NINE factors to look for when choosing a crm for your small business

17th August 2019
Article from Freshwork

Choosing a CRM is never easy. With a plethora of options, it can get overwhelming. However, let’s take a small step backward and talk about the small business sector. It is a well-known fact that small businesses play a crucial role in the growth of the economy; much more so than their larger counterparts. 

Case in point, in the first three fiscal quarters of 2014, small businesses accounted for 1.4 million jobs. Among these, 39% were from small businesses with less than fifty employees. Small businesses are very pertinent to the growth of the economy, and there is one tool that contributes highly to the growth of every small business to a small business’ growth – customer relationship management (CRM) software.

"Small businesses are very pertinent to the growth of the economy, and there is one tool that contributes highly to the growth of every small business to a small business’ growth – CRM software"

Why should small businesses use CRM?

When you’re starting out and your business has just entered the market, you will probably have a handful of customers and may even know them personally. You won’t require a system or a tool to manage this information.

But as your business grows,  you may run your own website and acquire more customers and hire more employees. Managing all this customer data across spreadsheets, sticky notes, notepad, and other tools simply will not work in the long run. You need a system to organise and maintain all your customer data in one place.

And that’s where a CRM for small business steps into the picture. A small business CRM is a software solution designed for growing businesses to organise and maintain their customer data in a single location. Unlike bulky enterprise CRM solutions, small business software is easy to set up, simple to use and has functionalities designed for small business, all at an affordable price.

Choosing a CRM for your small business

Before you begin your search for the right CRM tool, you must clearly set your business objectives, and know what you want from the CRM, and how CRM can help you accomplish these objectives.

For example, your business objectives can be: 

-Increase sales
-Track and improve sales productivity
-Improve customer relations and retention
-Identify industry trends and enhance strategy
-Measure the ROI of marketing activities

 Once you have this information, you can begin evaluating different CRM solutions in the market.

Factors to look for in a CRM software

Not all CRM solutions are built equally. There are some factors that play a key role in your decision of selecting the best CRM solution for your company.

1. Cloud vs On-Premise

While considering a CRM system for your business, you’ll be faced with multiple options. But before you decide, a critical factor in your decision depends on how you want to deploy and access the CRM software— cloud vs. on-premise.

Though both have their advantages in meeting business-specific needs, the preference for cloud CRM has risen, owing to the need to access CRM data anywhere. In fact, in 2008, only 12% of businesses used cloud CRMs, whereas in 2017, this number rose to 87%. Now, what’s the difference between the two?

Cloud CRM

CRM systems and data are hosted and managed by the vendor, and you can access it over the internet using a web browser and/or mobile app.

On-Premise CRM

CRM systems and data are hosted locally on your business server and computers and accessed through the local network. There are other advantages to cloud CRM:

-Cloud solutions offer a pay-as-you-go pricing model, where you can pay up-front with no software or hardware installation costs.
-Since data is stored in the cloud, users can access it at any time and from anywhere
-Data on the cloud is secure and data can always be restored if lost

2. Ease of use

One of the biggest challenges for businesses trying to embrace CRM is user adoption. 17% of businesses cite poor user adoption to be one of their biggest challenges. Why is this a big challenge

For one, many solutions in the market are complex to learn and even harder to use, and most of them require IT support for the setup. Your CRM software should be intuitive and really simple to use, so salespeople can easily adapt to the system. The CRM system should also be quick to configure, and any form of data should be easily importable and exportable without the help of consultants and endless hours of training. It is important that you choose a CRM which is flexible enough to sync with your existing sales process.

Tip: In order to make sure the implementation process is quick and easy, many CRMs come with a free trial for a sufficient period of time. In this period, you’ll be able to understand if the CRM system meets your requirements.

3. The right functionality

The best CRM for small business is one that helps you solve your business challenges, and moves you closer to your objectives. Choosing a small business CRM that has the right functionalities is one of the most important factors in CRM purchase.

For example, if you’re a real estate agency, you will require a CRM system that manages listing and inventories, captures leads from the website, tracks deals across the pipeline, handle automation and more.

Tip: Create a checklist of the features you require in a small business CRM, then make a list of CRM vendors, and begin your evaluation process.

