Business Software Basics Defined and Explained

Otherwise known as Business Software 101

There are lots of technology buzzwords that you are “supposed to know.”  Name dropping technology systems, and saying things like, I optimized our ROI by investing in a CRM that integrates with our CMS and streamlines our workflows via the SMS. Oh, and BTW, we can access it all through an SSO, can be fun, but honestly, it doesn’t really help when you are trying to explain some of the uses of these systems.

If you are anything like most people, you often don’t dive into learning about something new until you are faced with having to use it. The other day, I wrote a post about deciding against investing in a CRM (at this moment). In the post I threw around terms like CRM, Invoicing software, and email marketing. And I realized that what I should have done was explain the terms a bit more and give some information about why those systems could be helpful–even for smaller organizations or solo business owners.

I realized that a post like this could be beneficial 1) to clarify my own understanding of different tools, and 2) for others whom might be overwhelmed by the onslaught of vendors, choices, and information we encounter everyday.

I started drawing out the different software systems and I realized that even though my diagram had every intention of being helpful , well, basically, it was extremely hard to read.

Business Software bottom lines

Nice to get my thought process out–not so nice for others to read

I decided to make the information a bit clearer, so what follows is the text (with some slight tweaking) of the drawing above: Please note that this is a simple overview of the purposes of each product. Additionally, the product examples are not meant to be used as recommendations. 

Customer Relationship Management softwareCRM_box2

Mostly referred to as:  CRM
Bottom Line: It allows you to input all of your potential and current customer information in one place and keep track of every interaction you’ve had. This information can be shared with other team members who might need to know what you last discussed.
What you’d replace if you switched to using a CRM: Probably a spreadsheet + calendar reminders, (or perhaps just sticky notes all over your desk).
How it could help you: The CRM creates a space for notes about each client, but then automates the systems so you don’t have to set reminders in other places. It also helps to organize customer data so more than one sales person has access to any conversations that took place with a representative of your company. You can also set sales goals and track this as well.
Examples: Batchbook, CiviCRM, Insightly, Nimble, Salesforce, SugarVtiger, Zoho

Personal Information Management SoftwarePIM_box2

Sometimes referred to as: PIM or Contact Management Software (but don’t mix that up with a Content Management System because they are very different)
Bottom Line: It is a space to manage contact names and basic information.
What you’d replace if you switched to using a PIM: Probably a Franklin Planner or a paper calendar
How it could help you: The PIM is useful because it is the first step to automating your contacts or your calendar. For example, if you used Outlook’s calendar feature instead of the paper calendar, you could send meeting invitations and have the invites automatically sent out to email.
Examples: Google Contacts, ical, Outlook, (some even suggest using Evernote!)

Accounting (or Invoicing Software)accounting_box2

Mostly referred to as:  Accounting or Invoicing software (usually not shortened)
Bottom Line: It allows you to track payment and time spent working for a client or a project and then invoice the clients for those services.
What you’d replace if you switched to using Accounting Software: Probably spreadsheets + paper, envelopes, and stamps
How it could help you: You won’t have to set aside a day to work on paper billing. If you are working hourly on a project, some of these tools do a great job of allowing you to track your time (even from a mobile device!)
Examples: Freshbooks, Harvest, Quickbooks, Sage One, Xero, Yendo (although Yendo considers itself to do a lot more than Accounting)

Email Marketing Tools or Softwaremarketing_box3

Mostly referred to as: Email Marketing Tools or Software (usually not shortened)
Bottom Line: It allows you to send newsletters and information using client lists then track who has opened/is interested in your communication.
What you’d replace if you switched to using Email Marketing software: Hmmm… Probably Publisher + spreadsheets &/or your email address book.
How it could help you: If your company sends out newsletters or communication specific lists of customers, an email marketing service makes this process a lot easier. In fact, if you are emailing even twenty people, I would suggest using one of these services.
Examples: Constant Contact, Emma, MailChimp, JangoMail

We’ve just hit the beginning of some of the basic systems. If you have anything to add or would like to point out some other resources, please post below in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!


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