One of the most important but one of the most difficult things for a powerful mind is to be its own master. — Joseph Addison (Tweet this!)

As a kid, did you ever imagine having x-ray specs so you could see through the layers and understand exactly what everything was made of and how it all worked? Like one of those Incredible Cross-Sections by Stephen Beisty.


Then you got a little older and realised that some of the insides you might see would be quite icky, and actually, with some of that stuff, the more you knew, the less you understood.

One of the things it is harder and harder to decide is how much one needs to know to drive the car. Often the first decision I face when helping clients build out their business technology is: what do they most need to know about each CRM to choose the right one for them.

“Hold on a minute,” I hear you cry. “What has my CRM got to do with my marketing?” Well. More and more, as it happens. More and more.

Think about it—what does the CRM actually stand for? When we are geekily bandying the acronym around for our colleagues at the office, we tend to forget that it isn’t referring to “that enormous database that we spent so much money/invested so much time in, where we keep all our stuff, which makes all our decisions and to which we are indentured for life!”

Spelled out, the phrase “Customer Relationship Management” is much harder to mistake as a separate entity from our marketing system. At Sauté, the basics—what business you are in, and what your clients need and want—are at the very heart of how we will communicate successfully with them. This rather critical point is also highlighted by a move at “the sharp end” away from planning around CRM technologies and products and towards a focus on CXM Customer eXperience Management (that’s right, you’ll have to use the new acronym to be the office geek—sorry). Remember, although the map is changing, the terrain is not. It’s not what you use, but the way you use it that will determine your ability to keep up with the rest of the cloud generation, and to integrate your organisation, practices, data analysis and marketing into one big fat juicy strategy.

At Sauté, the basics—what business you are in, and what your clients need and want—are at the very heart of how we will communicate successfully with them. (Tweet this!)

Choosing the Right CRM for You
So welcome to the first in a series dedicated to illuminating your options and helping you decide which technical solutions will best meet your business goals and culture—starting with simple comparison of three aspects of CRM life that you can use as a model for starting to think through your options.


According to the old adage, we have to pick two out of these three fronts to compete in a particular marketplace. We’re not sure that is true anymore, but we decided to repurpose this concept and apply it to the various fronts on which CRM suitability might be considered.


Assumption one is that you get what you pay for. If you don’t want to pay more than a tenner a month, you will have very few features, hardly any customisability and will spend your days gaffing around in your database pretty much doing all the heavy lifting yourself. Alternatively, if you want the all-singing, all-dancing model, you can shell out over $100 per month per head of your org population but only end up using 10% of its capacity, because it will cost an additional chunk of change to get the thing customized to meet your actual needs.

Cheap and Cheerful: Zoho $
Top of the line: Salesforce Unlimited $$$$$


The next assumption is that different personality or organisational types will require different solutions and that therefore one CRM will offer a much more attractive proposition to Client A—the process driven guy, whilst Client B—the outcomes gal, might get along better with another.

Rather than thinking of quality as a spectrum from good to bad, it may be more helpful to think in terms of the variety of qualities that comprise each CRM. Then, after determining exactly what your needs are, or where the weaknesses currently exist in your set-up or processes—select on the basis of these.

For example, if you have trouble analysing your data, then getting a system that incorporates robust reporting and analysis tools might just be worth the extra dollars. If you need everyone to work a certain way, then it might be worth limiting the way that people actually CAN work, on the basis of how your CRM functions.

The bad news is (and it is extremely bad news for me), a CRM is not going to change the way you think, and it certainly won’t fix your bad habits. Installing the technology and throwing in some training is not going to work without first doing a serious audit of what you are currently doing, how you ‘manage’ and what could work better. Then go shopping for a CRM that will support your goals, not your habits.

Podio: visually organised
Infusionsoft: calls itself CRM but developed from, and is organised like, an Email Marketing tool
Solve360: not organised at all—DIY blocks for your contacts, projects and activities; blessing or curse?


It is absolutely true that the best most complex CRM on the planet is about as good as the simplest cheapest one, if you can’t operate it, or fix it, or change it when the conditions around you change—so having access to support is possibly the most critical factor. In fact, this is arguably the most important factor to investigate during any trial period on any platform. If they can’t help when they are trying to close a sale… I rest my case.

Customer Support at Salesforce is so shit it’s insulting
Zoho is tolerable but limited
Ontraport will be your new BFFs, no, really!
Infusionsoft – Boy! They want $2,000 up front to help you get started. Kickstarter they call it, with no irony.

But Wait, There’s More! 😉

Over the next few weeks we’ll be covering these platforms and more of the issues that contribute to the dilemma, including:
Visual Intelligence: Does it really matter what your CRM looks like?
• Change Management: adoption & training from the top to the bottom of the pyramid
• Things we don’t know we don’t know: analytics : sales = chicken : egg

Bottom line: If you don’t have someone on hand who is interested, entranced even, by the way things ‘could be’ who is willing to spend many hours thinking it through and reconfiguring the little things, then you could be on the way to becoming the proud owner of a very secure address book. Save yourself a big headache. Include the envisioning, configuration and maintenance of whatever technology you adopt.

Let us know if there are particular questions you have relating to this topic, or if you have advice or comments for the sales and marketing community, using the comments area below.