Open Source CRM and Marketing Software They Don't Want You To Know About
Customer Relationship Management - CRM - if you're from San Francisco, this class of software is synonymous with Salesforce. There are hundreds of vendors in this space, including Hubspot, OroCRM, SugarCRM, and Zoho to name a few. Many innovative products blend features of a traditional CRM platform, as a centralized place for customer communication records, with all-out marketing automation features. The CRM has been one of the most rapidly evolving categories of software over the last decade, and one of the most useful to savvy marketers. It is no coincidence that Salesforce made their fortune on top of selling CRM software - as they pioneered the advent of Software as a Service ("SaaS"), they were able to command high prices for their valuable services, and deliver new features rapidly through their managed SaaS business model, providing their customers with a competitive advantage to justify their costs.
However, this SaaS business model leaves gaps in the market - what about those start-up businesses who can not afford hundreds or thousands of dollars a month, as they begin to establish a foothold in their respective markets? Or those businesses who run on thin margins, where a $20,000 a year CRM bill will cut a significant chunk into their profitability? There are also those executives who simply prefer to keep their data managed in a place where they have it under their control, where they can rest assured it is accessible by their personnel, and don't like the technical or financial risks of having such a valuable digital asset under management by a SaaS business who may make efforts to lock-in (or lock-out!) their customers. Data lock-outs are a significant risk with these types of services, as you never know when some administrator may make an arbitrary decision to suspend your account. And then finally, the SaaS business model inherently requires a compromise of your business and your customers' privacy, as the SaaS company may refuse service on questionable grounds or re-use your customer's data for their own private purposes.
In 2019, the free/libre software community has caught up with the proprietary SaaS CRM space, as private companies in cooperation with the free software community have made significant progress in addressing the market for self-hosted CRM and marketing automation software, feature-for-feature.
The first amongst open s0urce CRM options available we have evaluated is OroCRM. OroCRM provides a commercial-grade feel to the software, and the company who provides it, also provides a hosted enterprise-grade option. OroCRM provides a very strong core CRM function to build a business on top of. It is great if you are planning to extend your CRM with custom features, are capable of working with the HTTP API it provides to integrate with other services you may use, or just need a very reliable database for your customers and their communications, and a straightforward way to send them emails. The company touts OroCRM as "The Most Flexible CRM" to grow your business, and this is a fair statement. OroCRM source code can be found on Github, although it is not so obvious to find the open source version from their website, it is well-supported and documented.
Oro, Inc. also provides an open source version of their e-commerce platform, OroCommerce, which may interest people selling things online.
Mautic is a more integrated platform centering more around marketing automation than core CRM features. Mautic is designed to be competitive with expensive platforms such as Hubspot and Mailchimp for effective e-mail marketing and executing web campaigns. Youtube user Sonny Tee does a great review of Mautic in his video here:
We recommend Mautic over OroCRM for a more publisher-focused solution when your goal is to develop and maintain an audience. However, there's no reason you couldn't use both, as both provide the ability to integrate with other platforms through published APIs.
vTiger CRM is another open-source CRM which has been around for many years now. However, upon our evaluation of it, we found it to be more difficult to use than OroCRM and less p0lished. We took a look into the source code of vTiger and found it to be disorganized and difficult to maintain. Although the company claims to have 300,000 customers, we would not recommend it.
SuiteCRM is an open-source fork of SugarCRM, which was formerly free software until 2013. We have not evaluated SuiteCRM thoroughly, but it has commercial support available and is sill a viable option. It may be worth a try if you are looking for something which is lacking in the other options.
Do yourself and your CFO a favor and give OroCRM or Mautic a try! Arctype Corp. would be happy to support your installation in case you need to develop or maintain any custom integrations or require special data processing. Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.