Small Business Customer Relationship Management

ACT! vs GoldMine: What You Need To Know To Choose The Best One

October 30, 2007

CRM Software Comparison which is best?For some reason, one of the most asked questions of me is “which is better: ACT! or GoldMine?”

Sometimes, they ask about Maximizer or SalesLogix, but ACT! and GoldMine are currently the two main ones I get asked about for software comparisons.

I remember when I was a Consultant, selling CRM software, I used to wait for the head-to-head product comparisons from the CRM manufacturer. Why? Because it’s what my prospects kept asking for! And I wasn’t alone…this kind of product matrix or comparison chart was probably the most asked for marketing document from the Reseller community.

But they weren’t head-to-head comparisons at all. It wasn’t competitive intelligence. After a while I came to understand that these charts were thinly veiled marketing hype posing as “competitive intelligence” and were very biased and, in my opinion, deviously skewed. (A careful reading will reveal that the features or functions have been worded in such a way as to give one CRM package a better rating or score).

Now when I’m asked which CRM package is best, I tell people “You’re asking the wrong question!”.

For those of you who don’t want to listen to my explanation about what the right approach is, don’t worry. Further down, I have included some specific areas you should examine when evaluating such programs as ACT!, GoldMine and Maximizer. It’s not a comprehensive list, but should provide a really good start. (In the Insider CRM Success Toolkit, I give over 50 pages of detailed notes on comparing feature sets).

“GoldMine versus ACT! Is The Wrong Question!”

Usually, but not always, these companies are smaller (one or a few salespeople) that enjoys the entrepreneurial flexibility of “just do it”. However, when it comes to implementing a Customer Relationship Management system, it’s important to pause for a moment and make sure you’re taking the right approach.

When I see a company using the approach of comparing CRM software feature sets, that’s a pretty big clue that they’re headed towards project failure. Companies that “go looking for a CRM package” without having an explicit business requirements document and look for the CRM software with the best feature set are headed for project disappointment.

It may sound subtle, but the distinction is critically important to the success of your CRM project. (As you read my explanation, I want you to keep in mind that the failure rate of CRM projects is 70%!)

It’s All About The Business Requirement

Both ACT! and GoldMine have been around for many years, have a large and enthusiastic user base and depending on your business requirements are a great choice. So, how do you really know which one is best for you?

Let me be clear…

I’m not saying that you need to spend a bunch of money on an expensive consultant to do your business requirements or do a detailed needs analysis. In fact, my strong recommendation is that you do this yourself. The payoff goes far beyond just a CRM project!

Your business requirements document should:

  • Be a formal document.
  • Detail “what you need to be able to do” with your CRM system.
  • Deal with your vision for the system for the next 3 to 5 years. So, if you’re starting with your salespeople now and hope to add customer service in a year, your business requirements should include both departments.

With your business requirements in hand, it becomes a much simpler task of looking at editor’s choice awards, magazine reviews, product recommendations and the like in order to make a decision. Instead of relying on often biased or rushed product reviews that simply repeat what the software makers have told them, you will have your own measuring stick.

What If Neither ACT! or GoldMine Is Right?

I would say better than 80% of companies that ask me which Customer Relationship Management system is best are only considering GoldMine or ACT! and have never considered anything else. This is usually because these are the ones they’ve heard most about and they probably have friends who use one of them. This is a mistake!

Don’t limit yourself! After you have you business requirements, it’s time to go look at the field—there are hundreds of CRM and Sales Force Automation (SFA) packages, all with their own particular strengths, weaknesses and specializations.

In The CRM Survival Guide, I show you how to efficiently check out the market and narrow down your choices. You may end up with an entirely different CRM system like SalesLogix,, NetSuite, MS CRM and so on.

Look Beyond The “Back-of-the-Box” Marketing Hype

At some point you need to evaluate which CRM system is going to best satisfy your business requirements (you have decided to put together an explicit business requirements document, right?!).

I’m not going to give you a matrix that compares which system has what features—by now you should know that’s folly. What I am giving you is a list of features to take a close look at and make sure they do what you need them to. By no means is this a complete list—it’s just the tip of the ice burg.

  • What kind of database is it? Is it a currently popular one? Are there utilities available for doing things like data import, export and clean-up? If you’ve got more than 20 or so users and/or a lot of data entry volume, then you probably want to be looking at a SQL based database such as MS SQL.
  • How easy is it to set-up a new synchronization notebook? What happens if the notebook goes “out of synch” with the main database; what kind of refresh or recovery is available?
  • Speaking of synchronization, what happens if, in between synchronizations, the remote user updates the phone number of a contact and someone at head office has updated the person’s title? Will one of the changes be lost?
  • In addition to contact or record level security, what kind of field-level and function-level security is there?
  • Is it contact centric or account centric?
  • What types of fields can you have? They all have text fields, but what about text boxes, check boxes?
  • How many add-ons are available for each? Is it widely supported by the 3rd party development community?
  • What about a faxing solution? How can you do individual and mass fax blasts?
  • Can you send personalized HTML Email blasts? How easy is it to do?
  • What features are there to prevent users from printing out or exporting your customer list and walking away with it?
  • Is there free support provided? Are there active public users groups where you can see what issues others are having and get answers to your questions?

Stop! Ask Yourself “Am I going to fall into the failure trap that everyone else does or am I going to listen to Scott and do this right?”

OK, I’ve said my piece. Thanks for hanging in there…it was important. You should walk away with three very important messages:

  1. “Which is better” is the wrong question. The right question is: “Which best satisfies my business requirements?”
  2. Don’t go shopping or talk to a salesperson until you have a clear set of business requirements.
  3. Look beyond the “back-of-the-box” marketing hype and see for yourself how each system satisfies your business requirements.

Discover the step-by-step “No B.S.” answers that show you exactly how to implement an ACT! or GoldMine system that your users will welcome, that will let you manage sales better in less time, and will give your company the competitive sales boost it needs.


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