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Best free CRM solution

Social Media to CRM Solutions

Customer relationship management (CRM) software allows businesses to better manage customer interactions, support and relationships through reliable systems and processes. It also integrates organisational processes across marketing, sales and customer services.  Many people will try and track their interactions with leads and customers within their email.  This may be ok for some but it can quickly get complicated, with actions, follow-up call/meeting to arrange and deal tracking required.  It can therefore be very tempting to complement your email by setting up a spreadsheet to support this.  In the past this would have been an acceptable solution as we all try and control our spending.  However the world of CRM applications now has a host of free offerings that provide a broad range of functionality; removing the need to create another spreadsheet.

With a number of different packages offering similar but varying degrees of functionality, it is worthwhile considering your businesses unique needs prior to selecting one of the free packages.

Before looking at the free packages available lets look at some of the CRM terminology, definitions and features to look out for:

Pipeline:  A pipeline is a sales process that describes how your business captures and matures leads into purchasing customers.  It is possible for organisations (and CRM) to have multiple sales pipelines, however this is generally limited within free versions of the applications.

Custom Fields:  Although not unique to CRM applications, this is generally an important part of CRMs.  The uniqueness of each business is often very present within the sales process.  It will be unlikely that any CRM will capture and report on all the information that your business needs to support the marketing and sales process, therefore the ability for you to manage custom fields that you define is often a critical requirement for a CRM.

Landing Page(s): A landing page is a website page that allows new leads to enter their details.  This will normally be some form of mailing list sign up, but may be used to request a call back, register for an event or download some resources.  Utilising a landing page within a CRM allows you to capture this new leads details straight into your CRM.

Remember to consider what your business needs and not just what others are using.

Agile CRM

www.agilecrm.com

Standard features available

  • 10 users.
  • 1,000 contacts.
  • Lead Scoring.
  • Deal \ pipeline Management.
  • Task Management.
  • Email Integration.
  • Email campaigns.
  • Landing pages.

Key feature(s):

  • 5,00 Emails (Branded)
  • Form builder.

Ideal for

  • A contender for those looking to utilise a lot of  marketing functionality, the Email Campaigns & Form builder are not as restricted as in some other applications.

Bitrix24

www.bitrix24.com

Standard features available

  • Unlimited users.
  • Unlimited contacts.
  • Tasks
  • Project management.
  • Quotes
  • Invoices
  • Product catalogue.
  • Automated replies.
  • Landing pages.
  • Activity stream.

Key feature(s):

  • Workgroups (This is an internal chat group that allows collaboration, similar to Teams or Slack).
  • Project management.
  • Video calling.

Ideal for:

  • Bitrix24 would suit business with lots of contacts and business with larger teams looking to work together to convert leads.

Capsule CRM

www.capsulecrm.com

Standard features available

  • 2 users.
  • 250 contacts.
  • Custom fields.
  • Deal \ pipeline management.
  • Task management.
  • Service ticket management.
  • Sales Pipeline Dashboards.
  • Gmail & Outlook integration

Key feature(s):

  • Simple elegant design.

Ideal for:

  • Although Capsule CRM may not provide the same amount of functionality as some of the other tools, it does focus on the core elements of a CRM.  This makes is a great option for those looking for an easy to use & visually appealing package.

EngageBay

www.engagebay.com

Standard features available

  • 5 users.
  • 1,000 contacts.
  • Lists
  • Email templates
  • Auto replies
  • Social suite
  • Custom fields
  • Reports
  • Send newsletters
  • Email broadcast
  • Deal \ pipeline management.
  • Task management.
  • Email tracking
  • Gmail \ Outlook \ Office 365 integration
  • Service ticket management

Key feature(s):

  • Predictive Lead Scoring

Ideal for:

  • New businesses looking for a complete Marketing, Sales CRM & Service Ticket Management requiring good integration for social media.

HubSpot

www.hubspot.com

Standard features available

  • Unlimited users.
  • 1,000,000 contacts.
  • Reports.
  • Email templates.
  • Landing pages.
  • Website tracking.
  • Ads Management
  • Quotes.
  • Custom fields
  • Reports
  • Send newsletters
  • Email broadcast
  • Deal \ pipeline management.
  • Task management.
  • Email tracking
  • Gmail \ Outlook \ Office 365 integration
  • Service ticket management

Key feature(s):

  • Customer self service meeting link.
  • Offering a wide ranging prebuild integrations as well as access to external integration tools makes this HubSpot great at working with your other business applications.

