GreenRope’s Lars Helgeson On Taking Command, Creating Demand and Being the Only Complete CRM in the Market

What’s your relationship like with your existing or potential customers? Sweet, sour, or bitter?

For most customers, they’d say sour or bitter.

However, businesses would beat their chest and boast of offering the best customer service on the planet. An opinion that their customers don’t share.

In reality, 58 percent of customers are switching to competitors because they are not happy with the quality of customer relationship they are getting.

Meanwhile, businesses that increase their customer retention by five percent see their profits grow by 25 percent. And did I mention that keeping your customers is easier and cheaper than acquiring new ones?

It doesn’t matter if you run a website, sell a service, or sell physical products online. You must put your customer communications in perspective.

Great Customer Relationships Thrive on CRM

Satisfying customers is tough work. We are humans and things can slip through the cracks. But customers are not always patient. Hence, you’ll need a coordinated system of customer communication and feedback to thrive.

A problem your customer relationship management (CRM) system helps you solve.

Your CRM should bring you closer to your customers. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting or have been in business for decades. Your CRM should help you take command of your customer communication, discover business opportunities, and drive growth.

To find out how your business can use a CRM tool to get better results, I talked with Lars Helgeson, Founder and CEO of GreenRope.

My Discussion with Lars Helgeson

Lars Helgeson, Founder/CEO of GreenRope

1. Hello, please introduce yourself

Hi – I’m Lars Helgeson, Founder and CEO of GreenRope. :)

2. Why “GreenRope,” what does the name mean?

Green is for revenue and sustainability. Rope is because many strands make a rope strong. The more parts of your business you connect with GreenRope, the stronger your business will be.

3. What personal experiences or realizations inspired GreenRope? Please give us a brief history of GreenRope.

GreenRope was born from a melding of two different businesses I was running before. The first was CoolerEmail, an email marketing service provider. The second was MyTeamCaptain, a web application I developed for my hockey team so we would all know who was supposed to bring the beer every week.

As these businesses started to expand, both in user base and functionality, I realized there was a lot of crossover. Every business, like every hockey team, has the need for managing contacts, communication, and events. So rather than try to build two separate businesses, I combined them into a single platform that encompassed all of those functions into an all-in-one system.

I started building it in 2009 and in the summer of 2010 launched an MVP. Since then, we have been scaling out in terms of functionality, and scaling up in terms of capacity. Now we support over 1,000 customers in over 40 countries.

4. Of all the business challenges faced by businesses and startups, why is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) your top priority problem to solve?

Image Credit: GreenRope

The biggest problem is management of information. Every business is different, but all businesses have a need to integrate sales, marketing, customer service, and some elements of operations (e.g., events, projects, knowledge base).

In most businesses, these functions are all managed with different, disparate software, meaning there’s no one place to go to understand how the business is doing as a whole. The only way to pull that data together is manually (file import/export) or with heavy use of APIs, both of which are expensive and complicated.

GreenRope solves all that by having all those functions built into a single platform. The system is easy to use, powerful, and involves the entire company.

5. Popular phrases by GreenRope are “Take Command. Create Demand.” and “the Only Complete CRM in the Market.” How is GreenRope helping brands boost customer relationships?

Relationships are broad and can be very complex. If we take a wider view of what constitutes a relationship (website traffic, email, online and offline ads, events, phone calls, video, social, etc), we find that no one thing dominates for any business, let alone any industry.

For example, not all of your leads will find you from your Google ads, or from trade shows. Through GreenRope, you CAN bring all of that relationship together into a single place.

From a management perspective, you can learn a lot more about how your business interacts with leads and clients this way. From an operational perspective, building in automation across different channels helps you scale your business efficiently.

6. Building and sustaining a business is not an easy task. What challenges did you face while developing GreenRope? How did you manage those challenges?

