Salesforce alternatives: 5 CRM services for small businesses

Is Salesforce overkill for your small business? These Web-based CRM services help you handle contacts and tasks

By Shiyuan Deng, PC World |  Cloud Computing, CRM,

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The final two CRM programs in this roundup are niche applications that can help you manage components of your customer relationship system, but lack the major touchstones of a traditional CRM tool., a Google Apps add-on, offers complete integration with the Google family of products, including Contacts, Docs, Calendar, and Gmail. If you run your business in Google Apps (as I do mine), you won't find better Google Apps integration with any other CRM program.

With full email integration, can provide a complete history of a customer's interaction with your company. The program frees you from performing the tedious task of importing all of the relevant messages, tagging each one, and filing it under the correct contact information for each customer. As Gmail conversations indigenously display in conversation mode, with replies from and forwards to third-party recipients included in the same conversation stream, other CRM programs can have trouble to identify which email message to file with which contact. And because email tracking is a CRM feature that you have to go all in on or not use at all, bad email-tracking support can create many extra, unnecessary hours of work.

Another great feature of is the option to establish relationships between contacts and organizations, and other contacts. Though you can do this in all full-service CRM software by adding a special note in the contact field, provides a customizable list of common relationships (such as employee/employer, parent/child, spouse/spouse, provides services to/client of) that you can associate with your various contacts. You can also link related items, such as employees with employers, email messages with projects, and tasks with opportunities, which makes recalling that information later a breeze.

The most useful feature I found was the capability in to create Pipelines, a linear set of steps that you frequently repeat with new projects or opportunities. For example, every time I approach a new retail store to carry my product line, I scout out the location, identify and contact their confections buyer, drop off samples, and schedule two follow-ups. With Pipelines, I can detail each stage, save it as a pipeline, and associate that pipeline with every new entry in the Opportunities section. Each stage in a pipeline can also have its own set of actions associated with it, which calls an Activity Set. In small business, employees often work independently with little oversight. This feature will allow you to streamline common tasks and stages of progression among all of your employees without creating additional work for you each time.

Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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