Corporate Social Responsibility · CRM

Managing large numbers of small customers?

Cory Huff Digital Strategist for Creative Beings and Businesses

February 20th, 2013

I'm looking for a way to keep my clients organized. I'm fortunately at the point where I have more than a couple dozen customers, and I'm starting to lose track of follow up. 

Here's what I'd like: 

- a place to put communication with clients: email, notes on phone calls, contracts, etc
- a place to track project milestones
- something that reminds me to follow up with people at a date that I set, with notes on what the follow up was about
- ideally, a tie in to billing or at least reminders that I need to bill people

Any thoughts on how to do this for a small team in an affordable way that isn't a total hack? 

Morris Singer

February 20th, 2013

Corey -- I'd be interested in knowing what you find out. I am in a similar situation, managing contact with numerous prospects and actual clients, and needing to keep track of my efforts in selling to them and in servicing their accounts.

I have tried four things, each with drawbacks, which I ultimately abandoned. No perfect solution as of yet, but here are my experiences:

  • Excel -- at the recommendation of my sales coach, I tried managing this information in Excel, and keeping a running comment for each client record. This quickly became cumbersome, it was hard to read, and it eventually got corrupted, meaning I lost my data. Not recommended for more than, say, 50 contacts. Also, there's no way to set reminders for next contact, etc.
  • Salesforce.com -- their minimum-level package ($5/month) was helpful, and ultimately accomplished all of the things that Excel did not. It was easy to read and create a record of contact, it never got corrupted, and I could set reminders for next contact. There are also some great iPad apps out there to interface with it, if you are on the road managing your contacts. Ultimately, the interface was just too darn complicated for me to stick with, however.
  • Filemaker Pro - I got to create exactly the database I wanted, but the problem here is that I had to be the one maintaining the structure of the database, or I had to hire someone to do it for me.
  • Rails - I actually got to the point where I developed my own Ruby on Rails app running on Heroku to do what I wanted. But, as with Filemaker, the problem is database maintenance. You don't want to have to be the one developing your CRM.
Now, I work very simply with Evernote. I keep a notebook for client records, and have tags for each client. I schedule reminders to reach out to clients in Google Calendar, and I make records of that scheduling in Evernote. Works alright for me, is not complicated, and does not involve my doing my own maintenance. I review each client's tag regularly. It will not scale, but it's a decent no-frills solution.

Given your requirements, you may like Salesforce.com, if it's not too complicated to get used to.

Anonymous

February 20th, 2013

Sounds like a CRM to me. Check out Nimble, assuming you don't want to go the tried and true Salesforce way. Nimble's heavier on social integrations, light on accounting/invoicing tie-ins as far as I know, but it is also a lean scrappy startup :)

Cynthia Hernandez Founder at KirinGie.Me (Social Entrepreneur)

February 20th, 2013

David Shalaby, perhaps you need to change the email address associated to your account ?...

Hi Cory, for my needs Google offers the perfect free solution through Google doc's, calendar and other simple apps. 

For clients with greater needs, I've implemented the free version of SugarCRM which is very easy to use. Act by Sage (no longer a free version that I am aware of) is also a great yet inexpensive tool. A more robust, self-contained solution is offered by NetSuite (not cheap) a less expensive, less robust system is offered by InfusionSoft.

Best of luck to you!

Tony Rajakumar Founder/CEO at SnugBoo

February 20th, 2013

Trello is very useful for this sort of thing - you can organize lists that correspond to your workflow, and have discussions around an issue with multiple people, as well as have date-based reminders. 

Cory Huff Digital Strategist for Creative Beings and Businesses

February 20th, 2013

Played with Nimble. Holy shiz. Awesome. Gonna test drive this for a few days, see what happens. 

Anonymous

February 20th, 2013

Great! If you have questions, they're super active on Twitter @nimble. BTW: The CEO is a friend of mine, but I wasn't compensated in any way for the recommendation ;)

Alison Lewis CEO/Creative Director

May 18th, 2013

Anyone try or work with Highrise?