A few years ago, I was in the unenviable position of customizing and implementing CRM software for small- to medium-sized businesses. The two big ones at the time were Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. These were both very complex softwares to implement. Microsoft Dynamics at the time required its own server setup and the whole infrastructure that went along with that.
A lot of this has changed now, as most CRM tools are readily available in a SAAS (Software As A Service) platform. While this makes access and setup much easier, there is still a lot of configuration, interface confusion, and training headaches that go along with these softwares, not to mention the cost!
Some articles around this topic assert that “…most CRM implementations fail,” citing statistics that a mere 37% of CRM implementations were successful in 2011.
Since Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, there have been a few other breeds of CRM tools such as Infusionsoft and Hubspot with more of a focus on Marketing Automation. These are nice because often the challenge of a CRM is maintaining it correctly so that the data in the system is current and relevant. With Marketing Automation, some of this data maintenance happens automatically. The challenge of these tools is that both are pretty closed systems, limiting your ability to customize your marketing tools and forcing you to pay high monthly fees for additional functionality or users. Which is why my friend in Boston is busy full time migrating people from Hubspot to WordPress.
So, does WordPress as a CRM answer these pain points?
- As a standalone CRM solution for small- to medium-sized businesses (organizations).
- As an integrated data collection tool for online-based businesses (blogs, ecommerce websites, subscription/membership websites, web-based service companies).
- As a complementary extension to a fuller featured CRM via an API integration.
- As a completely customized solution to meet a very specific purpose of any sized organization.
- Integration: Can be tightly integrated with front-end forms, surveys, client dashboards, etc.
- Access control: Contacts could be given access to secure or unique content on your website.
- Data automation: Because users’ interactions with front-end elements can be captured directly to your CRM, your contact data can automatically be updated based on user input.
- Training: If your staff is already familiar with WordPress, they don’t need to learn a new software for contact management. The value of this depends on how tech savvy your team is.
- Easy to Use: By using a simple CRM solution you eliminate a lot of unnecessary complexity that larger solutions introduce.
- Limited automated triggers and workflows. It’s a little more difficult to automate tasks, reminders, emails, etc. without extensive setup on most web hosting environments. You can, however, trigger things manually or at the time that a transaction occurs. So for instance, sending a confirmation at the time of a form submission or a receipt at the time of payment is no problem. This can also be overcome by using an integration with a third-party tool such as Google Apps for calendar reminders, etc.
- Limited reporting: This isn’t a limitation of the platform but rather the maturity of the platform. Reporting could be quite robust if it were built out properly. As of now, most WordPress CRM solutions only have limited reporting.
- Limited segmentation of software access by role. Most CRM solutions for WordPress offer an all-or-nothing role restriction. It would be difficult to give your sales team a different level of access from your customer service team or executive team. This could change in the future.
Here are some other WordPress CRM solutions to check out.
These are hard to compare because some do completely different things:
WP-CRM by Usability Dynamics — Basic Is Free | Premium $50
- This tool offers a limited contact details list and contact dashboard.
- It allows you to manually add “messages” to the contact as a means of tracking interactions with that contact.
- It also allows you to capture contact “messages” through a built-in contact form.
- There is also a premium version that allows for simple messaging to your contacts.
Presspoint CRM — Basic $550
- This looks to be a pretty robust tool, though the interface feels a little developer-focused.
- Smart groups can be created using some MySQL queries from multiple drop-downs. Great news is you can save these for future use.
- Built-in form creation (this alway makes me a little wary in terms of flexibility and styling. I’d prefer to integrate with an existing form solution).
- Contribution/membership collection and payment processing. (Not sure how this handles tax receipting, etc.) The appearance of the payment/contribution options seems a little inflexible in terms of styling. See screenshot from their website below:
- For something this robust, I would have hoped to see more integrations with other tools like Gravity Forms, Google Apps, WooCommerce, etc.
LeadIn by Hubspot — Basic and Premium FREE
- LeadIn is actually a very cool tool. It monitors user interactions with your site until they fill out a form or create a user account, at which point it appends all their historical actions to the actual contact profile.
- It is currently only a reporting tool. It doesn’t let you actually manually add activities to your contact history.
- It does include a cool email capture popup or form and allows you to sync with a handful of email campaign tools out of the box.
- Automatically captures contact records through forms via Gravity Forms Integration
- Automatically creates contact activity Touchpoints via Gravity Forms Integration
- Allows for manual entry of contact activity Touchpoints
- Allows activity Touchpoints to be assigned for completion or follow-up
- Allows for organization of contacts using Tribes as categories
- Allows you to sync Tribes to MailChimp mailing lists
- Allows for both Individual and Organization contact types
- Allows relationships between Organizations and Individuals
- Default WordPress filtering of Touchpoints and contacts by Date, Tribe, TouchPoint Type, and more.
- WordPress Dashlets for upcoming activities and favorite contacts
- Integration with Google Apps for calendar syncing and contact syncing (coming fall 2015)
- Integration with WooCommerce for transaction history (coming fall 2015)
If you are a developer type and want to spend a week or two building your own, there are some sweet tutorials from tutsplus.com here.