Back to the future … SaaS vs on-premises CRM

I cannot count the number of times that I have reviewed the pros and cons of SaaS (cloud computing) or on-premise CRM alternatives, so I am going to share my thoughts in this blog post. 

 

Cost: 

First let me cover cost.  Many make the argument for SaaS based on cost, stating that SaaS is less expensive.  While that may be true for the initial outlay (usually one year of service for SaaS vs all licensing for on-premises), the actual reality is that after 3 years licensing is roughly equal (see charts one and two and compare the three year costs).  However, the sticker shock comes in year 4 when SaaS is 3 ½ times more expensive each and every year.  My recommendations on cost are as follows:

Go with the CRM that meets your needs (on-premises or Saas) since 3 year licensing costs are very similar

 

If you like the idea of spreading your payments out over several years, but on-premises seems to be a better solution, consider leasing the software.

 

Infrastructure:

This is where SaaS shines!  If you do not have servers or updated workstations/laptops, an on-premises implementation my be costly in terms of hardware.  All on-premises CRM systems will require at least one server (a database server like Microsoft SQL server), and many require multiple servers. 

Integration:

This is where on-premises shines!  If you are looking to implement true enterprise-wide CRM, you will be looking for data integration into your back office at the very least, and quite possibly other sources of customer data as well.  Linking to invoicing, orders, and accounts receivable is not the easiest thing to do in a SaaS environment.  While it is not impossible, it frequently requires more time and resources to set-up the links and build the tunnels to allow access.

Along the same lines with integration is automation of processes and alerts.  This is a very difficult thing to do with some SaaS models.  If the software does not include an alert engine or process automation you are stuck.  With on-premises you can augment any CRM system with automation and alerts provided by such products as Vineyardsoft’s KnowledgeSync (http://www.vineyardsoft.com/).

Speed of Implementation:

This is an “old wives tale.”  SaaS only CRM companies make it sound like SaaS can be fully implemented in 24 hours and on-premises takes years.  The truth is that the time to live is about equal for both.  Just because you can have a database live up in the cloud in 24 hours (which can be done for on-premises as well) doesn’t mean you have CRM.  There are many things that have to happen before CRM is live.  These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Initial discussions of needs and layout of the project plan and goals
  2. Data source cleansing, data import, duplicate removal
  3. Customizations and configurations to match your needs
  4. Testing
  5. User education

Connectivity:

SaaS has one draw-back here.  In order to access the data you must be connected to the internet.  The speed of access is based on your internet connection speed and the number of users accessing the web at that time.  Other people using services like Netflix and Amazon movies can cause internet speed issues and actually cause your access to CRM to be less responsive.

Conclusion:

As I stated earlier, go with the CRM solution that will best help you meet your Customer Relationship Management strategic goals.  Infotech Research Group (http://www.infotech.com/) gives the following guidelines you may want to consider:

Choose SaaS CRM if…

·         There is no executive support or CRM strategy and you need something in the department right away.

·         You need to speed up implementation timeframes.

·         You need something right now that can grow with you quickly as needed. A lot of organizations that went through a failed big-bang CRM are trying SaaS, but are doing so cautiously and want to see results before they try to roll it out further.

·         You have too few IT staff available to administrate the system in the long term.

·         You have no disaster recovery plan for CRM data so keeping it on someone else’s locations seems smart.

·         Little offline capability is required.

Choose On-Premises CRM if…

·         There is a legislative/regulatory requirement to host your own data or keep it in a certain jurisdiction.

·         Complex data integration with large data volumes is needed. Info-Tech’s survey suggests that customers are still having trouble getting the kind of tight integration mid-large size organizations need. Solving that is key for SaaS products to continue to move up market. Data integration is tricky enough to begin with, but there are many factors that complicate it further, such as large data volumes integrated across the web and firewall configuration issues.

·         You want to align CRM with your existing ERP vendor and the on-premises product is different or superior.

·         Heavy offline capability is required.

 

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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Where Does Loyalty Begin?

As I prepare for tomorrow’s seminar I am reminded of the similarities between a relationship-driven sales process and the dating/marriage cycle.

 

If we assume, in this comparison, that marriage is akin to the first sale, when the prospect moves to “customer” stage, then we can also assume, much like dating, that loyalty to one another begins prior to the marriage (first sale) step.  How many of you would be married right now if there was no commitment from your spouse prior to the marriage?  Probably very few! 

