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SuiteCRM

A review of SuiteCRM as a customer relationship management tool for direct marketing organizations.

4.5

About SuiteCRM

SuiteCRM is a popular and powerful open source Customer Relationship management tool. It provides a central repository for all client/customer data and information and has a number of tools which can assist with marketing campaigns, ranging from lead tracking, custom rule creation, and a built-in email module.

 SuiteCRM is based on the SugarCRM framework and was forked when the latter abandoned the open source model. SuiteCRM boasts a dedicated and loyal consumer base, and it is one of the more active open source tools in the CRM market. It is relatively easy to use and offers features similar to many closed source tools, with the added advantage of being free for download and installation.

While it provides many useful features right “out of the box” that can serve the needs of direct marketers, SuiteCRM is highly customizable, and has a large number of integrations with other products using a built in REST API, and also provides many useful extensions.

Features include email templating, the ability to create target markets and campaigns, and contains some robust built-in reporting. It includes features which enable direct marketers to create a series of automated actions, and to create customized sales pipelines, and keep a record of where customers are within the sales process. Suite CRM also contains a finance module, which enables keeping a record of customer transactions, and can help keep track of invoices, both from an accounts receivable and accounts payable perspective.

Features

Customizable Dashboard

When first logging into SuiteCRM, you are presented with a default dashboard, including many different modules, ranging from a record of calls, meetings, opportunities, accounts, leads and more.  

You can easily move these modules around and include new ones with a few clicks; each will show information based on your current data.

 

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Accounts, Leads, Opportunities

SuiteCRM provides a simple interface for managing accounts, leads, and opportunities. One can get a quick list of all existing accounts below. It is possible to apply filters to narrow down to specific categories, such as those within a specific city.

 

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Zeroing in on an individual account will provide basic information about anything that you have recorded for any existing accounts:

 

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You can see a clear view of any activities or history associated with an account.

 

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For opportunities, one can get a clear picture of potential sales orders, and can get information needed to make the close on the sale, and to be able to deliver according to any specified criteria.

 

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Email Templating

Communicating with clients, prospects and leads is a key part of the marketing process. SuiteCRM provides a robust email marketing platform, including the ability to create customized email templates.

These can be created by choosing a default template and dragging or dropping formats onto the screen. You can add custom variables into the text of your emails to provide a level of professional personalization to reach customers directly, as shown below.

 

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You can either use integrations to connect to external email servers or you can use the built-in email services, which are configured upon installation (assuming you have provided the correct SMTP information, etc.). You can then allow your staff to handle any emails from either their own inbox or from a shared inbox which can be used by your entire organization. Any emails you use can be associated with any of the groupings which store these, ranging from accounts, targets, leads, contacts, and more. 

Campaigns

One of the modules in SuiteCRM most useful for direct marketing organizations is the campaigns module. It enables you to keep a record of email, direct mail marketing, or other marketing channels, and can help direct and track the nature of your sales campaigns.

They can be constructed with an easy-to-use wizard which can help you create a model for visualizing what is working and what is not, using the built-in ROI calculator to help you best plan your activities for the greatest profit-margin.

 

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For example, if you are running a direct mail marketing campaign, you can follow a walkthrough that looks something like this:

 

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You can set your budget, expected revenue, and then track expected cost versus actual cost.

 

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One useful feature within SuiteCRM is the ability to create groupings of potential customers as “targets.” These are often listings of consumers for which you have limited information (for example, you have purchased a list of prospects as a spreadsheet) and wish to use for a marketing campaign. 

These can be useful for your campaigns and can be imported and organized into target lists. You can then direct your campaigns at any of these pre-specified target lists.

 

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SuiteCRM then provides a useful summary screen for verifying whether all information is properly entered.

 

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One useful feature is a built-in ROI calculator which will enable tracking the status of a campaign, from its budget and goals, and automatically generate a chart with clear visualization of this information.

 

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Custom Workflows

When dealing with large amounts of information, as is common in direct marketing organizations, you may wish to automate many of your procedures. SuiteCRM provides some functionality to be able to create workflows which are customized processes which can work like scripts to set a series of actions into motion. 