Ideal for:

  • Due to the range of functionality offered, HubSpot’s free packages will provide most businesses with a great CRM application.  It’s range of integration into other business applications are not all available within the free package so some may want to upgrade to properly integrate other applications like accounts packages or email distribution applications.

Streak

www.streak.com

Standard features available

  • 2 users.
  • Contacts will remain in your Gmail so this is not actually limited, but you will be limited to 500 pipeline items which is where you will manage your contacts and deals.
  • Deal \ pipeline management. (Can’t be shared with other team members).
  • Email campaign.
  • Task Management.
  • Customer fields.

Key feature(s):

  • Google Workspace integration (formerly G Suite).

Ideal for:

  • Any organisation using Gmail for their email should definitely give careful consideration to Streak.  This application brings the business pipeline into your Gmail account, allowing good organisation and management of leads, opportunities and customer contacts.  The free version of the tool does have limited functionality compared to competition.

Zoho CRM

www.zoho.com/crm

Standard features available

  • 3 users.
  • 5,000 contacts.
  • Tasks.
  • Workflow rules.
  • Standard reports.
  • Email templates.
  • Landing pages.
  • Team collaboration.
  • Website tracking.

Key feature(s):

  • Zoho CRM’s key feature is it’s integration into other Zoho packages.

Ideal for:

  • The Zoho offering is probably the most limited free package listed.  However the Standard package can be access for £10 per month and if used in combination with other Zoho modules, will offer growing business access to a great range of connected functionality for a relatively low price.

For many business the functionality offered for no cost may not tick all the boxes in your requirements list.  You will therefore need to look at paid versions of these applications in addition to other applications that do not offer free version.

If you do feel that a paid option is required, do not limit yourself to the provides currently offer free packages.  You should consider (and document) your requirements and review the best of what the market has to offer in your price range.  Providers such as monday.com, pipedrive, sugarcrm, salesforece, oracle, crmnext & microsoft could be more aligned to your requirements and provide the benefits you are looking for.

If you want to hear more about how Appsure IT can support your CRM selection and implementation you can simply email contact@appsureit.com or use the below form and we can book a free consultation.

Small Business IT Strategy

IT Strategy is key for businesses of all sizes.

One of the first things I did when starting up my own business, was to create a marketing strategy and a business development strategy. These strategies are crucial as they give you direction on how to create and advertise the brand that represents your company; then gives consideration on how to turn that brand awareness into leads and opportunities, that will eventually lead to paying work.

IT Strategy for Small Business – Appsure IT

The next major milestone is to start delivering on whatever your business does. Whatever it is that you set out to do, just roll up your sleeves and start performing. Looks like you ended up in the world of spreadsheets, never to return!

Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are great for getting things started, forming ideas, capturing ad hoc information and performing analysis, but what is the plan for these as your business grows?

You may already be in a place where you have multiple spreadsheets containing critical information, partially duplicated. You are probably spending an unreasonable amount of time updating all these spreadsheets just to keep everything going.

Maybe you already have applications that you have been using for years that have served your business well, but is that still the case and what is the next step when these outlive their purpose?

It can seem daunting to create a strategy for IT and your applications; however, this is something that you can do yourself without having to become an IT strategist.

Strategies need to be aligned to a business objective, so you will need to consider how IT supports your business and how it will be measured. Once you have that objective, pulling together a list of questions like the sample below should help you identify your preferences. These preferences can then be used to create a strategy that is right for your business.

Sample questions to help form an application strategy:

  • Should your application be in the Cloud or will they be set up On-Premise?
  • If your documents are to be stored in the Cloud, what provider are you going to use? i.e. Microsoft or Google etc.
  • Do you prefer to use applications that are open source or do you prefer to work with suppliers with proprietary software?
  • Will the applications be supported by internal employees or will the support be outsourced to a third party?
  • Do you intend to develop applications, or should it be configured, or is a mix of both acceptable to you?
  • Will you have dedicated applications for specific functions or one enterprise-wide application to support the whole business?

While these questions are very generic and basic they give you a starting point about some topics to think about. 

Having given some considerations to some of the tactical questions listed above, you should be able to start forming this into a strategy that will support your decision-making process going forward.

Your IT strategies should give you the direction to look at any business problems you may have, then make an assessment on what action needs to be taken.

