It isn’t often you see something truly new in the world of customer relationship management (CRM) software. When a vendor pitches their shiny, new CRM system, it is usually just another ‘Salesforce, but cheaper’, or ‘Microsoft Dynamics, but for your smartphone.’

Today, that changed.

KitCRM marks itself as different to the baying crowd almost instantly. To paint the full picture, I need to pigeonhole CRM systems somewhat before explaining why its approach is so different.

CRM software has become a staple of the B2B world. Why? Because CRM solutions are an extension of what we used to call ‘contact managers’ — a digital Rolodex to help salespeople manage hundreds of contacts quickly, rather than thumbing through dozens of cards to find your next opportunity.

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CRM solutions improve on contact managers in that they provide metrics, analysis, contact history, and the all-important pipeline; a view of the deals you have open at any one time. Since a deal pipeline is something that appeals to the long sales cycles associated with B2B companies, they’ve never really done as well in the B2C environment, where great marketing and a slick order-taking system wins every time.

“We see that changing,” Michael Perry, CEO of KitCRM, told me in an interview. “These days, anyone can start up a B2C or B2B store using Shopify, Facebook, and more, and they need a way to manage customer relationships that fits their business size and available resources.”

Perry is right. As of Dec. 31, 2010, there were 11,323 active merchants using Shopify as their e-commerce solution, responsible for $124 million in product and service sales. By April 2014, that number had risen to 100,000 stores in 150 countries, and it now stands at over 130,000 virtual shops.

And it isn’t all mom-and-pop shops either. The likes of Google and Tesla use Shopify too. According to the company, Shopify merchants have sold almost $4 billion worth of products and services.

So what is it about KitCRM that made me take notice, and made them stand out from the crowd?

We’re studying social media management tools (SMM)…
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SMS. That’s right. Good old-fashioned text messaging.

kitcrm-thank-you-emails“We thought about building a chat app to talk to Kit,” Perry said. “But we realized — Apple, Google, and others have already developed amazing messaging clients. Why not just use SMS?”

KitCRM is, in reality, more of an intelligent order management bot that will help you better manage your store, your customers, and your communications with them, and tell you when things need your attention.

“Kit will text you in the morning to tell you how many products you sold and to what total value,” Perry said. “It will then ask you to reply telling it what to do next.”

For example, KitCRM might explain that you sold three products yesterday for a total of $162. You’ll then be offered some choices, such as “reply with Yes if you would like a full report.”

Kit might ask you if you want to send thank-you emails to everyone that ordered yesterday. A simple reply will kick off an email to those who purchased through the day. If you want reports at any time, you can SMS message Kit to receive details and text back to gain further granularity, such as replying with “1” to check the best-sellers or “3” to get details of the slowest-moving inventory.

KitCRM works by connecting to your business accounts, such as Shopify, Etsy, or Facebook. It then begins to understand your fans, customers, and sales. Once it is set up, you can tell KitCRM to market your products or services, or run reports to keep you up-to-speed on what is happening.

“We designed Kit to help those that just don’t have enough time in their day to get to know, and manage, a full-blown CRM or order management system,” Perry said. “We also found that those systems have a significant education overhead. Text messaging, with a little AI thrown in for good measure, seemed to be the best way to bring customer management to those running small shops.”

kitcrm-marketingIn a world of complicated CRM and store management systems that can take weeks to implement correctly and days to learn how to use, KitCRM stands out as a serious contender for the small or micro business. In fact, small-to-medium businesses could even use it at a divisional level to manage sales of silo products and services.

While you might not automatically put KitCRM in the traditional CRM pot, it makes sense to include it in that category. It manages customer relationships, after all.

“For many of our customers, Kit is their first hire,” Perry said. “We wanted to build a person that could work for the merchant, and we gave them a way to talk to that new hire via SMS messaging.”

While a solution like KitCRM isn’t going to have the likes of Salesforce quaking in their boots, it does offer a sensible, automated customer relationship solution for the types of businesses that struggle with traditional CRM products. And by being smartphone agnostic, anyone with a phone can tell Kit what to do — as long as they have a mobile phone signal, of course.

More than 10,000 Facebook business pages have connected to KitCRM, and the solution is now available to the public from $10 per month.

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