The Best Food for Business Growth is CRM

After five years in business SEO Works deployed Zoho to break out of its small business organizational chaos to become a medium-sized company managing 140 clients.


Based in Australia and San Francisco, SEO Works is a medium-sized company providing search services. They work with clients that want to increase their visibility with search engines. Having started with just a couple of employees, SEO Works has 24 employees today and a thriving business with hundreds of ongoing projects.

The Challenge

Nine years ago when the company started, they had everything a new business would want – leads and referrals. Unfortunately that information was captured in a haphazard fashion. Leads were written down on slips of paper, or copied into spreadsheets. For a couple of people in the office, that was manageable. Once the company had four employees, they were seeing some problems, admitted Keith Paulin, Group General Manager and employee number one of SEO Works.

The poor management of contacts meant they were not able to handle new opportunities efficiently. “As you get bigger you need to make sure those opportunities, as they come up, don’t slip through the cracks,” said Paulin who realized that at 10 people it became critical for them to find a collaboration solution just so they could support their clients.

SEO Works faced the same troublesome issues most small companies faced. Their lack of organization, collaboration, and insight into how well the business was doing meant it simply couldn’t grow.

What CRM solution works for our growing business?

As they struggled to grow their business, SEO Works also struggled to find a CRM solution that would work with their unique needs while also not taxing them financially and with unnecessary development.

They tried a free CRM for a short time, but it was so unmemorable that Paulin honestly can’t remember its name. Then they gave Salesforce a go, and stuck with it for about a year and a half. While Paulin admitted that Salesforce is powerful, it was somewhat inflexible and didn’t connect with everything they wanted it to connect with right out of the box.

They wanted a solution that would map their entire business from end to end, in their point of view (e.g., from phone call, to request, to project). While that was possible with Salesforce it would have required a ton of learning, an external consultant, and very detailed development work. They simply didn’t have the time nor money to deal with that.

SEO Works admittedly had a love-hate relationship with Salesforce. And once they got to ten users then the licensing costs became an issue, said Paulin.

How discovered Zoho

When I asked Paulin how they discovered Zoho he simply responded, “We’re a search engine optimization company.”

Through just natural search SEO Works stumbled upon Zoho. Four years ago they were dazzled by the fact that requests could come in via websites and then fed directly into Zoho. That’s nothing by today’s standards, but back then to SEO Works it was a big deal.

Not only was the simple usability attractive, but so was the flexibility of the licensing. It was extremely easy to add users. Paulin didn’t have to worry about signing long term contracts with a CRM vendor. As a growing company, it was very important for them to easily add new licenses and not be encumbered by a long term contract.

Using Zoho to map the entire business flow

“One of the great things about Zoho is you can hit the ground running quite quickly,” said Paulin. “We were literally an out of the box user.”

SEO Works quickly put their entire business flow into Zoho CRM and Zoho Projects. They bring in leads. Leads become accounts. An account then creates a case. They create products, prepare quotes for clients, and then convert those to sales orders which are moved into a different cloud-based accounting solution, explained Paulin who also liked adding business rules to leads which automatically routed them and triggered further actions.

That flow continues when Paulin is outside of his office. He uses Zoho on his mobile and loves the feature that allows him to enter information about a call right after the call completes.

Visibility into all operations

“We no longer have that level of small- to medium-sized business discomfort that says, ‘How’s my business doing,’” said Paulin. “I can see very quickly, literally in two screens, how we’re traveling, where that business is coming from, how that’s moving through the system. Our business revolves around Zoho.”

Unlike SEO Works’ early days, they now have very measurable benchmarks thanks to Zoho. They know the number of leads that come in and how many of them are hot.

“Those kinds of benchmarks for a growing company are very important to us,” said Paulin. “We would never have been able to grow to the size that we are and to deal with the clients that we deal with [such as IBM and Telstra].”

“We wouldn’t be able to manage those projects and we wouldn’t be able to make sure we manage them effectively, deliver a good product, and deliver it profitably. So to be absolutely honest, without Zoho we wouldn’t have gotten to the stage that we’re at,” admitted Paulin. “I wouldn’t know end-to-end about 400 projects and duties going on. I couldn’t have that at my fingertips without Zoho.”

What are you going to do when you do get the business?

Many of SEO Works’ clients are young companies looking to grow themselves. While Paulin’s business can drive traffic and generate leads, they’re not designed to reinvent their clients’ businesses.

Before they deploy a SEO solution that will deliver results, SEO Works asks their clients, “When we generate this business, then what?”

The response is often met with silence to which Paulin will often respond, “We think you need a CRM solution in place to begin to deal with this stuff.”

The client may hem and haw, but it’s necessary not just for the client, but also for SEO Works.

“It’s selfish for us because we want them to see measurable results coming into their business,” said Paulin.

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