My podcasting business and responsibilities have grown enough that I realize I need a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
That feels a little too corporate to me. It's like I'm becoming a robot without a personality. But I'm very quickly overwhelmed with the requests for my attention and this is a way out of that. I really want to be accessible and spend time fully responding to every message, but I can't respond to everything for free, or else I would be a bad steward of my time and my responsibility to provide for my family.
A big source of such stress comes from my multiple inboxes. Requests for consulting, questions about products and services, questions about podcasting, feedback for my podcasts, and more. I can't handle it all, so that's where a CRM can help me and my assistants tag, organize, prioritize, and respond to each important message I receive.
My search for the right CRM has been frustrating. Thus, I invite your suggestions—whether you're a user or employee of a CRM provider.
Here's what I need in a CRM.
Integrate with/take over email accounts (potentially Gmail)
All of my email addresses are merely aliases that forward to a single Gmail account. These messages do receive some automated filtering and tagging within Gmail. Then, I can send from any these aliases.
I need a CRM to take over these email accounts for future conversations, plus integrate with previous conversations I've already had.
Many messages that I receive can be answered quickly by pointing to my large catalog of content I've already created. Thus, I would prefer an assistant to have the first view of incoming messages to particular addresses. That assistant could then reply on my behalf, or tag important messages for me to either address personally or consider for creating further content on my site.
Integrate with MailChimp
I use MailChimp as my email service provider. With any CRM, I need it to integrate with MailChimp to at least let me know whether the person I'm emailing is already on my list (and what group/segment they're in). It would be extra nice if I could easily add them to a list and group from the CRM.
Integrate with social
I want the CRM to show me the person's Twitter, Facebook, and other social accounts, plus maybe even their bios and latest messages from such accounts. Then, show me whether I'm already connected with that person and let me choose to connect with them right from the CRM.
So far, so good, right? The following is where most CRMs begin to fail.
Integration with WooCommerce and an API
I use WooCommerce for selling on The Audacity to Podcast™ as well as Podcasters' Society™. The ideal CRM would show me what products, memberships, or services a person has purchased from me. There would also need to be an API for connecting with my proprietary system in My Podcast Reviews.
Social lead generation
An important part of my business is monitoring relevant conversations on social networks. I have saved Twitter searches that help me find podcasters who need podcasting help or should use My Podcast Reviews™. If possible, I would also like to monitor Facebook groups, Google+ communities, subreddits, Quora, and such (goodbye, most popular CRMs).
Let's take Twitter for example. When I see a tweet matching my detailed search query, I need to immediately see whether I have ever tweeted that person before and whether they're already a customer (through integration with WooCommerce and My Podcast Reviews). Then, give me and my assistants the ability to respond and let me see that it was responded to and who did it. Afterward, that account would be marked as having already received a response from me at some point.
Plus, such searches and responses would be different for different social accounts. Thus, the CRM would need to support multiple social accounts (there goes Nimble, if I didn't already disqualify it).
For email and social, I need to have multiple templates my assistants can use to respond. Such templates would be great if they were intelligent enough to prefill with the recipient's name. I know TextExpander can do that, but that means extra software.
A mobile-friendly website is nice, but it would be best if the CRM is available as a standalone mobile app that provides all the functionality on mobile.
A single platform
I'm not interested in paying for and managing several different platforms to each do separate things. I want a single place to login and have the tools I need.
I don't want to spend days learning how to use a complicated CRM, and it would defeat the purpose for me to hire someone only to manage my CRM. Thus, the CRM must be simple enough that I can get working with its workflow on the same day I sign up.
I'm willing to pay for this solution because I recognize the value in the time and frustration it will save. But to me, “affordable,” means under $100/month for two or three users.
I may update this post with additional needs. Is there any CRM that meets all these needs?
I've looked at Nimble, Insightly, Contactly, FullContact, HootSuite, Zoho CRM, Apptivo, Nutshell, PipelineDeals, Salesforce.com, and OnePageCRM. They all fall short in crucial areas (usually the social integration). I'll also be looking at others. But I'm starting to lose hope.
What do you suggest, based on my needs?
Marshall Stevenson says
Have you looked at FreshDesk yet? It’s geared more towards customer support but covers a lot of the points you have.
Daniel J. Lewis says
Thanks for the suggestion. I’m testing it now. This may be exactly what I need!
Did you find something that works for you? I would love to hear your update after 10 months….
Andrew McGivern says
I like active campaign and use it for email marketing / marketing automation. I haven’t subscribed the CRM side of it yet but I’ve done some research on it and it looks great.
It does have a gmail chrome extension that allows you to tag contacts and add them to deals, etc but it sounds like your looking for a deeper integration.
It does integrate with WooCommerce but since I don’t use it in this way I don’t know if the integration is sufficient for what you need to do.
It does have social integration as well. It looks like it may cover everything you need except for the mailchimp integration.
If you were open to switching to Active Campaign as your email marketing platform then this may be a good choice. And you would gain the marketing automation that is missing in MailChimp. Active Campaign has a lot of the power features that InfusionSoft has but is much less complicated and more affordable.
I didn’t see it on your list and thought it might be worth your time taking a look.
I recommend Apptivo. They fulfill your needs. Try to connect them.
Hey, Daniel! Great blog post and I feel your pain. Looking for a CRM that suits your needs is ever easy. We use Intercom for email but it is a big CRM. There are also providers like Zendesk that I have used in the past and these were good.
Must take a look at flashdesk, I hadn’t come across that one 😉
For social media management, I am going to be a little biased and suggest you take a look at Agorapulse. Inbox zero is one of our best features. I’ll send you an email with some helpful resources and if you need anything else let me know.
Community Manager at Agorapulse
It seems that I know a perfect fit for your objectives. I recommend
checking out bpm’online marketing – https://www.bpmonline.com/marketing
One of the things that make bpm’online marketing truly stand out from the crowd
is the fact that the platform employs cutting-edge web-based technologies. The
platform enables design and automation of any business-specific process. A lot of crucial
information is collected from social networks like Facebook and Twitter, not to
mention website behavior tracking. Bpm’online provides open
configuration and extensive API to allow any customizations and integrations
required for your business. Also, you can integrate all your email boxes in one
environment, not to mention the integration with Google and MS Exchange. That
way, you’d be able to send out large volumes of personalized emails, manage
trigger campaigns and maintain constant dialogue with your customers.
Design-wise, it’s a masterpiece! It’s ridiculously easy to use so you won’t
have any troubles with figuring it out. This one also has a mobile app for iOS,
Android and Windows. It is worth mentioning that in terms of price it is a real
Chris Risse says
Daniel, I’ve used Streak (for Gmail) with Zapier to connect all other services (Gravity Forms, WooCommerce, Trello, etc.) This was a great and customizable CRM with a lot of automation.