Assuming the pre-marriage relationship cycle is first date, courting, and engagement (or lead recognition, qualification/discovery, verbal commitment in business), I think I’m safe to say that somewhere in the middle of courting, and definitely before engagement we expect fidelity from our partner.  In fact we do things that encourage fidelity in the relationship.  First, we talk about it; second, we agree that, for the time-being, we believe that we are good together; and finally, we act with that fidelity in mind.

Should it be any different in business?  No!  We need to start talking and acting like we are looking for loyalty in business.  How do we do this, prior to the sale?  With actions like:

  • Seek to understand the problem
  • Make your prospects problem your problem
  • Talk about your loyal customers
  • Talk as if you are already “together”
  • Listen more than you talk
  • Don’t sell your service/product but offer them as solutions to a problem

 Much like personal relationships, there are things that we do that let our prospects know we are not serious about looking for a loyal relationship.  Many companies fall prey to the transaction sale.  Actions similar to the following show that you are more interested in a transaction than a relationship:

  • Discounting your product or service
  • Selling features and functions verses benefits
  • Leading the sales process with a demo of your product/service before even seeking to understand the problem
  • Offering incentives to use your product/service

Loyalty starts far before the “sale” and your words and actions speak volumes on how much you value loyalty.  Likewise, if you start out with transaction-driven sales, you should not expect loyalty from the prospect once they become a customer.

 Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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CRM for Non-profit

I am often asked to implement free or discounted CRM for non-profit organizations, my hope in this blog is to help non-profits understand the value of CRM software.

While there are several CRM packages that are free or next to free for non-profits, they frequently produce results on relation to cost.  One of the main reasons for this is that much of the setup/implementation is left to the organization itself.  This is a daunting task when many non-profits run with a limited staff and volunteers, most of which are not software implementation experts, let-alone CRM business strategy experts.  Non-profits seem to fall into the do-it-yourself mode of CRM implementation even more-so than for-profit organizations and the affects can be even greater (see my blog on the costs of doing-it-yourself).

Rather than a long, drawn-out process, it is critical that a non-profit receives return on investment (ROI) rapidly through their CRM implementation.  It is equally critical that the software be configured and simple to use (since an untold number of volunteers may need to be trained on a regular basis).  This is where the non-profit should rely on a CRM consultant that understands these values and that can help them to work through the processes quickly and efficiently.

When you think about it, CRM for non-profit is even more complex than a for-profit organization.  Often non-profits have to track:

 

  • Donors
  • Gifts
  • Memberships
  • Capital Campaigns
  • Alumni
  • Partnerships

 

All while attempting to keep each informed as to what is happening with the money collected.

Corporate America is turning more and more to CRM software to enable them to better understand their customers and be proactive to each customer’s needs.  They understand the value of each customer and realizing that maintaining a customer takes more than an occasional phone call or email.  If that is true with Corporate America, it should be even more so with non-profit organizations.  Let’s face it, America’s pocket book is getting tighter and people want to know that their charitable contributions are appreciated, acknowledged, and worth-while. 

Finally, without a business partner helping with the support of CRM, many non-profits lose focus on CRM and end up with a patchwork of databases that are neither user friendly or functional.  The main question to ask when considering an investment in CRM is what will it do to the bottom line, and who is best able to help with it.  Consider these facts:

 

  • Many volunteers that are working on databases for non-profit organizations are frustrated by the inefficiency of the system (often entering data into multiple sources), and the lack of usage of the data in future endeavors.  Volunteers participating in what they see as non-productive process have a much higher burn out ratio.  What would your organization be like if it had a lesser turn-over of volunteers?
  • Often a non-profit will use a score of volunteers to do what one automated process can do, thinking that they are saving money since volunteers are free.  Can you imagine what would happen if your organization were to repurpose those volunteers into doing something more mission oriented?
  • Non-profits are competing for America’s share of the charity wallet with antiquated systems and poorly-executed processes highly dependent on volunteers.  Through automation of processes and responses non-profits are able provide a consistency of action in prospect and donor follow-up and appreciation often increasing donations by at least 10% annually.  (This means more than simply implementing a CRM database, it requires set-up of processes and the automation of those processes.)  What would a 10% increase in your gross contributions look like for your organization?

 

Ultimately, whether the software is free or not, the success of CRM software depends on the implementation execution of a good business strategy.  My best advice is do what you do best (the mission of your organization) and rely on CRM experts to help you achieve success with your donor/support database.

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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Comparison shopping for CRM software

This blog post looks at the hows and ifs of comparison shopping for CRM software…

 

CRM comparisonIf you have read many of my blog posts (like “But wait, there’s more”), you will know my belief on CRM:  CRM is a business strategy, not a piece of software.  However, CRM software is a tool that can help you with your business strategy, and there comes a time in the life of most businesses (especially those that have a well-defined business strategy) where the purchase of CRM software becomes important. 

