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Exploring Salesforce Alternatives
How Do Businesses Improve on Already-Impressive Growth?
The “problem” with growth is that it sets a new reality and expectation. If your business grew 60% last year -- how come it’s “only” increasing 42% this year? In today’s business world, the unfortunate truth is that you’re only as good as your last quarter; there’s always more room for more growth and efficiencies to your bottom line.
Though Salesforce has been the industry-leading CRM for many years, with market capitalization valued at $40 billion, it doesn’t rest. They understand that the CRM industry is filled with competitors looking to take market share, other choices offering freemium products and alternatives with specialized features.
No doubt there’s a lot of options out there. The reason why Salesforce continues to be a leader year-after-year is that self-reflection and recognition that in order to compete requires constant self-improvement and continued innovation.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM
As the CRM that captures the second largest market share, Microsoft Dynamics CRM approaches the idea of customer relationship management from a different angle. It treats CRM as more of an effect that flows from improved marketing campaigns; the basic underlying premise being that customers love you because you give them what they want, as opposed to you give customers what they want because they love you. Whatever the approach, Microsoft CRM uses social insights, business intelligence, and campaign management to bolster sales. It can be bought in an on-premise package as a service on the cloud, and is specifically designed to integrate with Office 365.
Cloud service packages begin at $50 per user per month, and increase to $65 and $85 per user per month.
Microsoft Dynamics rates well for offline access, tight integration with Microsoft products, multiple dashboards, and its built-in marketing and automation tools. On the downside, users report a steep learning curve.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is useful for integrating every department across large organizations into a single platform. But while the interface is attractive, the reporting tools are effective, and the automation features are comprehensive, it is mainly designed for larger organizations with complex needs.
Microsoft posts a step-by-step guide to onboarding online.
Infusionsoft is designed to handle a wide-range of tasks, from sales, to content management, to marketing, to ecommerce, all through a single, centralized tool. However, while it may be a jack-of-all-trades, it truly is a master of none. Many of its tools are rudimentary at best. And when compared to other, less expensive, equally-effective CRM solutions, it’s high cost is difficult to justify.
$199 per month for 3 users. $299 per month for 4 users. $379 per month for 5 users. $599 per month for 10 users.
Like Microsoft Dynamics, Infusionsoft rates well as an effective CRM, but also like Microsoft Dynamics some users find it difficult to master. Infusionsoft's users generally find the platform to be streamlined and efficient once they learn how to use it.
Ostensibly billed as a comprehensive sales and marketing tool for small to medium-sized businesses, Infusionsoft is designed around the idea of clearing internal obstacles for business growth. The primary channel Infusionsoft follows toward that goal is through improving the length of the customer lifecycle relationships.
Infusionsoft offers personalized training and continued support to ensure you are comfortable with each aspect of your solution. New users must factor in the onboarding process, which is reported to take 4-12 weeks. It includes everything sales and marketing pros need to move the needle.
- Other considerations
Like Salesforce, Infusionsoft claims to be favored by small business owners because of its comprehensive set of tools and its user-friendliness. In that respect, users give Infusionsoft high marks for its automation features, and for its ability to help improve marketing, billing and project management processes. However, small business owners also favor low-cost CRMs, and in that category, Infusionsoft does not fit the bill. On top of their monthly premiums, Infusionsoft requires newcomers to pay for their onboarding service, Kickstart. Prices for Infusionsoft’s onboarding service, begin at $1500, $2500, and $4000
At first glance, Zoho seems like an attractive CRM alternative. It’s pricing model is setup to allow new users to be able to test the waters without having to make any big risks. At the same time, it retains many of the important features that are necessary for establishing a comprehensive CRM solution. However, the lack of effective customization options, live customer support, and intuitive user interface really sets it below certain other options.
Zoho begins with a free version for up to 10 users that includes features like leads, accounts, contacts, feeds, documents, and mobile apps. Paid subscriptions begin at $12/month per user and increase to $20, and $35/month per user contracts that are billed annually. Users can also opt for month-to-month contracts for slightly higher premiums; $15, $25, and $40.
Zoho's free version offers most all the functionalities a small business requires, including lead gathering, contact management, workflow automation, analytics, social collaboration, and lead–conversion tools, as well as mobile accessibility.
The free version of Zoho is a great benefit, but it only serves a small business that isn’t looking for growth in the long term. Zoho isn’t as customizable as premium CRMs and some users also complain that navigation and simple tasks sometimes require too many steps.
Zoho has been noted by certain users as having too steep of a learning curve, making it difficult to get started with—especially for those who may be less familiar with CRM concepts and terminology.
How to Stand Out: Innovate, Iterate and Improve
With what seems like new, game-changing technology being introduced every year, innovation and improvement is what keeps a company from becoming stale. Innovation is what separates businesses that are invested in short term profits over long term growth. From the social media to the Internet of Things to big data to artificial intelligence, Salesforce continues to iterate, improve and innovate its products so that they can continue delivering more value to their customers.
And customers agree.
No Better Choice: Proven ROI, Customization and “Innovation Premium”
If your business is small and simple enough then a “free” CRM like Zoho could be a decent alternative depending on your needs at the time. But if so, it’s only for a time when the idea of big growth is nowhere on the radar.
Oracle is a solid blue chip company, but they only adopted Cloud after calling it a “fad” and “buzzword” in 2008 -- that’s important to know if you want a partner that will continue growing with the industry.
Salesforce is rich in features across CRM, sales, customer service, business analytics, and marketing and customizable through the platform and through AppExchange. Even still, Salesforce is priced similarly as enterprise CRM options like Microsoft Dynamic or Infusionsoft, which offer less personalization.
This allows for scalability not found in the alternatives. It’s designed to serve businesses from startup phase, all the way through the enterprise level.
That’s why among all the CRM choices, Salesforce is that very rare combination of big enough to be a proven platform (with 100,000+ customer), flexible enough to fit any solution, yet still forward-thinking enough to be on integrating the latest technologies impacting the industry (Forbes’ Innovative Company 6 years in a row). Don’t underestimate that “innovation premium” when looking at the long-term viability and future of your business.
These three reasons combined is why there really isn’t an apples-to-apples Salesforce alternative.