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Finding One Solution for CRM

Discussion in 'Products & Tools' started by Webturtle, Jan 23, 2008.

  1. #1
    Hello everyone,

    I would like to get some other experts opinions on something I'm currently trying to sort out. I have a lot of ideas, a lot of resources, and years of "marketing with technology" background, but I'm spinning my wheels because I want to do this one right from the get-go, and there are still a tremendous number of unknowns. I have to still choose a solution despite not knowing everything yet (classic case of a great client with champagne dreams and a beer budget asking me to put the cart before the horse :rolleyes:)

    My client has a forum with about 5,000 registered members. It hasn't been marketed to, monetized successfully or updated in eons. The forum, however, is pretty active and the search engine traffic is good. There are two parts - a site with a vast amount of content, and the forum. I've determined that under 300 of the forums members are actually regular visitors (on in the last 60 days), and only a tiny fraction of the forum visitors ever register.

    The content part of the site was built something like 8 years ago in perl, and we have no access to modifying or accessing it. The niche is outstanding so she lept on the opportunity to purchase a site which has been pretty much impossible to save 'as is.' So, after a lot of research, I'm rebuilding the content around the forum, using Word Press as the CMS solution. Its not perfect but I'm not a programmer and had no choice - it had to be simple, dirt cheap, and easily modifiable/customizable by someone without any coding skills. There are hundreds upon hundreds of columns to be manually moved over - I would have liked to have involved a programmer to do this more elegantly and build us a custom solution but that was the champagne dream part.

    So that is the backstory. Now I need to find a solution for starting to communicate with these people, bringing them back to the site, marketing to them and so on. I can export the list of 5,000 registered members out of the vbulletin forum if I need to. The client's future plans include a shopping cart, and also a paid subscription area of the site, but she also wants to market teleseminars, ebooks, etc, and have some of that content available only in the members area.

    What I'm trying to sort out is how to do this strategically and cost effectively, so that I don't have multiple CRM databases to keep track of. There doesn't seem to be a reliable "one solution" for all this. In other words, if I were to export out all the records into Constant Contact, then I'd have to regularly synch the forum membership with CC. What happens, then, when some of these same people join the paid membership area? Do I end up with two systems, they end up with two registrations somewhere? Or three?? And then you add in online shoppping - what if we want to sell someone in the database an info product, and they come to the shopping cart - which likely has its own CRM solution built in. How the heck can I coordinate/synch these things? And what if I want to be able to filter members - like, only mail to people who haven't bought anything before. Is that even possible without a custom built solution?

    Adding to the confusion - since so many people in the database we have now are inactive, I'd need to somehow get them moved over to the new solution, and then presumably ask them to opt in to a new solution. Doing that, I expect we'll lose a lot of people that way - so I'd really rather just find a solution that will me mail to those people without forcing them to re-sign up, and give them an option to opt-out.

    Ideally, I'd like to have one database, one log-in per person, and have it all in one neato place. I know I'm insane - or at least dreaming. The problem is, right now we HAVE to get something in place to at least be able to notify people of changes on the site, and I have to pick something - knowing all these other things will come down the pike, with variables we haven't considered yet. I don't want to pick the wrong direction, and have a train wreck down the road. :eek:

    So far, I've been looking at Constant Contact, Aweber (we do want auto responders but could do that separately), Amember (for the future membership section)... but I'm also looking at the subscription solution built into Vbulletin, and the possibility of PhpList for mailing services because its available through my hosting. I'm open to suggestions - originally I wanted to find the "end all and be all" solution and had to give up that idea and start with the content, hence the WP direction, but I still need to find the rest of the services to plug in that.

    Anyone have any input? Is there any way to do this without coordinating three or four different separate database driven solutions?

    I look forward to your thoughts - I am certain I'm not the first person to cross this situation, and I'm wondering what people who are doing it (big sites with forums, email marketing, teleclasses, info product sales etc) are using

    Webturtle, Jan 23, 2008 IP
  2. turbulence

    turbulence Well-Known Member

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    I have seen many post on the web from people that discuss CRM and the software solutions on the market.

    I have my own view on this field, but I will not share it with you simply because I don't want to influence your decision or your opinion.

    I will just recommend you to visit ittoolbox, experts-exchange and nabble and try searching for CRM services and software, be it on-demand, hosted, web based or on premise. You will find many great posts and discussions on this topic.
    turbulence, Feb 4, 2008 IP