Even if you have a history of running businesses and working with CRM, it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an easy initial CRM implementation. After a lot of trial and error Kenneth Hart of Thirsty Swagman found a CRM implementation that worked best for his small business.

Business

Kenneth Hart is the founder of Thirsty Swagman a premier travel destination service that offers international tours of the world’s best pubs and other hot nightlife spots. No boring backpacking and sightseeing on Thirsty Swagman, said Hart. You only do the good bits, such as pubs, bars, city nightlife, and festivals.

Situation

When Hart started Thirsty Swagman back in 2008 he just had a simple website with a web form. People filled out the form, they received the information via email, and then Hart or one of his employees copied and pasted the information into an Excel spreadsheet.

That technique worked for a little while until Hart reached 1,000 contacts. After that all sorts of problems started happening.

“Contact information started to get really messed up,” admitted Hart.

Cells and rows weren’t in line and a customer who was from London all of a sudden was living in Amsterdam.

That was just the beginning of Thirsty Swagman’s problems. Hart had worked with CRM packages such as ACT! and Microsoft CRM and he was well aware that he could have a tool that could track and massage leads. That wasn’t possible with contacts in Excel. Those contacts could never be active. They didn’t live. They didn’t breathe.

Unfortunately Excel is what Hart chose when he launched his business. He had a startup and at the time he believed he couldn’t afford the huge costs of a real CRM package.

CRM experiments for a startup

After six months of collecting contacts in Excel, Hart decided to give Salesforce a try. Hart had used Salesforce at his previous company so he was very familiar with its capabilities.

Given that Hart was operating on limited funds he only chose Salesforce’s basic edition, which is called group edition. Unfortunately, for Hart’s needs, Salesforce group edition was very limited. It seemed more appropriate for B2B CRM as it required each contact to be associated with a business, Hart said. There was no way to do personal accounts. While he tried some funky workarounds such as creating a fake account just to get contacts in the database, it really didn’t work for his B2C business.

“It became very painful to manage once we had about 3,000 contacts in there,” said Hart who knew there was a B2C version of Salesforce, but complained that it was far too expensive for his small business and far too complicated to implement.

Discovering Zoho CRM

Hart needed a better B2C CRM solution that wouldn’t break his startup’s bank. He began researching others who had been in his same situation and discovered many other small businesses were using Zoho CRM. In fact, he saw stories of others who had started with Salesforce and then switched to Zoho. After reading the positive stories of Zoho and its fractional cost of Salesforce (1/4 the price according to Hart), Hart signed up for a trial and now he loves it.

Moving to Zoho was completely painless, Hart said. After paying a negligible cost for Zoho to handle the Salesforce-to-Zoho migration it only took 8 hours to be up and running. “There wasn’t anything else we needed to do,” said Hart who has been using Zoho CRM for four months.

Unique use of Zoho CRM

Since he implemented Zoho CRM, Hart says he’s cut administrative efforts by more than 50 percent. And that keeps improving as he slowly adds other services such as Zoho’s web to lead which automatically enters web form data directly into Zoho CRM. In addition, Hart started using Zoho’s B2B module which uses the same interface and integrates very nicely with Thirsty Swagman’s B2C lead management tracking.

If Thirsty Swagman starts working with a travel agent who has a series of clients, Hart can enter all those clients and associate each one appropriately with the travel agent. If the clients book a trip with Thirsty Swagman, he knows exactly where to send the commission check and for how much.

Advice for others

For other businesses that are in a similar situation as Thirsty Swagman, Hart offers the following advice:

Choose a cloud-based application with proper CRM – Don’t just use some type of spreadsheet document because it requires a ton of copy and paste which can cause errors. Plus, with a spreadsheet, you don’t have a history of what you’ve sent in the past. In addition, you want a cloud-based application so more than one person can access at a time.

Keep it simple – Any CRM package will allow you to create lots of customizations. Problem is too much becomes an overhead thing to manage. Cut out any element you don’t need, such as unused fields.

“You’ll end up investing less time and personally I think you’ll get more out of it,” Hart said.

Listen to our interview with Kenneth Hart.

Tags : case study / CRM / Travel