Lately, I’ve been looking for a good CRM for my business.
Now, first of all, what is a CRM?
CRM basically stand for Customer Relationship Manager. Essentially, I look at it as a glorified customer database. Now, a true blue enterprise level CRM does a lot of things, many of which I’m not interested in. You can track leads and opportunities and all these salesy thing. And, if I were a traditional salesman I’d care about things like that.
I pretty much just want a good solid customer database.
Why Bother With A CRM?
Now, the question is: why do you need a CRM? Why bother with this? It’s just another thing to plug into the business.
I was talking to a private group of other entrepreneurs here in Tampa that I was looking for a CRM. One of them actually suggests that I not even worry about it because – what is it really going to add to my business?
In my point of view, your customer database is extremely, extremely important. And a lot of online businesses are not keeping track of it properly, including mine. Now the thing is, yes, when somebody buys something from me, my shopping cart has their information. I do have that information inside of Aweber. It just is not in a place where I can really manage it properly.
For example, I can’t easily just go in there and find out which of my customers have bought products X and Y. I can’t run an easy search like that and just get a report and send them a quick email. I can’t do things like that. Aweber manages everything via lists and that’s it. I would love it if Aweber would sometime move to a tagging system – more like Infusionsoft. But, I don’t know when they’re going to do that. One time I heard a rumor that they’re considering it, but I absolutely have no idea.
Coming back to the point… follow-up capability is extremely important and being able to make these follow-ups more meaningful by putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time. Now, with a standard list setup like I’ve got with Aweber it’s a little difficult to do that. As much as you might segment those lists or have a different list for different purpose, it’s going to be difficult to really have that fine-tuned if-then “logic”. Somebody’s on list A but they’re also on another one; it’s hard to be able to navigate some of those things with that type of a set up.
Plus when you have a good CRM it makes you look awesome. I’ve got a few private consulting clients, by the way. I have to use Evernote to keep track of what we’ve talked about because… I’ll forget! I don’t have the best memory in the world!
How awesome would you look if you keep track of things like customers’ birthdays in a CRM and then something as simple as sending them a happy birthday card or stuff like that? Your customers will think you’re an absolute badass and they’re going to love you! BUT… you’ve got to track that information. Where will you track it? Well, you’re not going to be tracking this stuff from Aweber, most likely. And your shopping cart is certainly not going to do it.
But, What About The Email List?
Now is an email list the same thing? No it isn’t as we’ve already gone over. Aweber’s primary mission is to mass- email your subscribers. Those subscribers can be prospects; they could also be people who’ve bought something from you. And Aweber is fantastic. I take nothing away from Aweber and everybody knows that I have been recommending Aweber for quite a long time.
But are they a full blown CRM? Not even close. You’re not going to be able to track basic information for your subscribers; you’re not going to be able to tag them. You’ve got to basically opt-in into multiple lists. By the way, every time they get onto another list they’ve got to re-confirm themselves.
One thing from my point of view… if somebody is going to your opt-in and confirm their email address one time, they should never have to do that ever again. Because, I already know the email address is valid. So when they buy something from me and they get on to a customer list, I should not have to ask them if the email address is verified or not. We already know it is correct. I simply want to tag them with the customer tag and say, yes, they bought that product and that’s it. That’s all I want to be able to do!
So let’s look at some of the options here that I’ve actually been contemplating.
A really popular one for small businesses is called Highrise and it’s put up by 37signals.
It’s a great company. I used to use their Project Management System and they really do a great job. Now, the thing about Highrise is – they do really well, but they are very well known for NOT putting a whole lot of features into their software because they’d rather keep it simple and elegant.
I respect that. But, at the same time, I don’t feel that Highrise completely suits my needs. It integrates with a lot of things because it’s 37signals. They’ve got an API but, at the same time, it’s just what it is and I cannot adapt it to my needs or there are certain things that Highrise is doing that I just don’t even want on my screen because I’m never going to use it.
Now, another one is called Batchbook.
