Why Lean Startups should choose Zoho over Salesforce


Zoho vs Salesforce

Image credit: Liventerprise

Salesforce seems to be the overwhelming leader when it comes to CRM (Customer Relationship Management), but there is an underdog that I think has carved out a nice little niche away from the big cloud-based CRM systems… I’m talking about Zoho CRM. Salesforce comes across to me as the sexy, we-can-do-it-all, the world is your oyster, come hang out with the “cool kids” CRM provider; but hanging out with the cool kids comes with a premium price tag too and we (still) aren’t ready to pay it. Based on my experiences with Zoho CRM at HiretheWorld, here are 3 great reasons why I think every lean startup should start with Zoho CRM before transitioning to someone like Salesforce.com:

1. Learn about CRMs for free

When I first started looking into CRMs, I found all the options and variables available to be completely overwhelming. No matter how much reading or research I did, I just couldn’t put the pieces together in my mind. However, as soon as I was able to poke around a CRM and give it a go, everything started to fall into place. We started with a couple example customers and simulated the actions needed to move them along the pipeline. We took notes on everything, made wishlists and identified some big questions that needed answers when it came to how our marketing and sales processes could fit into a system like this.

This discovery process took us a long time and we’re still working on it. The capabilities of CRMs are endless so we’re still optimizing and tweaking, but with Zoho’s free system, there’s no pressure from the accounting department to rush to a final decision (a perfect lean startup solution). We’ve incorporated it slowly into our processes as we’ve experiment with workflows, APIs, third party integrations, and email templates but there’s no way we could have figured this all out in time to deploy SalesForce to our satisfaction.

2. Learn about your own company for free

A big part of setting up a CRM successfully is understanding your sales process and lead nurturing process. Most CRM companies will ask what you want in a CRM and if you don’t have a good answer, you’re just going to get a default setup. As a startup, our sales processes were highly dynamic, experimental, and adaptive. As your business evolves and you carve out a niche and brand for yourself, your sales processes will no doubt change too. Using Zoho got us looking closely at all the touch points along our customers’ purchasing process and led us to actually map them out in MS Visio. This process quickly had us theorizing about what messages our prospects needed to hear to take them to the next phase of the buying process and when they needed to hear it. We ended up learning a ton about ourselves and our customers (and improving conversions along the way) without spending a dime.

3. Pay As You Go Add-Ons

The free version of Zoho doesn’t offer all the functionality of a $1500/month SalesForce package but as we learned about CRMs for free, we quickly identified some features that were going to save us a ton of time. What’s great about Zoho is that you can pick and choose the features you want to pay for on a monthly basis. For example, here at HiretheWorld, we decided that we should upgrade to add the Zoho Mail Add-on. It’s only $5 per month and it allows all of the emails I send and receive through Gmail to show up in Zoho under the contacts.

As a lean startup, take advantage of the opportunity to learn quickly how to best utilize CRM for your business without shelling out all kinds of dough. Play around with Zoho, take notes, then use it as leverage if/when you scale up to Salesforce. You will be thankful of all the research you did when you are speaking with a sales consultant for Salesforce.com!

What CRM do you use and what is your CRM strategy? If you disagree with me, I challenge you to convince me why we should be switching to Salesforce or another CRM service provider. If you do convince me, we’ll make the switch and I’ll write a post!

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2 Responses to Why Lean Startups should choose Zoho over Salesforce

  1. Jordan says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I am actually in the process of evaluating SalesForce.com now and I really like their package, but I’m in a little bit of sticker shock. For a new company that $780 license is a chunk of capital to pay up front. It’s nice to know there is a free option out there while I’m still getting my legs underneath of me. I’m going to check them out!

    • Andrew says:

      I’m glad that you found this post valuable! I know exactly what you mean… we had the same reservations when considering moving over to Salesforce. We just aren’t ready to make the switch yet, and we are learning as much as we can while using a free version so we’ll nail it when we switch over. Did you feel underprepared when negotiating the license with Salesforce? If so, I’d love to hear what you think would help you prepare for implementation

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