Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is essential to marketing and sales operations. In fact, businesses of all sizes are catching on, as 74% of U.S. companies now use this type of platform.
Still, smaller businesses continue to ask us the same question: is a CRM an absolute business requirement for the size of my operation?
In the vast majority of cases, the answer is an emphatic yes. A CRM platform can help you improve and automate your communication, make your sales processes more efficient, and help you scale your business.
Here are some essential CRM questions to consider while making your decision:
Question #1: My business is small. Do I really need a CRM?
The answer to that question depends on the number of leads you typically have. If you only get one new lead per week, you probably don't need a platform designed to automate marketing and sales efforts toward 52 new annual contacts.
However, the bigger question is this: Do you really want to remain that small? What if your product takes off, and you need to scale?
CRMs scale your business in ways that are nearly impossible with manual business processes. In fact, starting with a small number of leads makes implementation easier by helping you build initial automated processes. That way, you’ll have a system in place when you add more contacts.
Allocating part of your small business marketing budget to a CRM may be challenging at first and you might feel like your company is too small. However, with the right marketing approach, it won't stay that small forever. When your business grows, you need software in place to keep growing with you.
Question #2: Aren’t most CRM platforms complicated?
CRM platforms may look complicated at first, especially if they are full-featured applications that can integrate with other software.
Is that complication really worth the effort — especially if the number of tasks is small?
The answer is a clear yes. The benefits of CRMs outweigh the initial effort needed to incorporate them into your workflow.
There are many reasons to start using a CRM today. Modern CRMs ensure data quality by minimizing data entry from employees. By shifting responsibility from individuals to technology, daily tasks become faster and easier. This allows you to allocate human resources to parts of the business that produce the most value.
In addition, as your business grows, CRM automation improves efficiency and productivity across your team.
Question #3: Will my marketing lose the personal touch I currently have with my prospective customers?
Some small neighborhood-based businesses worry that automated messages may affect their lead generation strategy by reducing personal outreach to each potential customer.
In reality, that personal customer contact is easy to scale and possible to duplicate using CRM data.
CRMs collect sales and marketing data with every interaction in the customer lifecycle. Any attribute gathered in your contact database can then be used for personalization purposes. For example, you can dynamically insert a lead's first name or job title into an automated email, or segment your contacts based on these attributes for more personalized outreach.
As a result, your messaging scales easily without losing its personal touch.
Question #4: What CRM features should I look for?
All CRMs are different, so choosing one should depend on your goals, pain points, and any business KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you want to track.
Besides KPIs, most modern CRMs also track additional details, including demographics, psychographics, customer engagement, social media accounts, and sales activity. This critical customer data, along with other essential metrics, helps you better understand your customers as both buyers and individuals.
When choosing a software vendor, look for the following features:
- Email marketing and workflow automation
- Customer interaction tracking
- Reporting and analytics tools
- Document management
- Task management
- Sales forecasting
Modern CRMs add value by tracking prospective leads and current customers in one place. Besides providing metrics that gauge the success of your marketing campaigns, many also offer unique CRM tools that measure customer satisfaction. That way, you know if your business is on track towards achieving its goals.
Question #5: What about integrations?
Does your company use separate software across different business areas that requires duplicate data entry? Do employees spend a lot of time engaged in redundant tasks?
What if all your software could communicate and share data? Besides saving time, a software system that provides robust integration across different departments can provide effective sales enablement to improve the efficiency and productivity of your sales reps.
Look for a CRM that provides the architecture to integrate with other applications. Some integration possibilities include:
- Email: Gmail, Outlook
- Marketing: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Customer Service: Zendesk
- Sales: Stripe, World-Pay, Paypal, Amazon Payments
- Accounting: Quickbooks
By integrating your CRM with other applications, you are providing vital customer information that adds value across all areas of your business. So be sure to choose a CRM with robust integration options that unlocks the power of data throughout your business.
If you’re considering HubSpot as your CRM of choice, check out our favorite HubSpot integrations.
Question #6: How much do CRM systems typically cost?
CRMs can be expensive for some businesses, however they can definitely provide a significant ROI when incorporated correctly into your business strategy. In fact, one study estimated that companies that use a CRM gain $8.71 in revenue for every dollar spent on the platform.
CRM pricing models vary according to the type of CRM and number of users. For example, cloud-based CRM applications charge per user, and some vendors offer tiered plans that include additional features. Other CRMs price their services based on the number of contacts in your database.
Other factors to consider when assessing the total cost of your CRM solution include:
- Setup: Initial upfront costs to set up the software
- Integration: Third-party software that connects to the CRM system
- Training: Costs associated with training and onboarding.
- Customer support: Extra charges for customer service and support tickets
- Data migration costs (if applicable)
If all this sounds like too much at present, you can opt for a free version with limited features to help you determine if the software is right for you. For example, HubSpot has a free version of its CRM with basic functionality that enables you to switch to a paid plan once you need additional features.
Question #7: What additional questions should I ask during a demo?
The best way to ensure you are making the right CRM choice is to request a demo. Some helpful questions to consider while testing the software include:
A. What sales insights does the software provide?
Prospective customers are constantly educating themselves and assessing their options. An effective CRM should be able to provide your sales team with real-time data, from lead acquisition to conversion to repeat sales and affiliate marketing.
B. How is the database organized?
While testing the software, learn how the database works. Ensure that all the information can be easily filtered and edited to segment customers and assign them to different stages of the customer lifecycle.
C. Is it easy to export the data to another application?
In most cases, choosing a CRM is not something you will do often. However, in the event you want to switch, make sure you can easily export the data to another application.
D. How long is the customer service response time?
Ask about customer service options and response times. Most reliable vendors provide tickets, website forms, or an email address. Depending on the level of service, you can also request a phone call to speak to an agent in real time.
E. Will my data stay safe in a cloud-based CRM?
Customer data is a valuable commodity. According to a recent IBM cybersecurity report, businesses in healthcare, financial services, and pharmaceuticals have the highest risk of a data breach.
Since data security should be a top priority, choose a reputable CRM vendor with a solid track record in keeping customer data safe.
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Jake Fisher, is President and Co-Founder of BridgeRev. He helps our clients with their revenue and growth goals by providing better strategies, better processes, and better technology. He also makes videos and written content to help entrepreneurs, business owners, and managers achieve their own revenue goals. And, he talks to business and industry leaders at conferences and association events.