According to Crunchbase data, there are more than 2500 CRM software companies in the EU. That’s arguably too many providers, and choosing the right one for your business can be challenging. 

But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll see how broad the term “CRM” really is. You’ll find many email marketing solutions that have integrated features to manage contacts, and on the other end, you’ll find complete business solutions for managing customers, projects, business economics, and more. You’ll even find super niched-down tools, like a CRM designed for real estate agents. 

So, if you need CRM software for a small business, what should your priorities be? Well, i n this article, we’re going to explore the most important considerations for choosing CRM software. 

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What is CRM software?

CRM, or customer relationship management software, is used to centralize your customer data (and data relevant to customer interactions) in one place. This definition might seem broad, but that’s because CRM software is quite versatile – different vendors have their own take on the software’s design and organization, and even which business functions they support.

What does CRM software do?

Depending on the type of CRM software you invest in, its functions and features may vary. Some CRMs are heavily focused on sales enablement, so they may only support adding contacts, enriching data, tracking accounts, and conducting outreach. However, more robust CRM tools serve many additional functions, including marketing automation, project management, client invoicing, and more. 

Elements of modern CRM

8 important considerations for CRM software

CRMs are a big investment, and not just because of the cost. They’ll also house your customer interactions and key business functions, so it’s really important to pick the right platform for your needs.

Here are nine considerations to keep in mind when you’re vetting different vendors. 

1. Interface and ease of use

According to research, 50% of sales leaders say that their CRM is difficult to use, and 18% of them claimed they’ve lost opportunities because of this. Additionally, if your CRM is difficult to use, it slows adoption internally.

So when you’re vetting CRMs, it’s important to find one that’s easy to use for your team members. And yes, ‘easy-to-use’ is a broad term, so let’s unpack it for a minute. 

In the context of a CRM, easy to use may mean:

  • You’re not overly reliant on IT. This is perhaps one of the biggest indicators that a CRM is easy to use – i.e., it’s easy for your sales and marketing pros to work with it, without relying on IT support. 
  • Integrations are seamless. If you’re reliant on multiple systems that may contain customer data (like your CRM, live chat, help desk software, etc.), then you’ll typically want to aggregate your data and enrich your CRM. 
  • The UI/UX is friendly for the end user. Your sales pros and marketing team will regularly use the CRM, so they should find it intuitive to navigate and use. 

2. Pricing structure

When you check a CRM software’s pricing out, don’t just look at the tag – you’ll also want to consider the plan’s breakdown, too. Unfortunately, some CRM software doesn’t reveal the full story in their pricing, which is especially true for ‘modular’ tools. These tools encourage you to subscribe with an attractive starting price, but as you need more features or functions, you end up paying a premium for each add-on.

In contrast, some CRM software vendors offer value-based pricing models that are straightforward. You’ll see exactly what you get with each pricing tier, and you’ll know how much it’ll cost to upgrade/increase your limits.

3. Feature set

The term “CRM” is used quite broadly now, and depending on your organization, your needs may vary. For some businesses, a CRM is primarily used as a sales tool – to keep track of contacts, score and qualify leads, engage accounts and close deals, etc. And for many other businesses, CRMs are used as a complete business management tool, covering processes such as:

  • Project management
  • Workflow automation
  • Email automation
  • Managing business economics

And more. So when you’re vetting different CRM tools, consider the features that your team members and your business actually need. 

4. Data privacy and security

When you’re looking into CRM software, make sure you check the data privacy laws in your region. Since your CRM will host a great deal of customer information, you’ll need one that’s compliant with your local data privacy laws. For example, if you’re in the EU, you’ll want to choose a CRM that’s GDPR compliant (like Caflou). Similarly, if you’re in Canada, PIPEDA compliance is necessary.

5. Integrations

According to a research study on the state of inbound marketing, a lack of integrations with other tools is the second biggest challenge for businesses using a CRM. So when you’re evaluating a CRM vendor, make sure they either:

  • Support direct integrations with the systems you use. For example, do they integrate with your email provider, project management tool, knowledge base, etc.?
  • Support integrations through a third-party provider. For example, some CRMs let you integrate with various other systems through Zapier or Make. If your CRM vendor doesn’t support direct integrations, using one of these platforms is a great and often very flexible option.

6. Ease of set-up and implementation

We’ve talked a fair bit about ease of use, but you’ll also want to consider how easy it is to set the CRM up. Since the CRM needs to enable certain teams, you’ll need to customize it to your organization’s projects and workflows. Additionally, you’ll need to aggregate any customer data from your existing systems to the CRM.

So, with your needs in mind, consider how easy the CRM is to set up. Look for:

  • Ease of migration. Does the CRM let you easily import or export data and integrate it with the platform?
  • Integrations. Can you directly (or indirectly) pull data from your other systems?
  • Documentation and support. You’ll want good customer support and solid documentation to fall back on, especially when your team hits a snag. Some CRM vendors provide different levels of support depending on your pricing plan, so check for signs of tiered support, too.

