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Which CRM?

New Member
Posts: 2
Country: United_Kingdom

Which CRM?

[ Edited ]

Hello all,

 

I'm brand new to CRM and trying to work out what would be best for me to use. The main options I'm thinking of are SugarCRM, vtiger and ACT. It seems very hard to know the actual difference between all of these versions without going through the process of putting your data into them and seeing how well you can configure it.

 

My hope is that if I tell you what I'm currently using and what I hope to gain from a CRM then someone on here could advise me on my options.

 

My preference is generally for Open Source software. That said, I know that the cost of open source is often time, so setting up something completely new which is unfamiliar to me may be easier with a paid option?

 

I am an entertainer in the UK and get gigs via work of mouth, advertisements and the internet.

 

I currently use Sunbird to store all of the dates of gigs and potential gigs.

I use an Open Office spreadsheet to store contact details of all of my enquiries and bookings

I use Open Office writer to manually create deposit and final invoices (which sometimes need VAT adding and sometimes have VAT included) when I then email out as PDF's.

I use Thunderbird for all email exchanges.

I have signed up to MailChimp for newsletter creation, but haven't used it yet.

For things like to do lists, I use various text files. Used to be into GTD, but found the process laborious and unhelpful, so I now do my own much simplified version. I understand that some CRM packages (all?) can be used for reminding you about tasks that need to be done etc. If that was the case, I'd probably have any client related task in the CRM system and keep everything else in my own system.

It would be useful to have reminders which tell me to do X a few days before a gig and Y a few hours before, but I've never worked out how to do this in Sunbird or anything else. Maybe CRM could help here?

I also store venue information in my spreadsheets. If I could put them into the CRM system and simply select a client and a venue to produce an invoice, that would be great.

I try to track where people have heard from me in the spreadsheets, but it's not the easiest thing to do.

I often find myself suddenly adding a field to the spreadsheet to account for a new piece of information I want to keep track of. In a spreadsheet, that's as easy as inserting a column to give all entries the new section. Is it easy to manipulate CRM setups after the initial setup?

 

At the moment, the process from enquiry through to invoice is a pain as I'm putting information in so many different places. I'm also shoe horning types of information into spreadsheets that shouldn't really be there (i.e., using colour coded cells because you can't use on off type toggles).

 

My system of chasing up potential gigs works OK as I use different calendars within Sunbird, so I can call my 'potential gigs' when I want by just looking at that calendar and then move them over to 'confirmed gigs' once confirmed.

 

I'd love to streamline lots of this, but am a bit daunted by the amount of setting up I'd have to do with any system.

 

Can all of the CRM packages do all of the above? Can they all do invoicing? If so, how does that work, would I create a template in Open Office or something?

 

In terms of hosting for the CRM. I think my first choice would be local file on my home computer system (which I could then synchronise between computers. My second choice, which I'm comfortable with as long as it's set up securely, would be hosting it myself either in my webspace or on an 'always on' machine (my Ubuntu server). I don't want to host my files on someone else’s servers and have to pay monthly for the privilege.

 

I've probably asked enough there to go on. Looking forward to hearing any responses.

 

Thanks

Damian

New Member
Posts: 2
Country: United_Kingdom

Re: Which CRM?

I posted this same question in the SugarCRM forum, the vtiger fourm and this forum.

 

SugarCRM is a clear winner at the moment based on the amount of support/responce recieved.

 

Damian

Platinum Super Contributor
Posts: 5,275
Country: USA

Re: Which CRM?

Hello Damian_S,

Welcome to the Act! Online Community!

 

We definitely attempt to let our community members respond to these types of 'experience/usage' questions, but I will address some of your points.  You would be best served by contacting a sales person and asking them direct questions, information for contacting sales in the UK can be found at: https://support.sage.co.uk/default.aspx?page=568&tab=0&accordion=0.

 

Activities overview (assuming single user defined to database):

- will have a single calendar

- can create new activity types (ex: confirmed, tentative, etc.) > change activity type when confirmation is made

- calendar has filters for showing only desired activity types

 

Use Activity Series to set up activities prior to actual engagement:

- create activity series with reminder activity X days before engagement

 

Activity Alarm:

- has options from 5 minutes (and several other minute options) to 1 day, 5, days, and 30 days.  The alarm can be snoozed to remind you again later.

 

Act! does not integrate with Thunderbird. 

