August 19, 2016
Putting the Karma in karmaCRM: Our Commitment to Giving Back
We launched karmaCRM on April 12th, 2010. Over the years we’ve built cool stuff, had wonderful interactions with our customers, and helped companies grow. It’s been an incredible journey, but something has been missing – the soul of karmaCRM.
I picked our name for a reason. 2016 is the year to start living up to it. Let’s walk through the history of how the company came to be, and where we’re headed.
Where it all started
In 2008, I cofounded a web development consultancy – MetaSpring. I handled the sales, and we were growing. So, I hired my first salesperson to help out. Hurray, right?
Well, not so fast. Bring on the growing pains.
Within a few weeks of hiring Joe, we had a textbook need for CRM. We were accidentally both calling the same people, leads were slipping through the cracks, and, worst of all, we were keeping way too much in our heads.
A call from Jeff (a big prospect of ours at the time) was the final nail in the coffin. He asked about the status of the proposal Joe and I were working on. I provided outdated information, with the wrong estimate … oops. He knew.
I felt ashamed. I got off the phone flustered, a true hot mess.
In just 4 short weeks, we had:
- Lost leads we’d spent good money on
- Provided clients with bad information, making us look bad
- Gotten into sales gladiator “telepathy” fights – we both expected the other person to know what was in our heads
- Lost sight of what to focus on, what the priorities were. We used our inboxes to tell us what to do next. And let me tell you, the inbox doesn’t have your best interests in mind. Dang you, Gmail…
Cocktail napkins, spreadsheets, and sheer willpower weren’t going to cut it. Not if we wanted to grow. We needed CRM.
Over the next 6 months, we tried every tool under the sun. It was a glorious battle filled with hundreds of hours of support calls. And it was a battle we … lost. With the products I tried, I felt like I was being forced to use a jet engine to drive to the grocery store.
I felt like Goldilocks. The available sales tools were either too big or too small. Never just right. My salesperson kept going back to spreadsheets, and I was on the verge of busting a vein.
The search dragged on, meaning I lost valuable prospecting time. I needed something simple, lightweight, and fast to implement.
So, I did what every developer wants to do. I built my own.
I spent a weekend on the initial prototype, and within a few weeks of us using it, we were already fixing some of our past mistakes. We started to communicate better, the watercooler battles were reduced, and, best of all, our company was growing again.
Over the next 3 months, this tool became a part of my DNA. I used it daily, identified bottlenecks, and made rapid and continuous changes. I poured love into the vision of an affordable, simple CRM for people like me.
I decided to sell my ownership in MetaSpring and focus on building karmaCRM full time. Since this was my third company, I knew the world of small business well. I had personally experienced the workflow issues and I knew I could help. Being a salesperson and a developer meant I could straddle both sides of the line and make sure nothing slipped through the cracks.
I had my focus.
Built for small businesses
How often do you see that when you’re looking for a CRM. “We’re built for small business – only a $1,000 setup fee, then $200 a month per user.”
That might fit your idea of what a small business can afford … if you consider Chrysler a small business.
I built karmaCRM for myself and people like me – the small guys. We don’t need fancy charts and graphs, we just need help knowing what to do next, staying on top of things, and keeping in touch with our customers regularly. Plenty of enterprise CRMs say they cater to the small business market, but you can’t just retrofit a double decker bus to behave like a zippy motorcycle.
I wanted to build a tool for small businesses from the ground up. The local scrappy startup type of small business, not the 500-employee car company type of small business. We’re never going to focus on enterprise. Our vision is the help small businesses grow and we want to stay aligned and laser focused on that vision, even if the enterprise clients come a-knocking.
We’re for the small guys, the solopreneurs, the 3-5 person teams – with a packed-to-the-brim schedule.
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 16. I never worked in, or understood, the enterprise world. Convert a lead to an opportunity, to a deal, to a … what? I’m lost. Lost, Lost, Lost.
I do business with people, humans. I just wanted to keep track of that. My number one goal was to build better relationships, not brag about a pipeline full of an arbitrary 76% closing probability.
I set out to craft system that put simplicity and relationships first.
My focus was:
- To be able to easily see what my team was doing and who they were interacting with.
- To create a single source of truth for communication with my contacts.
- To have light, but well-crafted, customizations. My tool needed to speak my language, instead of requiring me to translate between CRM lingo and my sales lingo.
- To focus on relationships instead of transactions. Quality over quantity.
Bam. I had my vision for the product. Now I needed a name.
I believe that building a strong, vibrant business starts with the why. I could have built karmaCRM to be a soulless, CRM monster, but that wouldn’t have been fulfilling. I wanted a company rooted in something bigger, something that could become my life’s mission.
I wanted to find a way to give back. The concept of karma always resonated with me. I took a long look at the business people I respected most, and I realized that they were all people who embodied the idea of karma by giving back, by constantly adding value, and by generally improving the lives of people around them. You’d think this would be a public service, right? Nope, they’re also the most financially successful people in their fields – it goes hand in hand.
(PS: A wonderful byproduct of giving is it also makes you happier.)
I chose the name karmaCRM because I believe that the landscape in sales is shifting. Sales isn’t about taking; it’s about giving. We’re moving from highly transactional and impersonal to highly human and deeply personal. The more you care about the person and add value to their life, the more likely you are to establish a deep connection.
What does it mean to add value? Here are a few examples:
- Help someone get hired
- Share an article you think someone would like
- Make a useful introduction
- Help someone find a service contractor
- Show someone you care
- Send someone a gift
This idea of providing value through sales isn’t original. There’s an incredible movement behind it, outlined in the book The Go-Giver.
Now I had the product and the name, but, honestly, I didn’t grasp the true ramifications of what the name would mean until now. That’s why I’m writing this post.
We created massive shoes to fill. Now it’s time to fill them.
What does the future hold?
We’re committing, today, to shift the meaning of karma in karmaCRM from abstract to actionable. We want to be the CRM that gives back and helps others do the same.
We’re committing to giving back to our customers in three ways.
- Providing the tools you need to provide value to your customers
While we’re fundamentally a customer relationship manager, we want to add the philosophy of giving to how it functions. This means we’ll give you tools to learn your customers better, identify their needs, make effective introductions, and add value to your network – every single day.
- Donating on your behalf
Every month we’ll look at our most engaged users’ activity, and will donate to charities of their choice. The more tasks you complete and deals you close – the more we donate on your behalf.
- Creating an ecosystem of success to provide empowerment and education
One of the major flaws in many CRMs is they operate on the assumption that your business is already thriving. That you have all the leads you need, and you just need to organize them.
From running a small business ourselves, we know this isn’t generally the case.
We want to be a direct support system to help you grow.
We operate under the assumption that you need more leads, that you could use help.
The more successful you are, the more successful we are. So, we’ll be investing in coaches, trainers, webinars, content, and strategies that help you grow. We’ll give away elite business coach hours, provide resources to help you to optimize your marketing, and even provide you with leads.
While karmaCRM has been around since 2010, our quest to live up to our name has just begun.
The lip service of giving ends today. Today we commit to better.
We’ll be publishing regularly about how this vision is becoming a reality, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about how we’re doing.