Guide to CRM for Home Performance

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications can be a valuable tool for Home Performance Contractors, Auditors and various other home energy related businesses, offering a low-cost suite of tools that allow you to manage your business more effectively and more efficiently than the methods of old. But what are the CRM options available, and which are most suited to the unique needs of the Home Performance industry? We've taken a look at some of the most popular CRM's on the market and broken down the basics of each, to help you understand clearly the benefits of each.

Keep in mind that at the end of the day, the CRM that works is the one that you use and that helps you. We recommend reading about each, trying out one or two, and ultimately choosing the one that you like. In the end, having the discipline to stick to it is the key to CRM success. 

There's also a great discussion going on over at the RESNET BPI - Energy Audit and Home Performance group on LinkedIn, where energy auditors and contractors go into detail about systems they are using / have used, and it's worth checking out.

An important note: for purposes of this Guide, we're sticking somewhat rigidly to software for managing prospects and customers. Project Management (also called Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP) is often lumped in to the feature set of CRM's, and we'll try to note those that do, but this is generally a distinct feature set. 

We intend for this guide to be a living document. For now, our focus is on cloud-based solutions, but we intend to add local solutions as well. We will continue to add to it, and we encourage you to leave comments detailing any experiences you've had with CRM systems -- good, bad or ugly -- and suggestions for other products that should be on this list. 

Without further ado our Home Performance CRM Guide:

SoftwareBrief DescriptionPricingRead more
SalesforceThe most popular CRM; comprehensive and available at a wide range of price points.$25-65/user/month +++Read more about Salesforce
Solve360User-friendly, includes some project management, being successfully used in Home Performance~$10/user/monthRead more about Solve360
NimbleEmphasizes social media integration and a strong user experience.$15/user/monthRead more about Nimble
HighriseNot technically a CRM, more like a juiced-up address book~$4/user/month (less for volume)Read more about Highrise
ZohoA sophisticated CRM with a robust API$12/user/month
(Free up to 3 users)
Read more about Zoho
Microsoft DynamicsA good CRM option if you're already using other Microsoft products$44/user/month+Read more about Microsoft Dynamics
SugarCRMA very open CRM with opportunities for developers$35-60/user/month +++Read more about SugarCRM
Nutshell CRMModern, web-based application to help manage your leads and customers$15/month/user
(minimum 3 users)
Read more about Nutshell CRM
InsightlySimple to use, yet powerful CRM system for small businessFree version available for up to 3 users
Standard version is $7-9/month/user
"Enterprise" version, contact sales for pricing
Read more about Nutshell CRM


Salesforce

The 100 lb gorilla CRM on the market, Salesforce is an all-in-one CRM that features mobile access, social and email integration, file sharing and more. Its popularity alone suggests that it's a good product, but common criticisms include a complicated, steeply escalating pricing structure (additional costs for additional features quickly add up; annual contracts are required; etc.), and a poor suitability for small businesses (like home performance companies). 

Pricing
  • Plans range from $5/month/user to $250/month/user
  • Each plan comes with a free trial period, from 7 to 30 days
  • Annual billing
Features
  • Software as a Service (Saas) Model - nothing to download
  • Mobile access
  • Social integration
  • Email integration
  • Analytics
Suitability for home performance
  • Salesforce is the CRM market leader
  • Suffers from being all things to all industries
  • A punitive pricing model that requires annual contracts and gets steep quickly based on feature add-ons
  • 1,000's of consultants available to help you
  • Lots of integrations
  • Not very well structured to support very small businesses
  • Errs on the side of over-complicated
  • Very favorable pricing for non-profits
Customer testimonial

Ori Skloot of Advanced Home Energy says: “We have been using Salesforce for over two years and it has been instrumental in streamlining and boosting sales at our 40+ person company.  We reviewed many software platforms and our only hesitation with Salesforce was the cost.  However, I realized that just focusing on the price tag was misguided because the right question is whether Salesforce will be cost-effective for your company.  I figure to pay for our annual Salesforce subscription I need to close 1-2 extra jobs per year. Since launching Salesforce our average close rate at Advanced Home Energy has gone up 6% and our average job size has gone up $4k.  Of course this wasn’t all due to our CRM, but I know  that using Salesforce as the heart of our operations was a big part of that up-tick.  Honestly, my only regret with Salesforce is that I didn’t make the change years ago.”

