Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a vital element of any business, large or small, as the data it holds becomes an ever more valuable asset.
But if it’s the data itself that’s important, does it matter which CRM you choose? In short, yes. There are dozens of providers out there, and they each have different offerings, so not all CRMs will be suitable for all businesses. Let’s have a look at the things you should consider when choosing a CRM.
Identify your needs
Before choosing a CRM, you need to understand the specific needs of your business. Consider how you will use the software, what features you need, and what type of data you need to collect. This is by far the most important choice you’ll make.
Essentially, there are two types of business when it comes to customer data. B2C businesses will typically hold the data for thousands or even millions of customers, and it’s used to send out timely marketing messages, plan upgrades and offers, deal with complaints and queries and, to some degree, keep track of interested potential customers via contact forms and so on.
You’ll need a CRM that’s focused on the mass market, and one that’s easily accessible and understandable for help desk staff.
On the other hand, B2B companies tend to have a more focused need. They might have clients numbered in the tens or hundreds, but need data on them that takes them from sectoral targets, through leads and sales, and then right up to the daily management of the business relationship by account managers and sales teams.
Generally speaking, that means more data on smaller groups, and there’s likely to be a higher expectation when it comes to how proficient and autonomous your own staff are at accessing, interpreting and acting upon the data.
Research different CRMs
Once you know your needs, research different CRMs to see which one fits your requirements. Look at customer reviews, pricing and feature sets to compare the options.
It’s also useful to attend conferences and exhibitions to talk to vendors, especially if you’re considering a major implementation for a large business.
Try some out
Most CRMs will offer a demo version, which will let you try out the system using real or dummy data. It’s important to ensure that both management and the sales, marketing, accounts and service teams can all access it and use it efficiently.
When evaluating a CRM, make sure the user experience is intuitive and understandable for all who will use it. Also consider whether it has a mobile app, as it’s always more useful than you initially assume.
As you grow, you will need a CRM that can scale with your business, so make sure the one you choose is able to expand with your needs.
If you’re a small business and don’t have ambitious growth goals in the short term, you might be able to use a free CRM, but always make sure you can download and access the data should you need to migrate as you evolve.
Choose a vendor you can trust
When selecting a CRM, make sure you choose a vendor that has a good reputation. Look for vendors with good customer service, and a track record of success. There are some big names like Salesforce, HubSpot, Monday, Pipedrive and Zoho, but don’t dismiss a newcomer if they have an offering that would work for you and you’re convinced it fits you well.
What does it cost?
Finally, everything in business comes down to money. Some CRMs can be expensive for smaller businesses, especially those aimed at big corporates.
So make sure you’re only paying for the options you need. This is where scalability becomes doubly important – if you grow and need more services, your CRM should be able to cope with it.