What to Look For in a CRM for Your Business

CRMs (customer relationship management solutions) can easily become a huge waste of investment if you don’t choose one that suits your company’s size, needs, and budget. Larger CRM solutions are packed with features you may never use. Smaller ones may be much cheaper, but offer limited capacity, scalability, and mobility.

Start by thoroughly cataloging your needs and budget, and then narrowing down your list of candidates. And understand what a CRM really is.

A CRM system “is a technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers,” according to Salesforce. A solo business person may use a CRM, though the tool is really suited to company-level interactions, where contacts change hands and communications progress across departments. These are a few main considerations:

Does it Meet Your Business Needs?

The following are just a few of the many CRM capabilities.

  • Ability to completely integrate customer history
  • Contact information and linkage to contact apps
  • Lead ranking and management
  • Reports and dashboards
  • Activity notifications

If you have a large sales fleet and want to keep tabs on them, you probably want more features to enable this. Moreover, if you hope to improve sales-to-marketing, communication, consider how the CRM will enable that.

If you’re a small company, you may not need elaborate reporting features and you may simply need a central customer database. Big companies usually require greater coordination and reporting.

Don’t forget to ask those who will be using it. See what they’ve used, what they liked and didn’t like, what they would love to have.

Is it Scalable/Flexible?

The business typically wants to grow. You may start with just 5 or 10 users on your CRM, but as you bring in salespeople and expand departments, your CRM must be able to handle a larger load. Smaller CRMs that revolve around a basic cloud and mobile app may only be able to take on limited users.

Can it Be Integrated with Your Other Systems?

Especially with the rise of cloud computing, many businesses assemble their systems in a plug-and-play manner. You’ve got Office or GDocs for document management, Outlook or Gmail for your email, and you may be using Slack as your IM, WordPress for your CMS, and a whole manner of specialized components for accounting, timesheets, and so on.

Three major areas to consider are:

  • Legacy CRM-related systems: Use of Excel dies hard, and much of your customer data may be on xls spreadsheets. Can the CRM import these so they’re usable?
  • Social media: Social channels are the lifeblood of many B2C companies, as well as B2B. Does the CRM allow you to easily import social leads for nurturing?
  • Email client: If you’re planning on bulk mailing customers and contacts, which is a strong asset of CRMs, can the CRM play well with Outlook or Gmail?

Also consider that API integrations can let you smoothly tie together solutions. Check if they’re complex and if your IT staff can handle them. When you have these straight, look to two top examples as standards.

Use the Major Players as a Benchmark

Salesforce immediately comes to mind in CRM discussion. This elaborate, global solution is continually ranked #1 for business. Salesforce is expensive, can be complex, and may be more than you need. But for comparison’s sake, at least, it’s invaluable.

Another option, especially if you’re a smaller business, is HubSpot. Where HubSpot really shines is on price and diversity. Its basic CRM is in fact free. Beneath that are much more complex features and a full slate of tools for marketing management, including an easy-to-use CMS similar to WordPress. This integrates with HubSpot’s rich analytics and works well in tying in features such as landing pages.

So the CRM battle would appear to be hubspot vs salesforce. It’s not just those two, but if brands and stability are your concern, they’re a good place to start, as they can be used as reliable benchmarks.

Below these two are a vast array of options, including upstarts like Zoho, SugarCRM, and hybrid CRM/BPM packages like Monday.com. Capterra is a good source for wading through the options, with tons of user reviews.

At some point, you’ll need to make your choice. For a larger company, this can be even harder to go back on once it’s made. Be sure you’re very clear on the contract terms, transferability of data, and other factors that may tie you on and hinder your company’s growth. Choose wisely and you’ll have a very efficient sales funnel, and happy employees.

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