Making CRM your friend

Customer relationship management needn’t be difficult – in fact it can be downright helpful. BRENDAN LEWIS

Brendan Lewis

By Brendan Lewis

I’m connected to Jodie Benveniste of Parent Wellbeing via LinkedIn. I’m not exactly sure how we met (she’s in Adelaide, I’m in Melbourne), but I think it was because she read some of my articles and liked them. And because I have kids, I read some of hers.

Anyway, she sent me an email the other day about CRM systems. CRM stands for customer relationship management. Basically contact systems on steroids. Although I’m not an expert, I have deployed six or seven different systems, so decided to share my (slightly fleshed out) answer on free systems to a slightly wider audience.


You’ve been blogging about freeware, web-based software on SmartCompany, which is great! Just wondering whether you’ve found any decent CRM solutions?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Cheers, Jodie.

Hi Jodie,

I have been using Maximiser on the desktop for the last couple of years to keep a record of contacts, event attendance and newsletter mailouts. But as part of my new cloud computing push, I am evaluating new CRM solutions. And being me, I wanted to look at the free versions first.

In the open source space I am currently having a look at vTiger CRM. Previously I had a look at Sugar CRM (the other main player), which didn’t necessarily impress me (as it was a bit pseudo open source, with the yummy bits unavailable).

The web 2.0 interface of vTiger appears to be nice as it speeds things up. It runs on my standard software configuration (LAMP Stack) and seems to have all the bells and whistles.

  • Sales force automation.
  • Customer support and service.
  • Marketing automation.
  • Inventory management.
  • Activity management.
  • Security management.
  • Calendaring.
  • Email integration.

It also plugs into Outlook, Microsoft Office and Thunderbird (my email client).

I have also tried FreeCRM, which is a hosted solution with the lite (bannered) version being free. Banners irritate me though.

It’s hard to make recommendations on CRM though, as my experience is that every business runs in a unique manner (other than franchises), and that CRM systems tend to be configured uniquely to each business. Therefore everyone will have a different opinion on what is best, and a different solution will be best for them.

For instance, I am separating the Churchill Club CRM solution out from my general Brendan Lewis solution. I have completely different needs from the Churchill Club.

The Churchill Club’s new (Joomla based) website will use a CRM solution integrated into it, combining a couple of free modules. On the Joomla platform I have added the community builder module to store information, the JEvents module for running events, and the AcaJoom module for sending out newsletters. I have also integrated some e-commerce into the mix so the whole thing will be one, standalone system.

Personally, I have different needs. I have a couple of thousand contacts that need to be:

  • Categorised.
  • Available to me in all three offices.
  • Integrate with other bits of technology I use.
  • Can export all records easily if I get bored with it.

Hope this helps.



Brendan Lewis is a serial technology entrepreneur having founded : Ideas Lighting, Carradale Media, Edion, Verve IT, The Churchill Club, Flinders Pacific and L2i Technology Advisory. He has set up businesses for others in Romania, Indonesia and Vietnam. Qualified in IT and Accounting, he has also spent time running an Advertising agency and as a Cavalry Officer with the Australian Army Reserve.

To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.



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