One of the most exciting moments in the life of a startup is certainly when they acquire that very first paying customer. And then comes the second, the tenth, and, if they are lucky, many more exciting milestones. Unfortunately, that’s also when the troubles can start.

Large organizations can often struggle to serve their customers and miss opportunities to grow in part because they lose track of all the data about sales transactions across a slew of different departments. That’s what has made customer relationship management (CRM) so essential, but in many cases, CRM has been deployed by large firms to solve problems long after they began. Startups, on the other hand, may lack the scale and resources of an enterprise but have the benefit of launching their business with a clean slate, at least from a data perspective.

Much like their counterparts in Silicon Valley, Canadian entrepreneurs often talk about the importance of thinking “mobile-first” in terms of how they create products for customers. When they think about how they’ll run their business in the future, though, they might be better to think “CRM-first” — and that doesn’t mean simply using CRM:

Build CRM Into Your Business Plan

Startups are usually too busy trying to get their product or service off the ground to imagine what will happen when and if they are truly successful. Thinking “CRM-first,” however, is a way of being better prepared for growth. As a story on VentureBeat suggested, it’s best to figure out when you’re truly ready to begin selling, what kind of repeatable sales process you’ll have and what kind of data will be useful. Don’t count on a spreadsheet to scale easily alongside your business.

Make CRM A Company Value Employees Will Embrace

Startups are great because they’re often composed, at least initially, of small teams that can work more quickly and flexibly than those in large, bureaucratic organizations. The pitfall is that a lot of details can fall through the cracks — like customer prospects or action items to keep existing customers happy. Venture Accelerator Partners recommends even startups with less than 10 employees use CRM to better capture and capitalize on this kind of data.

Transform CRM Into A Marketing And Collaboration Tool

CRM is not just about cross-selling and following up on leads. As CrazyAboutStartups notes in ‘8 Use Cases for Connecting Search Marketing and CRM,’ entrepreneurs can use the tools more strategically to get a more holistic view of customers that results in more relevant campaigns. This is particularly important for startups who are far from being a household name in their target sector, and for whom every marketing dollar spent is another dollar not being invested in other parts of their business.

Let CRM Help Your Startup When It Pivots

Many entrepreneurs start out with one kind of company and then discover they need to switch gears, enter a new market or revamp their product and service portfolio entirely. As TechCrunch points out, it has even happened to major companies like Twitter and Pinterest. Startups call this a “pivot,” and it’s a lot easier to do when you have all your critical sales and marketing data in one place. CRM can also help ensure nothing’s lost when staff abruptly leave a startup, and provide a way of managing all the critical contacts — venture capitalists, accelerator programs and more — that will help them continue to make good decisions.

For more ideas, download Salesforce’s free eBook, How a CRM Solution Helps Small Businesses.