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Is there "the best" CRM software?

NO, just as there is no such thing as THE one CRM. Is there even “the best” CRM software? Gartner likes to declare that whoever appears at the top right of the Magic Quadrant is super. Unfortunately, this representation is not useful for making a decision for or against CRM software. This position should not be a decision criterion.

Rather, the question is: What are the requirement criteria for customer management, from which the selection criteria for a CRM system or a CRM solution are then derived? And your criteria to … read in detail below.

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Further information:

We, the team of 1A Relations GmbH, have made it our task to make the landscapes of CRM tools transparent. Our job is to collect and process this wealth of information. This takes place in lists, tables and our landscapes. Scott Brinker started creating the global MarTech landscape in 2011. We started in 2019 with the German CRM Landscape. The list of Landscapes has since been expanded to include the Marketing Automation Landscape, the ERP/CRM Landscape, the Collaboration Landscape, the E-Commerce Landscape, and the Address and Data Quality Landscape. And our team keeps doing this exciting job. Every day we find new products or get tips on CRM tools or features. You can find more information about Customer Relationship Management on our CRM Vendor Comparison page with the German CRM Landscape, which is updated continuously. Go to the CRM vendor comparison.

Our Landscapes at a glance.

CRM

Landscape

ERP/CRM

Landscape

eCommerce

Landscape

Address and data quality

Landscape

Marketing Automation

Landscape

Collaboration

Tools

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Articles about CRM software selection

TecArt CRM Pro

CRM software: TecArt at a Glance

Presentation TecArt Based in Erfurt, The company TecArt, founded in 1999, is one of the German CRM pioneers. In the meantime, the medium-sized company is

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Mailchimp acquired by Intuit for $12 billion

Mailchimp acquired by Intuit for $12 billion Intuit acquires Mailchimp for $12 billion. This is probably the most expensive takeover deal with an email marketing

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    Even we cannot make a reliable recommendation without a detailed analysis and comparison. The requirements for a CRM system are too specific for that. To get a recommendation after 5 minutes of conversation. Some managers would like to have that. But we refuse such requests. It is simply not possible to make an investment decision from two or three sentences of description or a 1-page briefing. A comparison of the software is a much better basis for a decision.

    Especially if this investment in a CRM system is of strategic importance for your company. Not to mention the costs for the CRM software. These costs usually make up a large part of a company’s annual budget for the next few years.

    A CRM system is a tool for you and your employees to use at all times. Some employees use CRM software all day, 5 days a week. So it needs more than a few sentences as information. The special features of a CRM solution should be well described and the catalog of requirements should be formulated in detail. A well-done comparison presents the differences transparently. We then also comment on important details that make the difference afterwards. Even in a small consultation, at least the sticking points for marketing and sales are very important information for us.

    A decision – especially small companies – “à la John Wayne” (that means “shot from the hip”) is not useful. The usual suspects manufacturers of CRM software such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SugarCRM, Adobe or Marketo, Hubspot are not always the best CRM software. The long-term consequences of such a decision are far too serious for that. Our customer always gets the comparison of 3 or 4 suitable products or the comparison of whole CRM systems. The long list is often 6 to 8 vendors long.

    Or to put it another way: It’s much more fun when the CRM software supports you optimally in your work. The tools or “The knife must be sharp”. This can turn into a work of art. Satisfying the customer is an art. That is the goal. And nothing else. Using blunt tools – ergo unsuitable CRM software – for this purpose is nothing but torture.

    That’s why the general analyses given by analysts are worth nothing to the individual. For us, these comparisons are worth a look at how others see certain developments. But for the investment decision for a CRM solution, it is not. Gartner’s customer is not the user of a company, but the provider. That’s a subtle difference.

    As a rule, how do the manufacturers of CRM software present themselves to a company?

    In most cases first of all well – the providers of a CRM software naturally only put the advantages of their CRM system in the foreground. They promise the searching user a simple and successful change of the customer approach.

    But we know in the meantime the good as well as the less good sides of a CRM software. Therefore we can ask or select the right questions depending on which challenge is important. We know how to test CRM functions. Which use cases play a role for you? And thus uncover the strengths and weaknesses in your examples.

    A very popular criteria list from us can be found here. It serves as a good, first start. In total, we have an overview of over 150 possible criteria.

    What are typical questions to ask when comparing?

    As a medium-sized company, do you need a solution provider for CRM that has in-depth expertise for your specific industry? Or does an industry-neutral product cover your CRM requirements better?

    In other words, which CRM software best addresses both the individual conditions and the processes of your company or employees? And: How is it also ensured that the CRM software can be implemented without major problems and that it harmonizes with both the technical possibilities and the other systems? What support is offered during implementation, the introductory phase, and during ongoing operation? To which existing tools can the CRM be docked?

    What tools are there that marketing can use? Is there email integration? Which ones are offered for sales or service? What does the customer get out of it? What customer experience does the customer feel?

    Regardless of whether it’s a small business, a midsize company or a large enterprise, a successful CRM implementation is an important step for better processes, growth, cost efficiency, business control.

