Customer relationship management (or CRM) is becoming indispensable for many businesses today. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of businesses adopt CRM within their first five years of operation, according to Capterra, and about half (47%) of CRM users listed improved customer retention and customer satisfaction among the main benefits of a CRM.
“Good CRM software enables your business to better manage customer interactions, provide support, and maintain relationships through reliable systems and processes,” said Samantha Bonanno, a senior analyst specialist at Capterra in a recent article. “It also integrates organizational processes across marketing, sales, and customer service with functionalities and features that can strategically serve key initiatives across departments.”
Comparing CRM and Choosing the Right System
Often, the biggest challenge of CRM for small business is selecting the right system for their business. There are a number of different factors that go into comparing CRM systems and choosing the right one.
CRM systems can help your business accomplish a wide range of objectives, so the first step in choosing a CRM system is to determine exactly what you want the system to accomplish for your business. “What you should consider doing is creating a list of requirements, in priority order. This is a good time to get your sales team together and ask for their input,” said Mike Lieberman, the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2 Marketing in a recent blog.
Most CRM systems today offer the following features:
- Contact and lead management
- Customer and prospect interaction tracking
- Email integration
- Document management
- Proposal and pipeline management
- Workflow automation
- Sales forecasting
- Reporting and analytics
For example, a CRM system can help you gather and manage leads, follow up with active prospects, and nurture leads through your sales pipeline until they become customers. In addition, you can use CRM software to store key information about your customers that can help you personalize product and service offerings, improve customer service, and boost customer loyalty and retention.
CRM lead management tools automatically generate leads from different sources such as the corporate website, inbound calls and social media platforms. The system can then follow up with leads automatically by sending them various types of communication, such as e-newsletters and push notifications.
Once you have set goals and objectives for your CRM system and understand what a system can do for your business, you can decide which features are most important to helping you accomplish your goals. Meet with your managers to prioritize all the different capabilities and features to determine which ones need to be included in the CRM systems you consider.
Lots of Options to Choose From
Now you should be ready to start looking at the different CRM systems that are out there. The good news is that there are lots of different CRM options available today, offering a wide range of features at a variety of price points.
Here are a few questions to ask as you examine various CRM systems:
- Is the system built with small businesses like yours in mind?
- How does the implementation process work and how much technical assistance does the vendor provide?
- Is the system easy for novices to learn and use and does the vendor provide training?
- How easy is it to integrate the system with other software systems you’re using?
- Does the system include sophisticated security features to keep unauthorized users and hackers out?
Of course, you also need to set a budget for your CRM. The cost of CRM systems varies greatly depending on which features and tools you choose and how many employees will be accessing the system. Most CRM vendors use a subscription-based pricing model that charges a set monthly fee per user. You should ask vendors what will be the total cost of a system, including any setup, training, integration, or additional user fees.
Two CRM systems that are popular with many small businesses are Zoho CRM and Infusionsoft by Keap. These systems have been designed specifically for small businesses, offering affordable options and configurations. Most importantly, they are scalable so it’s easy to migrate to a larger CRM system like Salesforce if your business needs change in the future.
Narrow Your Options
There are hundreds of CRM systems on the market, so you should narrow your options down based on the features your business needs and your answers to the questions above. Lieberman suggests narrowing your choices to the top three CRM systems and inviting these vendors to perform demos for you. “Pick them based on price as well as their ability to hit all of your must-haves and as many of your nice-to-haves as possible,” he said.
Give the vendors a list of the features you want them to demo so you can clearly see how well-suited each system is to your specific needs and requirements. This will ensure that your time evaluating CRM systems is spent most efficiently and also allow each vendor to compete on a level playing field.
Of course, price will be an important factor in your decision, but it shouldn’t be the overriding factor. Like many things, you often get what you pay for when purchasing a CRM system. Trying to pinch pennies can end up actually costing more money in the long run if you choose a system that doesn’t fulfill all of your needs.
CRM vendors often price their systems differently, which can sometimes make apples-to-apples comparisons difficult. For example, there may be a variety of different service levels and configurations, such as basic and advanced, as well as payment options, such as an annual upfront payment or monthly payments. All of these variables will affect the price, so work with each vendor to arrive at a final price based on your needs that can be compared to the other vendors’ prices.
Gather Feedback from Stakeholders
As you make the final decision on your CRM system, be sure to get feedback from various stakeholders throughout your company. This includes not only salespeople and the marketing department, but also any other employees who will be impacted by the system.
Once you’ve made a decision, it’s often a good idea to try to negotiate with the vendor. CRM software is a competitive business and vendors are often happy to offer an accommodation if it helps “seal the deal.”
“Almost all of these companies are open to negotiation,” said Lieberman. “Ask for discounts, extended payment terms or a month of free training. It never hurts to ask, and the worst they can say is ‘no,’ putting you right back in the same place you are now.”
Positioned for CRM Success
Selecting the right CRM for your small business will help you realize all the benefits of a CRM. Choosing the wrong system can set your business back months or longer in critical areas that are vital to business success while also souring employees on the idea of using CRM in the first place.
So be sure to exercise proper due diligence by following these steps when choosing a CRM system. Doing so will put your business in the best position for CRM success.
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