With all this talk of how CRMs can help your business, a few of you are asking which one you should choose.  It’s a logical question, but not necessarily an easy one to answer.

I could provide a list of the “Top 5 CRMs for [INSERT YOUR INDUSTRY HERE]”, but you can Google search that for possibilities. But even the best CRM becomes worthless if you don’t know what you want or don’t use it correctly.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask Forbes.

So instead of a Top 5 list of systems, how about a Top 5 list of things to consider when choosing a CRM?

#1- Linkages.  Many CRMs allow you to connect to your email contacts, and most allow linkages between those accounts so that your contacts seemlessly flow from one to the other without clunky importing and exporting.  But with most people spending more and more time on social media, growing numbers of CRMs are trying to build strong linkages between your database and services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  If you already have these accounts, why go through the process of inputting all that information again. Socially linked CRMs allow you to import and manage these contacts as well, often with the click of a single button.

#2 Offline of Online. CRMs are increasingly moving off your computer hard drive and into the cloud (residing on the internet and access via a website).  If you spend a lot of time connected to the web,  a cloud-based system makes a lot of sense.  But for some businesses, or those whose business isn’t stationary, lack of internet access would mean no access to the customer info they need.  If this is you, make sure the cloud-based CRM saves data to your PC as well for offline viewing, or choose a software solution you install to your machine.

#3 What You Plan To Store. The building blocks of all CRMs are simple: Name, Company, Address, Phone, & Email.  But as we discussed in an earlier post, you want a CRM, not just an address book, so you likely have other info you want to capture about your customer.  This include family info, interests and hobbies, or other “personality” type data.  But many CRMs also have space to capture things like past product orders, potential opportunity size (in quantities or dollars), and overall sales history.  It’s usually a good idea to pick a CRM that you can add custom fields to so you capture just what you need— businesses are so diverse that no one CRM will have everything (nor should it!).

#4 Bucketing. Although having info about a single customer is important, it’s also very handy to be able to add multiple customers into a custom “bucket” so you can make sure they are getting just what they need.  For example, I may have a bucket for all of my customers who are manufacturers and another one for all my clients who are restaurants.  By doing so, I can email information out on an upcoming Lean Manufacturing Conference to ALL my manufacturers just by selecting their bucket.  The alternative would be selecting them one by one, something that would be both tedious and prone to missing someone who would really want the info.

#5 Something You Actually Will Use. This one seems silly, but I’ve actually talked to businesses who have loaded all their data into a CRM and then do little with it because it just isn’t laid out in a way that makes sense to them or doesn’t fit with how they do business.  They may not like it (or get it) because it is too complex, too simple, too text heavy, or too visual.  No matter how many bells and whistles something has it won’t get used if it doesn’t fit you well.  So utilize the free trial versions of a few possible CRMs for a period before taking the plunge.

Please understand that there are factors to consider when choosing a CRM, but if you can get your head around these your choices will start to filter down quickly.  The goal is to put yourself in the best position for CRM success my picking the one that will both meet your needs and match your personality.

Keep an eye on future posts in this series on CRMs to help you keep moving forward.

Are you looking for assistance in setting up your CRM right now?  We can help with that.

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