A Guide to Open Source CRM - How You should Evaluate the right Product for YouCustomer Relationship Management (CRM) software is essential for many businesses to effectively manage their customer interactions, sales processes, and marketing campaigns. With the growing popularity of open source software, many organizations are considering open source CRM solutions for their needs. In this article, we'll explore the benefits of CRMs an open source in particula and help you navigate the process of choosing the right solution for your business.
Let's first discuss what customer relationship management (CRM) entails. If you ask the internet what a CRM is, you will get the following answer: It is the process in which a business administers and stores its interactions with customers.: This definition is broad, and the focus areas of the systems you will find are quite diverse. For example, while Meow Sales Pipeline focuses on sales and managing the relationship of a customer during the sales process, other products concentrate on marketing. Additionally, some products claim to do everything, which is something you should definitely question. First, there is a reason why software serves specific needs and there isn't one software solution that resolves all issues businesses face.
Furthermore, you should consider what you actually need. Yes, there is often the idea in business that if you pick a product with a broad focus, you won't get blocked in the future. However, choosing the right product can be compared to buying a car for your business. You would never consider purchasing a car that serves all needs; instead, you would have clear expectations. For example, you might select a truck for product deliveries and, based on the goods, you would choose the appropriate size for the load area.
What is an Open Source CRM?An open source CRM is a customer relationship management system that has its source code openly available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute. This means that organizations can take the software and adapt it to their specific needs without having to pay for expensive licenses or rely on a single vendor.
Please note that "free" does not necessarily mean "open source." There are many CRMs that offer a free tier or a free trial; however, the system itself is proprietary. In such cases, you neither have access to the source code nor can you freely amend the system. There is no right or wrong choice, but when evaluating the right product for your business, these are important considerations.
The Meow open-source CRM for example is licences for free. You can install it on your own server and amend it to your needs.
How should I pick an Open Source CRM?To choose the right open source CRM for your business, consider the following factors:
- Features: Assess the available features and determine if they align with your business requirements. Our recommendation would be not to focus too much on what you'll need in 5 years; instead, create a list of features you need now and what would improve your business in the short to mid-term. For example, consider whether it would help you to know which team member contacted the customer. While the answer is most likely always yes to these questions, try to find out if it would genuinely help your business. If you are two people working in an office together, you most likely have a holistic picture of who works with which client anyway.
- Scalability: You will find this factor mentioned in most guides. The truth is, all the systems we know of out there will scale well to a decent size. If you run a business with hundreds of thousands of customers, then there could be some areas where scalability plays a role. However, when you reach that point, you'll have a team and budget to tackle potential challenges.
- Customization: Check if the CRM allows for easy customization to match your workflows and processes. This should be one key area we recommend focusing on. Imagine possible use cases for your business, not just customer-related, but also reports. Write down these use cases and check how you would solve them. For example, for a small business, it can be crucial to identify customers who haven't ordered in a while to run a campaign.
- Integration: Evaluate the CRM's compatibility with your existing software, such as email, accounting, and marketing tools. While integration is definitely important, think about how it would make you more productive. Email integration doesn't necessarily make it quicker to write an email, but it can be valuable for your business to know on a customer record when customers send emails.
- Support and community: Research the availability of support, documentation, and a user community for troubleshooting and sharing best practices.
Why is Open Source Important?Now getting back to open source, there are key benefits when it comes to free software.
- Cost-effectiveness: Open source CRM solutions usually have lower upfront costs and no ongoing licensing fees, making them more affordable for small and medium-sized businesses.
- Flexibility and customization: With access to the source code, businesses can tailor the CRM to their specific needs, ensuring a perfect fit with their processes and workflows. Like we said earlier a free trial or a free tier you can start with is not the same as an open source CRM.
- Innovation: Open source projects often benefit from a diverse community of developers and users who contribute new ideas, features, and improvements, ensuring the software stays relevant and up-to-date. You will benefit from what other customers built and release on the internet.
- Vendor independence: Using an open source CRM allows businesses to avoid being locked into a single vendor's ecosystem, providing more freedom and control over their technology stack.
What is the best open source CRM?There is no one-size-fits-all "best" open source CRM solution. Instead, the best CRM for your organization depends on your specific requirements, budget, and priorities. To determine the most suitable CRM, follow these steps:
- Define your needs: Outline your business goals, desired features, and the level of customization you require. As mentioned earlier, you will face the same challenges with both proprietary and open source CRM systems. It's up to you to find the right software for your business.
- Research options: Investigate various open source CRM solutions, comparing their features, user reviews, and community support.
- Test and evaluate: Trial several CRM systems to see how they perform in your specific use case, ensuring they meet your needs and are easy to use. Keep in mind that you will spend many hours working with the CRM. Even features like how easily you can search for a customer, the number of clicks needed to open a record, or how quickly new hires learn the system are important considerations.
- Make a decision: Choose the CRM that best aligns with your requirements and offers the necessary support. There is no such thing as the perfect software, which is why it is even more important to focus on what you need now. Yes, it should be future-proof to a certain extent, but don't over-engineer your requirements.
What should I avoid with CRMs? What are typical mistakes companies make?There are many reasons why businesses fail with CRMs, and it's worth considering whether you actually need a CRM right now, even if software sellers tell you that you would benefit from it.
- Not involving users in the selection and implementation process can result in low adoption rates and poor utilization of the CRM. If your team doesn't use the CRM to write down notes and instead just adds them on a post-it, the important update is not stored in the CRM, and your idea of introducing a CRM has definitely failed. Make your team part of the decision and get their commitment to make the CRM an essential part of the business.
- Excessive customization can make the CRM overly complex and difficult to maintain, ultimately hindering its effectiveness. While there are often good reasons to customize, there are many examples of how CRM becomes an endless journey for a business without a clear scope and success metrics.
- Too many requirements. In many cases there is just too much ideas and features business want to implement. If you are new to CRM, start small and do not over-engineer the first iteration of your CRM. Get your team together and think of what you would benefit from, what the challenges are, and how you could solve them with a CRM in a quick fashion.