When it comes to CRM’s, there’re lots of choices. Perhaps too much choice. Today we’re going to review a new CRM option which launched just this week. It’s from a small WordPress plugin company that’s looking to revolutionize the idea of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.

Enter Zero BS CRM. The idea behind ZBS CRM is to host your own CRM software, on your servers, using WordPress. They offer a core which is supposed to give you most of the usual tools you need to manage customers, invoices, and quotes, and then they let you install ‘extensions’ which give you additional functionality.

Let’s see whether there’s any truth in this “Zero BS” outlook.

Testing out Zero BS CRM

You can get a copy of the core for free, indeed, at WordPress.org here, or through the usual WordPress admin Plugins screen, (under Add New). This bit’s easy, and it only takes a few minutes to install the plugin directly from wordpress.org.

zero-bs-crm-for-wordpress-1

So that stage was truly simple. Once you have the plugin installed it adds three areas to your WordPress setup:

  1. Customers
  2. Quotes
  3. Invoices

Nothing too exciting there, but useful. Perhaps small businesses like local craft shops, or freelancers who do a bit of work online for a small client base, will find this functionality robust straight away. The power users among you might be thinking, “Really? Is that all there is?“.

Yes, it’s that simple, just Customers, Quotes, and Invoices. But before we jump into the core functionality of the core, it’s worth showing you the settings as, during testing, we found a few neat features.

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Plugin Settings & CRM Users

crm-settings

Take a look at the screenshot above. The settings for Zero BS CRM are not complex, (true to the name). The coolest bit we liked here was the fact that with the upload of a logo, and a tick of a box, this plugin will ‘takeover‘ WordPress.

What this means is that the usual front end of the site will redirect to a login screen, and the login screen will show your uploaded logo/branding. Furthermore, when this is ticked, all the usual WordPress menu items disappear, and your install becomes a standalone CRM.

At first, we didn’t understand why anybody would want this feature, but talking to the developers it has become evident. Most users are installing this plugin on a subdomain such as crm.yourdomain.com, on it’s fresh WordPress install. Rather than using WordPress as a blog and a CRM, this works best if installed separately. This won’t suit every user, but makes some logical sense if you’re going to sell this to local businesses, or use it for a small team. Everybody needs access, but not to the sensitive sales data!

The plugin has several user levels, which is useful. You can use the usual WordPress user admin screen to make users, assign them to areas, e.g. ‘BS Customer Manager’, and then all they see is that area. What we liked about this is that you can turn the ‘WordPress Takeover‘ mode on and off for WP Admins, and ZBS users separately, ideal if someone is going to be sysadmin of the CRM.

WP Dean Tip: How to get your menu items back? It might be disconcerting to see your WordPress menu items disappear, especially if this is a busy WordPress install. To get your menus back simply go back into ZBS settings and uncheck ‘Override WordPress‘. This way you’ll always be able to get access to the areas of the WordPress admin dashboard that you need to, (to uninstall plugins or themes, etc.)

Adding Users, Quotes, Invoices

Here you can see a screenshot of the add customer page. It’s a simple business of filling out the details we want and clicking save. Being a reader of WP Dean, you’ll be familiar with the WordPress admin styles, and here there’s nothing more than a restyled post page. For some this styling might be a little simplistic, but it made us feel right at home!

add-customer-to-crm

What we didn’t like is the lack of fields. The data here is quite simplistic; there’s no space for a second address or email histories or anything. After we had asked the developers, they pointed out that there is, in fact, a facility in settings where you can add custom fields.

While this is useful, it’s clear that it’s not powerful enough to add multiple addresses, etc. This is one area the developers of ZBS have said they’re working hard on. When compared to the pay-monthly CRM’s, they’ll need to, as the big players like Salesforce or Hubspot have slick UI for adding customers.

Now after we have customers, we can add quotes and invoices against them. Great. Here’re some examples of quotes and invoices.

Here we have the adding of a quote, we like that you can attach the quote file to the record, that’s useful:

zero-bs-crm-for-wordpress-2

Adding an invoice is much the same as adding a quote.

zero-bs-crm-for-wordpress-3

And once you’ve got customers and quotes in you can see that they’re fairly easy to manage from ‘Manage customers‘:

zbs-manage-customers

All that’s great, but so far it’s quite a simple little addition to WordPress. While it’s useful to add customers to a database, and manage them, it’s useless unless you can do more than just that.

Zero-bs-customer-graph

With Zero BS CRM they’ve added a fairly useful CRM to WordPress.org, but their extensions are really where all the useful tools are. We tried a few of their launch bundle plugins out, and they make all the difference.

Extensions (Optional extras)

At the time of writing this review there are 5 CRM extensions listed on the ZBS website:

  • WooSync
  • PayPalSync
  • Sales Dashboard
  • Mail Campaigns
  • CSV Importer

The CRM seems useful until you see that their ‘WooSync,’ ‘PayPalSync‘ and ‘CSV Importer‘ extensions add a significant extra. Adding these means you can automatically import your customer data from one of these sources. This is a killer feature, (though does cost, $79 or $19 at this time!)

These sync extensions make ZBS CRM ideal for e-commerce users because with a few clicks (it took us only a few minutes) you can have the plugin drag all of your PayPal transactions and the customers who’ve bought things from you. After that, the plugin maintains the list automatically.

Powerful stuff.

Add on top of that the ‘Mail Campaigns‘ extension, and you can even email out the users in groups. e.g. Anyone who has bought more than 1 item from me.

We tested this out, and the segments were useful. However, the mail campaign plugin only sends out through WordPress’ built in mail function, so this is only really useful for sending short runs of emails, (though ZBS confirmed that they are preparing to support SMTP and Amazon’s SES services soon after launch).

They give some good example of segments that you can use with the CRM on ZBS:

  • Email customers who joined your business in the last 30 days
  • Email all customers who have a specific tag
  • Email all customers who have a total value of between $x and $y
  • Email all Leads with a special offer for services

It’s not hard to see why that’s useful.

Now Read: How to Publish a WordPress Blog Post via Email?

Zero BS CRM Review: Summary

A useful little free CRM, but only really powerful once you buy extensions. But considering the extensions are relatively cheap ($19-$129), compared to salesforce.com and others that cost you that monthly, it’s a fair trade.

It’s easy to see why hosting your own CRM is cheaper & more secure than putting all your data in a big-name CRM SaaS but are you ready to host your own on WordPress?

Zero BS CRM is one to watch, it might just provide us all with an excellent way to build the CRM we need specifically for our businesses, and own our data too!

Here’s our Pro’s and Con’s:

Pros
  • The Core CRM is free.
  • Self-hosting your CRM is a good idea.
  • Using WordPress means this is easy.
  • Extensions are powerful and cheap.
  • Easy to save lots of $$$ compared to a pay-monthly CRM.
  • Very simple & easy to use.
Cons
  • CRM Core is very simple (though they’re still developing it).
  • Customer Fields Limited.
  • Pay-for features.
  • Have to install yourself.

You can see more at ZeroBSCRM.com, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on this new setup for a customer relationship manager on WordPress below, in the comments.

Also: For launch week Zero BS CRM are running a giveaway, with the chance to win $1000 in free extensions. Check it out here.

How to Integrate Zero BS CRM with WordPress? – A Review
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