5 Online CRM Platforms That Go Beyond Basics

CRM tools are evolving rapidly as the market demands a community approach to building client relationships.
Founder, Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, LLC
January 24, 2012

CRM tools have been around forever. But the tools are evolving rapidly and in many ways redefining the boundaries of what CRM is. The latest market changes require a much broader community approach to building relationships with clients.

Today’s CRM tools are online and they include social data as standard aspects of every record. They also include a comprehensive view of the client relationship, including project management, collaboration and even billing.

My dad had a file box full of handwritten ledgers detailing everything he knew about his biggest customers, including when they ordered. That was his CRM tool, and it worked.

One of the most complete profiles of the data you should capture about your clients was written in 1988 by Harvey Mackay in Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. The profile is dubbed the Mackay 66. Although it was created during analog times, it's a great starting point for customizing any digital CRM tool.

The problem with data is that if it’s housed in two places, you can bet that it’s wrong in one of them. These five tools qualify as some of the brightest in the new breed of online CRM tool. All of them collect as much customer data in one place as possible.

Worketc.

Worketc. combines CRM, project management, billing, sales, support and more with a powerful automation engine to help take your small business to the next level. This tool allows you to manage every aspect of your business, from organizing around projects to sending out the final bill. Worketc. keeps you in one tool, so you don't have to jump between different software and systems to take care of all of it. This CRM tool promises to take care of most everything, from start to finish.

Batchbook

This tool is arguably the social CRM built directly for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Not only does Batchbook cover the necessities for contact management, it includes social media monitoring. Your contact’s record has links to social networking profiles, their last three tweets, their most recent Flickr photos and a LinkedIn summary that appears alongside their contact information and communication history. These pieces give you a more holistic view of your customers' social networking activity.

Nimble

This program automatically identifies your contact’s social profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter so your team can easily connect, listen and engage your most important business associates. Nimble allows you to send messages, add tasks and events, edit or download the contact's profile from the profile window. You can set up your own personal account for free, with up to 3,000 contacts, just to test Nimble.

Highrise

Another powerful, yet simple, product comes from 37signals. The theory is that your address book does not do enough and CRM software tries to do too much. The company built Highrise as a more thoughtful way to keep track of people, conversations and tasks that are the lifelines of your business. Over 60 feature add-ons help ensure that you get exactly what you need for your own business.

Cubesocial

This New Age CRM interacts with social media to give you a complete view of your contacts. You can start instantly and import your contacts from Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail, Outlook, spreadsheets and any CSV file. Cubesocial has a real-time activity stream where you can see all CRM activity in a shared dashboard. CubeSocial also pulls reports to inform you where your clients hang out online. Cubesocial offers a free basic account for up to 500 contacts.

If you’re not upping your game when it comes to listening, interacting and engaging more often with more data, you're missing out on one of the greatest client-building opportunities available.

Image credit: SanFranAnnie, Flickr CC

John Jantsch recently interviewed Harvey Mackay for the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Jantsch is a marketing consultant and the author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.