One of the most important acronyms to know in any business that deals with people, is CRM; Customer Relationship Management. This refers to software that helps you track conversations with and progress of prospects, leads and customers.
The basic functionality of a CRM is to store names, email addresses, phone numbers and any other bits of important information about each contact (such as which company they work for and their role within it; you can even group all individuals so that they’re easy to find). The vast majority of CRMs will have extra sections to help you track phone calls, emails etc; these are the CRMs you want to use in order for you to keep track of what’s going on with each contact!
There are different levels of CRM too. Most programmes that store contact information can be classed as a CRM, from Mailchimp to Hubspot to Booksy. However similar, all of these platforms offer a different range of functions at the end of the day so be sure to have a look into what will best suit your needs when thinking about which CRM to go for.
Now that you know the basic functionality of a CRM, you might still be wondering if you actually need one, and the answer is always YES, no matter the size or industry that you work within.
Easy Storage and tracking
Using a CRM allows you to have one centralised storage space for everything to do with your contacts. This is invaluable as instead of having to hunt around various Excel documents or Google Sheets trying to find one person’s contact information or when the last time you called somebody was, you can just search for them in your CRM and find what you are looking for.
The last thing you want to do is spam a contact with the same message accidently, and CRMs allow an easy way to avoid that. By keeping all your contact information stored in there and maintaining notes of last contact, you’ll never accidently repeat messages again! This is the same for sales calls, by keeping your contact notes up to date within the CRM, you won’t delegate a contact to two salesmen or try to make the same sales pitch to the same person multiple times by accident.
By segmenting your contacts using tags or just by searching based on contact information (such as company) you can easily see colleagues contacts and contact histories, allowing you to pick up a missed lead or help with their workload if they head off on holiday.
This ease of access to information is a game changer and really helps teams work together and help each other out. It also benefits supervisors/managers to be able to get an overview of employees work and customer/contact interactions.
Most CRMs are pretty customisable, allowing you to add custom fields for you to include information important to your business. This really allows for scaling, as when your business grows you need your contact database to be able to keep up with new information and larger volumes of it. A spreadsheet might work for only a couple of contacts but as soon as you get to a certain point information starts getting lost which can lead to a potential loss in revenue. Because of this, you really do need a CRM to help keep everything together and scalable.
Types of CRM
Once you are aware of what CRMs are, and why it’s important to have one, it’s time to start having a look at the different types of CRM that are out there and the cool stuff that you can do with them to really boost productivity and outreach. CRMs can really be put into two categories, CRMs for Sales or CRMs for Marketing. There is of course some crossover with some providers, with them having a combination, but a lot of the time the focus will be on one type or the other.
What really shows that a CRM is focused on sales is the ability to use deal stages and sales pipelines. These can help you assign value to contacts based on the likelihood to close a particular deal and then looking for the drop off points are in your sales process. This allows you to refine and iterate to find that winning formula.
Another really handy thing that sales CRMs have is the ability to run reports and create dashboards so that you can see your metrics in one nice easy and ready to read place, instead of having to hunt around for the data.
Contact syncing really helps to set a sales CRM apart from others. Being able to sync up your emails, calendar and phone makes contacting the right people at the right time, with the right message, intuitive and easy. All the information you need is held in one place.
A marketing CRM has a much greater focus on automation and creative content than its sales counterpart. This includes email workflows, landing page builders and a focus on automatically sending messages to contacts at the perfect times. These automated emails are to keep them interested, to boost the likelihood of them purchasing your product or being a return customer, as well as to keep them engaged with your message.
The focus on marketing automation is what really sets these CRMs aside from the sales ones. They usually have a nice flow chart style builder (with exceptions like Mailchimp) which allows you to send out your marketing emails at predefined time periods. For example, if somebody has requested a quote from your website, you now have their email and name; you can automatically send them an email saying ‘welcome and thanks for getting a quote’, but then what do you do? Well, with a marketing CRM you can set an automation so that if that individual doesn’t purchase anything in the two days after getting a quote, for example, then it will send a follow up email to prompt them. This can repeat for as long as you like allowing you to nurture and chase leads without having to do it manually.
