37Signals Highrise: Simple CRM

37Signals is a company that produces Rails based websites that I believe can help small businesses grow.  From their website…. “Making collaboration productive and enjoyable for people every day.”  Highrise is just one of their web based applications… and the one we’re going to talk about today.

There are plenty of CRM options out there.  You can go with old favorites (Goldmine & ACT! for instance), or heavier hitters (SalesForce.com or NetSuite).  While they all have their pluses and minuses, I’ve settled into Highrise for the following reasons:

  • You can start out on a free plan… and it’s not dumbed down.
  • It’s incredibly cost effective even for the paid plans..
  • You can bundle it with other 37Signals products to save even more.
  • You don’t need to be “in it” to “use it”.

The last point is where I’ll start, because you can find information for the rest of the reasons on their website – specifically the pricing & plans page.

In order to “populate” Highrise all you really need is an email account.  That starts the ball rolling.  I can be in Outlook, Thunderbird or Gmail and as long as I have some basic information loaded for myself I can simply BCC all of my email communications to Highrise.  This is accomplished by what 37Signals calls a dropbox email address.  It looks fairly ugly, something like dropbox@99999999.YourName.highrisehq.com.  When you BCC an email their system parses that email looking for either who you are sending an email to or, in the case of forwarding sent emails, who the email was sent from.  Based on the email address it will attempt to 1) associate that email with the proper customer account or 2) create a new account based on that email address.  All of this without needing to be logged into their site.  You can also create additional dropbox email addresses for specific “Deals” or “Cases” and you can BCC more than one dropbox email address at a time.  Additionally you will have dropboxes for entering tasks.

Why is this so important to me?  Because I can do all of this from my iPhone…and I never have to load an app other than email to do it.  (37Signals does produce an iPhone app specifically for Highrise, but that’s another blog post.)  I can be away from my home… my desk… my office and my computer… but as long as I have my iPhone a some sort of signal I can stay connected and keep my communications logged in Highrise.

Next post we’ll go into the app – which is slick and provides all the options I need to keep things up to date.

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