    It is already important whether the company buys an “all-in-one” or “best-of-breed” CRM software.

    So how can you tell whether a CRM system is right for your company or not?

    We make the selection easier and help you to get a first, neutral overview on the topic of CRM software selection. Also on the basis of the first German CRM Landscape! The first overview for CRM software and CRM systems – only for the German-speaking area.

    In the last few years we have carried out over 100 projects on software selection, software introduction and software use and application. The goal was always to define and create a CRM system or even an IT infrastructure that will be valid for several years in the future. It was also about a solution getting building blocks that with changes in requirements, business model adaptations, does not mean a blockade. For years and nowadays in consulting we have to make sure that the solution fits your business. And can adapt to your requirements. Even in 2-3 years.

    You want more information for your project? Just go to our further info in the box on the right!

    It’s not just about CRM, it’s also about analytical CRM, CRM programs, campaign management or customer loyalty programs.

    Even for small start-ups, a CRM software selection includes some testing steps, which we perform within our CRM consulting. Each project is designed individually. You benefit from our experience in the selection of IT systems. We have also successfully implemented an ERP system. Whether, marketing or sales requirements, the key question is always: What must the software be able to do? What does the IT infrastructure look like? Are there concrete, clear goals? What are the company’s goals? What does the big picture look like? What must the software be able to do?

    Success in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is not just about buying software. It is also about strategy. Success criteria also include address and data quality. Employee training and ongoing training ensure success.

    What are typical features and integration topics a CRM software solution has?

    Mail topic

    A frequently requested topic is e-mail integration. For this we have to distinguish, are we talking about the Outlook topic or about the email marketing topic? Outlook integration is a very important integration for daily work. Incoming e-mails are assigned to the CRM account via the e-mail address of the sender. This can take place automatically or manually. We prefer to recommend the automatic assignment.

    Email provider integration is important for email campaigns and transactional emails. From which server does the email sending take place? From the Exchange server or a dedicated email marketing server. This is because if bulk emails are sent from the Exchange server, you run the risk of being branded as a spammer.

    Are email templates offered by the CRM provider or the email tool provider, which can be easily adapted to the needs (structure, layout, etc.).

    Products like Hubspot CRM or Zoho CRM offer such integrations right out of the gate.

    ERP software topic

    CRM applications must be neatly dovetailed or integrated with the ERP system. Only then do both systems develop their full effect. The processes are optimally supported. We have dedicated a separate landscape to this topic. Because especially for smaller companies, the question arises: To buy and wire the CRM separately from the ERP? Or better an all-in-one ERP-/CRM- solution  and have to accept average on some modules?

    Both tools are mostly used throughout the company. One more in the commercial and administrative area. The other more in marketing, service and sales. Only when both work together does the entire company benefit.

    A comparison reveals the possibilities and weaknesses here. In the long run, the perfect mix is always better and cheaper.

    Integration of social CRM into the system

    Is social CRM important? What can social media integration into a CRM system look like? Are tools like SnapAddy a help? Also Nimble, Salesforce or SugarCRM have already focused on this topic early on. What is compatible with the DSGVO or the GDPR? Not all social networks like to be integrated. Unfortunately, for example XING all direct integrations (as of 05.06.2020) rejected. LinkedIn is a bit more permissive at the moment.

    Integration von E-Commerce in CRM Tool

    Can online store providers be connected directly to the CRM? Plan a bi-directional interface for this. This is worthwhile. Transferring current information in the web store from the CRM as well as registrations or reactions from the web store directly to the CRM is very important for users in customer management (campaigns, reports, etc.).

    What are other add-ons or building blocks?

    Business intelligence (BI), configurators (CPQ), archive and document management system, office integration of GSuite or Microsoft Office 365, Excel or other plug-ins.

    A CRM software selection only for marketing, customer service or sales? Or also for technical service (field service) or personnel (HR)?

    Not every area should have its own software. Because that leads to the gray hairs of an IT manager. The CIO and his team then have to manage at least three systems. And in the end, the duplicates in the systems are a horror to everyone. According to the specifications for the address model, these department- or area-specific Selection criteria eine gemeinsame CRM-Lösung finden.

    This is why we also talk about IT landscapes, IT infrastructure or IT landscapes in the context of customer relationship management. Nowadays, very different address and data models can be mapped in one system. However, only flexible tools can do this. The CRM market is already large. Nevertheless, not all manufacturers are suitable for this purpose.

    Is sales the heart of the business?

    Mapping the sales pipeline is usually at the heart of the customer relationship presentation. Processing potential customers in a meaningful way and then winning them over remains an important goal in customer management.

    Can the mobile solution also be used online and offline? Offline is important in areas without network coverage. Are the important functions then also available offline? What needs to be synchronized in advance so that the most important data is available offline? Is there an app or does the mobile solution access via the browser. For which browser is the solution optimized?

    For technical field service, contract management is an elementary working tool. Who has which products, what is still under warranty, or what is covered by a service contract?