______________________________________________________________________________________

Solve360

Solve360 says "We help you manage your client interactions and keep everyone coordinated If you work with people you manage a lot of information. This work consumes most of your time and creates little value for your clients. Coordinated teams spend far less time “communicating” and more time planning and doing the right things. Imagine the benefits you'll realize supported by a simple, client-focused system. Discover how our Solve360 will make a huge impact to your bottom line. Oh, and the best part is your team will actually use it." A Google staff pick.

Pricing
  • Basic version starts at $39/month which includes 3 users
  • Tiered pricing up to $149/month for the pro version
  • Each version includes a free 14 day trial
Features
  • Software as a Service (Saas) Model - nothing to download
  • Google Apps integration
  • Social integration
  • Contact management
  • Project management (limited)
  • Email marketing
  • Dashboard customization
  • Data import/export
  • Large document storage capacity
  • Mobile access
Suitability for home performance
  • Being successfully used by home performance companies
  • Highly customizable
  • Provides some project management features
  • Great mobile integration
  • Strong Google Apps integration if you use Google Apps
Customer testimonial

Richard Burbank of Evergreen Home Performance says: "We are a Solve 360 house and have been for about 3 yrs. We have a staff of almost two dozen and more than half of those are users. I've integrated completely with Google including customized google doc reports that are embedded into a google site for our sales dashboard. The cost of the system is very reasonable, $149/mo with 18 users. There are not bells and whistles more than we really need."

______________________________________________________________________________________

Nimble

As the name suggests, Nimble's goal is to be a simple, easy to use contact management app to quickly and easily interact with potential customers. Highly social, it instantly finds social profiles of your contacts, includes a "social listening" feature that allows you to track potential customers' activity online, and can be integrated with external apps such as Hootsuite.

Pricing
  • $15/month/user (limited storage space of 5GB)
  • Free 14 day trial
  • Additional storage available in increments of 25GB, for an additional $25/month/user
Features
  • Software as a Service (Saas) Model - nothing to download
  • Full social media integration
  • Google Apps integration
  • A growing array of Integrateed 3rd party services such as Mailchimp
  • Pipeline management
Suitability for home performance
  • Heavily focused on social media (if you're heavily invested in social media already, this is great).
  • No project management -- purely lead, contact & pipeline management
  • Strong integration capability
  • Not a do-it-all piece of software, but works well with other systems
Customer testimonial

Jesse from Energy Circle PRO says "Nimble is awesome on the social media side of things. If building out a prospect profile using social media connections is of value to you, take a look. It's also a very nice interface, easy to pick up, and very flexible."

______________________________________________________________________________________

Highrise

Highrise says "Your address book doesn’t do enough. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software tries to do too much. That’s why we built Highrise. It’s the just-right, more thoughtful way to keep track of the people, conversations, and tasks that are the lifelines of your business." That is, although you can use Highrise as a CRM, it's more akin to a juiced up address book. Strong emphasis on usability and design, simplicity.

Pricing
  • Basic plan starts at $24/month, covers up to 6 users with 5GB of storage
  • $49/month gets you up to up to 15 users with 15GB of storage
  • $99/month for the Premium plan allows up to 40 users, 30GB of storage
  • 30 day free trial on all versions
Features
  • Software as a Service (Saas) Model - nothing to download
  • iPhone app
  • Mobile access
  • Email integration
  • Social integration
Suitability for home performance
  • Part of the 37 Signals family
  • Does a limited number of things well; not highly customizable
  • If you like it out of the box, it's a good piece of software
  • Though not an all-in-one software solution, plays friendly with other 37 Signals products

______________________________________________________________________________________

Zoho

"Zoho CRM is a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that delivers complete CRM functionality at a fraction of the price of other offerings. With Zoho CRM you can manage all your Sales, Marketing, Customer Support & Service, Inventory Management and Email within in a single business system."

