Why use a CRM?
Relationships need to be nurtured throughout the sales and customer life cycle and to do this well, particularly as your business grows, you need an easy-to-use, robust and scalable CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.
A CRM should be at the heart of every business and organisation whether you are B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer).
Customers, be they clients, members or other stakeholders, are one of your most valuable assets and it is important to look after them from the moment your organisation first has contact. Be that through your website, digital or print advertising, on the phone or in person.
How will a CRM help?
A CRM will help you to manage key relationships by providing relevant, up-to-date information. It tracks, monitors and reports on interactions that your business or organisation has with an individual and their associated business or organisation. This information enables your business to operate efficiently and to make informed decisions.
Which CRM should I choose?
There are hundreds of CRMs. Below are a few that we have found commonly used by SMEs. They are not industry-specific, typically those cost more, but not always, particularly when you include setup time, training and any ongoing support costs.
Widely used in established businesses, scalable, offers industry-specific features/setups.
Extremely popular with start-ups and small businesses.
Strong CRM product with its own productivity tools but will also integrate with others e.g. MailChimp.
HubSpot CRM is free, but add marketing or sales tools and it can be expensive relative to other CRMs.
Worth looking at if social engagement is key to your marketing strategy.
Monday is well known for its user-friendly project management platform. Their CRM platform is similarly very user-friendly.
With headquarters in the UK, the founders built Capsule because they wanted a CRM that wasn’t too simplistic nor overly complicated.
Formerly Freshworks CRM, Freshsales focuses on sales automation. Like other vendors, their CRM is one of a suite of productivity tools.
What to consider
Before assessing any tools, consider what information you need to capture, track and act upon; what business processes you need to manage and what reports you need to make timely and informed business decisions. CRMs are primarily sales focused and typical functionality includes:
- Contact management (not just leads and customers – you may also need to manage other relationships e.g. suppliers, vendors, press, or investors); in addition, you will want to profile and segment your contacts, leads and sales opportunities;
- Contact location tracking; business card scanning & import; social media monitoring
- Lead nurturing & management
- Sales tracking (pipelines, marketing funnel, sales forecasting)
- Information tracking and management or integration with, for example, emails, VoIP systems, tasks, calendars, file sharing, electronic document signing/digital signatures
It’s important to think of how your CRM can serve your business as a whole though, rather than just the sales team. Many CRMs provide not just contact management, lead conversion tracking and marketing campaign results but also client feedback data, their lifetime value and other business analytics.
Key evaluation criteria
- User friendly & intuitive (less training required & higher productivity)
- Cross-platform, cloud, mobile & offline, multi-language
- Customer support & service
- Customisation, workflow automation
- How many users with access to which modules/applications
- Data limits (number of contacts, workflows, customised fields etc.)
- Cost to set up/customise, training and support
CRMs often include, or have the ability to, integrate with other applications for example:
- Marketing automation: email and SMS campaigns with advanced segmentation and targeting, split testing etc.
- Finance: quotes, invoicing, inventory management
- Project management: timesheets, milestone tracking, utilisation, profitability
If online sales are key to your business then website and e-commerce integration may be key including lead capture, auto-responders, monitoring abandoned carts and functionality for one-click up sells.
Check that your preferred CRM is scalable: consider what you need now and in the next 6 months; then consider what you need in the next two years and what the cost implications are e.g. moving from free or entry-level plans to premium/enterprise plans.
- Multi-factor authentication & data-at-rest encryption
- Multi-location data backup
- User profiles, permissions and approval processes
What to do next
Remember that you are legally required to register under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) if you process personal data.
Personal data relates to any data whereby you can identify an individual (even if it is only via work-related information such as a work email address). Often it is the combination of data sets that gives rise to personal data.