Most businesses these days are familiar with email marketing solutions (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and others) and even perhaps with how to segment your clients/customers/followers into separate lists to create targeted marketing campaigns. But what if you want to keep track of more than just their contact information? Perhaps you need to track every detail of your customers or clients from your first interaction and into the on-going relationship you have with them. That is where a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system comes in.
Large companies have been using CRM systems for over ten years. But the high cost of those systems prevented most small- to medium-sized businesses from implementing one. In the past few years many lower-cost solutions have hit the market with a vengeance. However, the problem smaller organizations now have is in selecting the right one from the many choices available.
Just about every CRM solution available offers the following basic features:
- Contact database
- Lead management
- Task management
- Event management (calendar)
- Opportunity tracking
- Workflows (e.g., marketing automation)
However, there is more to a CRM system than just providing those listed features. Every one of the many systems available offers a unique solution. And business owners are now faced with finding the right one for their operation.
Here are a few key things to consider when evaluating the vast selection of CRM systems.
Probably the first thing you need to decide is whether you want a cloud-based system. Unless you must have your information stored on your own private servers for security reasons, then cloud-based is the way to go. Having your data in the cloud is typically more cost-effective since you don’t have to buy your own server (or upgrade as your database grows). A cloud-based solution is also much easier to access outside the four walls of your business. Rather than requiring VPN access to a private server, most cloud-based solutions can be accessed via a web browser.
CRM platforms are priced in a variety of ways. Some set their pricing per user, and others set it per X number of contact records. Some offer versions that have different price points for various levels of access to features. Many CRM systems offer a free (starter) version, but those are often stripped down (feature-wise) or limit the number of contacts to the point that you will likely outgrow it in a few months. Knowing how many users you will have (currently and in the near future) and what features you need ahead of time will definitely help you narrow down your options.
Every business is unique and has its own established processes. Selecting a CRM system that will allow you to customize it to match your current way of doing things will definitely improve your success in implementing it. Your current staff will not have to learn a new way of doing things and will welcome the system as a way to improve their productivity.
Integration with Other Applications
Your new CRM system should not duplicate your existing applications. You likely already have email, calendar, and task applications with which your staff is familiar. Your new CRM system should be able to integrate with those already-established systems. You will also want a system that is capable of accepting form data from your website so your staff does not have to enter (or import) the data manually.
Ease of Use
If your new CRM system is hard to use or requires extensive training your staff is likely to resist using it. The interface should be easy to navigate, as well as visually pleasing. Data entry, information access, and reporting functions should all be clear and easily accessible.
If your sales staff spends much of their time away from the office you will definitely need a solution that is mobile-friendly. Salespeople should be able to quickly access key information, as well as easily enter new data into the system, during sales appointments. And even your staff members who spend most of their days in the office could benefit from the ability to enter and access information when they are away from the office.
And last but not least, you will want a system that is backed up by outstanding support. Having the ability to pick up the phone or email a live person is critical during the on-boarding process. Once everyone is settled into the new system a well-organized library of written documentation is helpful for exploring the lesser-used features of the system or for training new people.
Whether you had never heard of CRM before today, have been on the fence about investing in a CRM system, or have already spent time looking into a CRM solution only to be overwhelmed by all of the choices, hopefully you now have a better idea of how to take the next step in adding a CRM system to your business.