Pricing
  • Start-up/entrepreneur edition is free for up to 3 users
  • "Professional" edition is $12 per month per user
  • "Enterprise" edition is $25 per month per user
Features
  • Software as a Service (Saas) Model - nothing to download
  • Google Apps Integration
  • Alerts
  • Mobile access
  • Customizable reports & dashboards
  • Intuitive pipeline management
  • Campaign management
  • Lead generation
  • Email marketing
  • Presumably integrates well with other Zoho products such as ZohoProjects
Suitability for home performance
  • We know multiple companies in the home performance industry who have used it and dropped it, for a variety of reasons; but have heard from other businesses in the industry who like it.
  • Doesn't do a lot to set itself apart from other systems.
  • On the more sophisticated side - API, etc.
  • In the group of lower cost CRMs, it's an affordable option.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Microsoft Dynamics

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a popular CRM system from the software juggernaut that's available to be installed in-house, or available as a Software as a Service (Saas), cloud-based system. It offers separate modules for sales, marketing, and customer service, all of which operate on the same database but are available to different users based on their job role. 

Pricing
  • $44/user/month for the online version
  • Pricing varies for the on-premises version
Features
  • Available as on-premises software or Saas (Software as a Service)
  • Integration with Outlook and other Microsoft products
  • Highly customizable
Suitability for home performance
  • Could be a smart option if you're using other Microsoft products
  • May be a little complex for the majority of small home performance businesses

______________________________________________________________________________________

SugarCRM

"SugarCRM’s mission is to empower organizations to gain and retain customers by providing greater efficiency and control over the sales pipeline. As an open-platform web-based CRM solution, Sugar is easy to customize to meet an organization’s changing needs. It is also affordable, easy-to-use and offers a competitive advantage by providing organizations with a 360-degree view of their customers. Businesses in all vertical markets ranging in size from the SMB through the enterprise leverage the power of Sugar every day."

Pricing
  • Starts at $35/user/month
  • Premium editions range from $45/user/month to "call for pricing."
Features
  • Saas (Software as a Service) Model - no software to install
  • Analytics
  • Sales management
  • Marketing management
  • Social media integration
  • Mobile access
  • 15-250GB of storage
Suitability for home performance
  • Claim to fame is being very open -- lot of opportunities for developers
  • Pretty sophisticated
  • May err on the side of overkill for most home performance companies

______________________________________________________________________________________

Nutshell CRM

From the Google Apps Marketplace: "Nutshell CRM is a modern, web-based application to help manage your leads and customers. It features a smooth, easy-to-use interface, powerful process management tools, and a mobile app."

Pricing
  • $15/month/user (minimum 3 users)
  • Free 30 day trial
Features
  • Software as a Service (SAAS) Model; nothing to download
  • Integrates with Google Analytics
  • Mobile app
  • Integrates with Wufoo, Zendesk & Mailchimp
  • Open API
  • Robust analytics
  • Pipeline management
  • LinkedIn integration
Suitability for home performance
  • Low cost
  • Intuitive interface
  • Can be used as simple contact manager, or advanced CRM
  • No contract, easy to switch if it’s not working out

______________________________________________________________________________________

Insightly

Insightly says: "We designed Insightly as a simple to use yet powerful CRM system for small business. With integrations to Google Apps, Office 365, MailChimp, and major social media sites; great mobile apps for tablets and smart phones; and easy access to a REST API for custom integration, Insightly is the leading small business CRM. We believe web based software is the best choice for smaller businesses, because you don’t have to worry about anything technical like server upgrades or security fixes. We take care of all the IT stuff like backups, upgrades, and security so you can concentrate on what matters – running your business and getting on with the job."

Pricing
  • Free version available for up to 3 users
  • Standard version is $7-9/month/user
  • "Enterprise" version contact sales for pricing
Features
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) Model; nothing to download
  • Calendar/event management
  • Social integration
  • Open API
  • Mobile access
  • Contact management
  • Google Apps integration
Suitability for home performance
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Targeted specifically to small businesses
  • The most popular Google Apps CRM

Other CRM products we're actively planning to add to this include: TigerPaw, InfusionSoft. What else?