by Michele Nachum
Published on 17 December 2012
Most small businesses don't have a lot of time on their hands and trying to manage unwieldy IT solutions are hardly at the top of their to-do list.
But many small businesses, that are sales oriented, still need a good repository for their contacts; a workable project management solution to keep them on track and a way to track key sales opportunities. But what many smaller businesses don't need is all the bells and whistles of enterprise-level CRM (customer relationship management) products.
That is where Insightly comes along. This is a straight forward and user-friendly solution to help businesses keep track of clients, opportunities and projects - but without a lot of fuss and training.
Insightly offers small businesses the basics of both CRM and Project Management and merges it into one solution. It has a number of features to help a business capture information about customers as well as anticipating sales opportunities and managing tasks. The solution is designed to help you record information fast - get in and get out and use as needed (most likely everyday). If the basics are what you need, then Insightly gets that right.
Insightly has a modular design and friendly user interface that offers instructions as you navigate through the solution. It has a ribbon at the top so you always know where you are: Dashboard, Tasks, Organizations, Opportunities, Projects and Emails are the key sections. There are CRM features that allow users to manage contacts and project management features for creating projects and tasks and setting deadlines. A Dashboard will host activity including any contacts you add as well as projects and tasks with upcoming due dates. Nifty calendar and Gmail integration features are available at certain subscription levels and the ability to monitor a contact's Twitter feed is another plus to this solution.
Insightly makes it easy to sign up (you get a free trial which is always nice) - and with just an email, name and password you can have an account right away (no credit card is needed). You are given a dashboard where you can keep track of client and project activities as well as keep tabs on colleagues working with you. A trip over to Settings will help you fill in information about your company, add in other users and user permission levels where you can stipulate how you want your colleagues to work within the solution.
CRM Tools and the power of linking:
The first step for any CRM program is to store your client information all in one place so that customer data is easily accessed and available to all who need to manage it. If you already have your contacts on in Outlook, on a CSV spreadsheet or in a social media tool such as LinkedIn or Twitter, Insightly allows you to export your contacts from those channels. You can also manually type in any contact information.
Insightly offers you a number of options to complete contact and organization profiles - from entering in basic information such as email and address to contact's birthday. You can link contacts to their organizations (which makes it easy to search if you don't remember the name but you know where they work) as well as link social media feeds to the client contact. That way if a customer tweets - you can see it and keep up-to-date with your clients' activities. You can also add in notifications so if you have several people on your team using Insightly and there are any changes or updates to contacts or organizations, you will be notified via email.
In addition you can attach files to each customer so that meeting notes, PowerPoint decks and other information are all connected to the client and easy to locate in seconds. For those who have hundreds of contacts, Insightly provides a proficient search tool to find your contacts/organizations when needed.
Insightly also allows you to bulk organizations together and provide them with tags. This is a nifty feature as it allows you to group the many contacts and organizations together in a meaningful way. You could take 25 organizations for example and tag them as "Signed Contracts" so you can refer back to that tag to anytime you wish to see which companies that have actually signed a contract.
In fact, Insightly's ability to link related items together - employees related to their employers, emails related to projects, tasks related to opportunities - all intuitively linked up and just one click away, is probably what makes it so powerful.
As mentioned above, Insightly integrates with Gmail. You can have any email address and simply use the solution in the cloud. That said, those with Gmail accounts have a slight advantage in that they can save Gmails into Insightly and connect the emails to customer contacts or organizations.
Any good CRM solution worth its salt offers you a way to track the sales pipeline. While Insightly tools are user-friendly their "pipeline" is a bit limited but works if all you need is a way to track opportunities. You can create an opportunity by simply going to the Opportunities tag and hitting the Create Opportunity button. You can enter in the name of the person/organization, the potential worth of the opportunity, the team member who is managing the opportunity and more. What I believe is missing here is a reports tool that can help cull all the opportunities together and show progress. That said, the Insightly team plans to add in report tool soon.
Project Management Features:
Projects and tasks are created with a simple click of the button entitled Add Task orAdd Projects. In the task interface, you can attach each task to a specific project as well as delegate the task to a particular colleague. Once the project or task is created, it will show up on your dashboard so you can keep track of the deadlines and information. You will also get notifications via email when you are assigned a task or project as well as create "activity" sets that you can align with certain projects, opportunities or contacts with activities.
Other tools in Insightly include a calendering tools that integrates with iCalendar or with Google calendar. You can insert recurring tasks and other meetings that you can also have notify you via email when a meeting or event is coming up.
Insightly also has an HTML 5 mobile interface for those out in the field where users can manage their contacts and projects/tasks from their smartphones or tablets.
Overall I found Insightly to be reasonably priced. Subscriptions start at the "free" level for three users and 2500 contacts and then goes up to $29 per month for six users and 25,000 contacts. You start to receive unlimited contacts at $49 per month for 15 users and for $99 per month for 40 or more users. At the free level you can't synch the Insightly calendar with your Google calendar but you can add events from your Insightly calendar to your Google calendar. My advice is to pay the $29 per month at the very least so all the bells and whistles are at your disposal.
Insightly is a solution that many small businesses will enjoy as it is a good workable product with "just the basics." It is not hard to get up to speed on the product and users will enjoy not having to spend hours on training. In addition, Insightly provides the all the necessary tools for CRM and project management - but they skim the surface and I believe that is what they mean to do. There are more robust CRM programs out there with sophisticated sales pipeline tools for example - but if that is not something a user needs, then Insightly is a very good option. My one point of contention is that there is no "reports" feature available but I was told that would be added in soon. Being able to print out reports whether its about customers, project and opportunities statuses, etc. is an important feature for many businesses. Currently users can export customer and organization lists in Insightly - but that is not the same.
That said, I liked using Insightly and believe it will be helpful for many small businesses that need an affordable and easy-to-use CRM and project management solution.
Ratings: ease of use 5/5, features 4/5, value 5/5 and ease of deployment 5/5