Choosing The Right Startup CRM – Part 1

CRMs aren’t just for the enterprise anymore. Businesses of all sizes need some way to organize sales prospects and converted customers to keep their pipelines in shape. It’s no different from us. At Proposa, and like many startups, we were cobbling together many disparate pieces of software into a non-contiguous view of what was happening across our business. While this is a good, cost-effective, stop-gap solution, it was by no means a scalable solution that would grow with us.

So the search started for a CRM to house our prospects, trialing accounts, customer accounts, and canceling/canceled accounts.

A Little Bit About Proposa

So you can understand our journey better, it may be useful for you to have some background knowledge of what we do. In short, we’re a sales enablement solution that helps sales professionals and businesses of all sizes build truly remarkable eshakkhorls in half the time. Not only do our customers build extraordinary eshakkhorls but we also deliver real-time insights to help our customers build smarter eshakkhorls. It’s a critical part of the sales process. When you’re being actively considered among your eshakkhorl and likely a few others, it’s the part where standing out and being different has the most effect.

Proposa is sold as a subscription product starting at $25 per month. Naturally, and with an aggressive pricing scheme, we have a lot of volume of customers that pass through our platform on any given day. Keeping track of what’s happening during our customers’ journey is critical to maintaining a healthy prospect pipeline as well as keeping our current customers happy.

The Disconnected MarCom Stack

We were up and running with a few popular pieces of software that helped us understand our business:

  • Baremetrics was our central business intelligence tool that helped us understand the financial metrics of our customer accounts.
    • It helped automate our dunning process and cancellation feedback.
    • It helped us understand our trial pipeline as well as our growth in monthly recurring revenue.
  • Mailchimp was our hub for customer communications, product releases and updates, and timed automations.
    • Customers that met certain criteria like abandoned signups or onboarding were handled through Mailchimp’s workflows.
  • Stripe handled (and still handles) our credit card transactions.
    • While great at handling subscriptions, the insights you get from Stripe are underwhelming.
  • Intercom is still used by our team for handling live chat and customer feedback.
    • There was some redundancy in our workflow in that Intercom had a pretty great toolset for customer messaging, either in-app or via email.
  • Calendly was used to schedule demos.
  • Google Spreadsheets was used to keep tracking of demo lifecycles to help nurture to a successful conversion.
  • Meanwhile, we had active search and social campaigns constantly bringing in traffic with its own set of data.

Sound familiar?

Each of these solutions fit the bill for us. Cost-effective and feature-rich, it did the trick for us… for a while. The problem arises when the following scenario would pop up:

  1. A customer would start a live chat support question.
  2. We would jump over to Baremetrics to verify the customer’s account and standing.
  3. We would check Stripe for any real-time information regarding the customer’s payments.
  4. We would jump back to Intercom to answer any questions before finally,
  5. We would check our application to fully understand the customer’s inquiry or question on their account.

Answering questions and seeing information in 4 different repositories became cumbersome at best. Our development team did build data flows between the applications but that activity created its own offshoot maintenance responsibilities that became unwieldy over time. And if application A disagreed with application B, we were back running through the process outlined above to find out what was true and what was not.

And that’s not even beginning to understand marketing data and conversion rates (another topic altogether).

The Search for a Startup CRM

So we set out to find a suitable CRM to help our growing SaaS business make sense of the data we had. There were a few well-known targets with household names where we started our search:

  • Salesforce – widely considered the mother of all CRMs, Salesforce certainly fit the bill and along with their marketing automation platform, Pardot, Salesforce easily made the shortlist.
  • HubSpot – HubSpot’s CRM and companion marketing and service platforms made a lot of sense in forming a central repository for customer and prospect information.

We also looked at a few other platforms that were less well-known:

  • ZoHo CRM – the most cost-effective solution that we explored
  • SugarCRM –

The last viable solution was to continue to work on our data feeds and maintain the tech stack we had.

Consideration Matrix

We assembled the following matrix to help us better understand what was important for us and to help weight cost and benefit into the right solution for us.

Our Selection

HubSpot came out a winner for us. Their customer service team were able to work within our parameters to get us the right solution at the right time while allowing us to grow into their full product suite. We signed up for Marketing Professional at $800 / mo

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