Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

To stack my SaaS or not?

So, I’m finally biting the bullet and am going to get serious about CRM. I’ve trialled just about everything there is out there in the CRM SaaS realm and in the end nothing has ever quite worked out for me. I did give Highrise a shot, for a while, but struggled to get staff to adopt it and for me, it just didn’t have strong enough lead management or campaign capabilities to really assist us in automating our sales or marketing processes.

Our biggest issue is our own MediaConnect platform has strong contact management capabilities, tasks, etc. and all our contacts are already in that system. One day, I’ll get around to building my own dream, integrated sales module directly into our platform but we have many more pressing development projects right now. Still, I don’t particularly want to run yet another database of contacts as that would make three with MediaConnect, SaaSu (our accounting solution) and then our CRM database.

But it’s something I’ve decided we’re just going to have to bite the bullet and do. So I’ve been out reviewing and trialling CRM solutions and have basically come down to three – Salesforce, ZohoCRM and Pipeline Deals.

I really like Pipeline Deals and if I was making a decision in isolation, it would probably be my choice. Looks great, reasonable pricing and I like the workflow-focus.

However, as I said, I really don’t want to create another silo of information and processes.

So I come down to Zoho and Salesforce.

Really, I should choose Salesforce. Given we use Google Apps and SaaSu both of which have connectors to Salesforce, we’d start to have a bit of a SaaS stack with rudimentary integration between our productivity apps, accounting and CRM. With Salesforce and Google both having a bit of a SaaS ecosystem around them it does make it appealing to go that route. However, I look at the different versions of Salesforce and I find myself really wanting some of the functionality beyond the Team edition, which is where I want my spend to be right now.

ZohoCRM offers more functionality and importantly you can try out with 3 users for no cost. If I manage to get it adopted, I’m pretty sure I would need to upgrade to at least the Professional edition and probably the Enterprise Edition to make use of mass emails and automated responses, which brings Salesforce Team Edition back into the equation on a cost basis. But then I just don’t think the Team edition is going to give me everything I need from Salesforce and its pricing rises dramatically to beyond what I want to be spending beyond that entry-level edition.

Which takes me back to ZohoCRM. The issue I then have with Zoho is it’s not a part of my stack. If I was starting again, maybe I’d go all Zoho but I’m pretty locked into the Google suite and would probably have a riot on my hand trying to get my staff to shift environments again.

Such is my conundrum, and this is why I’ve always ended up saying – bugger its let’s use a spreadsheet. You know what at least with a Google Spreadsheet, I can embed a form or a sheet into my intranet or onto my MediaConnect desktop. All of the CRM systems I’ve seen operate as silos, they don’t provide widgets to allow you to operate out of their environment. And given they don’t allow variable user pricing; ie I’ll pay $50 per month for my sales person who will use all functionality but only $10 per month for my data entry operator who I just want to tie into the To Do system, it just gets too expensive to adopt it company-wide.

So I think I’ll give ZohoCRM a go. After all, its not going to cost us anything. Zoho seem to be pretty open about playing with other solutions so hopefully they’ll widget-ize it in the future and maybe I’ll dig into their API a bit and see how I can make it play with our core platform.

Google CRM

As an aside, I really wonder how long it will take Google to release their own CRM solution. There was of course some talk of Google buying, but it was interesting when we had Steve Cakebread – ex-COO of – at our Influence Forum last year, he wasn’t exactly gushing about the relationship between the two companies.

Really, if I was helping someone to set up a SaaS environment I’d tell them to pick their CRM solution and then work around that. And that would probably lead you towards one of the integrated solutions like Salesforce, Zoho, NetSuite or Worketc. As such, I don’t think Google can afford not to have a CRM play and the fact they’ve not bought anyone in this space, suggests to me its something the might be building in-house. After all, isn’t the golden rule to expect Google to build their own version of any application they would use heavily in-house. And basic CRM isn’t rocket science. Does anyone know what Google sales people use for CRM?

Filed under: AJAX Challenge

2 Responses

  1. Adam Ware says:

    Great post Phil. It’s good to see someone with an identical dilemma. We started with Zoho, then evaluated a bunch of solutions, narrowing down to Salesforce and Pipeline, and eventually went with Pipeline. Now, feeling like we don’t use it well enough to warrant the cost, we’re likely going to just use Zoho again, and maintain spreadsheets. I’m wondering what your experience has been in the last couple months; are you really using Zoho and getting value out of it?

  2. Hi Phil – thanks for mentioning WORKetc in your post.

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