For instance, if you wish to send a specific email template based on any change to the person’s record, you can set up a workflow that looks something like the below:

 

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Reporting

SuiteCRM has a wide array of useful reporting tools, with many already constructed canned reports, such as those shown below. It also provides functionality to be able to create your own reports if any of the existing ones do not suit your specific marketing needs.

 

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Summary: Key Takeaway

Features such as being able to organize customers into categories and conduct full marketing campaigns can be extremely useful. With some of the more advanced features, such as workflow management and custom report building, you can use it for many purposes within your organization.

The fact that it is free Open Source makes it both flexible enough to modify to your needs as well as affordable. While a considerable amount of customization is possible, there are many features that will work nearly perfectly “out of the box” so it does not require much massaging to make it work properly.

If you are looking for a quality CRM for your direct marketing enterprise, you really cannot go wrong by choosing SuiteCRM. 

Integrations

Suite CRM has many plugins and extensions which can make it relatively easy to integrate with other tools. Here’s a complete list:

https://store.suitecrm.com/suitecrm-integration

Current integrations include (but are not limited to):

  • Outlook

  • Mailchimp

  • Zendesk

  • Office 365

  • SendSMS

  • Google Apps

  • E-Signature

  • iOS

  • Android

  • WooCommerce

  • Groupon

  • Freshdesk

  • Redian Pro

  • Avaya

  • Twilio

  • Galleria

  • OpenCart

  • CRMJetty

  • QLips-Meeting

  • Mandrill

  • Asterisk

  • WhatsApp

  • LinkedIn

  • Fenix Rise

  • DocuSign

  • Magento

  • Google Drive

  • Shopify

  • Xero

Wyzoo Star Ratings

Overall functionality useful to a direct marketer
4.5 /5

SuiteCRM provides an array of features which can be directly useful for sales and marketing management.  In fact, there are some built in modules that appear to be specifically targeted to those who work with direct mail.    The campaign features are extensive and if combined with the email services, can provide one with a significant portion of what is required to run a marketing operation.

SuiteCRM is extensive; not all features are directly related to this type of enterprise (for example, there are “case” features which appear to be more associated with support-type operations), however, one only needs to use what one chooses.   As the application is free, there is little up-front risk in experimenting. 

Intuitive User Experience
4.5 /5

For the most part getting used to working with SuiteCRM is relatively straightforward.   We were able to accomplish quite a bit simply by hunting around without checking the manual.   Documentation is also extensive, so it is not difficult to gain an understanding of how to use the functionality.

There are a few areas that were a little more confusing, such as the creation of custom reports.  The ease and ability for handling the data appears to depend on the dataset with which one is working.  There is, however, a helpful support community which is willing to assist with any more advanced issues.

Active Support Community
5 /5

SuiteCRM Official Forum

https://suitecrm.com/suitecrm/forum/index 

SuiteCRM boasts an extremely active and committed community, which is strong even within the Open Source world. The general discussion forum alone has over 11,000 posts with over 30,000 replies.  Posts show activity up to the current date.

The Github repository is also highly active, as new pieces and modules are created regularly.

Github

  • Commits: 14,616
  • Contributors: 144
  • Releases: 191
  • Watch: 214
  • Star: 1.7K
  • Fork: 1.1K
  • Commits/Contributors: 101.5

Minimal Technical Skill Required
4 /5

Ease of use depends on what roles are being used by an organization.  For general users, very little technical skill is required.   The application is essentially a series of forms, with drag and drop capability.   Managing accounts, leads, etc. is no more difficult than managing an address book. It should not be difficult for a person to be able to extrapolate from these skills to being able to use slightly more complicated features such as creating custom workflows or generating new reports.

Configuring SuiteCRM is relatively easy if one already has a web server set up – the installation is pretty much hands free, however one should have some knowledge of how to configure mail servers if you wish to use the email functionality, which is one of its strongest attributes for direct marketers.

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