Below is our recent interview with John Paterson, CEO of Really Simple Systems:
Q: Can you tell our readers more about Really Simple Systems and what you do?
A: Really Simple Systems is a developer and vendor of CRM software designed for small and mid-sized organizations. The software is also popular with departments of larger companies looking for an easy to use CRM.
Our philosophy is based around taking complex applications then making them easy and affordable. Our experience tells us that most small and mid-sized businesses don’t need half of the functionality available in many of the CRM systems on the market and will never use it. So, by applying our philosophy to the development of our CRM we have created a system that organizations can easily adopt and successfully manage their business. Basically, making CRM simple!
As well as the standard features you would expect, such as contact management, task management and sales pipeline management, our CRM software includes two powerful report writers, a quotations function and email integration. Customers also have the option to add-on our integrated Marketing module, and Service Desk module – providing everything they need to run the sales, marketing and service in one centralized hub.
What sets us apart from our competitors is the ease of use of the software and our exceptional customer support. To start with we’ve developed a range of self-service resources including in-product help drawers, step-by-step guides, tutorial videos and regular live webinars. All are designed for people with minimum technical knowledge so anyone can easily learn how to use the CRM and customize it for their business. For those who need more help, our friendly Customer Support team works hard to resolve any issues as quickly as possible. We’re still small enough ourselves to appreciate the personal touch and we enjoy working closely with our customers to ensure they see the return from their CRM.
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Q: Really Simple Systems has just launched a new rebranded website that you built in-house. Explain how that came about.
A: Our Marketing Manager, Helen Armour, had been stressing that we needed to update our website for some time. The old site looked fine to me but that’s why I employ her! She wanted to present a more contemporary look with a clean, clear design that better represented Really Simple Systems on the international market. At the same time, we knew the old site was not great on cell phones which was holding back our SEO strategy since Google launched its mobile first indexing.
However, I had my reservations. Anyone who’s been involved in a website development project will know the scope for a prolonged and expensive fiasco. Not to be dissuaded, Helen and our Development Project Manager, Simon Ridley, hatched a plan to build the website in-house. They identified that we had most the skills needed internally but would just require the help of an external agency to create the design.
I agreed the budget for the design and the number of developer days that had been estimated for the build. The marketing team would then take care of the content, SEO and website launch.
Q: How did the relationship with the external design agency work out?
A: The team approached a selection of designers for quotes, including one we had an existing relationship with. Some were not so keen on only doing the design element and wanted to run the whole project. In the end we selected the on that felt like the right fit for us and because they had a impressive portfolio or international clients.
I admit that when the first design concept was presented to me, I wasn’t keen. But as I said, I thought the old site looked good! Unperturbed by my reservations, the team progressed with the design and the agency delivered everything we asked for on time, leaving our developer to get on with the build.
Q: How has the new web design impacted on the rest of your company branding?
A: Our brief to the designers gave them a free reign, whereby there was scope to change the brand ID if necessary. However, they opted to keep to the existing colour palette and logo which has made life much easier. The design cleverly uses the pre-existing brand assets to create two mascots that are used throughout the site to illustrate the relationship of the CRM system and its small business customer base. We’ve affectionately named them Pie and Wedge, adding a fun element to the pretty dry subject of CRM software, and giving our brand a unique persona.
I now appreciate what has been created and how the design works for us. It’s enabled us to see how we might apply the same level of detail in the CRM product and carry the design right through our software. We’ve a new UI that’s due to be launched in a few weeks’ time and this will give the CRM a more contemporary feel and is much easier on the eye.
Q: Did you encounter any issues with the website build?
A: With the design in place, the build phase was straight forward. The site hierarchy and page planning had all been mapped out in advance, so the developer soon had the key pages ready to populate. We used WordPress with the WPBakery page builder and the beauty of the project was that with the developer and marketer working in the same office they could easily consult with each other as any issues arose.
There were a couple of elements of the design that didn’t work so well in practicality, but the designers quickly offered up alternatives. An added bonus was that our developer was able to show the marketing team some of the code short cuts letting them control the page layouts and the fine tuning, which speeded up the delivery.
Q: What other issues did you face in building the website?
A: The new site needed to be optimized for mobile use with responsive design underlying the whole concept. We don’t have the huge marketing budgets of our more illustrious competitors, so we have invested a great deal of time in our search engine optimization. In creating a new website there was potential for short term damage to our SEO ratings so were keen not to make a negative impact. This meant carefully planning out the pages in line with our SEO strategy and identifying the key search terms for each.
Thankfully, the launch went very smoothly without any hitches. The SEO reports are looking very encouraging and we have immediately seen and increase in visitor conversions, as more people like what they see and have signed up for a CRM trial.
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Q: With the website completed what are your plans for next four months?
A: As I mentioned previously, very shortly we’ll be launching the new CRM user interface, which follows through from the website design. After that our next big release is a new version of our integrated Marketing module. This has been a huge project with all the team involved, simplifying the software to make it super-easy for small business users. There will be a simple, streamlined module that lets users quickly create great looking emails and send to their customers, as well as a professional version that includes more functionality for those looking to run complex campaigns and manage their ROI.
As the same time, we’re working on a new integration with a VoIP provider allowing call centers to make calls directly from the CRM. We’ve plenty more plans on the horizon but will keep them under wraps for the time being.