I started using and consulting on ACT! in the early days of DOS, when a voice from the abyss said…
“Let there be CRM!”
ACT! was the focus of our business for over 25 years. During that time, the multiple owners of the software hired me to write “The Official ACT! QuickStudy Guide”. I have written 14 versions, some still selling on Amazon. We were one of the top resellers of ACT! in the world. We developed third party addons to make it work better. I trained and certified other ACT! consultants. I spoke at their conferences and built great friendships with quite a few of the other consultants. In other words, I have a really strong emotional connection to ACT!.
So several years ago when clients started looking for ways to work more remotely, do more on their phones and iPads and MACs, we went through a rigorous search process to look for a CRM to meet those needs. At the same time, it felt like all we were doing was working on problematic installs, broken syncs, and integrations that weren’t playing nicely together. And year after year, the complexity of making ACT work with the different Windows Operating Systems, the different versions of Office and with differing versions of SQL and .NET, have escalated and overwhelmed our business and my personal life.
I was determined to find something better to keep up with clients and where they wanted to take their business.
Everyone knows that change is hard, so we went first.
We looked at a lot of alternatives before we found a company called Zoho. We have been blown away ever since.
First we worked with and developed tools to convert our 25+year ACT! database into Zoho CRM so that we didn’t lose our valuable history. Getting everything out of ACT! is quite a complicated process (one that we’ve mastered). After all I couldn’t tell clients to convert to Zoho CRM if they couldn’t bring all of their data with them. So we tested it on ourselves.
After we used Zoho for a while, we all loved it. We could access our contacts online from anywhere, from any device. We could create workflows that would perform flawlessly (e.g. when an Opportunity changes to Closed Won, the ID/Status on Company and Contacts is automatically updated to Customer, along with other field values). Reports were easy to write for the average end-user. We could even access our database and reports offline via phones and tablets if we were in a remote location!
Now, I can’t say enough great things about the company. I liked the company so much, I decided to buy it. But alas, Zoho is currently valued at over a billion dollars (with a B) and it is not for sale.
Zoho has earned its CRM chops. The company is over 18 years old and has always been privately held. The company is based in California, has 2,500+ employees, and all 3,000+ servers are based in the US. It has over 13 million users (compared to ACT!’s often-published 4 million) and a suite of products that all integrate with its CRM. A solid user base is critical to a CRM company’s future software development.
After switching to Zoho CRM, we switched our emarketing to Zoho Campaigns to handle our email Tips and autoresponders. Our web form submissions immediately come into Zoho CRM (I don’t have to click anything) and I get an email letting me know that someone signed up for something. My client automatically gets a followup email and the lead is automatically funneled into a follow up campaign.
We also implemented Zoho Sales IQ (that is the chat bubble you see at the bottom of this web page), which allows me to see real-time stats on who is visiting our website and to provide instant feedback to questions from our website visitors.
Then we switched from QuickBooks to Zoho Books. Now I can see from inside the CRM if any contact has an outstanding receivable, or I can start an Invoice from that record. We’ve used the Zoho Survey app to survey our clients and bring the results back into Zoho, without lifting a finger.
We were using the Zoho Support app to track tech support requests. We went from managing install issues to fielding questions from how to get more out of Zoho. We are no longer in the “fix it” business, and we’re having fun again!
There are over 25 other Zoho products as well, and — they all just work.
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for ACT!. It is still a good option for some of our clients who need an on-premise solution. And I feel very fortunate that I found a great company to take care of my remaining ACT! customers. If you need ACT support, let me know and I’ll hook you up.
In business, nothing ever stays the same. And that’s doubly true for business software. So regardless of your current CRM status, I would encourage you to audit all your business systems. Ask yourself, “What isn’t working? What am I missing? What is working that I want more of?” As we approach the end of the year, be honest with yourself about what’s preventing you from moving your business forward. For us it was an eye-opening experience.