Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Salesforce Alternatives: Options for Small Businesses

Salesforce is credited as one of the best CRM systems out there. And probably – it is. The only thing is that Salesforce may be the best CRM system for Enterprise. On the other hand, for the small companies or individuals it is a sledgehammer to crack nuts. Moreover, you have to consider that companies don’t run on CRM alone. They need various pieces of business software to run their business properly. That's why the quest for Salesforce alternatives always has been and still remains relevant.

Too Small?

Lately, Salesforce tried to expand their presence in SMB by presenting three small business CRM solutions for $25, $65 and $125/user/month. IMHO, for startups and small businesses the price over $40-50 per user automatically makes affordability a great issue. So here is what you get from Salesforce for relatively reasonable $25:
  • Up to 5 users, only 1 list;
  • Automatic data capture;
  • Customizable sales tracking for one list;
  • Intelligent follow-up reminders;
  • Contact auto-complete;
  • Shared address book;
  • Sent-email notifications;
  • Smart mobile apps;
  • Chrome extension.
Not impressed? So am I. Looks like while trying to win SMB Salesforce turned too "small". For that price, functionality is way too limited. Also, it's not flexible: you cannot customize it for your company needs. This means you'll probably have to change the usual ways of your business rather than adapt the system to fit your demands. What's more, the system inherited general Salesforce drawbacks:
  • Complexity (there's a good chance that you'll need to hire someone to manage it);
  • Hidden costs (third-party solutions from AppExchange may be awesome, but they cost money);
  • Not too friendly UI.
For many SMBs, these factors are enough to start looking for Salesforce alternative.

Where to Seek Alternatives to Salesforce?

When seeking alternatives to Salesforce, you'll first have to decide what exactly you need – specifically CRM system or a comprehensive software to satisfy all your data management needs including CRM – like online databases.

CRM systems

At this point, everything is clear: you search for Salesforce alternative that is cheaper and simpler, right? Then you might want to take a look at these ten systems, which made it to my personal TOP:
Bottom line: these CRM software products all have couple things in common. First of all, affordability: they all have offerings under $25/user – even when you grow beyond a handful of users. Secondly, they obviously put MUCH effort in staying dead-simple to use.

Online databases

Before I get to online databases, I'd like to stress out one point that made me mention them in the post about Salesforce.com alternatives. If you are a startup or a small company you have to keep in mind that sales data is just one type of data you'll have to handle. Finance, marketing, legal, project management, and maybe even HR – you'll have to set this all up. You can't do it with Salesforce, which means you'll have to spend additional funds to buy corresponding software. Another option is to purchase the customizable software. And that's where online database steps in.
To make long story short, the custom online database is like Lego: you build precisely what you need of different software "blocks". Moreover, unlike Lego, you can shape the form of these blocks – add required or remove unnecessary functions. Thus, once taking some time to tune the system (if needed – with the Support assistance) you can develop not only a CRM alternative to Salesforce but accounting, estimation, project management and other apps. Generally, any other type of business software a small company may need.
And yeah, the vast majority of vendors offer the price per user per month from $5 to $20 with a minimum of three-five users to start. Here are several online database vendors you might want to consider if you have just realized that you'll need more than just CRM:
  • Caspio is one of the leaders of the industry; probably that's why it's one of the most expensive as well;
  • QuickBase is a bit complex, but good tool for team collaboration (or was a good tool?.. Little birdie told me that after Intuit had announced that it's selling QuickBase, many staff people are looking for another job);
  • TeamDesk is minimalistic in design, but dead simple and at the same time surprisingly powerful and affordable one-stop shop for data management;
  • TrackVia focuses on building quick, graphical apps;
  • Zoho Creator lets you build advanced apps with scripting, but requires decent coding skills;
  • Knack is a simple database builder for beginners.
The essence of online databases is that instead of spending thousands on multiple solutions for various tasks, they allow small businesses to invest in a single SaaS. This solution then lets companies build virtually any type of business software they may need, be it CRM, ERP, BPM, EAM, SCM, HR, or some other set of capital letters :). Thus, small companies save valuable time, money, and resources.

Pick Your Salesforce Alternative

Let me sum it up: you can replace Salesforce either with another cheaper and simpler CRM system or with a versatile tool like an online database that will deliver you more value beyond CRM. Both kinds of alternatives to Salesforce.com are more cost-effective. The choice is up to you to make!


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