Now, Batchbook looks pretty darn cool. It’s a really good Highrise alternative and it has really strong abilities in terms of custom fields, tagging, etc. It’s a great customer database.
It also has some features built into it for social integration, although I don’t think the way they did social is very useful. It will search Facebook for your customer but then you can always duplicate names. Unless you know exactly what they look like, you have no idea what’s going on. So, I think the social aspect of Batchbook is a little overplayed, in my perspective. But it is a good product.
The next one is Infusionsoft.
Now, Infusionsoft is pretty well known in the information marketing space. They do everything. They’ve got a shopping cart, they’ve got the affiliate program and yes, they’ve got a very powerful email and CRM functionality. Quite frankly, that’s really what their strength is – their CRM.
But there are a lot of issues, in my opinion, with Infusionsoft. From the feedback that I’ve gotten from people, it’s either a love-hate relationship. A lot of people don’t like Infusionsoft. They have problems with the company; they think the software is overly complicated. And quite frankly, those people that I know who seem to like Infusionsoft generally are not running it themselves. They’ve got somebody doing it for them and to me that says a lot.
So, I’m not really willing to go down the route of Infusionsoft.
Lastly, an option called Office AutoPilot.
Now OfficeAutoPilot basically seems like Infusionsoft but without all the complexity and they just seem like a cooler company to me. So, I’m really heavily looking into switching to Office AutoPilot.
Where Things Stand Now
So, where it stands right now? I have been giving Batchbook a try. I’ve got some records set up in Batchbook but I’m not particularly happy with them.
Even though I recognize the potential power of Batchbook, I’m having some issues with it. One of them seems to be – importing. You can bring a CSV file to the table and you can import it into Batchbook, but the problem is the way that it works is janky and stupid. First of all, you upload the CSV and you’ve mapped it and you have everything fairly predictable then you hit the button and it says it’s going to email you with the results of the import.
Problem is, I don’t get those emails. My account is set up properly. I check the spam folder and they’re not going in there. So, there’s something really wrong with the way they’re notifying people. And I really think it’s stupid that they don’t give us the feedback on something as simple as a CSV import inside the interface. I should get immediate feedback and if there are any errors with that CSV, I should not have to sit there and wait for an email.
The other thing, too, is after trying to do this 4 or 5 different times and finding that nothing was happening, I emailed Batchbook support. The person who was answering me was quite nice, but they were clearly clueless as to what was going on. The things they were suggesting as possible problems didn’t make any sense.
And, quite frankly, their system should be strong enough to not have these stupid little things stored for a loop. It was just driving me up the wall and really – if I’m running into these kinds of problems with Batchbook this early in the game, I probably should not stick around.
It also seems like a bit of an island unto itself. Batchbook is a good customer database. It does have an API. That being said, it doesn’t really have a lot of built-in integrations with too many things. In terms of being able to email and interact with people based on what tags they’ve got in the system, you can’t do that unless you’re using MailChimp. Batchbook seems to be pretty well integrated with MailChimp. But being that I’m using Aweber, I’m pretty much SOL.
The Bottom Line
So, I actually am considering switching to Office AutoPilot. Yes, it’s not cheap, but I would actually be making a bigger project out of this than I actually intended originally. It has really powerful CRM capabilities but yes, I probably would be moving a lot of my stuff away from Aweber. Not something I ever thought I would be doing, but I think the power of OfficeAutoPilot might be more in tune with what I need and want for my business as I grow than what Aweber can provide at this point.
I don’t know how Office AutoPilot’s email deliverability compares to Aweber, I’m really, quite frankly, hesitant to move away from Aweber because I like the company so much. However, it’s starting to look like OfficeAutoPilot might be a better way to go for me.
So, as you are listening to this little audio post or potentially reading this on my blog, if you got any experience with these solutions, I love to hear your feedback. Please post a comment on this post.
I’m looking for all opinions here because this is a really big decision that I need to make and maybe some of you guys have used some of these options. And particularly if you’ve used Office AutoPilot, I really love to hear about your experiences.
So, that’s about it for today and I’ll talk to you guys, soon!