SaaS, PMs, CMS, CRMs, ERPs oh my (3)

What is the best way to cook eggs? Over easy? Sunny-side up? Poached? I’m a scrambled type of guy personally.

But who asks that question anyways? More often than not, it’s “how do you like your eggs?” Unless of course you’re talking with business consultants. Then you might hear suggestions like “your eggs should really be fried, everyone is going fried.” Or “you can get maximum leverage from you eggs by poaching them. That’s what the English do.”

For me personally, the better question is “what is the best way to cook scrambled eggs?”

Finding the best Project Management and CRM solution for your business is about knowing your own preferences first. As I said in the last post, I’m a networking type, and I really enjoy making contacts, and so my Solve setup reflects this. The art world is a lot of schmoozing, so sometimes a friend is a client is a contact. Others may prefer to keep their contact list pruned and closely tied to their business, and keeping personal relationships separate.

For companies that deal mainly in retail, large scale corporate CRMs provide the type infrastructure they need to manage millions of products, handle customer complaints and provide a level of micro-managing and middle managing they need to justify huge overhead. OK that last part was a joke, but you get the picture. The problem with these big boxed solutions is that they really do force your work flow (and your lexicon) into a prepackaged way. So whether you like the term “leads” or not, you’re going to get it.

Solve is a much more flexible platform. If you want to call your leads “interested customers” you can do just that, through tags and categories. This “sandbox” approach means the system comes configured to handle a lot of different work flows. The simplified use of three main categories (activities, project blogs and contacts) gives the end user an enormous amount of flexibility. Uploading any type of file or using Google docs is just one element of the functionality that might be a core element of your business… or you may not use it at all. One thing I’ve noticed when we started using Solve was that a lot of discussions were had concerning “how are we supposed to do this?“ Does this correspondence go under contacts or projects or both? Should there be one main blog for a project or various sub-blogs for smaller parts of the project? Tags vs. categories? Et cetera. The issue isn’t that Solve can’t handle our company’s practice, it’s that it offers a myriad of possible solutions. So much so that it can be confusing when you find two different ways to do something and both of them work.

For example, our website provides an email address to get in contact with us, but for our friends and partners, we give them our personal email addresses. One way to discern where our customers came from was to use tags. This was working fine. But after thinking about it more, and how we use our project blogs, I found it best to create a blog to catch auto forwarded emails from our website email account. By labeling the blog “website lead” we had a quick and easy heads-up on interest and traffic.

For businesses with many advertising campaigns, you can see how piping leads into separate blogs (titled according to their ad stream name or reply subject) can yield a very low cost way of filtering where your traffic is coming from that requires no real admin or tech setup. Then tagging all those blogs as “leads” let’s you see where you’re getting the most emails from.

The key is to sit down with your employees (even if it’s just you and your dog) and think hard on what you specifically want Solve to do.

Does it need to be a place for your magazine to upload their stories, images and layouts?

Do you design websites, and thus need clean and clear milestones for your clients need to contribute and when you’ll have parts of the website ready?

Even though these two examples have different business models and income streams, they both have work flows that can viably be structured inside of Solve. The key is to set the guidelines initially. Whether your company decides to change work flows later is not the point, the most important thing you can do is deciding what Solve needs to do, and then deciding how it should be done.