Typically, when at this stage, companies ask various vendors for demos and quotes and then work to compare each.  The problem lies in the fact that not all CRM software systems are the same, and not all quotes provided from vendors cover the same things.   For example one vendor will provide a quote for software, another for software plus installation, and yet another for software with installation and data conversion.  Another vendor may quote on configurations and customizations as well.  How do you know which to choose, since the prices are all over the board and there is no consistency from one vendor to another on the services portion of the implementation?

First off all, let me state that if a vendor is looking to simply sell you software and not help with the configuration/customization and data conversion, they are doing you a disservice.  They are basically leaving the setup and configuration to you, who I am assuming is not a CRM expert.  This will drastically delay your ability to receive a quick return on your investment, and will possibly frustrate you to the point of exhaustion.  If you haven’t read my blog on “Do-it-yourself, or not?” it will help you to understand the pitfalls of doing things on your own.

Next, as you are reviewing the quote, be cautious if your vendor is not including anything for configuration/customization.  I have been implementing CRM systems for 13 years now, and have yet to see an out-of-the-box implementation, even in phase one.  The customizations are not always extensive, but they do exist.  It is unrealistic to think that a CRM software package will track all the right data and function exactly like your company does out-of-the-box.  Usually, vendors that do not disclose customization costs in the first estimate are either unfamiliar with matching CRM software to their client’s business strategy, or they are afraid to share numbers because it may price them out of the sale.

Finally, do not be afraid to discuss the various quotes with a vendor or vendors.  If you have a vendor that stands out, and that has demonstrated the ability to understand and solve your business issues with a particular software tool, but feel that they are not priced accordingly with another vendor, it is a good idea to ask them to help you compare the two estimates.  While they may not be able to fully interpret some other vendors quote, they can give you some insights and questions to ask for more clarification.

Ultimately, it is a difficult thing to comparison shop various vendors and different CRM software applications.  After reviewing quotes and looking at demos, it usually comes down to a gut feeling.  Which vendor seemed to understand your business needs (not features and functions), and which vendor do you feel the most comfortable trusting with your customers and your financial future? 

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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ROI in a CRM implementation, fact or fiction?

This blog post will be a quick look at ROI and will hopefully help you know the role ROI in a CRM implementation.

ROI, or return on investment, is the concept of how much money will be saved or made based on making a change.  Here are a three quick examples of ROI that we have seen from customers over the last couple of weeks:

 

  • Gross Sales:  It is estimated that if all quotes were captured in a systematic manner and followed up on in a like manner, with follow up information captured for future visibility and consideration for subsequent quotation opportunities, sales would increase between 10-20% at absolute minimum.
  • Sales Time: It is estimated that sales spends a tremendous amount of time “chasing” ad copy.  Potentially as much as 50% of their day can be “chasing” information needed to hit a deadline.  Ideally, automatic reminders should go to clients advising them of an approaching deadline, freeing up the sales people to sell.  If sales does spend 50% of their time at this task, and it could be reduced, even by half, annual sales could potentially be increased by an additional $325,000 a year if that time was dedicated to achieving new sales.    
  • Customer Communication: ABC Company anticipates that systematic improved customer communication all the way through the manufacturing process to shipping and delivery of the finished good could dramatically impact profitability. They believe that improved logistical processes and practices could impact the company with combined cost savings and increased sales due to customer satisfaction by nearly $150,000 annually.

 

On our website you will find greater list of areas of potential ROI in a CRM implementation.

These are all great ROI points and each can be achieved with CRM software playing a role.  However, CRM software is a tool to help provide accurate, up-to-date information, but software alone will not achieve the ROI required.  Changes will need to be made to current processes and culture as well. 

Usually ROI is used as a means to prioritize your CRM implementation.  We recommend implementing the areas of CRM that will best help you achieve your greatest points of ROI in your first couple of phases of the CRM implementation.

Which brings me to the final part of this post, can ROI be achieved and when can you expect results?

The answer to the question on achieving ROI is a resounding “YES it can be achieved, but …” you can only measure ROI where you have initial data to compare to.  For example, if your ROI point is to increase quote conversion by 20% through automated follow-up, you can only measure the results of a strategic CRM implementation if you have solid quote conversion numbers prior to making the change.  Not knowing your data prior will only result in a gut-feeling as to whether it was actually achieved.  One thing that can help is to monitor Sales prior to and after your strategic implementation of CRM. 

