Cutting Costs, Not Cutting Corners
- Tell us about your organization.
I started D-Tools in 1998 as a company to install electronic systems for residential and commercial clients—basically anything with boxes that hooked up with wires. Then, I learned how to link Microsoft Visio with data. I saw that I could automate a lot of the processes that I was struggling with, like explaining a wiring system to an installer. So I created a product that bundles Microsoft Visio with all of our applications.
- What challenges were you facing?
The company started out of my house but grew over the years. From Day One, we used a combination of Act!, Excel, and Outlook kind of all glommed into one. It was state-of-the-art at the time: a lot of papers being moved around in folders. A few years later, I saw an ad in PC Magazine for Oracle Small Business Suite, which turned into NetSuite. We liked the idea of linking CRM and accounting, and at the time it looked like the perfect combination of the two.
We used that until 2007, but ended up switching to Oasis CRM and its link to QuickBooks. We spent a lot of money getting our data out of NetSuite and into Oasis, but as soon as we did, I knew it was never going to work. It was very expensive—hard costs, soft costs, and lots of business costs. I'd say it was a $200,000 mistake. We'd have been better off staying with NetSuite, but we didn't like that we couldn't access our information.
As the CEO, I realized that we'd made a mistake. We couldn't get our money or time back, but we had to move forward. I started looking at CRM systems we could use, but I did a lot more homework. I didn't just trust what someone said. Just because someone says it works doesn't mean it works. Coincidentally, I volunteer for a nonprofit group. I took it upon myself to get them set up with a CRM product I'd seen: Zoho. It was free for the first three people using it. That immediately made me suspicious—free couldn't be any good. I got it set up for nonprofit business flow and said, "Wow, this is good stuff. It's free and it's cheap and it works." I also applied for Salesforce.com nonprofit CRM. I implemented them both and compared feature-for-feature.
- What was the implementation like?
With almost every feature, Zoho was equal to, if not better than, Salesforce.com—and for us, Zoho was better. I got all of our data out of Oasis and QuickBooks in a reasonable format and into Zoho, and we were implemented in six weeks. We went live May 1. I was just amazed at the level of quality of the software.
- What have been the results?
With Oasis, the sales process was almost impossible. It was hard to qualify where a lead was. In Zoho, it's almost a pleasure. Before, we had no easy way to hand off leads when someone was interested in purchasing or was asking questions. Now, we have very well-defined roles. We have a sales administrator who prequalifies all the leads and fills in the missing links. We score the leads and then assign them to a sales assistant. Zoho does that by clicking "change owner."
That eliminated a lot of emails and hand-off stuff. It's easy to look at all our leads and see the stage they're in. From a marketing standpoint, we can create microtargeted email campaigns for those that ask specific questions. You send out an email campaign and the phone rings instantly. Not only is it inexpensive, it's easy to use. I do everything in it. We've automated the entire lead-to-sales process. Our Web-to-leads is automatic. We sell software and customers can now get a trial version. It was a separate form—a lead into email that someone had to put into the system manually. Now, because of Zoho, the emails are automated and the lead is brought into the system.
Once you get it implemented, there isn't confusion with who's supposed to do what. In most companies, the biggest overhead is the people in the company. Anything you can do to make processes more efficient will generate revenue.
- How is your company faring in the tough economic climate?
Zoho lets you start free and add seats as you go—completely small-business–friendly. With the credit crunch, we could never buy [software upfront] today—we'd have to get a loan. Overall, business is down, but we're holding our own.
5 FAST FACTS
How old is the implementation?
It will be a year old in May 2009.
Who was involved in the decision process?
My executive team.
What’s been the best CRM idea?
Combining a high-quality product with an extremely low price.
The speed of product enhancements.
Going with a CRM vendor that uses data lock-in as a pricing tactic.
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