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In today’s fast-paced digital world, a reliable CRM system is a necessity for any customer-serving business to be successful. However, choosing a crm that fits the specific needs of your company can be a daunting challenge.

Managing your customer or client lists using Excel spreadsheets, trying to connect the dots between disconnected platforms, or using out-dated and unsupported software, is simply not viable if you want to grow your business!

With so many things to consider when choosing a CRM for your business, including price, customer support and follow-up service, the critical first step is to fully evaluate your specific business needs, and then match those needs to the various offerings that are within your budget.

In this first post on Choosing a CRM, we cover a few practical tips on how to identify the best CRM solutions to match your business needs.

In Part 2 we will provide helpful advice on choosing the right CRM vendor from the myriad of options available.

Key CRM Questions to Ask Yourself

The biggest mistake many companies make when selecting a CRM system is focusing first on vendor reviews, feature differences and price, instead of first identifying and focusing on their specific needs and business priorities.

Before evaluating CRM vendors and product offerings start by asking these questions within your leadership team:

  1. What inefficient processes are you trying to improve with a CRM system?
  2. What operational process and workflows are you currently lacking?
  3. Who is going to use the CRM, and how will they use it?
  4. Cloud-based CRM service, or self-hosted on your own premises?
  5. What integrations with your other systems and software do we require?
  6. What is your overall budget?

Only after you reach a consensus on why you need to select a CRM, and your specific requirements, should you begin discussing specific offerings and evaluating vendors.

Cloud CRM or On-Premise Deployment?

With a Cloud-Based CRM Solution, you do not need your own server, or on-site technical expertise, to install, operate or manage it. You simply log into the cloud-based CRM using your favorite web browser and you are ready to go. All your client information resides on the vendor’s server.

However, you must have an internet connection to access the service. This is no different than other common cloud services such as Gmail or Netflix.

Most popular cloud CRM’s today also have a Mobile CRM app, which enables you to access your data through your mobile device and cellular network when an internet connection isn’t available, and from anywhere at anytime.

With an On-premise CRM solution, you install the software on your own server, which is typically based at your location. This option provides direct access to the servers if you need to integrate with other applications.

However, you will need to have in-house expertise to install and maintain the software, as well as the upfront costs of purchasing the necessary hardware and operating systems.

We take a closer look at the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of both deployment options in this previous article.

Identify Must-Have Features & Functionalities

Your business has unique processes, customer base, and growth dynamics. Committing to a predefined set of standard, basic or inflexible functions is not a sound choice for long-term success. Look for a customizable CRM that can evolve and grow along with your business.

If a CRM offers different ‘Levels’ can it be easily upgraded to the next version? What additional functionality does that provide?

Another consideration is that some CRM software comes loaded with many functions and features you may never use, but are included to appeal to a wide spectrum of business use-cases. Be careful about paying for too many functions you will never need or use.

According to a survey conducted by Software Advice, first-time CRM buyers often overestimate what features they actually need.

Many SMBs are expecting to pay around $70 to $75 per user per month for a robust CRM system, but they may be overestimating both their own needs and the price they should pay for CRM. – Software Advice

This comes back to one of our basic initial questions… Who is going to use the CRM? Are there different needs between user groups in your organization?

An all-inclusive CRM may be a wise choice if it can meet the needs of all your different user groups, such as Sales, Marketing and Customer Service teams.

Third-Party Integrations

This is one of the most important considerations when beginning the process of choosing a CRM for your business.

Deploying a CRM should simplify and streamline your business processes, not complicate them because your other software will not communicate or integrate with your CRM platform.

You need to ensure that the CRM you select can integrate with all the other applications you are already using.

In addition to common integrations like Outlook Mail and Excel, your new CRM should also seamlessly integrate with your accounting software, HR software, and even your website so forms can import new leads, billing and e-commerce platforms to register transactions, and of course your marketing and customer service platforms.

Selecting a CRM Provider

Now that you have an understanding of why you need a CRM and how you will be using it, it’s time to move on to evaluating the available options and software vendors to select the best fit for your specific needs.

In this related post we provide a few helpful tips to help you narrow down the field and identify potential vendors in a very crowded market.