    Customer loyalty programs – missing

    Functions that support a customer loyalty program are very rarely found in a CRM solution. These elements are often only rudimentary or not present at all. Neither the big ones like Microsoft or Salesforce have this on board. Comarch is one of the few that specialize in this. However, Comarch is not a cheap solution. That’s a shame, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.

    In the IT and software industry, terms such as brownfield and greenfield are common. Greenfield corresponds to the German phrase “starting on a greenfield site”. This is possible in the rarest of cases. A start-up can, but an older company has ERP, cloud or non-cloud, own or third-party data center as a framework. Thus, the CRM selection always requires coordination with the circumstances.

    Topic Service and Support:

    What kind of support does the manufacturer or service provider offer you? Which service level agreements (SLA) are standard? Are these SLAs sufficient for you? Where should you renegotiate?

    Is there appropriate support via the CRM provider, e.g. e-mail support? How are connected third-party providers supported? Are they integrated via the general SLAs? Can or are users allowed to submit service requests to support themselves? Does it make more sense that only key users are allowed to do this. Is there a ticket system for this? How quickly are tickets answered? Who controls and reports this?

    Topic Hosting, Cloud CRM and on-premises

    Unfortunately, we see time and again that hosting ends up being a huge cost driver. For the answer to the question of which cloud solution is suitable, there are, among others. hier a good reply.

    Is an on-premise solution, i.e. installation on your own server, the better solution?

    A question that almost no longer arises for the user. The vast majority of providers now follow the Salesforce.com model. As the largest provider today (global market leader), Salesforce established this offering model. The topic of cloud computing or cloud-based models are now so strong that hardly anyone offers software for sale anymore. Für die Anbieter ist das sowieso die lukrativere Variante.

    The know-how must not be lost. Rather, through documentation, this should grow successively. Therefore, documentation integrated online in the CRM system is also important. The user should be able to access the help documentation at any time from the CRM functions just called.

    Pay particular attention to the documentation in the case of open source software. Who is doing this and in which language is it available?

    A distinction must be made between permanently free CRM solutions, i.e. CRM freeware. Or free entry-level solutions (Startup Edition), which start with a low range of functions (not to say attract). And in the course of time, the user finds out that the range of functions is not sufficient. Then the license price quickly becomes expensive.

    The prices are mostly in US dollars or euros. Whereby the good price representations are always in Euro daily rate.

    Are open source (OS) solutions also really free.

    The license costs are eliminated. That is correct. But the support and customization programming costs money, of course. Further development, if done by the community, is also free. But in principle, not every OS product is free.

    One or the other provider releases its source code publicly. Then the further development is allowed, but there can still be license costs (rent or purchase). e.g. special programming, which is not done by a manufacturer, but you let create by an individual. Here it is important that you have the source code deposited in a safe at the notary in the current version.

    Is OS software better or worse than “non OS”?

    That is difficult to answer. Here, too, the principle applies: It depends on what the company expects. There are certainly open source providers that offer a good CRM system that stands up to a CRM comparison with others. In the end, it has to fit your company.

    Who are the best-known manufacturers (vendors) in the field of CRM?

    Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, SugarCRM, Salesforce, Oracle, Adobe, Marketo, Hubspot or Hubspot CRM, open source CRM such as VTiger CRM, Zoho CRM or small full-service providers such as TecArt CRM, Julitec, Sunrise. You can find all German-speaking providers in our CRM provider landscape and the table„CRM Software comparison„.

    A CRM comparison across multiple criteria is not easy. Time and again, market competitors try it. Our focus is on market knowledge. We reject a detailed comparison of entire software products. There are simply too many peculiarities and specialties in each company that can play a role.

    We always tailor a CRM software comparison individually to our customer. The often heard sentence “We adapt to the specifications of the software. They have already developed this for our competitors” unfortunately leads to disaster. The customer relationship is too different in practice. Each company should develop its own special features and map them in its customer relationship management system. This is the only way to achieve a unique selling point with the customer.

    We have many years of experience in CRM software selection

    In the many CRM projects, we have learned what to look out for. We call this “looking under the carpet” or “behind the scenes”. We get important insider information from customers, software users, or the vendor itself. We don’t advertise this to the world. Trust is always a high value. But we can certainly give our customers’ management tips or warnings that the average person wouldn’t think of.

    Who offers more information on CRM tools besides www.crm-tech.world.

    For many years, Schwetz Consulting, in cooperation with Trovarit AG, published the CRM Market Mirror. Within the portal IT-Matchmaker, the interested party can get tips on providers before the software selection and implementation.

    Each consultant proceeds a little differently within Customer Relationship Management and the topic CRM software selection. We have refined our method over the last few years based on feedback from users. In a selection consultation we are 100% neutral. This means that we do not receive any commission from the manufacturer or service provider.

    In the Google keyword optimization for the German language, the term CRM-Softwares (deliberately written with an “s” at the end) also appears. Then we just write this term in the text. Even if it makes no sense. Our customer certainly does not use this word. But if it helps to perfect the text. Here you go, Google.