As an example, you may have made some decisions on Cloud hosted Microsoft applications. This will give a clear direction to look at the Microsoft app store or approach a Microsoft reseller. The need to review all the platform types and suppliers every time has been removed, allowing a quicker and consistent approach to IT investment. This will remove some of the burdens and allowing you to get back to other aspects of your business.

There are many other aspects to consider when going deeper into IT and Digital strategies however, it is important that organisations of all types and sizes, give at least some consideration to their IT needs.

Failing to do so now, is simply creating future problems, that are likely harder to deal with!

Free Applications for Small Business Owners

I think we all love to get something for nothing.

Free Applications for Small Business Owners – Appsure IT

I use several free versions of applications, which are easy to use and generally give me enough functionality to get by with. Some I have upgraded to paid versions as they have proven to be very worthwhile, and I wanted to do more with them.

There are far too many free applications to list but I thought I’d share some of my favourite free applications and describe a little bit about what they do.

Zoom – Ok this is a bit of a false start, everybody uses Zoom, but think about how much we rely on this application to keep in contact with the world and how most people still only use the free version.

Grammarly – If like me your brain and fingers are often doing different things when creating online content Grammarly has got you covered. Not only does it check your spelling and grammar errors it also checks the tone of your content to make sure your message is understood clearly.

MailChimp – There are a few apps like MailChimp that can handle your email marketing campaigns. MailChimp does what you’d expect it to do plus it has great integration with other applications.

HubSpot – I can’t talk about free applications without covering the free version of HubSpot. This CRM application will help you filter your leads through to paying customers. The amount of functionality available at no cost almost unbelievable.

Trello – This Kanban-style list application has an almost limitless use. I use Trello for supporting project work. Other than a nice clean interface the main benefit is that I can share it with customers, giving me the ability to assign tasks to people outside my organisation.

MindMeister – Mind mapping software has long been used within the business to support strategic thinking. However, the simplicity and ability to rearrange threads means this application can support any form of problem-solving or exploration.

Canva – Canva is a graphic design platform. It’s great for creating any kind of content to support websites, blogs or social media platform.

Power BI Desktop – This free application from Microsoft has many great uses and can connect to an exhaustive list of applications. It can be a great application for businesses of all sizes but is also great for small business owners. The ability to seamlessly join data from you IT Systems with Excel can provide you with great visibility on what is happening within your business.

So, what are your favourite applications that you use, that you just couldn’t live without?

Microsoft Power BI for Small Business

5 reasons why small business owners should try Microsoft Power BI.

As a small company owner with more than a passing interest in technology, I could not wait to get my hands-on Microsoft Business Intelligence Platform Power BI. With years of experience creating reports and dashboards for others, the idea of being able to generate this kind of content for my business was exciting!

What is stopping you from doing the same? Ok so maybe many years in IT working with data has given me an advantage getting up to speed with this platform however, here are 5 important reasons why I believe that you should be looking to use Power BI in your business regardless of your businesses size.

  1. It’s free! Do I need to continue? Yes, you can sign up to the Power BI Portal and download the tools required to model your data and create beautiful reports and dashboard to give you insights into your business. If you want to share these reports and dashboards with others in your organisation you’ll likely need to purchase an additional licence. However, the ability to try out this tool and make it work with your data will not cost you a penny. Taking the time to explore this with your data will give you a real understanding of the capability of the platform and start to provide you with insights into your business.
  2. The future is here, artificial intelligence (AI) is waiting to give you insights into your products, services, customers, sales or financial data. The AI will interrogate your data and provide you with suggested visualisations, as well as allowing you to ask it questions. It’s not quite the same as asking ‘Alexa’ or ‘Siri’ to give you today’s weather. However, with Power BI’s Q&A functionality you can interact with your company information in a revolutionary way. This is not a gimmick with little real-world use. The AI will genuinely give you different perspectives of your data which will give you true insights into your company not previously available to you!
  3. A mobile app is available to view your epic reports and dashboards on the move. Although this capability should be expected these days, how many of you can review your businesses KPI’s at the breakfast table or on the move before getting into the office. Knowing where to focus your precious time and what project or customers need your attention is a game-changer when it comes to maximising your ability to influence.
  4. It supports a huge range of input data sources – including excel. As is common with most of these platforms you can access data from an almost endless number of applications, so the chances are your applications will be easy to connect. However, Power BI has a special trick that sets it apart from its competitors and that is the ability to seamlessly refresh data held in Excel (if it stored on OneDrive). This means you can effectively treat data held in Excel as it if was in one of your applications. This can raise several concerns when we start to think about data governance but also a powerful functionality. The ability to simply patch over gaps in applications and utilise this information in your reporting is very powerful and may allow you to extend your applications without any additional investment.
  5. The platform is designed as an end-user tool to enable users to take control of their data. It offers an intuitive user experience and the ability to quickly generate insights that add value to you and your organisation. There will likely be some limitations to what you can achieve depending on your data and your initial competency however, with some support this can be overcome.
Appsure IT Solutions – Microsoft Power BI

