A Guide to getting started with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems for small businesses

Tips on choosing CRM software

Are you struggling to get your sales and marketing processes clear, consistent and measureable?

If so, it may be time to invest in a CRM system. If used correctly such a platform can benefit fast-growing businesses and allow them to build their customer base whilst maintaining that personalised relationship which is essential for both B2B and B2C companies in today’s world.

To help you understand how CRM software can help you to boost sales, and what to look out for when choosing a CRM system, we asked Robert Stead of The Marketing Centre to share his insight;

Before leaping in and purchasing any form of CRM, first and foremost it’s important to be clear about your business’s individual processes and needs.

Buying a CRM is 5% about the actual choice and purchase. The other 95% is about understanding exactly which processes and problems you are expecting it to support.

It’s also crucial to remember that purchasing any technology or software will not be a one-step solution to your customer management problems. It’s not buying the CRM system that will help, it’s using it; effectively. Data and technology systems are tools that must be managed, and integrated correctly into your business, in order to be successful.

So to get you started on your search think carefully about the following questions:

What is a CRM system, really?

All CRM systems are based around three sets of information – contacts, companies and business opportunities. This information therefore relies on the individual people that you communicate with, the companies they work for who will place orders and pay your invoices, plus the individual business opportunities within those companies.

A good CRM system will connect together these three streams so you can see what deals you have, what stage they’ve reached, and who to talk to and when. In summary, they add visibility and predictability to your business development.

What do I need from CRM software?

The variety and range of CRM facilities are continually growing and becoming more sophisticated.

CRM systems offer a whole plethora of services including the management of relationships with your contacts, allocation and management of tasks, and tracking leads and sales. They can also help you achieve other tasks: customer services, project management, and business analysis.

To prevent any confusion when you make your purchasing decision you must know exactly what the problem is, and how you are going to use the technology to make improvements.

Fit the CRM system to the way you’d like to run your business, not vice versa. CRM is a tool, just like a hammer, if used incorrectly it can create more of a mess than before you tried to fix the problem in the first place!

Once your CRM system is installed, it can – and should – quickly diversify to support business growth in so many ways.

Features can develop relationships through more effective customer and prospect communications or improved sales follow up. For example, you could be sending out customised emails, as well as sending information to and from your social media channels.

Who needs what from a CRM system?

Examine closely what type of processes you are looking to improve, and then create a list of desired tasks you want your CRM to manage in advance. This will allow you to streamline and target your search for the perfect solution.

Ask all the members of your team what they need, and work together to understand what processes they are struggling with – so you can build a clear picture of your specific requirements.

Your sales team may need Salesforce, while systems such as Marketo are predominantly used by those in a marketing function. Do you want a system that can be used for tasks across the whole business, or for one or two departments only?

CRM is not a quick fix

Most CRM systems are Software As A Service (SAAS), hosted in the Cloud and accessed through a web browser on your computer, table or phone. They are easy to access, but the normal rules of computer systems still apply.

CRM needs to be set up thoughtfully and must contain all the relevant up-to-date information, as well as being used regularly by everyone involved. Partial implementation or inconsistent usage means you won’t get the business benefits you need. Working with CRM data will be an ongoing project, not a quick-fix solution.

Once you’ve chosen, train your people to use the system and ensure they really comprehend the tools you have. If you don’t, it is highly likely they will revert to previous methods and ways of working.

If everyone understands and is comfortable with the change, it can prove a real catalyst to boost confidence and teamwork. In turn, this will develop better, more effective communication with your customers.

Some CRM companies offer an account manager or dedicated support person for those first few months – someone who can respond to all that critical questioning. You have paid for a system, it’s important to invest in the additional time and money to make sure it works, and will be utilised effectively within your business.

What should my budget be for CRM software?

There are lots of ‘freemium’ options where you start using some CRM systems at minimum cost and pay more as your usage grows.

However, remember that whilst a free system supporting five users and a few contacts might be great initially, as soon as you start to add any more functions, like marketing emails, your costs can grow quickly and you may waste resources and time on something that is incompatible with your growth plans.

Investing early can be vital for fast growth and therefore it’s important to bear in mind flexibility and longer term business goals when investing in CRM. Cheap and easy is almost certainly not the best option, though to get a feel for what CRM’s do you could always try out a free service.

Check the functionality, scalable options and ultimate cost for any system you are considering.

Large organisations, such as those with over £1 billion turnover, often have expansive, custom-built bespoke systems that can do everything in the business. However, smaller, more economical systems do offer most of these functions to SMEs at much lower costs, and enable them to compete effectively by addressing their customer base in much more personal way.

Would my business benefit from CRM?

Let’s look at the marketing side. You are looking to create a personalised service for your customers and the best CRM should do the same for you.

If utilised correctly a proper CRM system is transformative. It can help segment your customer data and give the people in each segment different customer journeys.

All the content that customers see can be personalised, and that means response to communications is higher, and that brings up retention rates.

Think about this if you are wondering whether CRM’s are important – it costs 5 to 10 times more to win a new customer as it does to keep one. A 5% increase in customer loyalty can translate to a 75% increase in profitability.

From a sales perspective, a CRM will give you good visibility, better forecasts and a more consistent sales process. What’s not to like?

Careful investment can benefit small businesses who don’t have the resources for comprehensive sales and marketing teams. Collaborated, well-managed data can ease stress, as well as provide a strategic starting point for creative thinking.

Sourcing a suitable CRM system

Value and planning are the key words here – think about business goals. Then research what is available and balance your current needs and finances with what you want to achieve in the future.

Especially if you choose a more sophisticated CRM project, remember you will need to spend the time, or delegate the time, to monitor and make use of incoming data.

You could look for a company that wants to come in, learn about your business by spending time with the IT and executive teams, and finally develop and discuss specific metrics.

Make sure the support offered isn’t just a technician who can come in when things go wrong, or has little to no interaction with you and your employees.

Finally, remember CRM systems facilitate communication, but you need to understand the information, send the signal and manage the response. Ensuring you and your employees are well-trained and knowledgeable about your chosen system, and how it benefits each department, should be a priority.

So, are you ready to get started with CRM?

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Robert Stead, Marketing Director of The Marketing Centre.

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