The biggest challenge has always been awareness. CRM is a crowded space, with some very well funded competitors. Most CRM platforms push the burden of data integration back on to their users. If you’re a huge company, it may be tempting to think that you can buy “best of breed” software solutions and then worry about integrating that data later, but it is one of the greatest, most expensive fallacies in the business world.

After creating awareness, our job and greatest challenge has been education. People tend to follow large-scale trends. It goes back to the old adage of “you’ll never get fired for hiring IBM.” This saying is based on fear, that if you’re in business, you have job security if you just do what everyone else does.

Total cost of ownership is a concept we touch on a lot. It’s more than just how much any piece of software costs. You have to look at the bigger picture. If you can get a cheap email marketing program for $50 a month, but it costs $200 a month for the integration and $5,000 in developer time to set up, you’re spending a lot more than $50 every month for that email marketing software.

7. What improvements are you making at the moment for GreenRope users?

Right now, we are finishing our integration with DocuSign. While we have embedded electronic document signing in GreenRope, some users require DocuSign for compliance purposes and integration with legacy systems. Our integration will automate the signing process, so that a workflow will trigger sending a DocuSign document to multiple parties.

We’re also working on some UI design changes, streamlining and simplifying the user experience. Our API is also undergoing some changes to make it easier for developers to do back-end integrations, should our integration with Zapier not provide enough functionality.

8. Tell us about how small businesses can leverage GreenRope’s “Marketing Automation” feature to attract customers, increase sales and grow their business?

Automation is all about using software to engage and nurture leads and customers. Because GreenRope is a multi-channel system, we can automate interactions via websites, forms, surveys, emails, video, social, online and offline advertising, support tickets, phone calls, and more. These interactions can then trigger workflows, which can then automate outbound communication (e.g., ending emails, texts, audio messages), schedule activities (e.g., followup calls), or changes to data in the CRM.

Once a business has an understanding of their customer journey (the marketing and sales process), automation can be used to streamline the user experience throughout that journey.

9. According to your website, on average, GreenRope users save up to 90%, or at least, 80% total cost of ownership compared to other CRM and marketing software solutions, while increasing revenue by 75% in 12 months. How did you arrive at these numbers? Can you substantiate these claims?

When you look at the cost of acquiring and supporting CRM software, you have to build in much more than the subscription cost. While our cost model is simpler and generally much less than comparable CRMs, we also save businesses much more by having everything in one platform.

Our pricing is based on the number of contacts, meaning you can add users and not pay more, which is a hallmark of CRM pricing. User-based pricing is one of the most notorious traps in the CRM industry. Oftentimes, companies will combine people into a single user account to save money, which ends up killing accountability and opens up a whole security-related can of worms.

Integration costs are difficult to calculate because they depend on the business and use case, but we regularly see CRM implementation projects based on the traditional Salesforce/Microsoft/Oracle model in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of heavy lifting from large software development teams. With GreenRope, we typically see the most complex of implementations comparatively costing about 1-2% of implementations from those larger companies. No that isn’t an exaggeration.

The average increase in revenue of 75% in 12 months came from a study that was conducted a few years ago by an independent firm that interviewed our users. We had no input into the questions asked, just saw the results.

10. GreenRope has a drag-and-drop customer journey builder to create tailored customer journeys from awareness to conversion. How can small businesses use it, especially those who are new to customer journey mapping?

We have a strategic planning tool available for free at that any company can use to do high level mapping of their journeys. We also have some recorded webinars and e-books on the subject that can help.

Once you have a high level understanding of your customer journeys, you can set up automation within GreenRope to support it. Our Journeys feature is an easy-to-use drag-and-drop tool that helps you craft your automation. Since GreenRope is a multi-channel tool that integrantes sales, marketing, and customer service, you can combine all of those elements in your GreenRope Journeys.

