How a Mumbai-based real estate company replaced years of Salesforce customization with Zoho CRM Plus in mere months

"The reporting structure in Zoho is quite strong and Zoho Analytics is quite a great addition. We have a much better ROI picture than before with the reporting feature in Zoho. It's a big plus for us.""

Deepak RamkrishnaHead of Marketing & Communications, Marathon Realty

About Marathon Realty

Part of Marathon Group, Marathon Realty has been in the real estate business for more than 50 years. Based in Mumbai, Maharastra, the company has a wide portfolio of projects ranging from townships, luxury skyscrapers, affordable homes, big and small offices, and retail. It boasts over 80 completed projects over the years and more than ten thousand happy customers.

About Spikra

Spikra is a Zoho Authorized Partner based in Thanjavur, India. Founder and CEO Radha Rengachari and her team have been helping businesses achieve their goals since 2018.


Before using CRM Plus, Marathon Realty had a well-established business process with Salesforce for quite some time. The challenge came in the form of a rigid payment structure which was difficult to comply with during the pandemic. This forced Marathon to seek an alternative. Even though the whole business process was reliant on the existing system, the leadership team had to make a difficult call and move their entire sales and marketing processes to a new platform.

Deepak Ramkrishna, Head of Marketing & Communications at Marathon Realty, joined the company six years ago at a time when it was already using Salesforce for sales and marketing. "The system in place at the time had quite a few gaps," Ramkrishna says. "It wasn't configured well, it didn't have any of the customizations that we needed, and there was quite a bit of lead leakage." That's when Marathon decided to overhaul their existing system and start fresh with the same product.

After years of gradual iterations and improvements, and with the help of an in-house developer, the team finally got the whole business process set up with Salesforce.

After so much time and effort had been put into the setup, when the team decided to move to Zoho CRM Plus, they were worried about how much time it would take to replicate their processes. To make matters worse, they were on a tight deadline and not very confident about the migration. However, with the help of their partner, Spikra, they were able to execute the process quite smoothly—in less time and with more functionality. "The migration turned out to be easier than expected," says Kunal Mota, Marketing Manager of Marathon Realty.

It took three to four months to set up basic functionalities, after which Marathon brought Spikra on board for the customizations. Within six to eight months, they were not only fully functional, but had more automated processes in place than before.

"Spikra really helped," Mota recalls about his team's experience working with Spikra on various customizations. "We had a really hard deadline, and with their help we managed to migrate successfully. We're still working with them. For any new integrations, we directly go to Spikra... The solution and response that we get are above expectations."

"Spikra has been really great. Overall, their service has been really top-notch. The people are really nice, very helpful, willing to get on a call every time to explain what you need to understand, walk you through any queries."

Deepak RamkrishnaHead of Marketing & Communications, Marathon Realty

Solutions with Zoho CRM Plus

Regarding Marathon's migration to Zoho, Ramkrishna says there wasn't anything wrong or lacking with their Salesforce implementation. "However, after using Zoho," he says, "we found that there are definitely a couple of areas where Zoho does work better. In terms of an intuitive user interface, the Blueprint feature is especially great. That really simplifies the data capture for all our front line teams, which was a bit of an issue with Salesforce."

Before making their final choice, Marathon had evaluated Leadsquare and Hubspot and found Zoho's features more intuitive. The company has since implemented Zoho CRM Plus to manage its marketing, sales, and presales. It also has an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system for core sales and uses CRM Plus for its entire lead cycle, from lead gathering to deal closure.

The Marathon team told us about their lead life cycle and how they use Zoho CRM for their lead management daily.

Following an automated path with blueprint

Leads are generated from multiple touchpoints, such as website traffic, calls, emails, and property visits. These leads are then reflected in the Leads module in the CRM. The call center presales team then follows up on these leads. Next, the presales team sets up a walk-in visit to the site. After the visit is scheduled, the lead is converted to a deal. Once converted to a deal, the core sales team is notified about the progress and they inherit ownership of the deal. This whole process is automated through Blueprint. Once the information passes to the core sales team, they already have all the useful information about a given deal, such as customer profile, number of follow-ups done, customer contact, and more. With the help of Zoho CRM, the core sales team gets all the information needed to take the deal forward, without delay. Using Zoho Analytics, insightful reports are created throughout the different stages of a lead lifecycle.

"A lead's conversion to a deal is based on Blueprint," Ramkrishna says, noting that the feature ends up saving time and makes the entire process less cumbersome for the sales team. "We found it very useful, because the team doesn't just have to scroll through it to find the fields and update them."

Ramkrishna describes how a call center executive uses automation on a daily basis. Once a lead is created, it's at the "open" stage by default. From there, the call center executive has a variety of choices to make. These choices are established in Blueprint so that when they select an option, it triggers a suitable workflow. In case the prospect doesn't pick up the call, it goes to the "not pitched" stage. At that point, the only field that needs to be updated is the next time to call. With the help of transition-based automation, if the customer misses a call again, the workflow is triggered and they get an SMS and WhatsApp text. When the lead goes to the "appointment scheduled" stage, the presales executive captures the date of the schedule and a confirmation is generated and sent to the customer.

"Blueprint is extensively used in the Leads and Deals modules, where all the data capture happens, and the automations are also triggered via Blueprint."

