My company is thinking on getting a marketing automation tool but I think that maybe the solution would be migrating to salesforce to solve some of these issues. We have been using Sugar CRM and multiple customized tools for our sales, marketing and software licensing process. We sell 2 desktop software that is not SaaS but requires membership management with USB dongle authorization (users get free upgrades and tech support). We also have a new hardware product with a lot of components that we make ourselves and requires in person technician installation. Our process became very complex and we are making a lot of customized tools. The problem is that we spend a lot of time maintaining tools that are not our core expertise, so we are being left behind in new practices such as marketing automation, user analytics, etc. We have a lot of manual processes despite being a tech company, we can't grow. Is Salesforce the solution? We have these issues that we need to solve:
1-Manage user membership, each user has a USB dongle and our system needs to hold information such as activation period, product level (we sell different versions of software like the old adobe creative suite model). We also need to manage payment, right now we are using sugar with heavy customization (which prevents us from updating it), a SQL database, a custom PHP e-store and members only area.
2-We don't have good business, operations and sales analytics.
3-We need to allow our system to be more integrated to use marketing automation, but we can't afford the big players such as hubspot yet. We are using Mailchimp for our email marketing.
4-We have a problem in cashflow, so we can't spent a lot of money in different tools, but we need something that we can use now as a base.
I thought about Salesforce because it's a platform that has so many out of the box plugins and apps so we would just install those things instead of wasting time creating things from scratch or maintaining old systems. Another reason is the ability of creating business apps with the lighting platform with clicking and dragging, which could be interesting for non programmers (I haven't tested this yet). We have an "engineering culture", so usually it's ok to build new things even if it's not for your area, the problem lies when you need to throw cash to test new software.
Have you talked to a Salesforce rep?
Seriously. They would be best and most knowledgeable to tell you whether their software can do what you want.
Business-wise, your post frightens me with the impression of unbridled, "The customer wants it? Let's build it--who knows or cares if it's profitable!" That's great if you've got a giant pool of money to draw on and are specifically looking for the winner solution that will take off and hit mass market success.
Which highlights the real problem I see here: your firm seems like it is doing far too much custom work. Without some repetition, using work you've done before, you're reinventing the wheel every time. Unless you're getting paid highly to develop these custom solutions, you're blowing cash and sinking towards debt every time you "buy a customer."
From what you've shared, it looks like there are critical issues with your business model.
Yes, you need some kind of analytics backbone to give you the data you want.
But first, you need to identify what measures are important to you--and buying customer and playing with apps is not where money is made.
How long have you been in business? What's your average cost of customer acquisition? And fulfillment? Are you making a profit? Do you know? From your post, it sounds to me like you understand the *technology* of your business, but not the *processes* of your business.
It sounds, honestly, like a snarled-up mess of day-to-day firefighting. I'd be curious what your accountant has to say about cashflow.
Have you mapped these processes out? Developed some KPIs to figure out what's going on and what needs to be kept tabs on?
Figure those out first. Processes flowcharted and measures determined first, tech to manage them last. Technology (your CRM, software etc.) comes last. Technology is glue. What do you get if you apply glue first? A mess.
I think you need more than a CRM consultation.
I setup Salesforce for larger companies as a major part of my profession. I also consult with a lot of startups and small businesses and tend to steer them away from Salesforce for the time being. A SUPER BASIC Salesforce setup with a consultant will cost you at least $5,000. What you want to do is more in the tens of thousands (or more) unless you are lucky and a tool actually does what you want.
A lot of companies try to solve their business problems with a tool, but sometimes you need to start with just streamlining how you run your business and standardizing how you run your business. The more complex or unique you build your business the more money it will cost later to customize Salesforce to your needs.
What you might actually want to look into is a WordPress Membership management tool like iThemes Exchange or WooCommerce. You can have clients signup up for different recurring membership levels and have an account and then assign them a key. Possibly you could store this key in their product info so they could login to retrieve it. These solutions have integrated payment processing and will integrate with Quickbooks Online, etc. you might have to do some work though to ensure you can confidently store activation keys in WordPress securely.
If you are interested in going down either path and want to talk, let me know. I have a site called GrowthHeroes.com that helps people DIY websites, CRM, marketing automation, etc. It's still in the early stages but has some free public content.
You're definitely thinking in the right direction as far as standardizing on a single tool to automate your processes and migrating away from some of the custom solutions you're currently using. Maintaining a bunch of one-off solutions that only solve individual business processes is costing your organization a lot of money that you should be spending in more strategic areas. Also, like you said, you're probably falling behind your competitors in the space because you can't keep up with the changes they're making to their sales and marketing automation systems fast enough (whereas most SaaS applications like Salesforce have scheduled automatic updates to keep their customers up to date).
Here's the rub though - is Salesforce really the right tool for what you're trying to do? Possibly. Based on my knowledge of Salesforce, it does look like it will meet a lot of your needs at a high level. That being said though, I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending a specific tool at this point because your individual business processes might have nuances would require customizations to be made within Salesforce.
So my advice would be this: before you start looking at the technology, put together a detailed set of your requirements and thoroughly map out your business processes (i.e. How do you use each tool today? How do you want to use each tool in the future? What are the specific areas where you feel like you're falling behind your competitors? etc...). Then from there, you can reach out to multiple vendors (Salesforce should definitely be one of them, but check out Microsoft Dynamics, Netsuite, NIMBL and a few of the other CRM software companies). You can show them your requirements and ask them to put together a proposal for how they would solve them. Then you can decide which tool will give you the most value for your money.
You'll probably will have a slightly bigger expense up front to stand up a new tool and then configure it, load data into it, train people on it, etc... (even if it's SaaS based, there's still work that will need to be done before it's usable by your business).... But standardizing on a single platform and eliminating as much of a need for overlapping tools and custom development as possible will save your organization a lot more money in the long run. Good luck!