer service teams, technical support, fulfillment and client services can customize Prophet's opportunity tracking features to best suit their needs. This allows for all these units to be supported from a single Prophet server.

Pricing for Prophet varies depending on edition, but in general it starts at $149.95 per user for on-premises versions and $19.95 per user/per month for cloud-based versions. For a limited time, Prophet Mobile Web will be available free to all cloud-based users. After initial introduction period, it will start at $14.99 per user/per month.

"The most expensive CRM a company can buy is the one that doesn't get used," said Wong. "Doing CRM right in Outlook helps companies kick start their implementation and employee adoption."


Sage CRM solutions, including SageCRM, support more than 75,000 businesses and 3.6 million users worldwide. The focus of SageCRM is on ease of use, deployment, customization, integration and access. As such, it can be run on-premises or as a hosted system to manage sales, marketing and customer service activities. Role-based dashboards provide data views and graphical reports.

SageCRM starts at $595 per on-premises user license and $69 per user per month for hosted access. It is also available as part of Sage ERP suites starting at $795 per on-premises user license and $69 per user per month for hosted access. The new Sage E-Marketing for SageCRM connected service begins at $149.95 per user per month.

SageCRM v7.1, released last month, provides iPhone, social media (Twitter and LinkedIn) and Sage E-Marketing integrations. Sage E-Marketing for SageCRM is a subscription-based Sage Connected Service for managing email marketing campaigns. Real-time Microsoft Exchange synchronization provides calendar management and a single location for managing and adding additional users.

"We are developing Sage Connected Services, which are specific functions delivered via the web on a subscription basis to enhance the productivity of customers' on-premises or cloud software experience," said Dan Wilzoch, senior vice president and general manager of Sage North America. "They leverage standards including REST, HTML5 and our own SData protocol, which provides common integration between Sage applications and extensions for integrating with non-Sage applications."

He sees five trends converging in the CRM space: cloud computing, consumerization of business (handheld devices, social media), mobility (rich user experience, device independence), analytics (predictive, real-time), and business process optimization (role-based workflow).

"Sage believes visual data and security integration will enable more rapid and actionable insights for organizations," said Wilzoch. "Fully integrated analytics with pre-built, role-based content paves the way for SMBs and their employees, simplifying complexities in the background while surfacing real-time insights so teams can improve productivity, grow sales and retain customers by predicting outcomes, correcting business processes as necessary, and identifying best practices. Implementing advanced, visual analytics allows organizations to focus their resources on the most profitable business opportunities."

NetSuite CRM

NetSuite is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business software that supports accounting, ERP and CRM.

The CRM portion known as NetSuite CRM can be deployed on its own if desired. If all aspects of the suite are deployed, they each share the same database for every interaction. As it is cloud based, there are no maintenance or upgrade hassles involved. It also comes with a 99.5 percent uptime guarantee. NetSuite CRM integrates order management, partner management, incentive management, project tracking, website hosting and analytics. Pricing including maintenance and support is $129 per user per month.

NetSuite is also integrated with Google Apps and the Google Apps Marketplace. This includes contextual integration between the main components of NetSuite, Gmail and Google Calendar.

"Seamless access to the power of NetSuite and Google Apps together means more real-time collaboration and visibility for every stakeholder working on an opportunity, transaction, or project," said Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite. "By strengthening our ties with Google's cloud and integrating with Google Apps, NetSuite has made it easier to do business at Internet speed."

Aplicor CRM

Aplicor's hosted CRM approach includes sales force automation, marketing, project office and customer support modules. It can also integrate with the Aplicor business intelligence and ERP modules.

A pay-as-you-go subscription model is used for this hosted, wireless and Web-based CRM software suite. The company has a 10 license minimum at a rate of $89 per user per month. Most recently, the company released Aplicor Cloud Suite 7 as the latest platform for CRM, which includes a business process designer to configure and model workflows.

Infusionsoft CRM

Infusionsoft launched in 2004 as a custom software company — until one frustrated client demanded a software tool for small businesses that needed more than simple email marketing, CRM and autoresponder tools, but that weren't ready for expensive enterprise systems.

Infusionsoft automates CRM and email marketing in a single application. Pricing ranges from $199 for two users up to $999 a month for up to 20 users. The company now is used in over 6500 companies with 21,000 users.

"Small businesses can't afford the inefficiency of different systems for different tasks," said David Raab, principal at Raab Associates. "Infusionsoft provides a tightly integrated system with a broad range of marketing and sales functions, plus the extensive support that small businesses need to set up and run advanced marketing programs."

Zoho CRM

Dale Vile, an analyst at research firm Freeform Dynamics, points out that plenty of smaller Web based SaaS players have popped up, Zoho among them.

"The SMB space is massively underserved at the moment despite a clear need," said Vile. "The vast majority of smaller companies have no structured CRM solutions in place at all right now."

Zoho has a very aggressive pricing model aimed squarely at the low end of the SMB marketplace. It has a free version for up to three users that covers sales force automation, marketing and customer support. Two other paid versions provide additional features such as workflow management and inventory management. Even then, the pricing ranges from $12 to $25 a month per user. The free edition is characterized as an easy-to-use hosted CRM for entrepreneurs and startups. The Pro edition is a more complete sales automation solution for small businesses and the Enterprise version is described as CRM for managing a multi-level organizational hierarchy.

  This article was originally published on Wednesday Jul 20th 2011
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