Choosing a CRM

CRM Guide: Tips for picking the right one

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Every business owner I meet struggles with choosing and using a CRM and I wanted to understand why this is a common problem.

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management System. But is it really?

Most CRMs focus on Leads, people who have shown an interest in your services or products, so that means it’s also a Lead Relationship Management system.

If we’re using our CRM to manage Customers And Leads, wouldn’t it make more sense to call it a Customer and Lead Management System?

Not only does it more accurately describe the purpose of the system, but it also creates a more pleasing acronym CALMs.

Using a CRM in the right way will allow you to nurture Customers AND Leads in the correct way, allowing you to tailor your information flow in the most logical and effective way.

For example:

Existing customers have already made the decision to use your company, whereas prospects/leads are potential customers who have yet to make the decision whether to choose you as their preferred supplier.

Customer Journey

Active / Prospect Customers

The information you send to a prospect in comparison to an active client will naturally differ.

You are likely to send prospective customers a targeted sequence of emails to showcase your business, its services and offerings alongside why they should choose you, but this would not be suitable to send to your existing clients.

I’m more likely to send an existing customer information which relates to them.

Segment your audience

It is important when creating a CRM to understand the different segments of your audience.

In its simplest form, it might be Prospect Customer and Active Customer.

It doesn’t matter how you set it up, as long as you can easily identify what stage of the decision process your customer is at and use the CRM to deliver information which is relevant and which aims to convert them from prospect to active customer.

Things to consider when setting up a CRM

You have already begun your research which is why you are reading this post. That’s great. Now, ask yourself as many questions as possible.

  1. Do I want my system to remind me if I haven’t been in touch with someone for a certain amount of time?
  2. Do I want my system to show relationships, for example, Mother, Child, Doctor, Specialist?
  3. Do I want my system to track incoming and outgoing emails?
  4. Do I want to know when someone has opened an email?
  5. Do I want to use my system to track all my tasks?
  6. Do I want my system to track potential sales associated with a contact?
  7. Do I want my CRM to send sequenced emails?
  8. Do I want to save files on the system?
  9. Do my projects follow set processes? If they do, do I want to track these on my system?
  10. Do I have any set processes, ways of doing things, eg onboarding a client, sales pipeline, that I’d like to track on this system?
  11. Does the system need to integrate with any other software?

Some of your business processes are easy to plot out because you do them automatically every day. It’s just a question of writing them down.

If you haven’t consciously mapped out your business processes, try using the If This Then That style because it helps you round up all the funny little things that happen in your business which ensures it operates efficiently and profitably.

Choosing the right CRM for a business

Inevitably, this is a big choice. It’s time-consuming, daunting and potentially troublesome. However, done well, it’s a great way to ensure you manage leads in the most efficient way.

So, to get started have a look about at the different CRM’s available. Whether it’s a free one, trial or paid version, consider what it does for you and is it worth the money.

Begin by listing out all the features it has to see if it matches your requirements.

Here is my example checklist

I am always on the lookout. I like trying new tools and solutions to see if it can benefit me, or my clients, so my generate checklist when looking at any CRM is as follows.

  • I ignore all the fabulous setup wizards
  • I explore the free features and get a feel for the user interface. I want to know if it’s intuitive.
  • I consider whether I like the words they use. For example, Capsule uses the word Tracks to describe a sequence of tasks. For the same job, Contactually uses the word Programs, and Hubspot uses Sequences. The application and execution of each of these are slightly different, so you need to consider which one will do the best job for your business.
  • I do not become distracted by colour coding and tagging, but I do check it can handle bulk actions.
  • I explore how my contacts get from their current residence to their potential new home and, if I’m already using a Customer And Lead Management system, I test how easy it is to export my data and upload it to the new system.
  • Will the free or basic plan limit me, I’ll explore what, in the next plan up, do I really need / will I really use? Or, in the case of Hubspot Templates and Snippets, where the free plan only gives you x5 of each, I discovered I can just as efficiently use Gmail Canned Responses as a workaround.
  • If anything feels a bit stuttery or niggly, I’ll search Google for a How To in case I’ve missed something obvious.
  • I spend time setting up my known business processes because knowing what your processes are, will give you something substantial to test the software with and prevents the system being used as a glorified address book.
  • I create a few contacts to see how easy it is to add a task, record an activity, upload a file, put the contact into an email sequence, send an email. Anything I do with a contact outside of the system, I test within the system.
  • Once I’ve got used to the browser version, I’ll have a look at the mobile app to see if any essential elements are missing or if the interface is going to annoy me. Will I use the app?

