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15 Tips to Choose the Best CRM for Your SMB

Choosing CRM TipsCRM (customer relationship management) includes all aspects of interactions that a company has with its customers. CRM software is highly scalable, customizable and is used to manage business contacts, clients, contract wins and sales leads.

Buying CRM? Keep it Simple.

What's the best way to buy CRM software for your business? Mat Brogie, COO of Repsly advised: Keep it simple! A really long feature list might seem appealing, but focus on how easy it is to use the features that are most important to your business. Most CRM implementations leave 70 percent or more of the features unused. In these cases, the long features list only clutters the user experience.  

"Integration is important. Make sure that you can easily get data into and out of the system, even if you don't have an explicit need on day one. Your CRM will be a storehouse of all kinds of customer information, and over time the value of that information will grow," wrote Brogie. "Your ability to capitalize on that value will be directly dependent upon your ability to access that data, and combine it with other data in your analysis."

Repsly's Brogie, along with several business owners, CRM vendors and business consultants offered the following CRM buying tips to SMBs looking to invest.

Tips to Help You Choose the Best CRM for Your Business

1. Speak to all your key stakeholders. This means everyone that is going to spend a significant amount of time using the CRM. Scope out what their minimum requirements are and what their nice to have's are. Clearly define these in terms of CRM functionality. This minimum requirement list will help you scope out the best product. Rather than you being drawn to the features that are nice to have, you will have a clear list of requirements that will make internal implementation of your CRM easy. 
-Jennie Holmes, managing director, Generate Solutions

2. Always talk to CRM vendors before making a decision. Tell them your problems with managing customer records, your business processes, and ask them how their software can fit into your workflow. Often times, vendors will be able to better guide you through the process since some of the features won't be obvious during a self-trial.
-Adarsh Thampy, CEO, LeadFerry

3. Don't underestimate the number of resources and tasks that will be tied to (revolve around) your CRM. As such, do not be penny-wise and pound-foolish with this choice. You will you get what you pay for! And it will likely become more costly to your business that you've wasted time with an inferior solution trying to save money. This also applies to using substitute tools like Excel or Google Sheets as a CRM. They're not built for this purpose. Just don't do it.
- Eric Quanstrom, CMO, KiteDesk

4. The latest trend in the industry is to move towards adopting cloud solutions. So any business out in the market for a CRM should do research in the cloud options available. This goes hand in hand with the concept of choosing the best-of-breed solution for each task at hand. As such, businesses should focus on picking a CRM which is a good fit for their purposes specifically for the CRM functionality.
- Dimitris Athanasiadis, online marketing manager, Megaventory

5. In today's modern business world, a proper CRM needs to be dynamic and adaptable. One of the most important items we looked at was the mobile potential of the CRM product. We needed something that would perform just as well on desktops and across the numerous mobile devices utilized. The features had to be cohesive and identical on the platforms. This is something that is very important because the premise and full power of a CRM is not prevalent until team members use it consistently. Data and updates need to be placed within the CRM system as soon as possible and if the solution doesn't have excellent mobile capability, it may as well be ignored.
- Ivan Ciraj, owner, IVAN RE

6. I run a web design company and get questions all the time from our SMB clients about what CRM they should look at. We tell them to consider one that is open source (free) but which will also give you an option for paid hosting as well as paid support. We also suggest that they find one that has a large and helpful community because often times problems can be solved or solutions found by asking on the community forum. Our recommendation for most businesses is SuiteCRM as it meets all of our criteria and it is what we use. We also tell people to take a look at X2CRM as it is also a good match for many SMBs. We use it as well, but only for a specific project.
- Alan N. Canton, managing partner, NewMedia Create

7. Small and mid-size businesses they cannot afford to have an additional spending on BI for information on their CRM. Therefore, you want to make sure there is some funnel reporting, performance reporting and so on. Also, consider scalability. While some systems are great for today, it may not be enough for the future so you need know how easy it is to migrate from the current CRM. If it is not easy, how scalable is the CRM you are planning to buy, can it handle X amount of data. - Anna Kayfitz, founder and consultant, StrategicDB Corporation

CRM Buying

8. SMBs should be looking for maximum utility and value for money. In this case, you should look for achieving cohesion and co-ordination between different utilities and features. For example, integrating purchase history and customer contact, you can follow successes at up-selling and cross-selling exchanges. By handling particular employee accounts and particular task, you can easily follow each work to its actual responsible person. This brings long-term accountability for each piece of completed work. You can also retrieve customer information by creating personalized outbound campaigns based on stored customer contact.
- Jayakrishnan, kapturecrm.com