So, it may not be a tool that is for everybody and there are others on the market but investing a little bit of time to try Microsoft Power BI may just change how you see your business.

Steven Smith on Appsure IT

Steven discusses why he setup Appsure IT

I have worked for many companies over the past 20 years, covering organisations of various sizes and sectors. Most of these roles have involved working between IT and business users. This has given me great experience joining up business needs with IT capability. This is where my passion for Business Analysis came from.

Steven Smith

Combining my passion for Business Analysis along with seeing first-hand the positive effect that it can have on small companies, is why I setup Appsure IT. I feel small companies do not often get the same kind of access to specialist support. I wanted to help them make good decisions about their IT Systems. The pace of change and need to make decisions is probably more relevant to smaller companies as they grow. Processes and applications that used to work well, may become bottlenecks or strained as the organisation and people change.

What is the target Appsure IT client base?

My vision for Appsure IT, is to provide services to Small and Medium sized organisations within the Aberdeen, Scotland and the UK. We offer smaller organisations the ability to explore their problems without any large financial commitment. The client is free to determine the time scale that suits their unique business constraints and demands.

Services Offered

We offer four main service that can be used on their own or in combination with each other. The roles of Business Analyst, Project Manager & Business Analytics Analyst each have their own benefits but are often used to best effect together to focus on the clients end goal.

IT Solutions

We are not limited to any one IT Solution, IT Solution provider or business domain. This means we can assist customers get the most from existing IT systems or help them find suitable alternative IT systems. This offering has a similar approach to the Business Analysis service but it more focused on a particular IT systems rather than a business problem.

The goal and approach to this is still to ensure all the requirements and business requirements are understood, but is many instances primarily in smaller organisations this need to be a must lighter exercise and focus on bring some IT systems to a manual process.

Business Analysis

There are two main areas covered within the Business Analysis service offered by Appsure. IT. The first is focussed on identifying the root cause problem causing the client concern, then working through with them the range of potential opportunities to solve the problem. The client is then able to make informed decisions on how to solve this problem when they are ready to do so. All future steps in the process can be supported by Appsure IT, but it is important that progress is determined by the client readiness to progress.

The second main area within Business Analysis is to support clients looking to purchase or develop applications. In both situations it is critically important to capture, analyse and prioritise requirements to ensure that the client ends up with the application they need, that is aligned to their business.

Other services such as process improvement, workshop facilitation, strategic development and business analysis mentoring are also offered to clients.

Project Management

Our project management approach is tailored to each organisation and project. This ensures the clients expectations are met, while giving due consideration to the project complexity. Appsure IT can perform the project management role for your business for any new or existing project. We can also provide mentoring support for your existing IT project manager. The value of experience should not be overlooked when implementing IT projects!

Business Analytics

Ensuring that information is available to all decision makers within an organisation is critical to business success. Working with the key business users we document requirements; prototype the design and then implement the solution. This can range from basic reports providing simple views of information to high level management dashboards with the ability to drive down into detail as required. By working closely with users and applying Agile techniques we ensure that information is quickly made available to the decision makers, then refined into a suitable format.

My goal is for Appsure IT to have a positive impact on small and medium sized businesses in the Aberdeen, Scotland and UK. By combining Business Analysis investigation skills, good Project Management controls and using Business Analytics to provide business insights; I believe Appsure IT provides their clients a great partnership that supports their business.

If potential clients want to know more about how Appsure IT can help them, we offer a free initial consultation. This will allow a discussion on where the current pain points are and what options are available for working through to a successful conclusion.

If you want to hear more about Appsure IT and how we can support your business simply email contact@appsureit.com or use the below form and we can book a free consultation.