Deepak RamkrishnaHead of Marketing & Communications, Marathon Realty

Sometimes, customers visit Marathon's properties directly. Every property's reception is equipped with physical and digital forms which the customer fills out. This form is directly integrated with the CRM to capture data in real time. This ensures that the sales team can follow up on time, without delay between the property visit and the first follow-up.

Sales executives also use the CRM Plus app on the go to stay on top of leads and to make calls to the customers.

Better data capture saves time

In every stage of the sales process, there are a few kinds of data that every salesperson needs to focus on. When trying to find the right data, other systems require salespeople to scroll through a whole list of unrelated information on the record page. This is time-consuming and an inconvenient task that salespeople try to avoid.

"Data capture was a much bigger issue in Salesforce compared to Zoho," Ramkrishna says. "A lot of the time, our sales team wasn't capturing the right data in a timely manner simply because of how cumbersome it was. With Zoho, this issue has been mitigated and the time it takes to capture data has been reduced from one to two minutes to 10 to 15 seconds, roughly."

Ramkrishna also notes that the process has become very focused for the sales team. After automating the data collection with Blueprint, they can now focus on the right data at the right time instead of wasting time scrolling through unnecessary data. For example, now after a salesperson meets a customer, the "transition" stage asks for the next follow-up date. Once that data is in place, they can safely move on to handling other leads and are notified about the follow-up in due time. Ramkrishna says this feature has made their sales executives' lives a lot easier.

Clear, usable data is dependent on intuitive data capture. If there are distortions in the data at the time of capture, it has a significant effect in corrupting the entirety of a particular record. Without the automation filtering out bad data at the capture level, not only data would be lost, but eventually revenue, as well. Marathon Realty uses a data capture validation feature in CRM to ensure that while creating and updating records, only valid data gets captured. Ramkrishna emphasizes the need for this data validation: "Validating the data that's being captured makes the data capture process quicker and more efficient."


Better visibility builds confidence in the sales pipeline

Marathon Realty has seen a surge in leads after its recent project launches in the last few months. Zoho CRM has helped manage the surge, with lead volumes averaging at six to eight thousand leads, without any leakage. They were also able to track and optimize turnaround time for calling each lead, increasing the chances of closing deals.

With real-time clarity around leads and deals, Ramkrishna feels that they have a better handle on their sales pipeline. "We feel quite confident in handling the pipeline in a much better way now," he says.

The reporting feature, with the addition of Zoho Analytics, helps them gain better insights into the performance of sales and marketing teams on a daily basis, eventually helping them make better choices. Ramkrishna keeps a close eye on these reports on the go via his Zoho CRM Plus app. "The reporting structure in Zoho is quite strong and Zoho Analytics is quite a great addition," he says. "We have a much better ROI picture than before with the reporting feature in Zoho. It's a big plus for us."

A host of customizations for smoother operations

Apart from sales, Marathon Realty also manages its inventory and marketing on Zoho CRM Plus.

Throughout their day-to-day work, the team uses a bunch of features and modules, some of which are used by more than one team. To avoid confusion, they have come up with different layouts for different teams. They use the wizard feature extensively to streamline the data capture among the teams who use the same modules on a daily basis. For example, both presales and property reception use the Leads module, and the wizard feature helps consolidate the data.

Marathon has renamed many of the modules to customize them according to its business needs. Some of the custom modules the company uses daily are for inventory, unit building projects, and missed calls. The team has customized the Products module for their inventory. The Inventory module is used on a daily basis to keep a track of all their real estate units, capture revenue generated, and manage inventory in terms of what's sold and what's available. They also have a module to automate data capture from their existing ERP system.

On the marketing side, Marathon Realty uses custom modules to track their internal processes, such as marketing budget and campaign expenses. "We're able to get advertising ROI from Analytics as well," says Mota.

Ramkrishna offers an example of how they have automated the approval process within marketing. "If we want to create an expense for brochure printing," he says, "there is an approval process for it, after which it's created using Blueprint." The planning and budget for the brochure go through different approval processes with different stakeholders, and those stages are automated with Blueprint. "Those customizations were quite easy and worked out pretty well with Zoho," Ramkrishna adds.

Spikra has helped Marathon implement integrations with Verloop, Slack, Zapier webhook, and Knowlarity, as well as other module customizations.

  • Industry typeReal estate
  • Employees500-1000
  • Type of businessPrivately held

Features that helped us

Sales PipelineBlueprint

Looking forward

Recalling their experience with Zoho so far, Ramkrishna says,

With direction from Ramkrishna and Mota, as well as some help from Spikra, the sales and marketing departments are continuing to become more data-driven and dedicated to gaining more insights. Their focus is on how to use the product better to improve the user experience of the sales and call center people.

Following the sales and marketing department's shift from legacy systems—and observing the benefits—Ramkrishna expects that other teams in Marathon Realty will also follow suit. "I've recommended Zoho to other teams as well," he says. "Continuous improvement is something we're always working on."

The marketing team is looking to explore some more products and features more in depth, including Zoho Campaigns and a website visitor tracking feature. "There's a lot more we can do, and we'll be trying those things out," Ramkrishna says.

"The migration went faster than we expected. The user-friendliness is better than Salesforce. We achieved about 99% of the customizations that we wanted at a much lower cost than Salesforce."

Deepak RamkrishnaHead of Marketing & Communications, Marathon Realty

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