CRM for the Independent Software Developer

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1 CRM for the Independent Software Developer Selling your software If you are a professional software developer who creates and sells your own s, you are always on the lookout for ways to increase your market share. To achieve this goal, you must be well organized in recording and managing your leads, prospects and customers. Put simply, without good management of the lead-prospect-sale-support process, you ll have trouble staying in business. Stage 1 - Lead Person has made an enquiry and/or downloaded your Stage 2 - Prospect You are in communication with the person who is considering your Stage 3 - Sale The person has purchased your Stage 4 - Support Your new customer is now part of your supported customer base If you're like many independent developers, you probably keep your records informally in spreadsheets or folders. Or, maybe you've gone to the effort of creating your own system in a database. Whichever way you manage your customers, you probably still say to yourself "I must sort this out sometime and do it better". If your current methodology is letting you down in any area of servicing your existing customers or managing new customers efficiently, then you need to consider Customer Relationship Management Systems.

2 What do customers want? Customers want two things: a that meets their needs; and, to deal with a supplier that responds positively to them. First, let's assume your is the best on the market. That's the first requirement covered. You may even let people download your for free to try it for themselves. Now comes the real test are you a supplier they want to deal with? When you are contacted by a prospect, you have the immediate ability to prove to them that you can meet their second requirement. Respond to them quickly and professionally, and you'll make a good first impression. We've all had the experience when we are the prospective customer. We send an to a company and ask about their. We either never get a response or the response comes days or weeks after we've forgotten about their or, worse, purchased another. To increase sales and, as a result, your market share, your prospects and customers need the opposite experience timely responses with professional follow up and care. Smart prospects will test you more than once. They'll wait a few days then ask a difficult question and see how quickly you respond and how helpful you are. All of these are opportunities to prove that you're a quality supplier, both from a sales and service perspective. The trick is to respond properly without spending too much time on each response. Quick access to your history of correspondence with each prospect is critical to making effective use of your time. Now, let's assume your isn't the best available (yet!). What's your competitive advantage? You could certainly try competing on price. That's fine, but more and more people are becoming wary of buying the cheapest. Often, cheap s mean poor support, bugs, and perhaps even data loss. Some people just can't afford to buy a cheap. If your isn't the best available, there's certainly one way you can compete better than anyone else service! A personal case study as a customer I was recently in the market for a software. In this particular market, there are many free s, a few very polished commercial s, and a few startup commercial s. After careful consideration, I rejected the free s. The amount of time I needed to spend to get them to do what I wanted was too much. I couldn't "afford" to commit to a free! One of the established commercial s really took my eye and I was almost ready to buy.

3 However, I decided to try the responsiveness of one of the startups. I'd tried their and found a few problems, and I needed to ask some specific questions. The startup was half the price of the established, but that wasn't a major factor (we're talking $80 versus $160). What really impressed me with the startup (who was clearly a solo developer) was: he answered all my questions promptly. he responded to each of the bugs I reported, and either agreed to have them fixed in the next release or indicated why they weren't bugs. (I agreed with his responses.) his attitude was positive, helpful, and friendly. Clearly, a person who would value my business. His good, positive attitude, and timely service convinced me to buy his! All independent software developers, big and small, must provide good service. The smaller you are, the more important it is (and the big guys are learning this slowly too)! To provide great service to your customers efficiently, you need great customer management software helping you. The problem with volume So, you've decided to let people evaluate your. That's the way! Now you have hundreds of people evaluating your each week. How are you going to keep track of who they are? How are you going to keep track of your communications with them? If they phone you, will you have a complete history of your previous discussions at your fingertips? How will you get your sales message across but ensure you don't badger them and get accused of spamming? Can you generate reports to see trends in the people who are evaluating your? (Where are your prospects located? What industries are they in? etc.) These are some of the considerations that make Customer Relationship Management so important, and having a good system in place is critical. A prospect wants the impression that they are the most important person to you; that their requirements are in the forefront of your mind at all times. The fact is (hopefully!), you're probably trying to keep track of hundreds of prospects each week. I've had prospects come back to me after more than 12 months and say "you may remember we discussed implementing your last year". When I can review our previous correspondence in a minute or so and reply to them meaningfully and in context, I know I'm exceeding their expectations while maximizing the use of my own time. Implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in my business means I don't have to waste time searching through hundreds of folders and thousands of messages; all previous correspondence is attached to my prospect's master record, regardless of which staff members have been involved.

4 This is just one way a good CRM system can help you best utilize your time to maximize your sales. What else can a CRM system do? Once your prospect has become a customer, you still need to keep track of your correspondence. Ideally, you want to have the whole context of your relationship with them easily accessible. When a customer asks for support, having their pre-sales correspondence available to you will minimize your time in providing that support. So, a good CRM system helps you make the sale and then helps you support your valued customers. It will also provide different access permissions for the different tasks performed by your staff. There's more. A CRM system can integrate with your Customer Licensing technology and your Software Protection technology. By integrating these three systems, you can provide the best licensing experience for your customers while providing the best protection against theft of your software. So, the key features you might look for when considering a CRM system are: Does it automatically create a prospect record when a person downloads your? Does it provide a complete interface, automatically tracking all correspondence in and out, including to and from your staff's PCs? Does it support you in providing valid follow up with prospects while preventing accusations of spamming? Can it generate licenses for your software? Can it help prevent the theft of your? To be, or not to be...web-based! There are two types of CRM systems: those designed to run on your local computer (e.g. your PC) and those installed on a website for you to access by a standard web browser. Historically, most applications (including CRM systems) were designed to be installed on your local computer as an application. CRM systems are now moving more towards web-based solutions. The main reason for this is that a CRM system that runs as a desktop application has some major drawbacks: it's difficult to access when you are on the road; it's hard to integrate a desktop CRM system with your web server; you can't access your CRM system without carrying a notebook computer with you; if you work in a team, then a desktop-based CRM system may not let you easily work with others. A CRM system installed on a web server is much more flexible. In particular, if it integrates with your website, you can access up-to-date information from virtually anywhere in the world.

5 CRM systems designed to run on websites are supplied two ways: those that can be installed on your own server and those you can access on the CRM system supplier's server for a monthly fee. Some systems you might consider for your Customer Relationship Management are: GoldMine, available from This is designed to run on your PC. A corporate edition provides remote access from the web as an optional feature. Salesnet, available from This is a hosted-only solution. BrowserCRM, available from You can download and operate this on your own server, or they will host your CRM for you. TectiteCRM, available from This can be downloaded and operated on your own server, or hosted for you. TectiteCRM also offers a fully integrated licensing and software protection solution. In Conclusion The software industry generally has a poor reputation for providing sound s and good service. As an independent software developer creating and marketing your own s, you need to distinguish yourself to your prospects and customers by providing superior service. You can only do this through the improved communications and record keeping of a good CRM system. You can also benefit in ways you probably didn't consider a CRM system that integrates the licensing of your software provides a complete solution that will maximize your profits. Author: Russell Robinson, Root Software Pty Limited You can contact the author via Copyright (c) 2003, Russell Robinson and Root Software Pty Limited. All rights reserved.

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