(This article originally appeared in Forbes)
Whenever I talk to a company looking for a new customer relationship management system, one of the first questions I like to ask is whether or not the company is a Microsoft or Google shop. In other words: Outlook or Gmail?
This is very important for CRM. If your company uses mostly Microsoft products (i.e., Office 365, Outlook, Dynamics) and your people are more familiar with Microsoft tools then using Microsoft’s CRM applications may make more sense. They will integrate better and your users will have a more consistent experience. However, if your company is a big G Suite user and relies on applications like Gmail, Docs and Sheets for collaboration and productivity then the conversation is different.
I point those Google users to Copper CRM. Why? For the same reasons. Integration and user experience. Copper CRM is a Google-based CRM. Copper CRM ignores Microsoft.
“We have a different take on CRM,” Dennis Fois, the company’s CEO told me in a recent podcast discussion. “We focus on Google workspace workers. We believe that CRM should be in the background and not in the foreground, and to build a CRM in the 21st century the CRM should take a backseat role and be less visible.”
Salesforce.com also knows this. That’s why the company purchased Slack so that its users can have an Office 365/G Suite type-collaboration and communication platform that also works seamlessly with its CRM offerings.
Most mainstream CRMs targeted at the small to mid-sized business space don’t have this. They are usually office-suite agnostic. They’ll do an okay job handling email, documents, messaging and communications in both a Microsoft and Google environment. But Fois is right. If you use those applications you’ll be synching and moving data back and forth. The CRM will be in the foreground, not in the background. And that’s not really where it should be.
What you ultimately want is for your CRM system to be a seamless part of your overall business application platform. Microsoft, Google and Salesforce are already offering — and expanding — their business application ecosystem to cover everything from CRM to accounting to project management and ecommerce. They’re going to push very hard for you, their customer, to drink the Kool Aid and be their customer for life. Which means you are ultimately going to have to choose sides if you want that seamless experience. And that’s exactly what Copper is betting on. Fois has already chosen his side.
“For companies that are relationship focused their work is about communicating with people or creating information for them using emails, calls, sharing docs, etc.” he says. “You don’t want to be distracted because your CRM is asking you to do something. If you’re not careful you’re just mapping info from one system into another and it doesn’t help you to become more productive.”
To accomplish this level of productivity, according to Fois, deep, behind-the-scenes, real-time integration is needed. Your CRM will need to be deeply imbedded with your other business applications.
Is this a risk for Copper CRM? Sure. Essentially, they’re excluding a big chunk of the market by focusing on the niche of companies that operate in a Google environment. But let’s agree: it’s a pretty enormous niche. There are more than 6 million paying businesses with tens of millions of users on G Suite worldwide and that base is growing significantly as the company invests in more business productivity solutions. And with Google’s help (Copper CRM, in its original incarnation as ProsperWorks, initially received funding from Google Ventures), the company can stay current on all new developments that may impact how their product is used in the future.
“We have a very close relationship with Google especially on the product side,” Fois says. “The relationship has helped us get deeper into the product. We get an early look at some things.”
Sooner rather than later you’re going to have to choose. Will it be Microsoft and Office 365? Google and G Suite? Salesforce and Slack? Or will you settle for something that just sits on top and synchronizes. If you do choose Google, however, then Fois will be ready to offer you Copper CRM.