CRM (Customer – or Contact – Relationship Management) systems have matured significantly in the last eight years. What was once a privilege limited to the advanced marketing teams of enterprise-size organisations has now become a staple ingredient in the marketing mix for businesses of all shapes and sizes. But this of course also means that the sheer number of CRM applications has exploded, making the selection process more difficult.

Start with why

We often take for granted that we need a CRM system, without really looking at the key reasons why we need one. Your reasons may well look different to those of the business next door, and they will be instrumental in finding the best option.

Some typical reasons include…

  • Structuring customer data
  • Analysing customer behaviour
  • Measuring sales, financial and marketing activities
  • Improving customer engagement
  • Shortening the sales cycle
  • Reducing sales administration
  • Improving marketing effectiveness
  • Improving team collaboration and productivity
  • Reducing customer churn
  • Cash flow projection and sales forecasting

Once you understand your unique business drivers and how a CRM can support them, you will have a clearer view of how to choose a suitable platform.

Existing applications

A modern business application library should be well integrated at key touchpoints, including the CRM system. You want to be able to centralise as much of your – relevant – business data as possible into your CRM platform.

Existing systems could include…

  • Marketing automation systems pulling data from the CRM
  • Financial systems linking up with CRM Sales data, such as pipeline value
  • Collaboration or project management system for sharing CRM activities
  • Storage drives for managing customer files
  • Website for transferring new leads to the CRM

What does your current system and application ecosystem look like? And how could your business benefit from allowing existing software to communicate with the CRM?

Check the budget

Whatever your budget, you should make sure you get the best return possible on your CRM investment. Rather than just looking at the price tag, consider how your business can save money by incorporating new or existing processes into a central CRM platform. Take some time to look at what can be done better, faster, and smarter. When used right, intelligence from a CRM system can provide powerful support in making better business decisions.

There’s more to CRM than off-the-shelf

There are some bestselling, ready-made CRM systems out there, which are often found on the wish list of marketers as well as sales leaders. They range from the advanced, relatively expensive solutions like Salesforce, to the mid-range Apptivo, all the way down to the budget alternatives like CapsuleCRM.

You can find a list of PCMagazine’s Top 10 CRM solutions of 2017 here.

It can, however, be difficult to find the perfect match from a selection of available pre-built systems, and many businesses find themselves paying for functionality they don’t need – whilst sometimes missing other features they would have liked to have.
The good news is: You don’t need to select an existing CRM platform. You can have one tailored exactly to your organisation’s needs, and get much better value in the long run.

What your CRM must have

Whatever solution you lean towards, you should always consider these check-points as critical issues for making your decision.

  • Integration
    How well does the system connect with your existing business applications?
    Avoid building a siloed CRM resource, as you won’t extract the full value from its functionality.
  • Cross-department value
    Don’t view the CRM as just a marketing tool – it’s a business tool. The more people across the organisation who can use it, the better. Collaboration and productivity improvements will follow.
  • Security
    It’s critical to ring-fence your data properly, and the CRM should provide all the security and compliance you need. Not only do you want your financial information to be safe from intruders, you also want to make sure you don’t breach the trust of your customers when handling their details.
  • User friendliness
    If people don’t understand an application, they won’t use it. Always allow users to test and review the system before implementing it, to get their feedback on how easy it is to understand. Also ensure you get sufficient training and enablement from the vendor.
  • Reporting
    One of the best aspects of CRM is that it can support decision making. But first, you need to be able to track, view and export data being used across the CRM. With the help of custom dashboards and reports, you should be able to get the insight needed to evaluate business performance across several different departments.

The power is yours

With the huge selection of options available, you have the buyer’s power to select and review what suits your business best. Don’t compromise, as there will be a solution that suits your organisation – even if it doesn’t quite exist yet.