Find the Best CRM for Small Business Needs
Running a small business is no easy task, and finding the right CRM can make a big difference.
Are you considering a CRM for your small business, but aren't sure where to start looking? Running a small business is no easy task, and finding the right CRM can make a world of difference. The search can take time, especially for small business owners who have never used a CRM before. You have to figure out what you need for your business, learn what various platforms are capable of, and then find the right fit with those two factors in mind.
The right CRM can save you and your team hours of time, give you access to crucial data, and help you create and build connections with your customers, leads, and partners. As a result, your team is able to focus on what you do best — serve your customers.
Here is what you need to know about CRM for small businesses.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: What Is a CRM?
Customer relationship management software, often shortened to CRM, is a software system that helps businesses store and manage contact information for customers, track leads, find sales opportunities, manage marketing campaigns, handle customer service efforts, and more, all in a single dashboard. Your CRM needs to allow you to track customer interactions throughout their lifecycle, providing insights into the conversion process.
In short, a CRM lives up to its name. It helps your business manage its customer relationships, from the moment a lead learns about your company to the interactions you have after a customer has made a purchase. All of these interactions are part of the customer journey.
have invested in a CRM system.
This is a 24% increase in CRM use
For example, a CRM can show you when a lead first contacted sales, when a sales team member scheduled a demo, when they signed a contract, and if they filed a support ticket. The software automatically collects a large amount of data, and your team adds additional notes, information, and data points to create a detailed, 360-degree view of each customer. A cloud-based CRM stores all that data in one centralized platform, where it’s immediately updated and accessible to all employees at all times.
Small business CRM systems have powerful automation features that streamline the sales process, improve customer service, and drive return on investment (ROI) of your marketing campaigns. They also provide access to a vast amount of business intelligence data to help personalize outreach and build relationships. As of late 2020, 56% of small and midsize businesses are using CRM systems, which is a 24% increase in use since 2019.
But your small business isn't just about ROI; it's about people. A CRM keeps data about your customers organized and easy to access. Even so, how do you know it’s time to invest in a CRM platform instead of using the methods you already have in place for customer relationship management?
Chapter 2: Does My Small Business Need a CRM?
The right CRM can keep your business organized, help you build relationships, and streamline the sales process. But does your small business actually need one? Is it worth the investment?
While CRMs are essential for many businesses, not every small business needs one. If you are not interested in growing your business and are happy with your current system, you may not need a CRM platform.
However, if your business is looking to grow or improve just about any part of the customer journey, a CRM can help you get there. When SMB leaders were asked about the biggest benefits of a CRM system, 63% said that with a CRM, they were able to provide better or faster customer service.
63% of SMB leaders who use a CRM system say the number one benefit of a CRM is that it helps them provide better or faster customer service.
Seven Signs Your Small Business Needs a CRM
1. You need a better way to track prospects and customers.
2. Your prospects and customers have multiple points of contact.
3. You have a long or complex sales cycle.
4. You want to improve your sales, marketing, and customer service ROI.
5. You want access to more usable business data.
• 76% of the best companies are investing more heavily in data-driven, decision-making solutions.
• These solutions include CRM platforms with built-in artificial intelligence.
6. Your goal is to grow your business.
As leads come in and convert into paying customers, your entire team needs to stay organized. A CRM is a scalable resource that helps businesses create data-driven processes so your team can work efficiently and stay on target as you grow.
CRM platforms are proven to increase:
- Deal sizes
- Win rates
- Qualified leads
- Campaign effectiveness
- Customer retention
- Customer satisfaction
- Case resolution speeds
- Online revenue
- Deployment speeds
7. You’re ready to leverage automation.
John Kucera, SVP of Product Management at Salesforce, writes that automation is like “your very own built-in personal assistant.” For example, each time a potential customer steps away from their cart on your website, marketing automation can immediately send an email to that person to remind them of their waiting purchase. Your team sets up this automation once and updates it as necessary, but doesn’t have to individually email each potential customer about their cart.
Automation is available for every section of the sales funnel and every department in your business. Your CRM can be set up to automate time-consuming tasks, keep customer records organized, improve compliance, send task reminders, and streamline workflows. In fact, research finds that after security and identity technology, workflow automation — putting technology to work on things that don’t need a human touch so employees can take care of more important tasks — is IT’s top employee experience technology priority.
Many small businesses aren’t aware that they would benefit from a CRM system; CRMs aren't just for enterprise companies. Small businesses with lean or growing teams can use CRMs to get more done and stay on top of their success.
Chapter 3: A CRM Can Help Your Small Business Grow
A CRM stores and helps analyze and filter data, but how does that help your business grow? CRM platforms do more than track your current or prospective customers. They also offer a range of features designed to streamline the process of running a small business.
