A 25 YEAR JOURNEY TO NOW

On October 29th, 1997, I had hair. Or at least some of it, anyway. I operated off Windows 98, floppy discs, and dial-up modems. Broadband speeds were painfully slow and remote work was only a dream as I drove everywhere to client appointments and sales calls. Troubleshooting involved sleepless nights and deep dives into phonebook-sized user manuals for software and hardware. The World Wide Web had few websites on it and Google had not yet “organized the world’s information and made it universally accessible and usable.”

Act! for Mac

But I felt like we were part of a technology revolution. In fact, we were. We rode the wave, experimented, and learned a lot, sometimes fixing glitches by what seemed like scotch tape and trip wire. It would take 4 more years for the dot-com bubble to burst, but Moore’s law has proven valid repeatedly, what was once novel, “gee-whiz” technology became ubiquitous and much more than we could have ever imagined has become commonplace.

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As sales funnels evolved into customer journey maps, retail establishments morphed into eCommerce juggernauts to accommodate the anywhere, anytime customer, delivering seamless experiences via the touchpoint of their choosing. Customer data became measurable currency, igniting consumer expectations and privacy concerns alike.

Artificial intelligence, social networks, cross-platform personalization, enterprise analytics, microtargeting, business process engineering are all branches from the same tree: CRM. The first mainstream CRM product was Act! software, and Mondo was one of the first Act! Certified Consultants. Since, we have acquired other CRM consultants’ practices when attractive opportunities were presented.

We have accomplished some good things over the years. MondoCRM is one of 90 Act! consulting firms remaining in the North America and one of 3 in Chicago. WiredContact was founded by former Act! engineers and Mondo is its #1 reseller in the United States. To deliver on the promise of customer-centricity and provide continuity across all business operations, we are also a Zoho-authorized Partner and Certified Consultant. Zoho? Imagine Salesforce, only less expensive and easier to customize across the enterprise.

But what we are most proud of are the relationships we’ve built over the years. MondoCRM has performed 400+ platform builds for over 600 clients spread among more than 80 industries. Our favorite statistic? Our average client relationship lasts more than 10 years.

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What have we learned from all this? Plenty.

 

  • We have learned the value of speaking human. Industry jargon doesn’t solve problems; empathy, acumen and collaboration do. We can’t grow our practice very well if we are not approachable.
  • Customer churn kills companies, so laser-focus on delivering great customer experiences is essential for sustainable growth. Keeping existing customers happy is always more profitable than earning new ones. To wit, it costs 7x more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one…the average customer lifetime value is 10x greater than their initial purchase.
  • Customized, highly calibrated CRM is essential for delivering memorable customer experiences. After all, how can we deliver great customer experiences if we don’t know much about them?
  • Measure what matters. Every decision is based on the best information we have at a given time. Therefore, success is directly informed by the quality, clarity, and timeliness of the information at hand.

We have been blessed by our client relationships over the years and have built an organization well beyond the one-horse shop MondoCRM once was. Abstaining from faceless tech support from platform providers, I have built a crack team of platform experts to support our clients on demand, including assigned reps and deep client history records for insight and to keep clients from having to repeat themselves.

Our customers frequently report highly personalized experiences every time because that’s the way we approach things from the jump. While CRM buyers often feel ghosted after their purchase, we are all about what happens next: calibrating the platform to meet each business’ unique strengths, objectives, challenges, and market positioning.

Our stellar crew also frees me up to focus on vision and strategy with our clients. All those projects over the years provided me the best MBA I could have ever dreamed of. Working mostly with small to medium-sized businesses, I am almost always collaborating with founders and C-suite people, often helping solve their most pressing, highest-level issues.  After all these years, I find this deeply trusted, sleeves rolled up, high-level strategy work the most rewarding. I especially enjoy aligning marketing, sales, and service, as well as refining business processes to meet enterprise objectives. For me, this is the fun stuff, and it never gets old.

At MondoCRM, everything begins and ends with our commitment to helping our clients grow their businesses for the long term, and it has been a privilege to help. Schedule a discovery call to explore ideas how we can impact your bottom-line performance.


Compare Act! Vs. Zoho

Compare Act! and Zoho

To compare Act! vs. Zoho, solely on a list of features and pricing isn’t adequate.   For that reason, you need to determine whether the platform could be customized to match your business process, not the other way around.

