Not all Customer Relationship Management software (CRMs) are created equal. And, that’s okay, because not all businesses have the same needs. In the last year, The Miller Group went through its own torturous CRM evaluation process, so we truly the hours you and your client management team can spend stuck in a quagmire of demo calls, trying to differentiate among services, evaluating costs, and wondering whether the interface is as intuitive as it seems.
We’ve found that before you reach out to any CRM solution, you should find a point of view: enter the process with a clear definition of why you’re looking for a CRM, the goals you want to reach; and the plan to achieve them. If you’re not prepared to answer those questions, every CRM will look like a good fit, because each CRM provider is going to highlight their strengths. So, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t know what to ask for. Answering these not-so-simple questions can help determine which CRM is best for your business:
Who is your customer and what are their preferences?
Remember that CRMs are Customer Relationship Management software. The purpose is not to help you better manage your database of contacts; it’s to better understand, and communicate with, your customers. Conduct some light qualitative, and quantitative research to find what channels of communication work best for your customers – is it newsletters, chat, text or phone calls? When you understand what your customer wants, your list of needed functionalities narrows.
What is your overall growth strategy and milestones?
What are you trying to accomplish- long term and short term- as a business? The answer to this question should lead to some functionality requirements, either in analytics or communication. Are you focusing on tradeshows to build your business? Look for a CRM with robust marketing automation capabilities to optimize your booth attendance. Are you looking for more investors? Make sure your CRM has advanced analytics so that you’re prepared to report on the “health” of your business – what’s your average open rate? How old is your customer? What’s their average spend per purchase?
What business tools are you currently using?
Making a list of the suite of tools you’re currently using (MailChimp, Visual Visitor, GoogleSheets) and their capabilities will help you assess what you can streamline with a CRM. Use these questions about each tool:
What do you use it for? (not what are its capabilities, what does your team use the tool for?)
Is this tool useful in reaching your strategic goals?
Are there any gaps or redundancies in your suite of tools?
Do you want this tool to integrate with your CRM?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re prepared to start talking to CRM providers, and attending software demos. But, there are additional characteristics that matter to your business. To gain an expert opinion, we reached out to April Folger, Director of Data Analytics at McKesson Health Solutions. April has plenty of experience with CRMs, at one point, helping develop an in-house CRM solution for a client of ours.
What are the pros and cons of cloud-based versus on- premise CRM software?
“It seems that data of all types are being moved to the cloud and CRM platforms are no exception. There are several items to keep in mind when determining whether cloud based or on- premise CRM is right for your organization.
- Data security – depending on the types of data your CRM uses, the level of security required can vary. On- premise CRM offers the highest level of data security over the cloud
- Ease of accessibility – cloud CRM can be accessed easily from anywhere
- Cost – cloud is much more cost efficient than installing on- premise, which is why more small businesses choose this option
- Integration with other systems – if you need to integrate with existing ERP systems then on premise would fit the bill”
What questions should businesses ask in terms of scalability?
“The important thing to remember when trying to scale automation using CRM is that the target audience selection criteria needs to remain a top priority. Casting a wide net is only useful if the audience is going to be receptive to the message. How many customers do you have? How many target markets do you have? CRM platforms that are marketed specifically to small business may have a hard time scaling up if the business experiences a large amount of growth. Some platforms charge for how many emails you send using the CRM, some charge based on the number of contacts you have stored – the solution that works when your company has 50 employees is likely not going to be the same solution when you move to 500 or 5000 users. Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of the particular platforms can help a business know when they have outgrown a CRM product – which is the problem that all companies hope they run into.”
Do businesses need to invest in continuous training and support?
“I have seen businesses that deploy CRM and then use the software as a glorified spreadsheet or rolodex. This is a problem that can plague all sizes of business from small business to large corporations. The CRM strategy needs to be well defined from the beginning and the team responsible for execution of automated marketing campaigns should continuously be kept up to date on the capabilities of the CRM that they are using. When done right I have seen companies that have developed algorithms using only the data that is housed in the CRM and achieved a great return on investment. A smart CRM strategy and execution, no matter the platform, is an often overlooked component of the process. Businesses should constantly be supporting continuous training and evaluation of the performance of the CRM. CRM is by no means “set it and forget it” and the successful implementations are the businesses that put in the time and effort to ensure optimization of their marketing strategy via CRM.”
A final piece of advice – take your time. Choosing a CRM should be a carefully considered decision. Your team will spend many hours in the first few months learning, organizing and onboarding your organization to this new software. Used correctly a CRM could become one of the most valuable tools your business has. If it’s not a right fit, it could be a large waste of resources.