Contact manager Maximizer 8.0 tracks customer interest in your product, from first contact through payment and beyond, by borrowing several useful high-end customer relationship management (CRM) tools found in Maximizer's enterprise-level application, Maximizer Enterprise. Maximizer 8.0 also makes significant inroads against the comparably priced contact manager by improving its own ease of use and replacing its clunky former report organizer with the much more versatile Crystal Reports. For most small businesses, Act will be easier to use; however, we think the similarly priced Maximizer 8.0 is a better choice if you're looking to grow your business and you think you may need to track sales in greater depth with a more CRM-oriented contact manager. Despite its many features, Maximizer's installation and use are relatively easy. You can either purchase the retail box version of Maximizer 8.0 or download a fully enabled multiuser version from the company Web site. The full program download is roughly 245MB, but you can also download it as nine separate files, totaling a more compressed 135MB. Maximizer also provides a free demo version that runs for 30 days; you can renew it twice before it ceases to work--time enough to decide whether this advanced contact manager is right for you. Installation is pain-free, ultimately requiring about 300MB of hard disk space.
The Maximizer interface is easy to comprehend. The major sections--My Work Day, listing your current tasks and appointments; Calendar for scheduling tasks, including printing to paper Franklin Planners and DayRunner organizer formats; Address Book for maintaining contacts; Hotlist for targeting your best prospects; Email for accessing Outlook; Company Library for closing a sale with the latest presentation and market info; Personal; and OrderDesk for invoicing sales--are all listed along with their icons on the left and include multiple means of access, via a menu option, a button bar option, or a right-click. Maximizer 8.0 provides numerous improvements over previous releases, including its ability to export Maximizer Address Book entries directly into Outlook. But Maximizer 8.0 surpasses Act Premium for Workgroups with its native ability to track and close sales in greater depth. For example, Maximizer might aid a sales employee for a clothing manufacturer who needs day-to-day involvement with customers. Within Maximizer's Opportunities screen, that salesperson could tag each new lead with a sales prospect ("doubtful," "very good," and so on). Maximizer's Company Library feature keeps handy documents that will help make the sale, including price lists and images to attach to a Web site or a brochure. The Maximizer OrderDesk then finishes the sale, letting the salesperson fill out an order form or an inquiry--complete with address, item codes, and comments--for electronic forwarding to the appropriate departments, including the merchandise warehouse.
The daily, weekly, and monthly calendar views in Maximizer 8.0 have also been revised to hold more information drawn from other modules in the contact manager so that tasks, appointments, even conference room scheduling is possible. There's also an accounting add-on for that allows users of both apps to view vendor and customer info. Transactions in Maximizer 8.0 automatically sync with the appropriate QuickBooks data file, allowing a salesperson, for example, to electronically send her order to a number of appropriate departments, including accounting, sales, and inventory, at the same time. Act Premium 2005 integrates with Peachtree Accounting instead of QuickBooks.
Maximizer 8.0's most significant change, however, is its replacement of ReportSmith, from Strategic Reporting Systems, with the superior and more versatile Crystal Reports from Business Objects. For example, a real estate agent could use Crystal Reports to generate comparative pie charts detailing the resale value of homes in different local areas for his customers, or a sales manager could turn out graphs comparing wholesale product movement by national region and time of year. Crystal Reports is available as a separate add-on to Act Premium 2005, but we like the convenience of its inclusion within Maximizer. Maximizer Software provides a lot of technical support. Live support is available for Maximizer 8.0 by telephone Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. Following product registration, the first hour or the first five incidents (whichever occurs first) within 30 days are free. After that, things get very expensive, very quickly: $45 per incident on a standalone computer. In a multiuser environment, the first month is $150 per incident, and $200 per incident after that. The fees are higher than expected for software of this caliber.
The context-sensitive in-program help system is effective, with entries for everything from the most generic (Address Book) to the specific (Print Column Report). Maximizer also provides a stellar online searchable knowledge base, though it does not offer e-mail support. There is a printed 32-entry tutorial database and a printed and indexed 200-plus-page user guide, too, but those who'd rather get up to speed quickly might prefer to pay $49 for the optional 100-page training guide.