11. What’s the best thing anyone ever said about GreenRope?

That’s a hard one, since we have so many success stories, but I would say the one that impacted me the most was when I was visiting a company in Switzerland that uses our platform. They had been in 7 years of gradual declining sales and profitability before they switched, and within 3 years, they are now growing so fast they’ve cut their marketing budget to slow down demand because they’re at capacity. This particular company has been in business many years, and they have a wall that has pictures of the various innovations they have come up with.

The last time I was there, their sales director said he wanted to put a picture of GreenRope on that wall because it has had such a profound impact on their business. They went from having to lay people off to being a thriving, growing business.

12. Negative comments are normal, every product has had its share of it. What’s the worst you’ve received? And how did you handle it?

The most common negative comment we have is that our system does so much that people don’t know where to start. This is why we have a free certification program we offer (this certification program uses our own built-in learning management system).

If someone thinks setting up a CRM is something that happens in a few hours, they’re being unrealistic. Everyone’s business is complex and in the modern era, we have to understand how to manage it all across all of the various parts of a relationship.

13. Being the world’s first complete CRM. What makes GreenRope stand out from other CRM solutions?

We see CRM as a more comprehensive approach to understanding and managing relationships. When we say “complete”, we mean including websites, email, social, video, surveys, SMS, telephony, chat, print, face-to-face meetings.

We also mean the various ways a business builds those relationships through the use of software, all integrated into one system, with automation, lead scoring, predictive analytics, and more.

There is only one CRM in the world that has all of this in one platform – GreenRope.

14. What’s one fascinating thing about your product you’ve never talked about to anyone?

A lot of people ask us what market vertical we are in, and the answer is that we don’t specialize in any one vertical. We have customers in consulting, manufacturing, event management, education, transportation, and many more.

The flexibility of GreenRope gives us the ability to tailor it to any business, regardless of size or complexity. Some of our clients have millions of contacts and hundreds of users. Some of our clients are startups. One of our clients has his teenage daughter managing his business through GreenRope. She started using GreenRope at 13 years old, the youngest CRM user we have ever heard of.

15. Where should users who have never used a CRM for their businesses start? What first steps would you recommend?

The biggest challenge with using CRM centers on the business itself. Start with getting a deeper understanding of how your business works. Write down your market segments – who are you selling to? Draw your sales process, walking through the customer journey for your major market segments. Analyze what data you need to store to support your process – if you need to treat certain segments differently, you need to store data in support of that journey personalization.

I wrote the book CRM For Dummies (the acclaimed series published by Wiley), and I strongly recommend taking the time to read it. Involve your team in coming up with your plan on how you will use your CRM. Develop the requirements for what your CRM will have to do FIRST, before you do any research on CRM companies.

Then, once you have an understanding of what you need your CRM to do, research a few. Get demos and trial accounts. You should be able to ask a salesperson how to accomplish a common task that you will be using your CRM for. Make sure you get a clear picture of your pricing. A lot of CRM companies have very complicated pricing models, so make sure you can predict how much it’s going to cost you in the long run.

16. What prompted you to merge GreenRope with CoolerEmail? What benefits has that brought to the table for your users and your company?

CoolerEmail was my first company. It was good for what it was at the time (one of the first email marketing service providers on the market), but we realized the major shortcoming of software like that was that it doesn’t tell you what’s happening in the rest of the company.

Who cares if you have a high read or click rate? What impact did it have on the business? How can the rest of the business leverage the intelligence gathered from email marketing campaigns?

We found the bigger questions were going unanswered, and that for most small and mid-sized businesses, it was nearly impossible to solve this problem. So we went out to solve the impossible, and in the face of many people who said it couldn’t be done, we have built our business around helping other businesses grow.

We learned a lot from CoolerEmail, about both technology and what businesses need. That has given us the insight into how we designed GreenRope for businesses large and small.

17. The number one reason why businesses switch to a new CRM is because their current CRM lacks a feature they desire. How are you staying ahead of the curve here?