The answer to the question of when to expect ROI is a little easier to answer.  Implemented properly, with technology, culture and process in line, you should expect to see ROI after the six months.  Why six months?  Because a strategic implementation requires not only technology, but changes to process and culture.  That takes time and training.  It also takes more training.  Changing habits takes time.

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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CRM and Back Office Integration …

The what, when, and why of back office integration in 700 words or less …

I know that my blog posts can get rather lengthy at times, and so I will attempt to tackle this subject in 700 words or less.

In a meeting with a prospect today, I am reminded of the complexity of back office integration.  However, even more-so, I am reminded of the importance of it.  Let me start with the later and then I’ll take a quick shot at the complexity.

The importance of CRM and back office integration:

Integration between CRM and your back office provides your sales team (and all customer facing individuals) immense amounts of useful data.  Just to name a few:

  • Sales by account by year for the last several years: This shows the customer trends and a declining trend is usually a good waning sign of an unhappy customer.
  • Sales by product line:  This lets your customer facing individuals know what product lines the customer is using, and presents opportunities for cross-sale.
  • Aging of accounts:  This will help in collection efforts as your sales people will know the customer’s payment status.
  • Order status: This lets your salesperson know where an order is within the system and will help them to be proactive in negative delivery situations.
  • Credit limit visibility:  This will help your sales team to know if an order is within the approved credit limit and help them to take the necessary actions prior to accepting an order that is beyond the limit.        

The complexity of CRM and back office integration:

While this blog is not meant to be an all inclusive check list for the potential issues and problems of back office integration, I will touch on a few key points:

  • Integration may provide access to data that you do not want made available to all users in the CRM system.  Be sure to set security to handle these situations.  For example, it may not be necessary for all users to see cost information.
  • There is always a discussion as to what to do about changes to account information (Account name, address, phone number, key contacts, etc.).  Should we allow anyone to change this data in the CRM system and sync it to the accounting system, or require customer changes be made in accounting and pushed to the CRM system.
  • Where should quotes begin, in the CRM system or in the accounting package?  Should all quotes be an opportunity in the CRM system?
  • In many CRM systems, sales orders and invoices are two separate sets of tables.  Is it important to have one, the other, or both visible in the CRM system?
  • Along the same lines which data should be aggregated (orders or invoices)?  Aggregation of the data displays the total sales by month by year for a multi-year period.  An example is in the following screen shot taken from SalesLogix, a popular CRM application:

 

Conclusion:

In my experience over the past 12 years, back office integration is a critical element to sales force enablement.  However, it doesn’t have to happen in one massive phase.  In fact, it is probably better to do it in steps.  Start with the area of biggest pain.  If quotes and payment information are your biggest issues, do that first.  Then add in data aggregation in another phase.  Follow that up with invoice or order visibility.  Spreading it out over phases will help you and your consultant to more easily manage the integration and it will help you to keep the costs down while ensuring that the integration is working as you need.

Luke Russell 
Resolv, Inc.

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Tradeshows: More Bang For Your Buck

Trade shows can be very profitable. However, if you are not prepared, you will lose a lot of potential customers.

 

Post-show follow-up is critical to the success of a show.  Statistics tell us that less than 1% of attendees will actually buy at a show.  The corollary to that statistic is that over 99% of attendees put off their purchasing decision until after the show. 

Why exhibit then?  It’s really simple.  According to morebusiness.com, in a typical show (specific to the software industry) 95% of trade show attendees have not seen a salesperson in over a year.  If we can assume that people coming to a show (especially vertical shows) are interested in your product, then exhibiting in a show gives you a chance to meet with and talk to hundreds of interested prospects in a single day.    Making a case for trade show exhibiting has been done over and over.  A simple Google search will return hundreds, if not thousands of documents detailing the benefits of trade show exhibiting. 

Thousands of dollars are spent on trade show space, graphics, literature, promotional items, and staffing.  In fact, the cost of running a booth at a trade show averages around $15 per minute.  Do the math:  an eight hour show is 480 minutes; if the cost of your booth space, graphics, literature, transportation, etc. is $7,000 you are already at $14.58/minute ($7,000/480 minutes).  That’s a big investment!  Is the investment worth it?  

Since less than 1% of attendees actually make a purchasing decision at the show, it would be safe to assume that post-show follow-up is the driving factor in determining a show’s effectiveness.  According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 80% of show leads aren’t followed up.   Amazing!  This statistic tells us that for many companies the trade show experience for their prospect ends at the show.  Companies will spend $15 per minute to capture the 1% of attendees that may make a buying decision at the show, and then ignore the other 99%!

In my next blog post, I’ll take a look at how CRM can help with the post-show customer experience.

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

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