Our backstory

In addition to supporting Act! and Zoho for our clients, we applied the programs at MondoCRM.  Currently, we utilize Zoho One to operate MondoCRM which includes: CRM, Books, Forms, Cliq, Workdrive, Social, Analytics and SalesIQ .  Comparatively, our Act! experience started in 1989 by operating it for a family business, and we made it the cornerstone to start MondoCRM in 1997.

Act! & Zoho Backstory

Act! invented the CRM industry in 1987 when they released Act! for DOS. Presently, SFW Capital Partners owns Act!, LLC.  with headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona and an office Newcastle, United Kingdom.

Zoho CRM, published in 2005, creates the cornerstone to 50+ office productivity applications known as Zoho One. They are privately held with their main office in Chennai, India with US offices in Austin and Pleasanton, California.

Are there differences between privately and investor-owned software companies? Absolutely! I wrote about this a couple years ago.

Money Spending

Important Price Considerations

When you compare Act! and Zoho, consider these details:

Features Gained when you migrate Act! to Zoho

Zoho CRM doesn't require paid 3rd party CRM addons for these features:

  • Creating custom tables
  • Automating workflow and standardizing data entry processes
  • Integrating accounting software
  • Integrating with Zoom
  • Integrating with 40+ applications of the Zoho One ecosystem.
  • Creating advanced reports
  • Creating formula fields

Features lost when you migrate Act! to Zoho

Act! converts to Zoho will lose a few items as a tradeoff:

  • Act! offers offline synchronization while Zoho is only available with internet access.
  • Act! can be installed and managed on your own server while Zoho cannot be locally installed.
  • Act! works with Microsoft Word for mail-merge while Zoho is optimized to work with Zoho Writer.
  • Act! can be installed in a hybrid environment with Act! for Web users and Act! for Windows working on the same database.
  • Zoho users will lose right-click shorts used extensively in Act!.
  • Zoho users cannot take advantage of keyboard shortcuts like Act! for Windows can.
Doors

Differences

Instead of stating a product preference, we’ll highlight differences on how they approach essential features needed for a good CRM.

Lead Management

  • Act! puts it all in one database.  Then, you use fields to segment the database between leads and customers. It's easier to setup, but the drawback for some is the database gets clogged with dead weight, and there isn't an easy way to archive it unless it's deleted.
  • Zoho dedicates a module to leads.  This way, you can keep stuff separated until it's a qualified lead and use different workflows or blueprints to ensure this data gets its own rules.  The disadvantage is you must customize an additional set of fields and map out a lead conversion process.

History and Notes Management

  • Act! puts it all in the history table.  Whether it's a phone call completed, e-mail sent, a meeting held or an opportunity updated Act! records in one place to make it easy everything that happened with the contact.
  • Zoho separates e-mails from completed events.  Zoho's advantage here is you can easily relate an event to either a lead, contact, opportunity or an account.  The Zoho drawback is it's not easy to pull a report of e-mails sent by user over a timeframe.

Account Centric vs. Contact Centric

  • Act! sees the core relationship with a person first; then, it has options to connect people to accounts (Companies in Act! parlance).   The disadvantage here is if you work with several contacts at one account, you need a process to designate the primary contact and main account details.
  • Zoho sees the world "account first" then you add multiple contacts against it.  This model suits the b2b account-centric sales model where the accounts' contacts are more transient.  It's also easier to manage opportunities against the account rather than one more contacts.  The disadvantage here is you need a process to automate copying data from the account level to the contacts so target mailings are done correctly.

Reports

  • Act! offers a banded contact report writer, so it's easier to make reports that reflect the "Crystal Reports" era of report writing.  If you wanted to see contacts, opportunities, notes and activities on one printed page, Act! makes it easier.
  • Act! uses a built in report writer, and you can extract most list views to Excel.  For complex reporting, we work with third party tools for optimal business insight.
  • Act! offers a customizable label template.
  • Zoho CRM offers a built report writer to build list views and charts.  Advanced users can easily tie Zoho CRM to Zoho Analytics to report against multiple data sources simultaneously such as Zoho CRM + Zoho Books.
  • The Zoho CRM report writer doesn't require any scripting knowledge to create reports.

