How to choose a CRM
It’s hard now to imagine a time when I had no idea what a CRM was. Before becoming a business owner I had no idea that a huge chunk of my time would actually be spent on sales, networking, and marketing – yes ok I was likely a tad naive.
For any of you not yet sure what a CRM is let’s get that out of the way first – CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and when we refer to a CRM we mean software or a tool that, you guessed it, manages customer relationships.
Before discussing how to choose one of these tools for your business I want to make clear that a CRM is really just a means of tracking your customers’ journeys with your brand / business. By tracking their interactions, communication history and desires you receive the holy grail – data.
How you use this data is why a CRM can be an extremely powerful engine to grow your business. A CRM can help you:
- Remember personal details about your customers / leads
- Maximise your chance of converting leads by keeping a centralised place to view and track them all
- Monitor your customer’s behavior on your website, through your emails and alert you when they are becoming ‘hot’
- Remind you of birthdays, anniversaries
- Prompt you to upgrade or upsell new products based on time or behavior patterns
- Target offers to your contact database
- Automate email responses, email funnels or SMS based on a set of conditions or behavior from the contact
- ….I could keep going all day
But, like most things, not all CRM systems are created equal. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of these systems in the market right now and you will no doubt find businesses that swear by every single one. How then to choose?
Firstly it’s important to understand that just because these features exist it doesn’t mean you need to use them. Before even starting to choose a CRM consider and work out the answers to the following:
- How many contacts do I have right now?
- How will I get new contacts? Will it be from my website, business cards from people I meet or from sales?
- How big is your team?
- Who is going to manage the CRM – make no mistake introducing a CRM DOES create more work because it’s a process you haven’t been doing until now.
- Do you have a lead workflow? How do you plan to turn a lead into a customer? Will you use emails? Phone calls, meetings.
- How can you get your existing customers to reinvest in another product / project with you? What are they likely to buy next or at specific milestones in their life / growth?
- What information do you need to capture about your clients so that you can have the data you need to do the workflows above? eg maybe you need to capture demographic information, stage of their business, their interests, their date of purchase etc.
If you’ve never had a CRM you likely don’t have all of the answers to the above nor the data to tell you what would be best. My advice is to start with the basics – get as much data as you can from the get-go and constantly review it to optimise your CRM.
- Once you have the answers to the above questions you actually have a good idea of the features you need to look for in a CRM:
Does it need to cater (affordably) for a large database
- Does it need to track deals / leads
- Do you need multiple users who need to communicate and work collaboratively
- Do you need SMS functions
- Do you want the system to record your email chains with customers / leads? Does it actually integrate with your email software?
- Do you need automation capability?
- Should it integrate with your invoice / quoting software?
- Should it integrate with your job or project management software?
- Should it gather the social accounts of your contacts?
- Does it have a mobile app ? Do you need one?
These qualification questions will help you narrow down the field to a system that is going to fit into your business and meet your needs. But here’s a few more tips to help you when you need to actually make the final choice.
- Do not take recommendations from people who have a different business model to you – try to see what other businesses in your industry use and get their feedback if you can. The first-hand experience is gold and will alert you to any potential roadblocks they have discovered.
- Make sure it is a CRM that integrates with your core systems – your accounting software, your job or project management software, your email software and file management. Don’t settle – good cloud software integrates.
- Check how much the software license will increase for multiple users or as your database grows.
- Where possible always request a demo and ask questions about what you specifically need it to do – don’t accept answers like ‘I think it could do that’, get confirmation.
- Trial the CRM yourself before committing
- Do not assume that the most expensive is what you need – when choosing software many businesses who are unsure what to choose to assume that the more they spend, the better the product will be as it has more feature