Is a CRM worth my while?

Choosing a CRM (or Customer and Lead Management system) is not a simple process, and I personally would spend a couple of days having a nose around until I can answer two simple questions:

“Do I like it?”
“Will it add value?”

If I can’t answer yes to the first one, there is little point moving on. Gut feeling counts in this and whilst it is important to take a bit of time to get used to the tools, if you hate it from the offset, keep looking!

Equally, if I stumble across a system which I love, in respect of how it looks and how easy it is to use, unless it will integrate with my business well and ‘add value’ allowing me to make the best use of my data, it’s the bin for that one too.

The Pro’s and Con’s of a CRM Solution

Let’s face it, everything in life is a choice, from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive and the phones we use. Hundreds of choices, all of which fundamentally do the same thing, yet we each have a specific checklist which appeals to us as humans.

When it comes to a CRM, it’s a similar thing. They all take customer data but do they all integrate with your other solutions, work well on a mobile device or have a design which suits your preference in design?

Free vs Trial vs Upgrade Options

One of the most frustrating things is to find a solution which ticks all, or most, of your requirements but the pricing plan is not right for your business. Maybe the free plan works, but you need more contacts or a new feature which is only available in the next plan up (which is too expensive) and this brings us back to my criteria above, ‘does it add value’.

FREE Plans often lead to disappointment

Hubspot are experts at the sales funnel. For years I’ve been sniffing around their software. I like their blogs and I love their free downloads. Over the years they’ve helped me a lot however my business has never been right for their software. Then they brought out their free CRM. Was I interested? You bet your life I was!

I signed up for an account and began my regular testing process. Everything was going swimmingly. I liked the vocabulary Hubspot used. I loved the user interface, and I enjoyed the way it worked within Gsuite. There was nothing I didn’t like.

Then I looked at the reporting dashboard and I became frustrated. All the good stuff I wanted wasn’t free. Did I really want to use this stuff? You bet your life I did!

I opened my spreadsheet and plotted out the free and paid for features and grouped them according to the price plans. Immediately I saw their sales funnel. It was VERY clever. Their upgrades were split in two, one plan for Sales and one for Marketing and to get all the stuff I felt I couldn’t live without would cost me £207 in total. The upgrades would have given me a Customer, Leads, Sales and Marketing system all under one roof and I think that’s a pretty good upsell considering I only went shopping for a free CRM!

It’s easy to be frustrated by this approach, but they’re doing the same as every business and providing a solution which has a price tag.

Before you search for the perfect CRM

Define the areas of your business which can be streamlined and create a list of features you need. If you are unsure of some, mark them as ‘expendable’. If one of those features pushes you into a high paid plan, it’s easier to know you can drop it if necessary.

Think about your business processes and map them out so you have a good understanding of what a CRM will need to do for you. If you get this information sorted before you start looking for a CRM, the chances are, you won’t be sucked into expensive plans which do not ‘add value’ to your business.

Need help with a CRM

Well, that’s what I do. I do this for a living for clients and not only do I look at them all for my own interest, I set them up and use them for a number of my clients. This gives me a huge benefit when it comes to choosing one for myself or new customers in the future.

If you get stuck, get in touch with me here.