4. Customisability

Every business is unique. A CRM software that fits your unique business needs and handles your sales processes effectively is a must. What you need is the capability to customise the CRM to fit your process.

Things like how information is laid out, adding new fields, configuring the sales pipeline, customising automations and reports, and controlling who sees what information, are crucial elements of your CRM. You also need to look for a solution that seamlessly integrates with your website and business applications. While it is essential to find one that fits your preferences, some solutions come with a big price tag attached to it for customisations.

Customisation is an important feature to look for when you choose a CRM, yes. But customisation should not be a mandatory factor to make the system work. Did you know that 17% of users feel this is a challenge with their current CRM solution?

Tip: Find your best fit between custom and out-of-the-box CRM systems. Rarely will you find a custom CRM for your business without heavy initial costs and long development time. The latter CRM systems are easy to install but not all of them are customisable. So you should choose an out-of-the-box system with customisation options available within the CRM. 

5. Scalability

Your business might be small right now, but as you grow and enter new markets, you may double up your sales team and invest more in marketing activities to increase revenue. As your business requirements increase, you may require a lot more from the CRM system. It is not feasible to transfer data to a new program and convince your sales team to use it, because they may already be used to the current solution.
Choose a small business CRM that is scalable, and grows along with your company.

Tip: Most CRM systems come with different plans that cater to different business sizes. So when your business grows, it’s easy to upgrade to higher plans and retain data.

6. Mobility

According to a 2016 Forrester Research Survey, users of mobile applications for business witnessed a 74% increase in customer satisfaction, 87% improvement in sales, and a 73% improvement in business proficiency.

Your sales reps are constantly on the move and tend to spend more time on their mobile devices and tablets. It is important to choose a CRM software that can be accessed on the field. Most CRM systems come with iOS and Android mobile versions which can be downloaded for free.

The key here is to ensure that the mobile version of the CRM is as powerful as the desktop version, so you don’t miss out on any of the functionalities.

Tip: Some of the basic functions you need to look out for in the mobile version of a CRM are: access to the customer database, appointments, deal pipelines, note-taking, real-time notifications, and continuous synchronisation of data.

7. Security

The most crucial information stored in your CRM is customer data. So it is important to choose a CRM solution that puts security at the forefront and adheres to strict security standards.

Since many CRM solutions, these days are hosted on the cloud, they work hard to protect your data, and also have the ability to assess risks and prevent possible cyber attacks. Your data is backed up regularly and strongly encrypted. When you narrow it down and select a CRM for your small business, you can be assured of your data is safe and secure.

Tip: Ask the vendor about their data security settings and principles. Learn about how your data will be stored and secured in their data centers. This information is typically found on the vendor website.

8. Affordability

Around 31% of people surveyed for a Forrester report cited expensive upfront costs to be a major challenge with their current CRM system. Budget obviously plays a big role in any business decision. So while investing in a small business CRM software, you need to calculate long-term costs and analyse the benefits obtained from the money spent.

One way you can be certain is to ask the vendor upfront what additional benefits you get along with the pricing package. You can also do your own research to see if the pricing involves extra costs for training, implementation, customisation, and support. 

Tip: Find out if the small business CRM seamlessly integrates with your other applications without huge architectural changes. It is better to be sure so that you don’t end up incurring add-on costs. 

9. Good support

According to 20% business owners, a key business driver for replacing their current CRM solution is poor support. It is common to encounter glitches along the course of using small business software. But when you do so, your CRM vendor should have a good customer service team who are quick to respond and provide help. One way to be certain about this is to contact their support during your evaluation period. If the customer service is not instant and requires long waiting time, there isn’t any point going ahead with that vendor.

Tip: Apart from providing user manuals, some vendors conduct free webinars, product demos, and certain other programs so you can learn about their small business software. Enrolling in one of these programs to learn about their CRM software can be to your advantage.

If you’re looking for a CRM solution for small business, look no further than the Freshsales CRM. Freshsales comes with great functionalities, customisation options, good support, security, and is very affordable. What’s more, Freshsales allows you to scale between different plans depending on what your business requirements are. So, when you switch to a different plan, your data remains intact.