Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Are you looking for a CRM system?

Note: This is a paid review Get Reviewed At ReviewMe!

I’ve recently been expanding my networking efforts for Personal Finance 101 in preparation for my move to Portland. Because I’m bringing many new people into my network I’ve decided to evaluate different CRM options. For those who aren’t aware of what CRM is, it stands for Customer Relationship Management and it’s a program you use to track your interaction with your contacts and customers.

There are a few things I’m looking for in a CRM program:
  1. It has to be hosted. I want to be able to access it from anywhere, not just from my laptop.
  2. It has to have marketing campaign tracking integrated so I can track what does and does not work. It’s important to me to be able to use this to send out newsletters, announcements, etc.
  3. I need to be able to get a single user license for a price that won’t break the bank of a start-up.
  4. It should be customizable so I can add/remove fields that I do/don’t need.
  5. Ideally it will be integrated with my e-mail system so I can use it to track those contacts.

There are a few other things, but those are the main concerns.

Since I’ve been evaluating CRM systems anyway, when a chance came up to review Relenta’s Contact management product, I jumped on it. I signed up for the demo and here’s how it fits into my needs as listed above:

  1. It is hosted on their servers though it looks like they also have a self-host option
  2. They do offer e-mail campaigns. They need to update their screen shots page though because it isn’t shown there and were I not getting paid for this review I probably wouldn’t have dug further to find that out.
  3. Their pricing is comparable to the industry leaders (With limits. See below in the “Things I didn’t like” section)
  4. They offer paid customization services
  5. They offer POP e-mail integration.

Things I liked:

  • They allow you to upload documents. This is helpful if you are traveling and need access to marketing materials or other information.
  • The have an actual calendar to look at to track your activities which is nice though they don’t mention whether it syncs with Outlook or other calendar programs.
  • They have a free account that you can sign up for to try it out. Or you can do the 30 day trial.
  • They have blog on their website that outlines some of the upcoming features. The one I like the most is the web-based form builder for your website. This would be great to dump the info directly into the CRM system.
  • I like the way they list the groups along with how many members there are of each group.
  • The product is cheap if you can go with one of the smaller packages. Good for businesses which are just starting and will be growing.

Things I didn’t like:

  • The number of contacts and emails you can have is limited by the program that you’re on. They’re the only company I’ve seen that does this and I don’t think I like it. The email limitation is what particularly bothers me. They don’t specify whether the email limit is monthly or annually, but if it’s monthly what happens if I just have a crazy month and go over the limit? I do event planning sometimes which can lead do hundreds of emails back and forth a day when it gets close to the date.
  • There are storage space limitations based on your program which could be easily exceeded if you upload your marketing materials.
  • The free account is useful, but they do have their logo at the bottom of the emails you send out which would look unprofessional. You’re probably better off paying the $15 for the personal account and trying it for a month if you’re actually going to use it to send e-mails.
  • They don't make it clear how the program limits work. They do offer additional storage, e-mails and contacts for a price but it's not clear if that is a one time cost or a monthly cost.


I’m going to try it out. I’ll sign up for the Personal Account which gives me 50 MB of storage space, 500 contacts and 5000 e-mails. It costs $15 per month and there is a 30 day free trial. What really sold me is the e-mail integration. It’s great to be able to click on a contact name and have a list of all of the e-mail contact you’ve had with them. My only concern is the email limits but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I am also loving the web form option that they are going to be launching. It will be great to not have to manually enter in that information.