Scotch tape, safety pins and spaghetti – SMB marketing automation

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I was talking to a friend who runs a >10 person distributed professional services firm. He was looking for better tooling to automate his customer processes. He had recently dropped Salesforce, not because it was too much or too expensive, but because the configuration and usage was too complicated for his non-enterprise sales staff. We’ve been talking about his constraints and what he’d like the software to do.

It is part CRM, part project management, part marketing automation. Similar to the “Poor Man’s CRM“.

Constraints

  • Must access the FreshBooks API – All client billing is done in FreshBooks. It works. His staff is familiar. It is easy enough to send, track and account for with FreshBooks. They are not replacing this.
  • Preferably cloud based.
  • Must work with Microsoft Exchange email.
  • Costs <$150/person/month – this is an all in cost. However a preferred cost is $6000-12,000/year.
  • 20,000 contacts
  • 5,00 active clients
  • Prefer commercial offerings to custom development, and modify workflow to fit new processes.

Work Flow

It’s a pretty standard workflow. From lead capture to opportunity identification. The opportunity is defined by multiple stages, each stage has a series of tasks that usually result in an email being sent or a web form needing to be completed or a signed document. The workflow is pretty linear with clearly defined actions that move a opportunity through each stage of the engagement.

The majority of the business is referrals and business developers sourcing leads (50%). New business from existing clients (30%). And the remaining 20% is from web contact forms.

Possible Solutions

We’ve been talking about both CRM and marketing automation solutions, particularly those that are able to match both an organization or a person to their FreshBooks contact information. The goal is to be able to show outstanding invoices before a new project kicks off.

CRM/Project

Web Forms & Electronic Signatures

Email Automation

Scotch Tape, Safety Pins & Spaghetti

I keep leaning towards solutions I have used in the past. But I think they are not the right fit, given that I’m going to have to automate a number of webhooks using Zapier or itDuzzit, which are amazing, but the complexity scares me given the friend. It’s starting to feel like my advice is going to end up with scotch tape and safety pins holding together a spaghetti of web services.

I have no idea if it is the professional services aspect, or the hand off from lead generation to sales to project management. Maybe it is because of the FreshBooks integration (which I have never done). But I’m unclear about what the best options are. I keep finding more interesting solutions. Maybe it is that the past 3 years I’ve been deeply immersed in inbound activities for SaaS offerings that makes me drool over HubSpot and Performable. But I’m just not sure where to go from here.

Thoughts? Guidance on where to look next? I’m stuck.

 

  • http://blog.androidhr.com/ Alex Hagan

    Feel free to get in contact with me if you want to have a chat about Kontinuum by Web and Flo.

  • http://twitter.com/chexton Chris Hexton

    Great article with some excellent tips. If you have any questions about Vero and / or our integrations just drop me a line using chris AT getvero.com, I’d be happy to help.

  • http://twitter.com/talexb Alex Beamish

    The Freshbooks integration could be done with something like the Perl module Net::FreshBooks::API by local guy Olaf Alders. And Perl has always been referred to as a ‘glue’ language and could be used to tie together an API — and the front end could be any web application framework.

    • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

      The challenge for me is that I’m not looking to write code for the friend, i.e., mostly because I’d have to maintain it.

      Given I’m writing mostly in Ruby i could probably hack something with https://github.com/elucid/ruby-freshbooks

      But we come back to the challenge I don’t want to productize or maintain this.

      • http://twitter.com/talexb Alex Beamish

        That sounds like a business opportunity to me; if Hubspot is ‘super yummy’ then perhaps the remaining challenge is to build something that connects Hubspot to the Freshbooks API.

  • http://www.climaxmedia.com/ Climax Media

    HubSpot is super yummy.

  • Adam

    Just surfing along and I came to your post here David. I like your idea of binding APIs, but let’s do that with a web app or CMS frame like DotNetNuke??? It would allow us to out source the work in a modular fashion while focusing on data modelling and workflow design to connect the parts.

    • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

      @656443cfb3a31dc16ec6cd9b9551cc4a:disqus I’ve started using @Zapier and @IFTTT as ways to bind remote webservices along with WordPress as the content engine. I don’t know a lot about DotNetNuke but I have seen it and ContentBox (CFML based one) along with the PHP, Ruby and Python based alternatives.

  • Yulia Mikhailovna Teryaeva

    Great post.