13 factors to consider when choosing a CRM for small business
CRM became the largest software market in the world in 2017 and shows no signs of slowing down. The growing need for CRM for small business has generated fierce competition. Because of this, prices have dropped, and CRMs are now accessible to the smallest of companies. Freelancers are even using them, as there are free options out there.
Unlike early CRM systems, the CRMs of today often come with robust feature sets that include much more than simple capabilities to manage customer relationships. From marketing to customer support, the scope of features you can find in a CRM for small business has expanded significantly.
With all the options to choose from, how do you know which CRM is the right fit for your needs? Here we cover the most important factors to take into consideration when shopping for a CRM.
1. Define your needs
The CRM you select should depend on your needs. There is a vast array of options, and you want to be sure you’re buying the solution that will best meet your unique needs.
You should ask yourself questions like this:
- Do I need to increase lead generation? If so, look for a CRM that delivers strong and agile lead generation software.
- Are deals getting stuck in my pipeline? If so, you’ll want a CRM with strong sales reporting, so you can identify where bottleneck are.
- Do I need to better access my contact data? If so, you’ll want a CRM that provides easy access to a 360-degree contact view.
- Do I need to increase efficiency across my teams? If so, you’ll want a CRM that can automate as many manual processes as possible.
- Do I want easier access to insight around my results? If so, you’ll want to look for a CRM that provides customizable dashboards.
- Is my sales team unable to convert leads? If so, you’ll need a CRM that provides lead scoring so that you can qualify leads and identify the most sales-ready prospects to reach out to.
These are just a few of the questions you should ask. It’s very important to map out the needs of your company. Then, shop around for the CRM that meets every one of those needs. Below, we’ll shed some light on how a CRM and its features can solve various problems, which will give you more insight into how to manage the decision-making process.
2. Price of CRM for small business
If you are a startup, smaller, or growing business, it’s likely that resources are limited. Unlike giant enterprise companies, you don’t have $3,000 per month to shell out for all the software tools your business needs to grow. So, price becomes an issue.
You want to find the best CRM for your small business without breaking the bank. And you’ll want to ensure that at that price point, you are meeting all your needs. Your best bet is probably an all-in-one CRM, which includes additional features like marketing automation and customer support. There are even free solutions available. So, do your homework, and you should be able to find the best free CRM for your small business.
3. Ease of use/learning curve
How intuitive and easy to use is the system you are considering? One of the most detrimental mistakes you can make is purchasing a CRM that has a steep learning curve and proves difficult for employees to use.
If the system is difficult to navigate, adoption will be low among your team, and your CRM will actually make you less efficient. If some staffers are working in it and others are not, you lose alignment across teams, and data integrity goes out the window.
Indeed, according to a survey conducted by Inside CRM, ease of use is the most important variable (65%) to those shopping for a CRM, followed by schedule management (27%) and the ability to get a clear snapshot of your data (18%).
4. Assistance through implementation
Is the CRM provider you choose going to give you a login and set you loose? Or are they going to be a partner and walk you through the set-up and implementation process?
It’s highly important that you get successfully trained on how to use the system to meet your unique needs. Be sure to check with your provider to ensure they will support you until you’re up and fully operational. This article is a good example of what proper CRM implementation assistance should look like.
You want to be able to say this about the implementation team (A CRM Implementation Case Study):
“The customer success [implementation] team has been very helpful to me. They have reached out to me at various times just to check in and see how things are going. They even send me unsolicited video tutorials on things that they believe will help me improve how I use the system.”
- Terza Ekholm – Owner, The TerZa Factor
If the seller can’t provide you with a documented implementation plan and include it in your contract, you should look elsewhere.
5. Availability of customer support
Once you’ve implemented, how will your provider support you when you have an issue? Be sure to look into the type of customer support you will receive. When are they available? How can you reach them? Do they have a good track record?
If you run into a challenge that you can’t solve on your own, it’s imperative that there is support available to you. Otherwise, you will struggle to use your CRM effectively and won’t generate the maximum ROI from your solution.
Dashboards are typically a standard feature in a CRM for small business but don’t take that for granted. Check to ensure you will have a dashboard that is customizable and allows you to populate it with any metrics you need to see daily. You should be able to log in, immediately check metrics on easy-to-view charts and graphs, and log back out armed with a deep level of insight.
7. Contact views
When searching for a small business CRM, it’s critical that contact data is well-organized and easy to access. Will each contact in your CRM database have its own 360-degree contact view of all the interactions that person has had with your company?
Having that 360-degree view means that sales can view which marketing touchpoints have taken place. Support can see which customers have pending upsell opportunities. And so on.
According to Julian Poulter, research director at Gartner, “Organizations are keen to avoid silos of information and to obtain a 360-degree view of the customer. The 360-degree view allows better application of artificial intelligence to make the users of the CRM system more effective.”
8. Social CRM capabilities
Social CRM refers to the use of social media to manage customer relationships. Some systems—including Agile CRM—provide social CRM capabilities that allow you to monitor brand mentions and interact with your customers on social media via your CRM. Increasingly, social media is where lead generation and customer interactions take place. Social CRM is growing in importance, so determine if you have a need for it (which you probably do).
9. Marketing features
As mentioned above, all-in-one CRMs include marketing automation software. The capabilities coming out of such software will let you do things like:
- Email marketing
- Build landing pages and web forms
- Score and qualify leads
- Run multichannel marketing campaigns
- Track the results of your efforts
- And much more
An all-in-one CRM eliminates the need to spend more money on a stand-alone marketing automation solution, making it a great CRM for small business.
