“We are moving from transactions to lifelong ongoing customer engagement, where vendors are rewarded with repeat business and subscription renewals.”
“CRM is simple. So many said – each in their own way – the best customer experience is about meeting (or exceeding) customer expectations. Said differently: deliver on what you promised.”
All the info you'd ever need to communicate with current and future clients. Flexible layout, so you can add room for more information than the standard software allows. Convert leads automatically into a set of accounts/contacts when you are ready.
Create custom workflow processes, such as: Send an email to a manager every time a new lead with a certain number of employees is entered into the CRM. Send an email to customers when an expiry date is approaching and offer options for renewal. Populate target lists automatically.
There are 80+ add-ons to your CRM, each serving a different purpose. Choose between a MailChimp connector, Outlook Plugin, timesheets/invoice integrator, customer portal for Joomla/Drupal/WordPress-based web-sites, mobile phone and tablet connectivity, UK Companies House Importer, inbound phone call connector and many more.
Vendor Pricing Tricks
The popularity of CRM systems have spawned many competing platforms, which increasingly match one-another on features. The competition is mostly down to pricing model, with more hosted solutions being offered than self-hosted. It is increasingly difficult to make out the cost comparisons because vendors are introducing 'tricks', such as per contact record pricing, marketing seat vs. sales seat pricing, storage pricing per Gb for marketing collateral etc., basic/pro/enterprise pricing, maximum outgoing emails per day pricing, maximum custom fields pricing and so on.
The only clear picture we have is that most CRM vendors have a free, or almost free, option and that this option is usually totally insufficient for even the most scaled-down single person operation. So not worth the effort.
At the other end of the scale are the unlimited versions offered by vendors. These versions offer few, if any, restrictions, but the benefits come at an eye-watering price, which can scale from several hundred dollars up to two thousand per month for the priciest platforms. Not your usual fare either.
Average Price Level
So, excluding the priciest or more exotic offerings, the typical SME with a 10-strong sales force will face annual fees of $4,200 for the basic option with basic or no support, which gives little or no assistance if something goes wrong.
Data Risk is Overlooked
A more serious issue with all hosting vendors is the the safety of your data. The more you use a CRM system the more valuable the data becomes to you. No 99.9% uptime guarantees can cover the damage to your business in the event a 0.1% catastrophic event at the hosting data centre wipes out your data.
Three Main Problems in CRM Pricing
The only solution to the three main problems in CRM marketing (the high cost plans, the hosting provider restrictive 'tricks' and the risk to your carefully curated data), is to take control of the whole process by yourself.
Fortunately, that is easier than you might have thought.
Per-seat pricing does not necessarily mean per person, although for many SME companies, this is exactly what it means. Per seat pricing is meaningful for call-centres with high staff turnover, where a new staff member will take over a leaving staff member's login credentials.
Pricing in this category often start at $35 per seat per month, meaning $420 per user per year (which is the billing frequency preferred by hosting suppliers like the above). Monthly payment cycles are typically higher by 10-20% to discourage customers from choosing this option.
Hosted solutions often impose limits on users, whether by number of uploaded contacts, number of emails sent, amount of storage space used and so on. Storage space, in particular, is often priced exorbitantly, as users are expected to be disinclined to switch host once they have filled up 2 or 5Gb of marketing collateral, client quotes, email attachments etc. The hosting providers make it very expensive to switch.
HubSpot is billed as an in-bound tool, meaning it is intended for use where customers call the company using the software, not the other way around. The billing is heavily skewed towards contacts billing (in spite of a $50 per month per sales user charge), with fees of $80 per month per 1,000 contacts uploaded on top of $165 (the basic package) per month per marketing user.
It is clear HubSpot is targeting large-scale inbound sales organisations like insurance brokers, where the 1,000 contact fee drops to $8 per month. However, that is in exchange for a marketing user fee of almost $2,000 per month, which does include 10,000 contacts. This fee level comes with 6 different types of report and other extras as sweeteners. There is a required down-payment (called 'required on-boarding') equal to about three months subscription.
The one-off install fee model does not have any per month or per anything element. There are no limitations of any kind, just those imposed by the hardware used for the installation. The hardware cost is borne by the company using the software, in case of in-house local network installation. However, when deployed into the cloud there is an additional variable cost to reckon with for the cloud deployed virtual server. Amazon Web Services, among many, offer this service at various price points ranging from around $20 per month to many $100s. A small instance, which is sufficient to run a CRM system with up to 100 users will cost in the $60-70 range per month - per installation, not per user!