9. Scalability is also extremely important. The goal of most small businesses, I would hope is to eventually grow into large businesses. Having a CRM that can adapt and grow as the employee base increases is key to a streamlined growth experience. Having to switch CRM products after achieving growth can impede the evolution of the company as employees are forced to learn a new system. Therefore, looking at the scalability and cost factor with eventual company growth in terms of the CRM's potential right at the research phase will save plenty of headaches down the road.
- Ivan Ciraj, owner, IVAN RE

10. The same CRM might not be right for every company, but there are certain considerations that every business owner should take into account before making a choice on which system to buy. Affordability is the obvious one, but things like integration — whether or not the new CRM will sync up with the other software that you’re already using — as well as whether it's available on mobile, are important too. Having the right integration can really help streamline processes and avoid duplicate data entry efforts, as well as consolidate communication across departments if everyone has access to the same information. For example, if your business has been working with a certain accounting software for years and you don't want to lose all of your data, or spend hours transferring it over, make sure that your new potential CRM integrates with that specific accounting platform. CRM vendors have a multitude of integration like these with a lot more than accounting software, and it’s important not to overlook this step. Having a mobile app is especially crucial too when considering that employees are no longer bound to a physical location, typically working remotely with the need to access client information on the go. Once these considerations have been taken into account, you’ll want to check to make sure that it includes the features that would be most useful to you, including email integration, forecasting, lead scoring, and analytics and reporting features.
- Suzie Blaszkiewicz, market researcher, GetApp

11. Ensure there's only one version of truth. This means that your customer records should be at sync across all places. 
- Adarsh Thampy, CEO, LeadFerry

12. One thing that's critical to consider when choosing a CRM is all the ways in which you feel your business will grow through its use. Many times people feel a CRM can be a simple step forward from their existing process but after our business had to undertake and manage a full migration from one CRM to another, it became immediately clear that your purchase should be a 5-10 year selection and not a fix for the present. Plug-ins, compatibility with other systems, use in different departments, number of licenses and fees associated – be sure you are looking at your CRM as a 360 degree choice and not just a mechanism for one specific purpose. Find out what sort of tools you can potentially invest in over the coming years that can help your business grow and be sure that your CRM is compatible (or is at least working effectively with other vendors toward additional use cases) so that business growth does not become hampered, in time, due to the CRM you chose in the present.
- Brandon Harig, director of operations, TheCPLawyer.com

13. After hearing about CRM and that it could help in the automation of our marketing efforts, I l jumped on the bandwagon. Most CRMs offers a free account but, I paid the pro account of a particular CRM based on a recommendation. Later, when I learned the ins and outs of the CRM, I realized that our small business didn't need the pro account. I advise everyone who will use CRMs, to learn the CRM using the free account and to not immediately purchase the pro account. 
- William Torres, owner, Keyforge

CRM Buy

14. Do you know exactly what you want to achieve with your CRM? If you don’t know precisely what you want the CRM to do for you, how are you going to choose the right solution for you? Get a team together, everyone who will have a touchpoint with the CRM and ask them what they would like it to do. Collect feedback from different departments on the processes that cause them the most headaches, or the issues they have day to day. These are the problems you need to solve. Once you have a list of 3 to 5 key things that the CRM should do, you'll be in a really great position to know, right from the beginning, which solutions are likely to work for you.
- Sam Barnes, marketing manager, Heliguy Quadcopters

15. One thing a business should look for is how well connected or integrated a CRM app is with other apps. Even though not a lot of supplementary functionalities may be necessary at any given point, picking a CRM which is well connected ensures that when the time comes it will be easy to connect the CRM with (e.g. Mailchimp or Quickbooks).
- Dimitris Athanasiadis, online marketing manager, Megaventory


vipul said on September 22, 2016 01:11 AM PDT

CRM software, used to keep track of customers, helps to make the information available to all aspects of the company. With 24*7 nature of business, the information available in CRM should be accessible by all at all times..Cloud-based CRM software can be accessed through the Internet, making it easy for all users to access the same information at any time.And as information is stored in the cloud, you and your team can also view customer information on the go by accessing the CRM data through mobile or on your tablet.

Pikalaina said on July 20, 2016 10:27 AM PDT

A good tip is to not get excited about capabilities in a CRM vendor’s demonstration that you are unlikely to ever use. Will the system you are implementing capture essential information, ensure effective follow-up, and be easy enough to use that your team will see it as an asset and not just a glorified monitoring device? This essential point is worth repeating: The best CRM implementation is the one your entire organization will actually use

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