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New to CRM? Start Here.

  • What is CRM?
  • What to Look for in CRM Providers
  • Benefits of CRM Software
What is CRM?

Customer relationship management refers to the practice of organizing business data, particularly relating to existing and potential customers, so that a company can provide customer experiences likely to result in a beneficial outcome to the organization, such as upselling, cross-selling, repeat business, word-of-mouth advertising and positive brand impressions.

Customer relationship management software has existed for decades. In the 80s and 90s, CRM software was typically installed for companies in on-premise servers. It required a significant investment in IT hardware, maintenance and the staff to support it. Therefore, CRM software was previously the province of enterprises.

Such options still exist. However, since the late 90s, the industry began moving over to cloud-based solutions, which are available via monthly subscription. This removed the significant upfront cost of on-premise installations and has made CRM software accessible to companies of any size and industry.

Today, numerous CRM solutions exist to provide certain core functions – contact management, sales force automation, marketing automation and helpdesk ticketing. Some solutions offer a wide range of functions in all of these categories, while others offer a narrower scope with greater specificity to particular business use cases, such as number of users, industry or compatibility with other essential business applications.

Which CRM Software is Best?
The best CRM software for your company depends largely on your use case. You’ll need to evaluate your business needs relating to your sales process, marketing strategy, customer support capabilities, team size, budget, technical background and goals. The best CRM for enterprises won’t be the best CRM for small businesses. Similarly, the best CRM for real estate agents won’t be the best CRM for retail. There are advantages to larger providers – such as a wide range of potential integrations with third-party software – but a smaller provider might provide essential functions and support at a far more forgiving price point.

What to Look for in CRM Providers

1. Features – Determine which your team is struggling. Does your sales team have difficulty closing deals? Does your marketing team struggle to qualify leads? Are customers turned off by long wait times for support tickets? Self-analysis will tell you which CRM software is best for you.

2. Support – CRM providers offer different levels support per subscription. Is support available through email, live chat, and calls? Does the provider make onboarding sessions available? How active is their online community? CRM software is available even for the less technically-inclined; some providers will even perform a custom implementation, if you’re willing to pay for it.

3. Integrations – The CRM must be able to integrate with your other business applications – otherwise you’ll be constantly switching windows and re-entering data, which defeats the purpose of automations. An official integration means the CRM provider has done the work of ensuring their platform works with the third-party software; otherwise, you’ll need to find a workaround or hire a developer to create a custom integration using the CRM’s API.

4. Ease of Use – A CRM is only as good as its adoption rate. The platform provides more value the closer you get to universal adoption. The easier it is for all members of your team to use, the more accurate your data; CRMs that rank highly for positive user experiences often enjoy higher adoption rates than their rivals. Compare this factor in user reviews!

Once you’ve determined what you’ll need the software to do, you’ll be in a better position to gauge how significant an investment you’re ready to make. There are additional costs to a CRM that aren’t included in the price – for example, the potential need to hire a CRM administrator and the time required to train your team to use the new system – but most CRM vendors provide a pricing page with clearly defined features per subscription tier. They also offer free trials; as with any major purchase, make sure you try before you buy.

Benefits of CRM Software

There are many benefits to customer relationship management software. While many key benefits depend on the focus of the software – whether sales force automation, marketing automation, or help desk ticketing – in general, CRM software leverages configurable rules and multichannel integration with big data and analytics to provide a level of automation, adaptability and insight in a short amount of time.

1. Reduce Busy Work – CRMs can be configured to automatically take certain actions – like update a record, create a task, send a notification, send an email or produce a report – after certain triggers. In short, a CRM can be configured to take care of necessary but unproductive busy work on behalf of your team, allowing them to handle more clients, generate more content, nurture more leads, address more customer service issues and so on – in other words, doing more in less time.

2. Unify Essential Functions – Many CRM platforms integrate email, SMS, calls, web chat and social media. Your agents won’t need to switch between windows, applications or device to handle their daily tasks – they’ll be able to perform necessary functions all within the same interface.

3. Visualize Data in Reports – Far more than a data repository, your CRM should either provide built-in reporting functionality or integrate with third-party business intelligence applications that visualize your data according to user defined criteria. All the data your business generates can be put to use identifying operational bottlenecks, underlying trends and forecasts by metric.

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