The CRM for small business battleground heats up


By Leighton Jenkins

The SMB CRM market has become quite exciting in recent times with some fireworks to come – which means increased competition and better products and prices.

CRM systems are designed for three business functions:

  • Sales
  • Service
  • Marketing

In SMB’s the usual use has been to focus on the Sales functions – the key features are managing contacts, organising sales appointments and managing sales opportunities.

Historically, individuals would utilise Outlook or one of the Sage products, particularly ACT! These systems run on a desktop and as a company grew you buy CRM on a shared server to pull together contacts and sales opportunities into one place.

In the past few years the trend has CRM services moving into the Cloud – with the poster child for business applications in the Cloud being Salesforce.com (adding a massive 800 new customers in Australia last year). Salesforce.com has had this market to itself – having both the brand and resources to attack the market.

But as of this week – the market has changed with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 being launched. This is not just a new release but also means that the Cloud version of Microsoft’s product is now available in Australia. This fundamentally changes the market place:

  • Both companies have great brands
  • Both companies have strong marketing and sales organisations
  • Both companies have good products
  • Both companies have aggressive growth targets

There are some differences that may or may not tilt the balance towards one vendor:

  • Microsoft will offer a product as a Cloud solution and a server option( and the ability to migrate from one to the other)
  • Microsoft will work with you online or through its channel partners
  • Salesforce.com will add features on a rolling basis – currently talking the Spring ’11 release
  • Salesforce.com will promote its Chatter product – an internal communications/social media tool


There has been a lot of focus on pricing, with Microsoft having some aggressive launch pricing plans. These are aimed at current Salesforce.com customers to migrate to Microsoft Dynamics.

I am not sure if Salesforce.com will respond on price or just compete harder for your business. What I am sure about is that the published price is not the final price! The important thing about SaaS/Online CRM is that the vendors selling will behave more like a phone company, than they will a traditional software company. So deals will be made based on the number of users and a time commitment e.g. a 2 –year contract will deliver you a discount.

Summary and Next Steps

When do you need a CRM? Typically if a business is running on spreadsheets – when you spend too much time arguing which spreadsheet version is correct, then it’s time for a CRM.

Now you have more choices, as well as Microsoft and Salesforce.com there are a variety of small business CRM vendors that can include Sage, MYOB, SugarCRM and many others.

Probably the best way to approach it is to:

  • Understand your needs and feature sets
  • Take up the 30-day trial offers that vendors are offering to see what works for you best
  • Compare the solutions and see which vendor you would like to work with long term

Are you looking at or already use a small business CRM solution? Microsoft Dynamics? Salesforce.com? Something else? Let us know in the comments below!

    • Added by Craig M. Jamieson

      Thanks for a great article! I might also suggest that SMBs should be keeping an eye on Nimble. http://nimble.com Nimble is SaaS and will tightly integrate your social network activities into the CRM itself. It is very close to public beta release. Thanks!

    • Added by Leighton Jenkins

      Thanks for your comments – I have heard about nimble – but as its just in Beta I would note that only the tech savvy ( and highly interested) would consider this at this time.

    • Added by Johanna Baker-Dowdell

      I have been working with Tall Emu to promote its off-the-shelf Total Enterprise CRM, which has been well received in businesses that need a solution to help with productivity, automation, power and flexibility.

      Total Enterprise can be customised to integrate with existing accounting systems, email, shopping carts, warehouse ordering, PayPal, eWay and other credit card gateways and even social media.

      See previous Dynamic Business article on its launch: http://www.dynamicbusiness.com.au/articles/articles-news/tall-emu-crm-2188.html


    • Added by Brian Russell

      We are currently in talks with various providers , this looks like a good opportunity that looks good on he surface , but and there are always buts, I hate the way phone contracts are sold.

      It should be sold on a monthly user, so that they (the company) must deliver every month not just when you are signing !!!!

      We will look at ten 30 day trial!


      Brian Russell

    • Added by Leighton Jenkins


      Nothing to lose – especially as the price is about that of a “Coffee a day” !

      Please contact me via crm-guidebooks.com if you need more assistance


    • Added by Cliff

      Nice comparison of ACT vs Microsoft. But honestly, there is no comparison between the new Microsoft CRM 2011 online and the existing ACT 2011 Premium for Web. Microsoft is much more stable as a web tool – and much faster.

    • Added by Leighton Jenkins

      SugarCRM is very popular. I will certainly look into it a little more.


    • Added by mead business college brisbane

      Very interesting article to read.