Benefits vary by platform, but there are four core attributes you should consider when comparing CRM platforms. Here are the most common CRM benefits, how they work, why they matter, and how they can help your small business grow.
1. Contact management helps you build and maintain relationships.
Your small business will use a CRM platform to store customer and company details and contact information — including names, phone numbers, addresses, social media accounts, billing information, and every other detail — in the searchable database. This keeps departments organized and prevents accounts and tasks from slipping through the cracks.
For example, sales teams can use contact management to follow prospects through the sales cycle. Marketing can use contact management to build more effective marketing campaigns.
When comparing CRM systems, consider how easy the database is to use, the filters each offers, and whether the platform offers import and export features. Relationships are key: Research shows that 86% of sales reps report an increased importance of long-term customer relationships.
The fourth edition of Salesforce’s State of Sales Report shares that 86% of sales reps report an increased importance of long-term customer relationships.
2. The sales process is smoother.
Your CRM platform should track interactions with leads, help with lead generation, create sales reports, automatically score leads, automate follow-up reminders, and even assign leads to specific salespeople. A CRM is a powerful tool, and small businesses that use it have massive advantages over their competition.
Salespeople often spend more time on account management than on actually contacting leads and building relationships, but with a CRM, your team can stay focused on closing deals, rather than spending time on paperwork and rote tasks.
3. You improve your marketing efforts based on data.
CRMs don't just help your sales team. While salespeople were originally the primary users of CRM platforms, the technology has significantly expanded and now helps companies manage just about every aspect of running a business, including marketing.
A CRM can improve your marketing efforts in a variety of ways, including letting users manage and automate drip campaigns, providing insights into a contact’s customer journey, and helping monitor social media campaigns and sentiment. Small businesses can also use data to inform upselling, cross-selling, and personalized marketing, such as recommending related products.
Over time, your CRM becomes a treasure trove of information about current and past customers, including which customers are most profitable, when they are likely to churn, and what types of products or services they are likely to purchase. Marketing, as well as other departments, can use these metrics and this data to personalize the customer experience.
4. Your business can provide better, personalized customer service.
In business terms, personalization is “the act of tailoring an experience or communication based on information a company has learned about an individual.”
CRMs offer a variety of features to improve customer service and make it more personal, including first-contact resolution capabilities, contact tracking, and call recording. Plus, by storing all your customer information in one place, known as a single source of truth, agents can quickly see how a customer has interacted with your company in the past and address any issues that a customer may face — sometimes preemptively. Because a CRM hosts all your customer information, your reps can interact with each person with full knowledge of their customer history, speeding the process along and helping customers feel unique and valued.
Additional CRM Benefits for Small Businesses
CRM platforms do more than just keep track of customer names and manage marketing campaigns. The right CRM can improve your small business in other ways, with features like:
- Marketing and sales automation
- Document storage and organization
- Ecommerce features
- Detailed reporting tools with filters
- Cloud storage
- Workflow management
- Business intelligence
- Competitor analysis
When used to its fullest potential, a CRM can impact every aspect of your small business, including customer interactions, team communications, and workflows. With that in mind, what features should you look for as you consider your options?
Chapter 4: Features to Look for in a Small Business CRM
Salesforce’s suite of tools are available as Editions and Add-ons. Small businesses have four Editions to choose from, and as you grow, you can select additional products and tools to suit your needs.
Start with one user and expand as much as you need, but remember that some Editions have contact limits. For example, small businesses can use Marketing Cloud Account Engagement Growth for up to 10,000 contacts.
You can customize your Salesforce experience in a variety of ways, including the CRM and the mobile app.
Einstein Automate is Salesforce’s AI automation assistant and tool to automate everything — even integrations. You can learn more about creating end-to-end workflows with process automation with our articles, videos, and Trailhead modules.
|Platform Customer Support||
All users have access to Trailhead, the Help Portal, the Trailblazer Community, and the Success Center, as well as to expert technical support. For companies that want a partner to walk them through every step of their Salesforce journey, more support is available.
|Social Media Tools||
Small businesses can start with the Basic Edition of Marketing Cloud’s Social Studio, which allows for brand listening and engagement, community engagement and social care, 20,000 mentions, two social accounts, and more. As your small business grows, you can upgrade your Marketing Cloud Edition for more features and capabilities.
The AppExchange marketplace lists hundreds of apps that install quickly and work within Salesforce products. Another method is to use MuleSoft, an integration and API platform, that can connect any system, application, data, and device to the Salesforce CRM platform. One additional way to integrate other apps is with Customer 360 Truth, which is a portfolio of add-on products.