E-mail Management

  • Act! can make e-mail part of the Act! history table. Great for the rolodex model of CRM where every conversation is easily documented and reportable in one table. It cannot retrofit emails from the past automatically.   We field tech support problems because Act! needs to keep up with more changes in Microsoft technology or work with local desktop security policies.  If you need to run reports against the number of emails managed as a report metric, Act! has the upper hand versus Zoho as well.
  • Zoho uses IMAP integration to make hyperlinks to the original email messages. This simplifies the integration, and it will easily go back to all emails from your sent items or inbox. We have fewer tech support problems, but it's harder to do a report against e-mails if your metrics are measured against the quantity of e-mails sent and received.

Data structure

  • Act! offers a "tag" mode to easily hand pick a lookup and an "edit mode" where inline editing of a list of contacts is done in one step.
  • Zoho ensures data remains structured.  For instance, a text field can be a free-form text field, single pick list or multi-select pick list (not all 3).  When it's a single pick list, this allows Zoho to make proper workflows for business process mapping and automating workflows.
Conclusion

Conclusion

To compare Act! vs. Zoho just listing feature checkbox charts and pricing isn’t enough to know which product is better for your business.  Occasionally, we teach our Act! clients a new feature, revise a process or buy an addon to solve a problem.  In conclusion, before make any changes we offer a complementary discovery call using our unique approach to see if we can help you leverage your current Act! installation before you commit time and treasure to changing CRM systems.


Should I use Outlook as a CRM tool ?

Short answer: No.  It lacks too many essential features.

CRM Abstract Photo

Given that we use Outlook in house to manage e-mail, personal contacts and a personal calendar, our opinion isn’t out to snub Outlook just to pitch CRM.

In fact, you don’t need to abandon Outlook to get a CRM.  Most CRMs will integrate with Outlook to integrate e-mail, contacts or a calendar so critical information can be seen on the smartphone.  Furthermore, you can see the email correspondence on the contact record from the CRM.

Difficulties of Using Outlook as a CRM:

Frustrated Computer User
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  • Documenting conversations by date/time stamp and easily sharing them among your team.
  • Implementing contact security among your peers.
  • Creating a sales forecast.
  • Creating a mail-merge to a Word document.
  • Creating effective user fields to classify contacts by more than one field such as "category".
  • Re-Entering the same data among different applications like Word or Excel becomes a chore to create call reports or sales forecasts.
  • Using Outlook is ineffective as a help desk ticketing system.

Zoho Bigin allows an easy way to get into CRM.

And you can still use Outlook.

In a matter of minutes, you can have a starter CRM system that tracks contacts, companies and a pipeline along with a mobile app.

Integrations include:

  • E-Mail: Zoho Mail, Outlook, Office 365, IMAP
  • Zoho Apps: Zoho Flow, Books, Invoice, Campaigns, Analytics, Desk and Meeting.
  • Popular Apps: MailChimp & Zoom Meeting.
  • Advanced Tools: Zapier & API
Good on the budget:

  • Pricing starts at $9/user/month.
  • Annual discounts available.
  • Training videos included.  Chat support provided by Zoho at no additional charge.
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What if Bigin isn't enough?  Don't worry.  We offer plenty of options.

Question Marks
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What’s the best CRM platform for you?  It depends on what business processes you want to improve.  For instance, if you want one point to see all meeting notes, emails and ability to create a report based on those activity KPIs then WiredContact is a great solution.    If you want to have one platform to manage CRM, e-marketing, help desk, projects and accounting then Zoho One is a great candidate.

Conversely, if your focus is marketing automation on a tighter budget, Benchmark One has many capabilities similar to Hubspot at a lower price.

Once we know the features you need; then, we craft with a custom solution based on your budget.  If you aren’t sure how to approach this, feel free to contact us for a complimentary discovery call.


Sending Activities to Outlook from Act! Using Act4Outlook

This commercial plugin enables you to send activities from Act! to Outlook and vice versa.  We recommend this for multi-user sites since it eliminates the chance for the sync engine to break and create duplicate entries on either side.

The Act4Outlook/Act4Mail products only transfers the date, subject line and the details field from Act! to Outlook.


How to Reduce the Number of Act! Users

If you need to reduce the number of users on your Act! license, it’s best to do this before the renewal charge hits your credit card.  This video shows you how to accomplish this.  Otherwise, Act! will throw up an error message when there are too many users against the license count.