So, you have decided that you need a CRM solution – but how do you choose when you know that many business owners have failed in this task before, wasting time and money they couldn’t afford to lose? There are a lot of ways to choose. Many business owners’ first stop is to go online and ask their community, “What is the best CRM?”. You will certainly get several recommendations out of this process, and the recommendations will most likely be for good products that have worked for another person (or maybe from the person selling that software!). But will they be the right product for you? Follow these steps to help you decide.

1. Know what CRM you are looking for

The first step is to ensure you are looking for the right type of CRM. What are the customer interactions that you have today? What do you need to do in the future? If you want to capture individual customer interactions, you will need a very different CRM than if you need to manage a high-volume marketing funnel! See my previous article if you want more information about the types of CRM. I have had some customers who started their search very confused because they were looking at the wrong type of product for what they needed.

A step that is sometimes missed (because it seems so obvious!) is making sure you are clear on the customers you want to represent: if you are selling to businesses and need to deal with many different people when working with them, that is quite a different set up to working with consumers when you don’t need to link them to any organisation. Some CRMs handle both types of customers well, and some….. don’t. Some CRM software will not allow you to have a person that is NOT linked to an organisation, some don’t have any easy way to represent organisations! One particularly tricky space for customers is if customers work across multiple organisations – this is often true for customers in the health space.

And the last bit of information about where you are today is to make sure you understand where you currently have customer information and your plans for this information. This is an important step to ensure you get the right CRM for YOUR business. If you use Xero for invoicing and you have a lot tied up in the way you use it, then choosing a CRM that only links up with MYOB might not work so well for you – you can end up with mismatched customer information or time-consuming manual processes if you don’t connect the pieces together, and a very difficult (sometimes impossible) problem to fix. This is one area where customers have narrowly avoided disaster – one customer was almost ready to buy a CRM that wouldn’t be able to link with their manufacturing system.

2. What CRM will make a difference for you?

The next step is to start looking into the future. You should not spend time or money on a CRM if it is not going to return that back to your business. What do you need this CRM to do to get a return on your investment? Some common ways that CRMs make money for a business are:

Saving Time:

Automating jobs that were previously manual, giving you time back for more valuable work, for example,

  • Sending follow-up emails to customers
  • Sharing customer information with other team members
  •  Linking up process steps, like sending an order received to your fulfilment system, and then automatically triggering an invoice
  • Allowing customers to update their own information, like a new address, and having that be the only place it is managed.

Making more sales:

Growing revenue by allowing customer interactions to happen consistently at scale:

  • Creating an automated marketing process where customers get personalised follow-up emails you set up only once, creating higher conversion because of more frequent, effective and consistent communication.
  • Ensure that a customer sales process is visible and follow-up is managed. A customer who doesn’t respond immediately can be forgotten without a clear system. Not to mention that the evidence is that leads need multiple calls and follow-ups to take action.
  • Keeping existing customers active by triggering follow-up steps. This might be emailed customer onboarding sequences, follow-up calls, or using customer activity data to identify customers at risk of not renewing memberships or subscriptions.

These steps have given you important information about what your CRM solution needs to do and also what type of CRM software you are looking for.

3. Compare CRM solution options

The final step is to put what you need into a document to compare how the different solutions you are looking at meet your needs. Possible solutions can be suggestions from other business owners, or you can search online for CRMs that can do the things that are most important for you, or seek advice from someone with independent experience.

Then you can also compare what you get for different prices. It is often important to look at the different product versions and price points to link into your review. For example, there are some products that are a great deal if you have fewer than 1000 customers or only one person in your business but become incredibly bad value if you go over these limits. It is easy to get trapped by these!

I have helped my customers choose and implement dozens of different CRMs, from tiny businesses that need low-cost email CRMs to large businesses that need an integrated CRM that seamlessly takes their customers from marketing to sales and then provides integrated service capability.

If this all makes sense, but you find yourself wondering if you don’t know enough about all the possibilities (or need help to find the information to answer these questions), please book at call with me.