In a digitally driven age, a decent customer relationship management system is a necessity for all up and coming businesses. Gone are the days when it was acceptable to keep track of your customer database via an endless number of spreadsheets; CRM software has evolved from a simple customer management system into a robust tool that helps identify leads, follow up prospects, and nurture them through the sales pipeline, all within one easily accessible solution.
Choosing the right CRM Vendor can be difficult, and not just because there are so many suppliers out there. You have various other aspects to consider, such as cost, deployment options, flexibility, scalability, integration, and other niche business requirements. You may even decide you need a more comprehensive solution like a marketing automation platform. We’re going to explore the main considerations around CRM solutions to help you find the best solution for your business needs.
A key factor for any small business is cost. How much are you willing, or able to justify spending, on a CRM solution? The price of CRM software varies hugely, ranging from as little as $10, to hundreds of dollars per user, per month. There are free versions of popular CRM software available, but you tend to be limited in your options.
Vendors tend to use subscription-based pricing models, and the cost will vary depending on a number of aspects, including how many users you have, what features are included, and what level of support is required, amongst other factors. The type of package will also considerably impact the cost, with a “standard” package being the cheapest option for individual start-up users, ranging to professional and enterprise packages which are far more pricey.
Your monthly fee is unlikely to include the cost of onboarding and support, so factor in an initial fee for set up, as well as an additional monthly cost for ongoing support.
As your business evolves, your CRM platform does too. Most startups and small businesses start out using small business tools, but as they evolve and outgrow them they are forced to invest in new software solutions, adapt their business processes and retrain staff in the new setup, which is disruptive and can be ultimately very costly. One of the first questions you should ask yourself is how many employees will need access to the system, as this can considerably impact the cost and / or package type you’re eligible for.
Many subscriptions operate on a “per user, per month” basis, and cheaper packages will often limit what features you have access to. While this may not be a problem for those just starting out, it’s imperative that the CRM vendor you opt for is scalable, has the ability to adapt to your needs and can offer additional apps and features which can be bolted on to your package as your business grows. So, if you’re likely to need to add additional features in the near future, consider the cost of the higher bracket packages, and ensure that they can meet your needs before making a decision.
Since the recent GDPR changes, it is more imperative than ever to protect your customer data. Since your CRM software is the core hub of consumer insight, investing in a trusted, secure CRM Vendor is a must. So, what signs do you look for to determine a CRM supplier’s reliability?
A good supplier will provide you with comprehensive advice from the offset, as well as strong levels of support both during the initial setup phase and on an ongoing basis. There are lots of other ways to assess a vendor’s authenticity; by simply studying their website, you can find out about the size and types of customers they’re already working with – this is a particularly good idea if you operate in a niche industry. There are also third party review sites such as Capterra, TrustRadius and MarTech Advisor which provide plenty of references and customer testimonials.
Another crucial consideration when investing in a CRM solution is how well it integrates with your other business applications. After all, the purpose of a CRM is to help streamline operations, it is not meant as yet another product to add to the collection. Therefore, the ability to integrate with other software is absolutely key.
As well as the obvious ones such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google G-Suite integration, there are plenty of other aspects to think about – for example, nowadays mobile integration is seen as a key requirement. A good CRM solution should also provide seamless integration with your finance and HR software, your marketing channels, website, web forms and e-commerce platforms.
Another consideration is the ability to migrate any existing contact data into your new CRM. While most solutions allow you to easily import data from other sources, it’s definitely a question you should be asking before you commit to a product, especially if you have reems of existing data.
One of the best ways a CRM can enhance business processes is by being flexible and open. What’s more, every company has different requirements surrounding the deployment of CRM software, so a good supplier will be able to meet the exact needs of your business.
SMBs are unpredictable by nature, and can often experience episodes of rapid change – meaning that flexibility is key. As well as handling the volatility that small businesses go through, a flexible CRM should record historic trends, and have the ability to adapt to future needs without any hassle.
Analytics and reporting are possibly the most useful features of a CRM. After all, a core function of a CRM system is to boost buyer-seller relations, and this is achieved through analysing data from CRM-generated reports.
Dynamic CRM reporting tools make it possible for business owners to access live information they need, precisely when they need it. This information can provide invaluable insights surrounding not only customer interests and habits, but also profitability, pipeline effectiveness, goal progression, conversion rates – the list goes on. So, when considering a CRM, intelligent, dynamic built-in reporting software is a must for any business.
Support & Training
Investing in a CRM solution is all well and good, but if it’s not properly configured or your team is not sufficiently trained in using the software, you are not going to get the most out of your investment.
A CRM system should play a role across all aspects of your business, and as such it will impact the whole team. When you’re in discussions with a potential supplier, ensure to enquire about the cost of configuring the solution to your needs, and what levels of ongoing support they offer.
Finally, ongoing training is one of the most important requirements when using any software as new features are continually being added. Rather than relying on online tutorials, arrange individual or role-based training sessions via screen shares which will give employees user-specific training as well as an insight to the overall business benefit. It’s really important someone is there for those pain moments when you simply don’t know how to fix something too.
Some CRM systems will have email marketing included or you may have a separate email service provider (ESP), whichever route you take, it’s vital to have an integrated data approach. When you’re considering a CRM solution, ensure the email integration is seamless or even consider using a marketing automation platform which will reduce your integrations by having all the tools you need in one place.
The likelihood is that you’re already using an application like Microsoft Outlook every day to manage your emails, storing contacts and keeping track of your agenda in a calendar. Integrating CRM with business tools you’re already using, such as Outlook, increases the power and capabilities. For example, giving the sales team access to all this information within CRM software allows them quick access to other team members’ schedules, making for efficiently assigned tasks and meetings.
While many CRM platforms are user-friendly, there’s legwork involved in setting up a marketing automation program that produces results. What’s more, it’s very important that ongoing efforts are made to maintain and update your campaigns, add new ones, and produce regular reports. An agency can really help to provide strategic guidance or feedback too.
If you can’t allocate someone in-house to lead the charge, consider using a marketing agency that specialises in these services. Ask your CRM Vendor if they have a network of agency professionals that can help you achieve your goals. Or contact Bright Dials and see if we can help. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter and linkedin too.
Do you need help deciding which customer relationship management solution is best for your business needs? Download our CRM Ticklist