(This article originally appeared in Forbes)
I think I’ve found customer relationship management software that actually solves a big problem for many of my clients: integration.
That software is called GreenRope and I learned about it from a great interview between small business technology expert Laurie McCabe and Lars Helgeson, the company’s founder and CEO.
As I first read Laurie’s recap of their conversation, I initially thought that Helgeson’s description of his platform wasn’t that much different than what other CEOs say about their CRM products. It does it all. It’ll increase sales. It does all the kinds of things you would expect from most CRMs—contact management, marketing, service management, lead and forecast management.
Helgeson also talked about the many integrations that GreenRope has with all sorts of best-in-breed third party applications that do everything from event management (Zoom), document management (DocuSign) and accounting (QuickBooks) to email, chat, surveys and payments (Stripe). He also mentions his application’s use of Zapier and PieSync—both third party integration tools that connects thousands of applications to each other. You can see a full list of the integrations GreenRope provides here.
This is nothing new. Most mainstream CRMs have integrations with many good third party platforms and also use data connectivity tools. It’s kind of a requirement if you want to compete. But here’s where I learned something different: GreenRope’s integrations don’t cost any more. They’re built in.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the software’s pricing page where there’s an excellent comparison tool.
Using that tool I found that, when taking a 20 user company with 50,000 contacts as an example, GreenRope says it would cost about $639 per month. That’s total for all the users. But that’s not all. This price also includes the cost of all the integrations available mentioned above, and more.
The company’s pricing tool says that a comparative CRM offering the same integrations would cost as much as $23,650 per month (and there is a disclaimer below saying they’re making “best estimates”). My company sells the popular CRM software Zoho and using their pricing for their Enterprise version the base cost for 20 users would be $800 per month. But remember—that’s not including integrations, which can add to the price significantly. I don’t think Zoho’s monthly price, even with all those integrations, will reach $23,650 but it’s possible that other enterprise-level CRMs may approach that number.
And integrations are the key. Because no CRM does it all. But the problem for many of my clients is the added cost of tacking on third party product after product. It seems that GreenRope fixes that problem by offering it all for one price.
“Our role is to provide an easy way for clients to do business,” Helgeson told McCabe. “Part of that is not having to calculate whether to pay more per month for an additional service you will likely need. We don’t charge for features built into GreenRope and we don’t charge for our integrations.”
Helgeson bases what applications to integrate on user questions, and is cautious about overloading their platform. “The challenge is to make the maximum number of customers happy without bloating and complicating the platform,” he says.
I can think of a few downsides here.
One is that, unless you want to monkey with tools like Zapier and PieSync, you’re going to have accept whatever integrations GreenRope comes with (or build your own with their developer tools, a task that most of my smaller clients would never undertake). Also, it seems like a pretty daunting job for any company—particularly a smaller company like GreenRope – to maintain the connections and performance all of those integrations, considering the frequency that vendors update and change their software. And although GreenRope’s pricing is very attractive, I’m betting that they’re subject to the whims of some of these other software makers and may lack enough control to keep their monthly fees the same whenever their partners decide to increase theirs.
But I still love the model.
The all-in-one business software trend continues to expand. While still offering third party choices, many software makers are building their own modules and applications to integrate with their core CRM offerings. GreenRope’s model is not to build but instead to choose the best of the external apps available, integrate them with their own software and then bundle everything in one price.
So which direction is better? It depends on preference and budget. You can go all-in-one, build your own apps or accept the third-party apps GreenRope provides and includes in its price. It’s the end-users’ choice. And having choices is a good thing.