10. Helpdesk features
Just like marketing features, all-in-one CRMs, like Agile CRM, also provide full help desk software and customer support features. This further reduces the money you must spend on additional software systems. It also ensures that your teams are working in alignment, as everyone will be able to see when a customer has an open support ticket. If you need to provide customer support, an all-in-one CRM is the way to go.
11. Integrations and an open API
Are you using a telephony application, a social listening application, an e-commerce application, and having to switch back and forth between them all day? Most businesses will need to use various applications throughout the day. A CRM for small business that provides an open API allows you to add integrations with those third-party apps with your CRM.
An open API enables you to work with those apps from within your CRM, without having to switch between screens all day. It also syncs data from those apps into your CRM, so you have one source of data truth that the whole company can leverage for more informed decision making.
12. Mobile access
Let’s face it, in today’s fast-paced digital world, we’re always on the go. And business doesn’t stop just because you must be out of the office for work travel or any other reason.
It is common for a CRM for small business to provide mobile access to the solution. However, not all CRMs provide it, especially lower cost systems. If you have any need at all to access your CRM on a mobile device—and most do—you should ensure that your CRM is also a mobile CRM.
13. Metrics and reporting
You want to make informed, data-driven decisions about the direction of your company. You need to maintain insight into results to identify what’s working and what needs improvement. It’s very difficult to do that if you don’t have powerful metrics that come from CRM reporting.
A solid CRM for small business will provide metrics and analysis on things such as:
- The state of your sales funnel
- Where roadblocks are appearing in your sales cycle
- Future sales and revenue
- Deals won, lost, and why
- Revenue growth over time
- Cohort and funnel analysis
- Campaign outcomes
That’s just a sample of some of the more important metrics to measure. You can’t drive growth without measuring your efforts. Ensure the CRM you select provides robust reporting.
You can drive significant improvements in revenue growth, efficiency, and productivity with a powerful CRM for small business. The important thing is to do lots of homework before you buy. Assess your needs and look for a CRM that meets those needs.
Consider the key factors above and decide how many of them apply to you. Then start your search. With so much competition, you will surely be able to find the right CRM for you. The key is knowing what you need and being able to identify the solution that solves those needs when you see it.
Are there additional factors that you suggest considering when shopping for a CRM for small business? Let us know in the comments section below!
Hessam Shafieabout 5 years ago
I would like to add few more items that small business owners can consider when they want to select a CRM application for their company:  Integration with google apps like drive, gmail, calendar, docs; and also with dropbox. More and more small businesses are using these cloud products to address their needs. Such integration will greatly help them  CRM product roadmap: the crm that they are considering for their small business, should be able to address the customers future needs. CRM should grow as business grows.  as you mentioned, ease of use and user adoption. Small businesses should not need a rocket scientist to use CRM in their company  45-90-180 day plan: due to their nature and wanting to save money, small businesses want to do everything themselves. So by providing them templates that shows what they should accomplish internally through CRM application at 45, 90, and 180 day milestone, gives them a better understanding of what needs to happen and what does not.Reply
Gabriel Swainabout 5 years ago
Excellent additions, Hessam. Thanks so much for chiming in. We really appreciate your thoughts here. And I'm sure our readers do as well!Reply
Farhan Vilabout 5 years ago
While some CRMs may seem inexpensive upfront, it’s important to keep in mind what the costs of running and implementing the new system will be. Updating hardware, hiring additional staff, training costs and the time spent getting used to the new system are aspects that must all be taken into account when calculating the overall cost.Reply
Gabriel Swainabout 5 years ago
Thanks for your comment. These are important points to consider. Much of these costs depend on the CRM you choose. Fortunately, Agile CRM customers receive free, extensive onboarding training so that's not a cost one would incur with Agile CRM. Nor are there any necessary hardware updates for most customers. Plus, one of the key benefits of using a CRM is that it automates processes and frees up time, meaning employees can do more with their time. Considering that, one wouldn't really need to hire new employees, except for perhaps someone to be the CRM system administrator. In the long run, a CRM saves more resources than it eats up. However, you are correct that the time spent learning the new system is a resource constraint. The extent of that depends on how intuitive and easy to learn the system is--some are overly complex and take quite a while to master, for sure. With some CRMs companies would incur significant additional costs. With others, the additional costs are minimal. Thanks for your helpful comment and insight--we very much appreciate it! Cheers :-)Reply
BEST CRM FOR SMALL BUSSINESSabout 5 years ago
Thanks for sharing wonderful content, very informative. Your blog post resolves my problem, keep update….Reply
Gabriel Swainabout 5 years ago
That's great news! So glad the blog is helping to solve problems for you--that's our goal! Cheers :-)Reply
Zarna Naikabout 5 years ago
Another factor to check is whether the CRM system offers a free trial or assisted demo. This will ensure that you've picked the right system that suits your needs. A great post, Greg. Thank you for sharing it!Reply
Gabriel Swainabout 5 years ago
Agreed! It's always best to be able to "test drive" a new solution before you commit to implementing it (and always ask as many questions as you need to understand certain aspects of the solution). Thanks for adding that valuable insight--very helpful to our readers. We very much appreciate you chiming in. Keep commenting and adding your insights as they help our readers in a big way. Cheers and good luck with everything!Reply
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Gabriel Swainabout 4 years ago
Hi, SimarJeet. I'd be happy to help if you can provide some more context around what your goal is with the offer your have in mind... gaining new subscribers, new customers, etc. Cheers.Reply