Disclaimer: I worked for Salesforce.com for two years so you should know that before you read the following.
How are you managing your business, keeping track of your growing vault of gold, no better yet, your diamonds? I am referring to your customers. You know the people who keep you in business, pay your bills and the people who allow you to earn a living, and if you are successful and if you have created plenty of luck (and got a little along the way) then maybe just maybe they are helping you earn an awesome living. To those that are, congratulations, and I bet most of those successful business people know a lot about their customers and they are managing their information well.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case and it is amazing that I still come across companies that are losing plenty of revenue and customer relationships because they do not have a handle on their customer information. Further, there is a continued misunderstanding or a lack of education placed on Customer Relationship Management or CRM. Think about this for a moment: Customer Relationships. Do you know what all your customers are buying? Ok, some of you may, however that is only scratching the surface. Why not to get to know your customers as human beings by knowing their birthday, more about their interests, their family, etc? All of this is invaluable information about your diamond (Customer) in the ruff of competition that will help you sell more and sell deeper, and keep your hard earned customer hooked longer if you are deserving of their business. Not only that but do you have visibility into your sales (what they purchased in the past), marketing, and customer service (what past issues they may have had) efforts whether it be a high level view of your business or a granular view of a single customer or segment? These are very serious questions and I find it puzzling that many small and medium sized businesses fail to gain a stronghold on their customer data and their business at large.
I haven’t been with Salesforce.com in well over a year, and I continue to scream praises at the mountaintop about this amazing company and Marc Benioff and team. I was in a position to sell Microsoft product for a company and some of their product is stable such as Microsoft office, however I flat out told my customers, if you ever need a CRM I cannot for the life of me allow you to purchase Microsoft CRM. I had to use it and it was terrible and junk is a mild word to put it at best. I described it something to the effect of those guys back in the day hand pumping a dolly on the train tracks except the wheels were square and made of wood, while on the adjacent track there is this train that you can barely see it because it is moving so fast and smooth, and it is using Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) technology. Well, Maglev in this case is Salesforce.com, and although they are not perfect they are pretty damm good!
Salesforce.com is the Ondemand leader in Customer Relationship Management, the first Ondemand company to reach $1 billion in revenue, and to legitimize the business internet as much as ebay and amazon proved for the consumer space. Much of this misunderstanding with many businesses is that many think Salesforce.com is simply another contact management system like Act or much of the other crap that is out there. Salesforce.com is actually much more then a CRM, and it can drive a newbie crazy or scare them off if they try and take in all the functionality. There is zero need to be scared. Take a deep breath and keep reading. Break it down to what is important and work it from there and start with the basics (it is so easy to upgrade editions. Think about turning on the lights when you come home. It is that easy and you don’t have to move around your data). The bottom line is that Salesforce can be very simple or as complex as you require it to be. The users of Salesforce.com vary from massive companies with thousands of subscribers to someone like myself as one user who uses it as a personal Rolodex (I also use it for another business I am involved in).
So let’s think about this for a moment. You pay Salesforce.com basically to rent this kick ass space to store your data. Not only do they store this data in a fancy storage center ($100 million+ data infrastructure with disaster recovery on redundant services, etc…. they take this very very seriously and companies like Cisco and the government would not be with them if they didn’t) you can move anytime (there are many people out there that think Salesforce can retain the data and that is completely bunk. The bottom line is you own your data and you can do what you want with it. So as I was saying you have this fancy storage to the effect do you want heat (I am using an analogy if you are puzzled)? You get heat. You want it freezing, have it your way. You want shelves, you get shelves. It is your space, do what you want with it. But Salesforce takes it one step further. If you want to change fields and move things around, you never worry about coding if you don’t want to as they handle all the heavy lifting. Salesforce.com doesn’t really have leaks in their storage roof but they are always open to improvements, ideas, and suggestions so they are constantly making updates (about 4 releases a year, maybe more now) to improve your storage and user experience while nothing changes with your data as they simply add functionality around it. You login the same way you always did, no matter where you are in the world as long as you have an internet connection. Salesforce has become a full business platform enabling you to handle plenty of other functions and data within Salesforce.com (eg. HR, Time Tracking, Email Campaigns, and integration with Accounting, ERP, etc).
Some businesses try and scurry around their data issue and often go cheap only to find the solution did not work so then they have to double track and eventually end up at Salesforce.com which has them often spending even more money and more headache. I agree in pinching pennies especially when you lack revenue or cash, and you are trying to keep the lights on. Don’t buy that fancy desk, chair, business cards, etc but there is no point to skimp on your area of data and customer relationships. Save yourself the trouble. Here is a link to some information and a trial (yes, I am on a referral program with Salesforce.com) link and I am happy to answer questions and consult for those who have decisions to make in this area.