 

Customization of the database:

- you can create new fields in the database at any time as new requirements arise.

- you can customize the layout of the information, and have multiple views (layouts) if desired

- creating each venue as a contact in the database you could use the Opportunities function to record the engagement and from there produce an invoice for them.

- having each venue as a contact record would also record the completed activities in the History tab - allowing you to view previous gig dates.

- an option for tracking venue information (ex: equipment they have available) is to set your field to use drop down list where multiples can be selected, then put a check mark next to each piece.

 

I hope that helps in your research.

 

 

Greg Martin
Sage
Copper Super Contributor
Posts: 95
Country: USA

Re: Which CRM?

Hi,

I'll give an answer a shot here, but realize a lot of what you are talking about is an almost personal way to relate to whatever CRM you select.  In other words, you need to live with each for a while to understand what it can and cannot do, and what habits need to be modified, added, or dropped as the case may be. 

As far as my background I've used Act for about 20 years.  I've also used Sugar (in parralel as I wouldn't give up Act) at two previous companies, leaving one just weeks ago.

As far as Sugar goes I thought it was lousy.  It did slow me down as it is hosted of course.  Very mouse click intensive whereas Act has a lot of flexibility for drop down menu's.  I never customized Sugar, although I know it can be. That said some smart people were tasked with managing it and they also never really customized it apart from the occasional mandatory field. 

One significant thing Act does better than any other CRM tool I've tried is the history.  Having an abillity to easily create an audit trail for calls, emails, and other interactions is a very manual process in other CRM tools.  Sugar, for example, really just lets you record completed calls, and forces you to schedule them all at specific times.  If you want to record you left a message for a contact you need to manually create the entire call history, including typing in "left voice mail".  Act's concept of "clearing an activity" and logging the results is a major advantage. 

Act is also superior to Sugar for sorting the database.  For example, Act allows multiple drop down items in a field, while Sugar is limited to one item per field.  For me I use this to note what customers have bought which products, so I can do a sort on one field for multiple product lines.  With Sugar I'd need to create and designate a field for each product I might want to look for simultaneously.

Overall Act is far more customizeable and allowed a lot more flexibility than Sugar.  Sugar, and other hosted CRM's such as Zoho, work well as a repository of customer names and addresses, and as a forecasting tool, but for anything in between they are very limited. 

To your comments below:

 

I currently use Sunbird to store all of the dates of gigs and potential gigs.

I use an Open Office spreadsheet to store contact details of all of my enquiries and bookings.  You'll need to export to a CSV to import into Act all the contact information.  Historical info cannot be imported into Act, and I doubt into Sugar, either.

I use Open Office writer to manually create deposit and final invoices (which sometimes need VAT adding and sometimes have VAT included) when I then email out as PDF's. Act integrates with QuickBooks and maybe another accounting package, I don;t think Sugar has this.  My point is that Act probably has a significant edge here.

I use Thunderbird for all email exchanges. Act comes with its own email client.  Sugar integrates with Outlook, but I don;t think anything else.  I am fairly certain with Sugar you'll also need to buy Outlook.  With Act it is either the Act email client or Outlook, your choice. 

I have signed up to MailChimp for newsletter creation, but haven't used it yet. Act has a integration with Swiftpage.  I am just in the process of signing up for a trial of this.  Swiftpage has some recorded webinars that explain the Swiftpage/Act integration in detail.  It is actually quite good, in my estimation, especially the automatic feedback and sorting of Act contact records based on what recipients did with emailed newsletters.  I am uncertain if Sugar does anything like this. 

For things like to do lists, I use various text files. Used to be into GTD, but found the process laborious and unhelpful, so I now do my own much simplified version. I understand that some CRM packages (all?) can be used for reminding you about tasks that need to be done etc. If that was the case, I'd probably have any client related task in the CRM system and keep everything else in my own system. Yes, one repository for everything is critical to the succes of CRM deployments.  Act is superior to Sugar in recording cleared to-do's.  You need to manually create a history entry for every to-do that has been completed.   

It would be useful to have reminders which tell me to do X a few days before a gig and Y a few hours before, but I've never worked out how to do this in Sunbird or anything else. Maybe CRM could help here? Act has a task scheduler for functions like this.  Sugar you'd need to manually create each task entry each time.