7. Reporting and analytics

Your CRM will host a great deal of valuable data that different departments can use, including customer service, marketing, and sales teams. For example:

  • Customer service teams in B2B businesses can use the CRM to track interactions with customers, helping them identify customer pain points. They can also access data about customer projects or invoicing history.
  • Marketing teams can track performance metrics, like profitability of customer projects, effort used to deliver a project, status of work to be done etc..
  • Sales teams can engage with warm leads, evaluate customer potential, track sales performance, and share feedback with marketing about which leads are most valuable. 

The type of data and analytics that you’ll need depends on your business. But as you can see, there’s a lot of scope in CRM software, so check which analytics and reporting features the vendor offers before committing. 

8. Automation 

Earlier, we mentioned how CRM solutions can vary substantially in their functionality. Some are complete business solutions, while others are focused on sales and marketing enablement, some provide strong project management features. In either case, you’ll benefit from automation. In general, there are two types of automation that CRM delivers:

  • Customer-facing automation, like email and SMS marketing automation. This type of automation is used to keep customers engaged and deliver consistent customer experiences. As many as 80% of marketing automation users see improvements in lead generation, and more than 75% observe higher conversion rates.
  • Workflow automation, i.e., back-end automation of your internal processes, like generating invoices, ticket routing, and task assignment, etc. According to a survey by Salesforce, more than 70% of IT leaders credit automation for helping team members save around 10-50% of the time that they used to spend on repetitive, manual tasks. 

How to choose the right CRM for your small business

Now that you know what to look for in CRM software, here are some guidelines for choosing one for your business.  

1. Consider your organization’s needs and workflows

First, you need to determine exactly what type of CRM software your organization needs. Should you go for a sales and marketing-focused tool, or a more complete business management solution? 

If you go for a more complete business management solution, it’s a good idea to evaluate its different functions thoroughly. For example, if you’re looking for CRM with project management features, you may want to consider whether it lets you manage team members, assign roles and responsibilities, create dependencies, etc. 

2. Talk to your team members

Since your team members are going to be the end-users, you’ll want to get their input before finalizing a CRM. It’s a good idea to ask them about their pain points, workflows, and needs, so you can identify the right tool. For example:

  • Is automation important? And what type of automation do they need?
  • Do they require project management features? Are they using another project management tool and are they willing to switch?
  • How many team members require seats?  This may affect how much you’ll pay for the CRM software.
  • Do they need marketing automation features? If so, how complex these need to be?
  • How tech-savvy are they? Will they need to lean on IT a lot for implementation? Or, should you look for a tool that’s focused on business users?

Here, it’s important to note that all your team members don’t need to be involved in the decision of which CRM software to choose. It’s important for leaders to understand each team’s needs and make the best decision accordingly. 

3. Consider your budget

Remember what we mentioned about pricing structures above – they aren’t always as simple as they seem. Before you invest in CRM software, be sure to thoroughly scrutinize its pricing structure. However, don’t just work out how much it’ll cost you to start with – try to also forecast how much you’ll pay over time, as your team grows and your needs evolve.

4. Consider the software’s primary audience

While there are well over a thousand CRM software vendors in the market, many popular CRM tools focus on niches, at least in some capacity. For example, Salesforce is more geared towards the enterprise segment, while Caflou is ideal for small businesses with up to 100 employees. 

Some CRM tools even operate within specific industry niches, like Zillow’s Premiere Agent, which is a CRM solution designed specifically for real estate. 

5. Consider where you could be in 2-3-5 years, will the system be adequate if you grow in size?

Right now, you might have a team of five or thirty people. But in a few years, you might have a team of 60, or 80, or 120. So when you’re selecting a CRM provider, you’ll want to make sure that it’s built to scale with your needs.

For example:

  • Does it support team management? Can project managers assign tasks, track progress, manage responsibilities, control access rights, etc.?
  • Is it primed for managing multiple projects? This doesn’t just mean having the right task and team management features, but also automation and necessary reporting and analytics. 
    For example, if you’re running multiple projects, tools like Caflou give you insights into each one’s profitability (or lack thereof). Then, you can tie profitable projects to their respective customers, helping you identify your most valuable accounts. 
  • Are the costs transparent? How will your pricing change as you grow? Will you simply need to pay more per extra user, or are there some hidden fees involved?
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Get a 360-view of your customers and business with Caflou

Looking for the best CRM for small businesses? Let us introduce you to Caflou.

1. Affordable CRM built for small businesses

No hidden fees, no complex pricing structures, and no paying for more than you need. Caflou offers a simple pay-as-you-go pricing structure that grows with your team. Depending on your needs, choose from our Carp, Dolphin, and Shark plans – or try Caflou out for free with the Turtle plan.

2. Manage your essential business functions

Manage all your customer interactions, projects, financial aspects and cash flow, and contracts in one place with Caflou’s end-to-end business management features. You’ll have complete 360-degree visibility into your business and accounts, backed by real-time data. 

3. Integrations and automation

Although Caflou is a fully-integrated platform for small business management, we understand that businesses rely on multiple systems. Caflou offers existing integrations, and if there’s a system we don’t directly integrate with, our partnership with Make has you covered.

4. Easy to setup and use 

Skip the lengthy setup times and the complex interfaces. Caflou is designed with end-users in mind – business users – so we’ve designed our platform to be intuitive and ridiculously easy to use. If you get stuck anywhere, our dedicated support and comprehensive knowledge base are here to help you out. 

Ready to take the leap? Get started with Caflou for free.

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