I would say that you’d be hard pressed to find something that you need that GreenRope doesn’t do. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible – while we are a very broad and powerful system, there are always certain pieces of functionality that can be augmented to better serve our market. In fact, our users drive our growth. Most of what you see in GreenRope is the result of listening to our user stories.

As an agile software development organization, we are able to adapt to changing technologies and changing markets. We also have an extensive network of resellers who work with us to provide feedback and ideas to meet their needs.

18. I counted 21 integrations on your site. Do you plan to allow more integrations any time soon?

Integration is important to any CRM. While we have a large number of functions built into GreenRope, we also support integration with thousands of different applications through Zapier. We have a full featured API, and a few built-in integrations that make connecting various functions to our CRM easy.

19. If someone who’s never used GreenRope gets curious and reads this interview, what would be your best advice to them on using a CRM for their business goals?

Set realistic expectations. Get a comprehensive understanding of your business, and read CRM For Dummies. You’ll have to do your homework first before you start using a CRM.

Once you have an idea of what you want your CRM to do, go to our website and sign up for a free demo. We are not a hard core high-pressure sales organization. We want to be able to help all of our clients, show them how we operate, and be a resource for their growth. After the demo, we’ll give you a trial to play around with, and after you sign up (which happens to about 50% of our demos), you’ll have training and access to unlimited support by email, chat, phone, ticket, or web conference.

20. Are any GreenRope features or pricing arrangements limited by geographical region or not available to some users everywhere? If any, why the limitation?

We include all functions in every level of subscription to GreenRope. We want it to be easy for you to scale up and scale out, integrating GreenRope into all of your sales, marketing, and operations. The only additional costs come from the use of third party integrations, such as when sending SMS or audio messages, as we have costs we must pass along to our users.

21. Tell us about your pricing and why it’s ideal for small businesses? Do you have any special pricing of any kind, charities or academia, for example?

Having pricing based on the number of contacts in the system means that it’s easy to predict how much using GreenRope will cost. As you add users, you don’t have to pay more, which simplifies planning and keeps you away from surprise bills.

We do have special pricing. For non-profits, we are instituting a FREE program. Meaning that if a non-profit is registered as an official entity (e.g., 501c3 in the US), we will allow them to use our platform for free, forever.

22. Would you say that GreenRope has caused a major shift or change in customer relationship management? Tell us about it.

For our clients, absolutely. GreenRope transforms a business. It changes the way everyone in the business works, fostering a true team environment. Everyone accepts being held accountable, and shares information in a way that is meaningful and secure. Growth happens, and communication, both internal and external, becomes streamlined and more relevant. GreenRope is the revolution that businesses dream about, made real.

23. What is the big picture, where would GreenRope be in the next five to ten years?

GreenRope is, and always has been, a steadily growing enterprise. We have never received any external funding and will remain an organically supported, sustainable business that is focused on our customers. In the coming years, we will continue to build out functionality, improvements to the UI, and capacity, but it will be the steady, reliable platform we have built GreenRope to be from the beginning.

About GreenRope

GreenRope is a company built around providing exceptional value to our customers. In the past 15 years, we have evolved from being one of the first email marketing service providers to being the only Complete CRM on the market. Combining sales, marketing, and operations into a single platform, GreenRope inspires collaboration with your clients, vendors, and employees and we live this collaborative culture, listening to people like you to build what YOU want to run your business.

We aspire to be the go-to platform that powers the success of the world’s small and mid-sized businesses.

We are strategists, developers, marketers, technology gurus, and helpful buddies. But, most of all, we are one unit, one team, and one family who works together to listen, create, and partner with inspiring businesses around the world. Let’s work together to build and grow your business!

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Nicholas Godwin

Nicholas Godwin is a technology researcher who tells profitable brand stories that tech buyers and businesses love. He covers technology topics on his website, and has worked on projects for Fortune 500 companies, global tech corporations and top consulting firms, from Bloomberg Beta, Accenture, PwC, and Deloitte to HP, Shell, and AT&T.