Choosing the right customer relationship management (CRM) software isn’t easy.

Because CRM enables businesses to gain a competitive edge by letting them effectively manage customer relationships before, during and after the sale, the CRM industry is rapidly growing, giving rise to a multitude of solutions on offer.

Highrise is a cloud based CRM system made by 37Signals.   It is a good choice for those already using its sister product Basecamp (project management software) who want to expand into sales and marketing management.

Who is it for?

Small or solo business owners looking for a simple CRM solution to track contacts, leads and opportunities (or deals as they are called in Highrise).   It’s a good system to begin to understand the benefits of CRM and how it can help you manage customer relationships and bring consistency to daily operations.

How easy is it to use?

Very easy to use and navigate.  If you rate yourself 5 out of 10 or above in ‘tech savvy’ you’ll be just fine!

What we like…

The user interface gives a comprehensive snapshot of all the contact details and interaction history.  It’s a little busy for my liking but I love the colour coded task display column that you can scan and tick off quickly.

I like the global search bar and the easy import of contacts from Outlook.  Highrise uses tags to enable you to segment your data and create lists to export for marketing purposes.

User hierarchy permissions are simple to set up but not overly sophisticated so you keep this in mind if you’re planning to grow your team and will want to restrict access to data or other sensitive information in your CRM.

The flexibility of being able to upgrade, downgrade or cancel at any time is a big bonus.

Integration with back-end processes:

Initially some clients don’t make this consideration one of their top priorities however, CRM is the front end to all back-end processes, and sooner or later, you are going to want to integrate customer data with other systems such as accounting and marketing.

Highrise integrates with some familiar systems like Xero for accounting, Gmail, MailChimp for marketing and Quoteroller.  I’m a big fan of both Xero and Quoteroller for small business so this is a big tick.  The integration with Gmail is fantastic and allows you to view details, edit tags, create deals and tasks in your inbox however you will be paying an additional fee for this which leads me to…

What we’re not so keen on…

Whilst much integration is possible with Highrise, personally I prefer a system that has tools you use daily such as email, quoting and eDM’s included.  The disadvantage of having to integrate with other systems is that, in most cases, you will pay additional monthly fees which can add up.  Generally, it also means that there is still some degree of data push updates that the user must activate as opposed to the data already being within the system and shared between modules.

Highrise doesn’t give you the option of creating workflows to automate repetitive processes or tasks within your day to day operations.  CRM systems such as Zoho and even Capsule CRM, to some degree, allow such automation and compare favourably cost wise.

Pricing

There are three levels of pricing starting from US$24 month for up to 6 users.  This is a little restrictive as you only have access to 10 deals or opportunities.  The $49 month plan gives you up to 15 users, ample storage and unlimited deals.  You can take a look at pricing in more detail on their website.  There’s a free 30 day trial on all accounts too.

For Solopreneurs there is a free plan which gives 1 user 5GB storage, unlimited deals and 20K contacts for $29 month.  On the surface that’s a pretty good deal, I urge you to consider the other integration you’ll require and associated costs before making a decision though.

As always…when considering CRM make sure you understand what your specific requirements are and where your business is planning to be in 3-5 years’ time.  Invest in proper implementation and training and CRM will become a powerful business tool for growth and collaboration.