CRM platform vs Point solutions

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In the digital marketing industry, there already seems to be an overabundance of tools and vendors at the disposal of businesses. At this point in time, personalization is an $800 billion industry – and, given the current digital market trends, it is only projected to expand. Delving into specific software markets, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is the single biggest and fastest-growing software market today. However, this plethora of choices presents businesses with a unique dilemma; are holistic CRM platforms or hyper-focused point solutions the optimal choice? Here at MoversTech, we find the question of a CRM platform vs point solutions to be substantive and complex, enough so as to devote an article to it.

Defining CRM platforms and point solutions

Initially, let us briefly define the two competing options.

CRM platforms are holistic software solutions that seek to manage all aspects of a company’s interactions with its customers. To do so, they collect all interaction information in a centralized, most often cloud-based database, where they offer monitoring and analysis tools. Furthermore, they offer complimentary automation tools, such as marketing and sales automation, and other similar CRM features.

Point solutions, on the other hand, are not so specifically defined. A “point solution”, as the name implies, is any given software solution a business may seek to use to solve a specific problem. Such problems can be anywhere on the sales funnel, from lead acquisition to conversion rates, or elsewhere within a business’s operations.

Measuring the two options

Thus, the debate of CRM platforms vs point solutions may initially seem to be easy to answer. Surely, CRM should fit new businesses and ones without many legacy assets, while point solutions should be ideal problem-solvers within established operation systems.

A person's finger pointing at a paper with graphs and statistics.
While point solutions hyper-focus on specific problems, CRM platforms provide a holistic approach to data management.

This is not an entirely wrong assumption, by any means. That there is a market for both options should attest to the merit of both for different businesses. However, the aforementioned dilemma remains; one is holistic, the other is hyper-specific. Furthermore, consolidating their characteristics for the sake of ease of comparison, there are 4 main scopes to examine both under:

  • Cost
  • Integration
  • Scope and customization
  • Usability and user adoption

These 4 factors are all equally vital, arguably when considering any software solutions in general. Thus, let us explore them in some depth.

CRM platform vs point solutions: cost

Probably the first concern for many, especially small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs), is the associated cost of either. By nature, neither option has a truly fixed cost, but CRM likely has a lower cost overall.

CRM solutions’ costs vary from solution to solution and from vendor to vendor. They vary depending on the solutions’ scope and size, industry focus, specialized features, and intended business size. That said, their costs are otherwise standardized. Businesses pay for the initial license purchase for on-premise CRM, and the monthly per-user price for cloud-based CRM. Of course, building instead of buying CRM has entirely different associated costs, but that’s an ill-advised option, to begin with.

Point solutions, on the other hand, have no standard cost by definition. Point solutions seek to address very specific, individual problems; the more such problems pile up, the more point solutions, and the higher the cost.  It is definitely a viable option for a starting business that begins exploring optimization tactics, in that it will likely be a small handful of purchases.

Thus, it should be safe to argue that CRM solutions generally come at a lower cost. This starts becoming particularly visible when one considers both in other terms that may incur further costs.

CRM platform vs point solutions: integration

A person holding US dollars over a pen and notebook.
Integration with existing assets is an essential factor to consider as regards potential ROI.

The first factor that overlaps with total costs, as mentioned above, is integration capabilities. When contemplating either solution, a vital set of criteria is the following:

  • Integration with existing assets
  • The transition period
  • Return on investment (ROI)

In this sense, CRM offers more standardized integration capabilities. Almost all current CRM solutions come with massive integration capabilities since their express design goal is to facilitate digital marketing strategies and enhance operations.

The same is not true for point solutions. As individual point solutions pile up, the metaphorical patchwork needed to ensure proper integration grows in size. In turn, this adds to both costs and management workload, in most cases decreasing ROI in the process.

CRM platform vs point solutions: scope and customization

A similar factor to consider is the scope of each option, in tandem with customization options for the future. In this regard, CRM seems to edge ahead by definition.

A CRM platform provides the foundation for future expansions of assets and operations. It doesn’t simply intend to solve individual problems of the present, but also to provide a reasonably future-proof system. Thus, most CRM platforms offer a multitude of customization options, in forms ranging from plug-ins and add-ons to custom APIs for tailor-made refinements.

Point solutions may more accurately address specific existing problems such as bounce rates, but they most often have no further future-proofing in place. Coupled with the integration factor highlighted above, point solutions offer little but temporary fixes in this regard.

CRM platform vs point solutions: usability and user adoption

A group of people around a table looking at a laptop.
As with most software investments, user adoption rates are vital towards ensuring a high ROI.

Finally, the aforementioned issues of integration and customization culminate in overall usability. This will of course vary from case to case, but CRM seems to have the advantage here as well.

The vast majority of businesses value clear, accessible insights into customer data and seamless collaboration among different departments. Business intelligence is an invaluable asset that a clear system structure can facilitate; that’s exactly what CRM platforms’ design philosophies offer.

Point solutions, on the other hand, may entangle one’s systems in needless complexity. If users require specialized knowledge to operate each individual solution, and said solutions only multiply over time, it’s only safe to assume that user adoption rates will remain low. CRM solutions continue to face this issue themselves, so they can only be present manifold in less cohesive systems riddled with point solutions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, point solutions may indeed tackle individual challenges with adequate efficiency. However, most businesses should find more overall value in a holistic, future-proof CRM platform. As such, in the vast majority of cases, we would confidently recommend the latter over the former.

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