by Michele Nachum
Published on 1 March 2012
Solve360 is a web-based CRM application for small businesses - and it is seemingly simple but as you move through the solution, you do start to notice that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
One of the emphasis of this solution is the ability to create project blogs and share with just a select group of people. This allows you the opportunity to provide more context and insight for your project team.
Solve360 has many other tools such as managing contacts and projects, recording revenue opportunities and more - but what separates this solution from the hundreds of other CRM products out there is the emphasis it puts on communication through its Project Blogging.
What Does it Look Like?
Solve360 has an ultra-modern design - minimalistic - sometimes it's a bit too bare and you wonder where to click to get more information. Once you sign up, you are given your own site to work on, however, there was no traditional dashboard that I could see. When you navigate through, as you add in activities and meeting notes as such, the solution will offer some updates - but I was struck that there was not a traditional "at a glance" dashboard that you can use as your home-base. That said, by clicking on your site name, a drop-down menu appears and from there it is fairly intuitive. It allows you to configure your settings, invite others to your group, add in client and colleague names, addresses, notes, etc.
As a whole, once you get to know Solve360 - the solution works well. It doesn't look like a traditional CRM program but it does act as one.
Given the minimalistic design, I do recommend that you go to the Help section and look through the slide show they provide. It will give you a better feel for all the features at your disposal because there are quite a few and the menu appears more simplistic than it really is (one area they should look at beefing up).
The heart of the solution appears to be the Activities and the internal Project Blogs that you can develop for clients and colleagues. These two features will help you better manage projects and communicate with your teams. However, before you start your blogs and create your activities, you need to do some set-up as that is the case with all CRM programs. Solve360 allows you the opportunity to enter in contacts either by name or by organization (or both) and you can do so manually or you can import from previous client spreadsheets you have already have on hand.
Working within the contact fields is straightforward. You can change or edit the information, add a designee for each contact, record meeting notes and much more. Another interesting feature is the ability to assign your contacts to communities. For example you can create a community for all health-related customers or clients belonging to certain departments within company. This allows you to add more context and insight to each of the contacts.
You can also add each of the contacts to various categories and this will come in handy as you manage projects and need to reach out to certain groups - you can filter through categories to help you better understand and utilize your contacts.
Once your client and colleague contacts are in place, you will be in a better position to use various tools of Solve 360 as you can invite people to view your blog, into conference calls, emails and more. You can also record the revenue associated with each client or customer to better ascertain the client's position within the company for prioritization purposes.
Other CRM tools at your disposal are calendaring features where you can invite clients and colleagues to meetings and such; search features for finding contacts if you have hundreds or thousands of them as well as six reports to look at to provide an overview of such items as calendar events, next actions and follow-up assignments to keep you and your team on track.
According to Solve360 you can "super charge" your contacts by using the Activities features within your contacts page. Activities can also be found when creating an internal blog post. Here is a short list of what you can do within your Contacts or your Project Blog:
I thought one of more innovative solutions for Solve360 was the ability to create a project blog. This can be done rather easily just by pressing on "Manage Project Blogs" folder in your drop-down menu and from there, you can create your copy and input some Word-like editing tools to help you. You can create a Category Tag so if you have several projects - the blog posts can be more organized according to projects or types (which is why it is important to categorize your contacts - see above for more information). You then have the opportunity to send out the blog to only a certain group of people who are appropriate for that post - and these can be clients or colleagues. The blog posts have a myriad of tools such as adding in links, photos and other helpful tools to better illustrate and outline the project to your team.
As noted above, you can also use the blog post to add in Activities such as scheduling calls, adding a task list, and even create a link to Google docs.
Google Apps integration
As we have mentioned in many posts, one of the strong virtues of cloud based apps is integration. Solve 360 is renowned for a successful integration with Google Apps.
At Solve360 they have packed their app with many useful integrations with Google Apps. Things like document merge, contextual gadget etc.. fill in important gaps that most web apps don't attempt . There is a reason why they achieved "Google Staff pick," something few products have achieved.
A nice feature you likely won't find anywhere else, they can link Google Apps Gmail history from the team's individual Gmail acounts to the shared CRM database by simply adding a special Gmail label to the messages, it's called the "Link to" feature.
Imagine, linking 50,000+ emails hidden in each user's Gmail account to your new CRM in a couple clicks - bam, everyone on the team sees the shared email history regardless of who owns the message - magic with no tricks!
They also provide an alternative UI called "Google supernatural" which is themed to be consistent with Google's new design.
You can see a summary of all of those Google Apps integrations on their site.
Is it for you?
I believe Solve360 is a good CRM program that can help a small business better manage their clients and projects, specifically if you are a hard core Google Apps user.
Like many CRM programs - those businesses with customer/client bases (from 30 to 300,000 customers) should use a CRM program that helps them better organize and delegate.
Having all customers under one roof - where meeting notes, calendars, client account managers are all recorded and easily accessible will make any business person's life much easier. Solve360 has all the main components and then some of a basic CRM program and with pricing that starts at $39 a month for 10,000 contacts and 50 blog posts up to $149 per month with 60,000 contacts and 10,000 project blogs you cannot go wrong. I believe if "project blogging" is an important part of your process, Solve360 will be a good investment.
Those who are not so much into blogging will still benefit from the myriad of tools in Solve360, but since project blogging is a core component, small businesses should keep that in mind when looking for the right CRM solution.
Ratings: ease of use 5/5, features 4.5/5, value 4/5 and ease of deployment 4.5/5