I am a CRM consultant focused on the very small business market. I started as an Act ACC, moved to GoldMine when Act’s network implementation let us down (they have a long history of let downs). Still have many people on GoldMine but have also deployed MS Dynamics CRM and Salesforce since 2005.

The single user sales rep has the luxury of picking out almost any of these products and with lots of trial and error can get it to work for them. Microsoft Business Contact Managemet ( BCM) is not a good choice, the database sync is difficult. Outlook add-ins like Prophet can be difficult to sustain against the onslaught of Office and Windows security updates.

Microsoft now offers Dynamics CRM online but requires 5 users. There are other third party MS CRM hosts who will do a single user. Its easy to use because it integrates well with Outlook.

GoldMine is finally after 10 years of stagnation getting some improvements. You can now keyword search the database. There is also a preview window of each “tab” record as you scroll down them.

My salesforce users are overall satisfied. There are some buggy aspects to the applictation such as the html editor for template emailings. Watchout with their pricing, you could get hooked on Team version and then add another person and find yourself spending $800/person/year.

I have never deployed InfusionSoft but I have to comment that the people selling to me who use it are doing things right. It must be very easy to set up a drip marketing email workflow in it.

There are many small online offerings that are two numerous for me to keep up with. I am leery of very small online vendors, especially the free ones. I’ve had more than one experience where we are happily using the free product only to get an email essentially announcing the vendor is ready to “monetize” their offering.

I do a lot of integration of financial data into CRM platforms. The work can be time consuming and expensive. That’s why I believe the future of CRM is that it needs to be pre-integrated with the backoffice software. NetSuite is a good example of this. They offer competent financials, CRM and even ecommerce in one online package. Expensive but may pay off depending on your circumstances.

The very small business market (1-15 users) is underserved by these vendors. Either pricing is too high or deployment and ongoing maintenance are over burdensome to the business. I’m not saying to skip investing in CRM software. Sales and marketing are newest frontier in software technology for a reason – its harder to automate than financials. Even after 20 years (yes that’s when I started selling Act.) CRM is still difficult to implement and takes ongoing training of users to keep the data up to date and clean.

The trick is to start simple but create a road map to where you want to be. Set incremental goals on a timeline and work towards them. If you use a CRM consultant as a guide and teacher instead of a crutch you will get a lot out of the relationship and pay less than you think. A warning to small business owners – you can’t delegate this out, you must be chief CRM officer. Some businesses hire someone, I train them on the CRM system, they don’t document anything and then leave and we start over again.

Find out what software other’s in your industry are successfully using. Don’t reinvent the wheel, this isn’t rocket science, its simply a software package to track interactions with prospects and clients, use that data to target them with relevant messages and finally track sales and customer satisfaction.