Category Archives: Marketing

Do I need salesforce.com as a CRM for my second stage company?

Cartoon viking with a big hammerDo you need salesforce.com? Probably not.

For 9 out of 10 businesses I talk to, salesforce.com is “too much club”. Yet it has become so ubiquitous that many small businesses feel obligated to adopt it. The process usually goes something like this:

Someone speaks very highly of salesforce.com (or has used it in another context) + it’s a “known entity” + it’s easy to sign up = Viola! Simple, quick decision on which Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to adopt.

Generally, that’s a reasonable formula – I’m a firm believer that one of the best tests for how something works comes from the experience of similar companies. However, this is one of those cases that is the exception to the rule. I’ve watched enough companies experience enough pain to be compelled to start my own public service campaign about “right-sizing your CRM”. Here’s why.

A CRM that is “too much club” causes all sorts of issues, the most problematic of which seems like it would be cost, but really it’s the complexity that kills you slowly. Suffice it say that salesforce.com does a great job of making it sound like it can do everything under the sun – and it basically can – with enough elbow-grease, IT know-how, upgrades, and add-ons.

On the other hand, what are some good cases for using salesforce.com? The #1 reason to use salesforce.com:  If you truly have a sales force. In other words, it’s really designed for larger teams of sales people. Many startups and second stage companies don’t have a Sales Manager and a Sales Team – more often, the sales “team” is a single sales person supported by technicians and others as needed. In these cases, salesforce.com is typically too much club.

Choosing the “right-size” CRM in those situations means selecting for a couple of things:

  • Something simple, that actually gets used, and doesn’t get in the way of getting things done.
  • Something inexpensive, so you can invest the bulk of your marketing funds in reaching out to customers and growing your business.

If not salesforce.com, then what? Glad you asked. There are a dizzying array of CRMs out there, and I don’t claim to know them all. However, I have played with enough different CRM systems to have a couple of favorites.

Zoho will look familiar to anyone that has used Salesforce.com – it’s a very close cousin. Why do I like it? It meets both my criteria: simple and cheap. It had only 6 “tabs” (much like salesforce.com only had 3 when I first started using it 15 years ago) and it’s FREE for the basic team edition which includes 3 people. You can export data if needs change and you truly need a more sophisticated system later, so it’s not an irrevocable decision. It does have a few quirks, though I am willing to forgive them for something that’s free and provides a simple and clean pipeline view.

Membrain is the option I’d recommend for companies who need more full-featured functionality along the lines of salesforce.com. It’s typically more expensive than salesforce.com if you’ve only got a few users, as you pay up front for configuration.  However, it’s worth including as it does a few key things that salesforce.com does not. In particular, Membrain has built in sales automation that ensures the important stuff gets followed up on (you set the criteria) and that unqualified opportunities are automatically left out of the pipeline.

Membrain is also smart about reporting, giving the company a better picture of what opportunities are “real”, while also giving salespeople more time to spend doing sales because they’re not doing busy-work to make reports turn out right. Some of the value this software provides is a little bit sneakier – all that automation is possible because the configuration process forces decision about what criteria is/isn’t qualified, and what actions should be happening during the sales process. Often, one of the things causing issues within sales is a lack of clarity, which tools have a habit of making worse instead of better. Membrain may be the exception to that rule – in a good way.

Hope this helps with your CRM decision. Holler if you have any questions or want more specific examples!

Sorry, but HubSpot is not “the” Answer

miracle_cure_pillAs much as I love HubSpot, it is not a miracle cure. While this may sound blasphemous coming from someone who frequently preaches the wonders of HubSpot in marketing workshops and speaking engagements, I’ve come to realize that HubSpot sounds so cool, and so useful, and so amazing that it’s easy to believe implementing HubSpot will transform your marketing.

Alas, a successful implementation of HubSpot (one that brings you customers either directly, or as leads) takes a lot of groundwork. And I’ll bet you already know that, just as you know that it takes more than an weight-loss pill to shed pounds. Yet weight loss pills continue to fly off the shelves…

Likewise, even the savviest of marketers are susceptible to the enticing siren song of HubSpot. It’s an alluring proposition – with one big caveat: If your marketing model already works great, then yes, it’s reasonable to expect HubSpot to be additive and improve your results. On the other hand, if results aren’t where you want and you (essentially) move your existing marketing model into HubSpot, chances are you’ll be disappointed.

If you’re looking to improve sales and marketing (and who isn’t?!) the greatest value of HubSpot is likely as a “good excuse” to re-evaluate your approach. All the automation and other goodies HubSpot provides work their magic best once you are crystal clear about the big picture, and where HubSpot fits in.

Ideally, before implementing new marketing systems (HubSpot or anything else), you’ll establish these two big picture items:

  1. What are the overall strategic goals of the company, and what are the roles of marketing and sales in supporting those goals? What are the measurable goals you need to hit this year and each quarter to support those goals?
  2. Who is your customer, and how can you replicate the sales process to recruit more, similar customers? What can you do to reach more like-minded people and move them through a process – your online sales engine™ – that guides them to choose you and creates ease in your sales process?

Having watched hundreds of companies go through this process for nearly 20 years now, let me reassure you that is is truly ok if you look at those two items and realize there’s some work to do. It’s the rare company that has all those ducks already in a row – that’s often why marketing and sales are working so hard to gain traction.  If all of these big pictures items were already in place, you likely wouldn’t be reading this article!

Tackling BOTH of these big picture items takes a big commitment, and is one that frankly few companies are deeply committed to.  For those who are, truly amazing things can happen.  If that kind of  work doesn’t sound daunting to you, and you’re willing to explore that journey, here are a couple of places to start:

  1. Creating measurable goals that marketing and sales can support starts with a strong vision of the company’s future. With that in place, you can align the dots to reach the end goal. The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is the simplest, most clear way of creating and implementing that framework I’ve personally experienced.
  2. Understanding your customer is more complex than it seems. It’s easy to get caught up in what who we THINK the customer is and what they want and what gets them to buy. Steve Blank has some great thoughts on Customer Discovery, and another helpful resource I’ve recently come across is the Buyer Persona Institute. They offer a useful blog and downloadable ebooks free!

Happy to help if you run into any questions along the way. Good luck!