I also store venue information in my spreadsheets. If I could put them into the CRM system and simply select a client and a venue to produce an invoice, that would be great. IN Act with the Quicbooks integration this should be possible.

I try to track where people have heard from me in the spreadsheets, but it's not the easiest thing to do. Both Act and Sugar have a "referred by" field pre-populated in the basic software.  You can sort and do lookups on that in both applications.

I often find myself suddenly adding a field to the spreadsheet to account for a new piece of information I want to keep track of. In a spreadsheet, that's as easy as inserting a column to give all entries the new section. Is it easy to manipulate CRM setups after the initial setup? In Act it is incredibly easy.  I do it all the time, especially in my new job.  You can also do it in Sugar but I don;t think it is as intuitive. 

 

At the moment, the process from enquiry through to invoice is a pain as I'm putting information in so many different places. I'm also shoe horning types of information into spreadsheets that shouldn't really be there (i.e., using colour coded cells because you can't use on off type toggles). Yup, you are perfect for a CRM tool.

 

My system of chasing up potential gigs works OK as I use different calendars within Sunbird, so I can call my 'potential gigs' when I want by just looking at that calendar and then move them over to 'confirmed gigs' once confirmed. Both Act and Sugar have a single calendar but in Act at least you can tag contacts with potential or confirmed, i suppose.  This is one of those details you'd need to live with to understand how to best work with the CRM tool you select.

 

I'd love to streamline lots of this, but am a bit daunted by the amount of setting up I'd have to do with any system. , Act is pretty easy to customize as you grow.  Lots of opinions on different methodologies that again are somewhat personal in nature.   

 

Can all of the CRM packages do all of the above? Can they all do invoicing? If so, how does that work, would I create a template in Open Office or something?  Act doesn't integrate with Open Office.  90% certain Sugar doesn't either.

 

In terms of hosting for the CRM. I think my first choice would be local file on my home computer system (which I could then synchronise between computers. My second choice, which I'm comfortable with as long as it's set up securely, would be hosting it myself either in my webspace or on an 'always on' machine (my Ubuntu server). I don't want to host my files on someone else’s servers and have to pay monthly for the privilege. More than I can answer myself.  Maybe post another post on this topic. 

 

I've probably asked enough there to go on. Looking forward to hearing any responses. This forum does well at answering specific questions.  It is less of a sales forum, hence why no responses.  Good luck and let us know what you come up with.

Mike

 

New Member
Posts: 4
Country: USA

Re: Which CRM?

My opinion is that Act! works fine as a database but fails when you try and use anything outside of MS products. For example, it does not integrate with other mail systems.  I use Thunderbird so reply on the built-in ACT mail system. This continually crashes so is very unimpressive. My platform is Windows 7 professional so perhaps they have not yet pubished a bug fix here.

 

I am looking for another CRM currently but, truly Act is one of the easier programs to use and maintain, despite these email issues. It is very stable and easy to backup/restore which is, obviously, important.

 

Bronze Elite Contributor
Posts: 2,546
Country: New_Zealand

Re: Which CRM?

[ Edited ]

Damian,

Great questions. You have clearly thought about what you require. Also a good response from Mike who has experience with Sugar CRM and that is always useful.

 

When you get down to the fine detail the only measurement must be your own expereince. You have to try the products because the detail really counts. Mike touched on areas which ACT! is strong on and they are the basics of good contact management, for instance the notion and ease of closing activities and recording to history. Easy search and lookup. Not the sexiest subjects but the mark of a software that has evolved over years of practical use and feedback, the basic components are really important. Where ACT! has lagged is lack of integration to less mainstream applications and operating systems. That needs to change and we are seeing signs of that now. The next big thing for ACT! will be the Sdata connectivity enables desktop, server, and web-based applications to communicate with each other, and also with third party applications and the web. It isn't going to happen in this version or probably in the next but from what I understand it will be prominent 2 to 3 years from now.

 

As a development company we have developed a Web 2.0 API for ACT! , along the lines of Sdata and we are currently creating applications to work with that API and using REST principles will ensure that when Sdata becomes available to ACT!  our product will be able to be used with Sdata or our own API.  Sdata is a concept that is already in place in Saleslogix the big brother to ACT! so looking forward, applications developed for Saleslogix working with ACT! will be a rich source for ACT! users, really increasing the breadth of what you will be able to do in ACT!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graeme Leo
Xact Software - consultants and developers
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