The Search for the Perfect CRM

A Great Task and Greater Reward

A couple of weeks ago, the senior fellow and I at Center Centre – UIE were tasked by our management to transition our CRM, Customer Relationship Management tool, from GoHighLevel to another provider. GHL wasn’t meeting our needs and had some issues that significantly affected our business during an intensive held by our company. Sounds like a simple task, but is anything in tech every simple?

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It is a software system designed to help businesses manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the ultimate goal of improving customer relationships and retention.

CRM software typically includes features such as contact management, sales automation, marketing automation, customer service and support, and analytics and reporting.

By using a CRM system, businesses can gather data about their customers and use it to personalize interactions, improve customer service, and ultimately increase sales and revenue. CRM systems are used by businesses of all sizes and across industries, from small businesses to large enterprises.

There are a great many CRMs on the market and these tools are essential for many companies to function at a successful level. Some well-known CRMs include Salesforce, Hubspot, Zoho and Oracle.

Identifying Our Needs and Goals

Shayne, the senior dev, and I began outlining our “Must Haves” and “Nice to Haves.” This list ranged to about ten items that would empower us to provide better service for our customers. This document included having the ability to send both marketing and transactional emails through a dedicated email provider within the CRM itself, the ability to tag contacts, and automation that would be triggered by certain events. Other checkboxes included integrations with commonly used applications within our company like Slack or Zendesk and customizable forms.

This document was a starting point and allowed us to thin the list of potential CRMs to four or five instead of the hundreds available on the market. Unfortunately, this included several of the more popular CRMs like Hubspot and Pipedrive.

Free Trials and Testing

At this point, we had a list of potential CRMs in hand. We knew what we needed and wanted from our next CRM and we had a short window of time to find “The One.”

We divided the list between the two of us and began using their free trials. Some CRMs were aesthetically pleasing and and served several of our needs. was one of these CRMs. It had a beautiful user interface and great documentation on how to best use the application. Their customer service was top notch and provided us with an informative course that helped me get to know their system in the most efficient way. Alas, their automation and email marketing did not check the boxes we outlined.

We tried the Zendesk CRM and had high hopes. We use their customer support product for our business and were fairly familiar with the layout of their application. Even though Zendesk Sell met some of our needs, what they lacked in customization convinced us to try another provider. We moved on to Salesforce, Nimble, Click Funnel, and even MailChimp‘s CRM.

The Search Continues

One week later, we have narrowed the CRMs down even further. We (possibly) identified “The One”, but there is more work to be done. While I was testing the features and identifying which CRMs most closely aligned with our needs, Shayne was building a landing page and digging deeper into the CRMs that checked off the most boxes. We identified that some of the CRMs that most aligned with our needs were lacking in aspects that we hadn’t outlined in our planning document.

For example, we need to send mass emails occasionally. This is a common practice when sending newsletters or informative emails that serve a large customer base. Some of the CRMs, like Pipedrive, send emails in batches of 100. This immediately disqualified their application as it isn’t nearly a large enough batch for our customer base. Other CRMs use the owner’s Gmail or Microsoft Outlook to send emails, and these are also delivered in batches over time from that email provider. In the case of a "We're Going Live!" email, this wouldn’t be feasible.

This Coming Week

We’ve narrowed our focus to a CRM that might be perfect for us while still waiting for a free trial for MailChimp’s CRM. MailChimp is an all-in-one marketing platform that helps businesses of all sizes to create, manage, and execute marketing campaigns across multiple channels, including email, social media, landing pages, and more. We primarily use it for email marketing, but we have high hopes for their CRM product.

As the sales date for our next intensive looms over us, we are in a race to select a CRM and begin implementing it within our business. I’ve learned an incredible amount about CRMs, email marketing, automation, and SMTP (standard mail transfer protocol) in a short amount of time. I’ve become a guru at quickly dissecting a CRM and bending it’s resources to my will. I’m able to hone in on the best email editors and identify those that are lacking. I have a deeper understanding of workflows, funnels, and opportunities, and how great automation within a CRM can boost a business and lackluster automation can be detrimental to success. I’ve learned that SMTP servers can be the bane of our existence if allowed to be abused by Spammers and nefarious sources.

Looking toward this week, we will have our CRM nailed down and we will begin building a new infrastructure that will allow us to better interact with our customers and manage our business. I’m grateful to have Shayne as a lead in this project and the support of the leadership of Center Centre through this change. As we move forward through this project, I’m excited to see how our hard work pays off and how it boosts the success of the next Research Intensive at Center Centre – UIE.

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