Salesforce is available as a mobile app for all users.
No training is required, but Salesforce offers Trailhead, which is a learning center with a breadth of different topics and lessons. Salesforce also provides dozens of industry-recognized certifications that not only benefit the holder, but the company they work for as well.
Salesforce Einstein includes all the artificial intelligence capabilities you’ll need built directly into the Salesforce CRM.
Price comparison is not always straightforward. Some CRM providers offer affordable plans, but limit the storage or number of contacts. Features such as automation or marketing tools may only be available as add-on features. The price is low, but the value may be, too.
For small businesses, a la carte pricing can lower costs, as you only pay for the features you need. However, the costs can quickly pile up as you add on features due to evolving and expanding needs. Consider contact limits, available features, and growth potential when comparing different plans.
CRM platforms can help users automate manual and repetitive tasks, which is a boon for small businesses with limited teams. Rather than using valuable time entering routine information, generating sales reports, and following up with leads, your CRM can take care of these tasks, and others, all on its own. Once you configure the settings, your CRM will handle the rest.
For example, your CRM can automate social media responses to routine questions, create a task to respond to customer service requests, or score a new lead and assign it to a member of your sales team. When evaluating new technology, 46% of small and midsize business owners and leaders rate automation capabilities as extremely or very important.
According to the fourth edition of Salesforce’s Small & Medium Business Trends Report, 46% of SMB owners and leaders rate automation capabilities as extremely or very important.
CRMs are powerful, and for best results, you should integrate your other business software and tools. Integration refers to connecting two pieces of software so they can share data. Most CRMs integrate with other platforms, software, apps, and tools, which allows them to share data and automate tasks across platforms. Salesforce has AppExchange, a library of free and paid add-ons and integrated tools that quickly install and work with Salesforce solutions.
For example, you should connect your CRM and email marketing platforms. Then you can better create a segmented email marketing blast, or you can connect your CRM with Gmail to assign emails to specific clients. Integrations with tools can provide access to more data and streamline processes, so make sure the platform you select works with the other tools you use to power your business.
Mobile access to your CRM enables your team to log in and manage crucial business data from any device and any location. This improves adoption rates and allows you to run your business from outside the office. Furthermore, 99% of IT leaders say businesses must be mobile-enabled to survive in the future. Give your teams the freedom to work from a mobile device in order to succeed.
Some CRM platforms offer limited mobile features or may not work as well on mobile devices, such as phones or tablets. Ensure the solution you select offers the level of mobile access your team needs to work efficiently.
According to Salesforce’s Enterprise Technology Trends report, 99% of IT leaders say businesses need to be mobile-enabled to survive in the future.
Workflow management tools such as task reminders, project tracking, and approval automation simplify processes and ensure employees can manage tasks and deadlines. For example, rather than an employee manually changing a lead from “prospect” to “customer” status, workflow management tools can automate the process based on prerequisites or specified actions.
As a result, your team can stay organized, provide faster service, and work proactively. Look for a platform that provides the workflow features your team requires.
Data Backup System
Chapter 5: Questions to Consider When Selecting a Small Business CRM
Finding the right CRM for your business takes time, but it’s worth the effort to find the platform with the resources your business needs to thrive.
When comparing different CRM platforms, keep these six questions in mind.
Integrations allow apps and software systems to share data and coordinate business processes. Because of the large number of applications businesses use, 55% of IT leaders say system integration is a high priority.
To make the most of a CRM, verify that it integrates with the platforms you use for communication, document sharing, sales, marketing, and other business-critical functions.
55% of IT leaders say system integration is a high priority.
No matter how great a system is, you will need help at some point, whether it’s a simple question or an intense process. Does the provider offer reliable, easy-to-use customer support options? Are they patient and empathetic?
If they offer live support, when are reps available? Do their hours match your business hours? For example, if the company is based in Europe and you are based in California, it may be difficult to get support when you need it.
As a small business, you want a platform built for your specific, current needs — as well as your needs in a few years when your business has grown and changed. Choose a platform that only fits your business now, and in the future you may spend time and effort searching for a new CRM platform, then transferring data, integrating all your software, and teaching your team a new system.
Look for a platform that works for both today and tomorrow. Consider how easy it is to upgrade your plan. Can you add additional contacts as your business grows? What features do you need to consider in the future? AI and automation are fast-growing fields — does the CRM provider regularly update its platform?
Your team may not currently know what features and tools it will need in the future. Reviews from other small businesses regarding CRM add-ons may help; there are 80,000 customer reviews on AppExchange alone. CRM providers may also have resources and guides for you to consider.
You can read more than 80,000 customer reviews on the AppExchange to help you decide what you need.