I love them. I literally want to hug them right now. We opened this business very quickly, and we were fully occupied in 30 days. I wasn’t ready for anything. We had been using PayPal at the time, and it took us months to settle our books--we had to bring on 10 bookkeepers to go back and categorize our payments. If I had used inDinero from the beginning, it would have saved me so much hassle.
Salesforce, as an entity, is like walking into a grocery store, starving, and having no idea of what you want to eat. It’s the definition of “choice paralysis.” It’s the legacy of legacy of CRM systems, and it’s just so robust--it’s too much. It’s like learning how to fly a jet plane. But if you compartmentalize what you need your business to do, you can develop the tools in Salesforce that cater to what you need to get done, and you can ask it to do anything. That’s the power of Salesforce. Being a sales-based CEO, I’m acutely aware of the importance of data--how you collect it and manage it--as one of the most essential parts of running and scaling your business. Although there are affordable, easy-to-use, quick platforms, they’ll never replace a robust CRM platform. Without it, you can’t do anything properly. There are so many different touchpoints with your customers, and you really need to manage that data that comes through and provide a positive experience for your customers. It’s not just about selling, but about the management of your community. Without it, you won’t be able to grow.
We use SalesforceIQ to collect data from all our different customer touchpoints, but we are currently in the process of undergoing a big infrastructure change in our data management system. SalesforceIQ has been great until now, we just needed more layers on top of it in order to function as a cohesive ecosystem that supports everything we do. As we increase our offerings and increase our marketing, we have so much more data coming through that we need to capture and manage properly. For CRM, in the next 60 days we’ll be moving to a custom Salesforce solution that a preferred Salesforce vendor is building for us. It’s expensive (and it’s good for your customers to know that you’re investing in a pricy platform to improve their experience), but it’s worth it to scale your business. I do not recommend a lean startup doing this, unless you really can’t open for business without the functionality of such a robust CRM platform.
We built a proprietary tool for payment processing that works through Authorize.Net. Authorize.Net is a gateway that does automatic recurring billing through ACH, as well as credit card payments, which is really hard to find. The legacy systems are much more affordable than newer platforms like Stripe, and a lot of the new ones don’t do automatic ACH recurring billing, where you can just set it and forget it. They will do recurring credit card payments, but not with ACH, which is important because ACH is the cheapest way of processing payments.
To date, we’ve been using MailChimp, but we’ve outgrown it now, and will begin running all emails through Pardot in the next 60 days. We’re in the process of scaling our business to multiple locations across the US, and we need a more robust platform. MailChimp has served our needs well up to this point. It’s great for being simple and easy to use, but at this point we need to be gathering more data about our email campaigns.
Pardot is great--it’s part of the custom Salesforce solution we’re having built for us. They have a direct API with Salesforce. What Pardot will give us over MailChimp is much more robust analytical information about our email campaigns.
For companies that are just getting started, TriNet does a really good job giving the proper amount of personal involvement. When you’re just getting a business off the ground, you really need help with scaling, hiring, benefits, etc., and most of the time, you just don’t want to deal with those things. TriNet is a great solution for that stage. As far as affordability, from the options I had looked at, TriNet was the most affordable solution for us. That will change over time--probably when we hit 50 employees--but until we get to that point, TriNet is the best way to go for us. Other solutions may offer better platforms and technology, but that wasn’t as important to us as having a really hands-on provider. After all, how many times do you actually have to log on and view your information on the site? Very rarely. So overall, I’ve been really happy with them, and we promote their services to our network.
Slack is my favorite tool in the entire world. It’s also a really good project management tool--we integrate it with Trello now, and will be integrating it with Salesforce once we have that system set up. We have hundreds of channels set up now. Every play we do has its own channel. What’s really great about Slack is that, not only is it easy to use, intuitive, great for sharing, etc, but it essentially journals the history of decisions you’ve made and things that transacted. It’s easy to export that info into your company playbook, which is really what growing companies need. Slack helps you keep track of what works and doesn’t work. Slack is also obviously really good at chat, and we’re big on communication. Having a good company means you can communicate fluidly with your customers so that you can fix what needs to be fixed and build things that they want. And it gives users real-time information on how to innovate and build your business. Slack is one of the most important tools that we use as an organization.
We built our own solution for member management and development, and we use SeamlessDocs to plug into it for form-building and document collaboration. It’s a great paperwork automation platform for signing authorizations, etc. They let you seamlessly use the data and plug it into other systems.
We use this to create a layer for people to log on to the internet. It’s a really cool tool.
We’ve been happy with Lever. At this point we’re hiring 1-5 people a month. Of the solutions we use, Lever feels the most akin to our culture. The information Lever provides feels so secure, and you need to keep that information so compartmentalized in your organization because it’s sensitive. It just matches our culture--we’re open as much as we can be, but we’re also cognizant of these sensitivities.
We’re moving over to Pardot in the next 60 days. Hootsuite is a great tool to use in the beginning, but as you’re scaling, you need to interact with more mobile marketing campaigns and get more analytics, and Pardot is the best for that.