In today’s ever-changing business climate, keeping your customers is important to your organization’s success. This is especially challenging for small businesses that often lack the staff and resources required to provide necessary support for current and potential customers. One solution is using a CRM system to help automate tasks and streamline sales and marketing efforts. Here we evaluate what small businesses should look for before considering a CRM system.
If you’re a small business owner, one thing is certain: You encounter change and new challenges every day. But through all of the uncertainty, there is one thing that remains consistent—the importance of keeping your customers happy. Study after study shows customers do care about them and show they’re your top priority.
This isn’t the easiest task, because satisfied customers require a lot of attention. As a small business, you may not have the time, staff, or resources to devote this amount of attention to your customer base. Therefore, it makes sense to have a system to help manage those relationships. The obvious solution is to invest in a CRM platform. CRM makes it possible to easily keep track of hundreds of thousands of individual customer preferences and histories, all while coordinating across multiple departments. In essence, CRM means happier customers, and better returns overall.
But even once you’ve decided that you may need a CRM system, you’re still left with the problem of selecting one that has all of the features you need. What should you be looking for? If you’re a small business considering CRM, it’s a good idea to put these seven features on your checklist, even before contacting CRM companies for proposals:
Software or Cloud-based?
Or, in other words, on-premise or off-premise? Perhaps the most important thing to contemplate first is exactly how much data you need to manage. Hardware has its own set of hurdles, as does software. Cloud computing eliminates having to deal with software issues, and the shared infrastructure means it works much like a utility — you pay for what you need and get automatic upgrades and more without having to install and test run everything.
Although the basic focus of every CRM is the same, each individual platform is likely to have its own distinct set of features. Much like when shopping for a car, you’ll need to research and compare the specific features of each available CRM. Your CRM should come with certain must-haves on your list. See who delivers on their promises, and what system would fit your needs. Everything from lead management and marketing automation to sales data and mobile access should be key factors at decision time.
You are a business-oriented person, which means that the question that is probably on your mind right now is this: “What’s the CRM going to cost me?” The price range for CRM extends across the entire board, and there are even CRM solutions that can be used free of charge. However, if your business needs additional features, many effective CRM plans start as low as $10 per user, per month. Once you determine your needs, you’ll be able to get a realistic picture of corresponding price points that meet your company’s budget. As with anything else, the “you get what you pay for” rule applies here. So, if you want more support and options, you should be ready to pay for it. Your business is worth it.
Most CRMs are solutions that are customizable to your needs. Customization is simply modifying or expanding the behavior of out-of-the-box functionality. It can be minor, like changing the location of a text screen, or extensive, like creating brand new applications unrelated to sales. When aligning your company with the right CRM, make sure to find out how rich the customization is to meet your needs, both today and down the road.
A CRM is an investment, and is perhaps one of the most important investments your company will make. Therefore, it’s vital to have consistent information and support at your disposal at all times. From online tools and training, to app development and 24/7 support, reliable customer service should be part of your CRM purchase.
As your business grows, the relationships you build with your customers needs to grow right along with it. Your CRM needs to have the capacity to scale to the largest of teams, and the architecture behind the service to be able to handle millions of users. You’ll want something to scale as rapidly as you require, so this is another important feature to look for.
Finally, get real feedback by considering CRM software reviews from vendors, administrators, and industry experts. Today, you’re faced with a lot of CRM options, so a review may help you narrow down your options. After discussing what makes the most sense with your team, dig into online reviews, keeping in mind that not every CRM is equal. See if important questions and concerns are addressed by the sources available.
Congratulations. You’ve considered the prerequisites for what a CRM for your business requires. After satisfying everything on your checklist, it’s time to begin a dialogue and schedule proposals with a CRM provider that can fulfill all your needs, meet your budget, and move with you through all the changes—not just today or for the next few months, but for years to come. Aligning yourself with the right CRM may be the most important business decision you’ll ever make.