How To Choose The Right CRM For Your Business

September 30, 2015

CRM Software is a topic that comes up a lot, there are so many options to choose from and so many ways to use a CRM. So before we jump into a brief comparison of options I thought I’d cover off a few basics first. Feel free to skip over the Q&A section if you’re already familiar with what CRM is.

Let’s start from the beginning

Q. What does CRM mean exactly?
A. Customer Relationship Marketing.
Q. What do you use CRM for?
A. CRM Software is a way to manage all information and interactions with clients, prospects and connections (often called ‘leads’ and ‘opportunities’).
Q. Who should use a CRM?
A. Any business with a lot of client interaction or wanting to track clients and prospects on the journey from first contact to sales support. But it depends on what you would like it to do, there is a lot of flexibility to a CRM system.

A CRM is great if you feel like you’re missing important details or not keeping consistent contact with your network.  It is your reminder system, your sales funnel, your social engagements, your marketing, your calendar … the list goes on!

What do you DO with a CRM system?

Each business has different needs and each business will use a CRM differently. One business may track sales from where a customer found them how, they interacted with the company (and what the business said to them), all the way to their purchasing history. On the other end of the scale the business who needs to manage multiple social media accounts. When you have a social media strategy in place you need to be consistent and follow through. That means you have to be on top of what your clients are saying, what potential clients are saying and what your Influencers are saying. It can be time consuming and frustrating if you are having to switch between a dozen networks to keep up. A CRM will pull all those dozen networks in one spot so you have it in one place – whew!

So now you know what they are used for, which one is the best?? Which one do you choose? There are literally hundreds of options out there for you and they can range in price from free to a rather hefty investment. So before jumping in, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What are you going to use the CRM for? Are you going to use it to maximize your social media strategy, run your marketing campaigns, track your sales funnel or … run your business (yes, programmes such as Infusionsoft and Ontraport pretty much run your business for you!). The answer to this question is critical in choosing the right software for you.
  • How much time are you going to spend using the CRM each week? Do you have time to dedicate to using the system? Or does someone else on your team have time to work it? This is key! We’ll discuss this more below.
  • How complex do you want it to be? Basic reminders so you keep in touch or a CRM that manages multiple aspects of your business.
  • How much money are you willing to spend? Most CRMs are purchased using a monthly billing system. So think about how much you are happy spending and whether you will get a return on your investment.
  • Does it have to pay for itself? If so, how will you know that it has? Will you require a minimum number of sales per month to make it worth your while? If you are using it to track social media, how will you know if it is paying of itself? Is time saved a key measurement?
  • Do you want customers to solve their own problems? Some CRMs have a customer support feature, which will allow customers to solve their own problems, which may be useful for you.

Once you have an idea of what you want your CRM to do, and how much you want to invest in both time and money, then you can start to research which software meets your needs. Here is a brief comparison on 3 CRMs we’ve had experience with, more comparisons in this previous article:

This is a web-based system that provides common CRM functions but also integrates social media services. If you are trying to use social media wisely then this system maybe the best option for you. It also has a number of third party apps for more advanced tasks if you need them. It is easy to use and also has reporting and reminder capabilities. Starting at $15 per month per user this might be a good option for small business owners. There is a free 14 day trial available for you before you fully commit to the service.

This is probably the biggest name in the CRM industry. It’s expensive with different pricing starting at $35 per month per user, but if you are willing to deal with the steep learning curve, and initial set up frustrations, then Salesforce probably has every feature you could possibly need. There are also other plugins and extensions that can add to it’s functionality as well. Again they offer a free 14 day trial.

If social connectivity is not an issue for you, then Base might work for you. It is aimed at sales teams and the sales funnel rather than looking at what people are doing on social media. There is limited customisation, but the system does provide great reporting, an iPhone/iPad app and the usability is logical. It is priced in the middle at $25 per month per user and they also provide a free 14 day trial.

Now you can see why choosing the right CRM can be time consuming, and why having a trial is so important!

If you are not ready to commit to a system, then there is an alternative. You won’t get the full functionality of a CRM, and you will have to spend time setting it up, but by working within your existing email system you can create some CRM features.

Debbie Mayo-Smith from the NZ Herald has put together some great tips on how to manage your contacts.

  1. Create a complete contact for the person you are trying to track. Fill in as many details as possible depending on the “Contacts” programme you’re using. Make sure you add all email addresses, phone numbers, any address details, birthday etc.
  2. You can then track their emails to you and even appointments they may have had with you (again depending on your service).
  3. If you have more database information about your contacts you can often import an Excel spreadsheet. (And conversely, once your contact information is complete you can export a spreadsheet – it’s vital to have a back up!)
  4. Now comes the secret sauce – categories (or some services they call them ‘Groups’). You can create and use categories in a powerful way – add categories such as “Renewal dates”, “Position in company”, “Services/Products” they are using etc.
  5. You now have the ability (if your service allows it) to create and personalize an email merge based on those categories.
  6. Finally add another layer by attaching their social media activity by using software such as Rapporative (for Gmail) or Outlook Social Connector (for outlook). This will make you look like a rock star when you next see a contact and can talk to them about their latest adventures you’ve seen on their social media accounts.

(You can find Debbie here on LinkedIn)

Buyer Beware

One really important thing to note.  I’ve lost count of the number of clients who have a CRM which they are doggedly paying a monthly subscription for and not using.  “I have a CRM I started setting up ages ago! As soon as I get time I’ll start using it as I really need to be more consistent in my communications with clients.” 

If you have a CRM or are starting to use one, start small.  Add a few contacts, learn how to use the CRM and add more.  If you’re like most of us, setting aside a day or so to make the big move just won’t happen.  Better yet, get us to set it up for you!  But if you get into the habit of logging in once a day and completing your tasks, having it open as you go through your emails for the day and engage on social media … your usage will grow and you’ll start to see the benefits.

And be prepared, it’s not a commitment that will solve your problems. But if you ARE committed a CRM will help you manage your relationships, your marketing and ultimately your business, better.

So tell me, which CRM do you use? What are your frustrations … and what benefits have you seen since integrating a CRM with your business?

Thank you for reading!  Please do comment and share your thoughts, and if you’d like to receive my weekly blog straight to your inbox please subscribe here

UPDATED 29 October: Rob Yeagar of Small Business CRM has shared a really good comparison between Infusionsoft and Ontraport.  Having used both I found this valuable and definitely worth sharing.  


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