For more information on automations within your CRM, check out our blog: ‘Marketing and sales automations within your CRM’.
Marketing automation/workflow builder
Any CRM with one of these instantly becomes more valuable. Being able to automate when emails go out based on opens, time between emails being sent and if the contact has clicked, is one of the best features of any CRM. Plus you can often use these automation builders for moving contacts down sales funnels; if they match certain criteria they are moved along to the next stage, assigned to the next salesperson or added tags or identifiers. Try to avoid text based automation builders like in Zoho or Mailchimp as they make life much more confusing and they’re never as slick as flowchart style ones that can be found in systems like Hubspot or ActiveCampaign.
Being able to make and assign tasks for yourself and co-workers, to make sure that you follow up with a lead or remember to make that all important call, is a seriously handy tool that can get a bit overlooked. If the CRM has a decent automation tool then you should be able to make one that includes setting individuals tasks at various stages automatically, which is great as it takes away the human error of remembering to assign them.
Landing page builders
This is another nice feature that only a few CRMs have. You can create your own landing pages so that page view tracking is much easier and if you have a form on your landing page then any submitted information can go straight into updating/creating a contact each time, saving time and effort. Check out our blog on Landing Pages for an insight into building a landing page that works for you.
Custom fields are like an extension of tags or basic contact information. They’re fields that you can create to capture whatever information you need Most CRMs will give you this option with various data types (yes/no boxes, radio select, multiple select etc). This allows you to really learn who your contacts are and can really help with your segmenting to send the right messages to the right people.
Saved search terms
Being able to save set common searches is a great time saver and can increase productivity. For example, you may wish to find a list of customers who have the tag ‘high value’, have opened emails an average of five times and have spent over a certain amount. This would obviously take a considerable amount of time to search each time you wanted to find somebody, if you had to enter the search terms manually.
Being able to have built-in API access can reduce workload and increase efficiency. Using these can help pull data from external sources. For example, if you still have a Google Sheet, you could have it so that when a new row is added, a contact is made/updated in your CRM. A lot of CRMs have some of this functionality built into it where you can connect to other bits of software/sites; others will need you to either build your own or use a service like Zapier to make these data connections. Here at The Cake Mix, we use Zapier alot as it is really handy. If you do decide to use it, just remember to keep an eye on it and ‘test test test’ to make sure you are happy with the results.
Some Things to Watch Out For
One of the main things to watch out for when choosing a CRM is, in our opinion, the scalability. Always check how much more expensive it gets to have an extra thousand or so contacts, or if you need to pay to get add ons. Hubspot is a prime example of this as it starts off free for the basic package, but if you want a bit more functionality then the bill can get very steep, very quickly.
We would also recommend that you look at the email sending capabilities of each potential CRM before committing to one. Being able to complete the job in hand through your chosen CRM and send out your email campaigns successfully, is very important. What’s the point if it doesn’t do what you need it to?
Having to sync data, such as opens, clicks and unsubscribes, between multiple platforms takes too long and there’s more chance of losing data, so keep an eye out for being able to do everything from one platform! If you don’t see any need to implement bulk email campaigns or if everything is completed manually, then this is not really necessary, but if you see any need for scheduled emails based on actions, then get yourself a CRM that can do it and do it well. You can use CRM platforms that have this functionality as an add on or a seperate app that syncs back to the CRM. An example of this would be Zoho CRM linking with Zoho Campaigns, but this has always felt clunky and a bit outdated, so we’d recommend that you get yourself the all-in-one.
And a few more things…
Having a robust marketing automation/workflow tool is very handy to have, so making sure that the CRM you’ve got your eye on has one that works well for you is paramount. Try to find one with a nice drag and drop flowchart style instead of a text based one. Believe us when we say that this will make working with it much easier. There will be no need for tearing your hair out trying to figure out how to get a certain feature to work. Make sure to take full advantage of any free trials on offer to test it before committing. It’s important that it works for you.
The final thing that is seriously important to keep an eye out for, is how well the CRM handles deal stages and sales pipelines, if you’re using it for sales purposes that is. This bit of functionality is so powerful for making sure that your salespeople are moving their contacts along and getting new ones into the top of the funnel. If you’re looking at getting a sales CRM it needs to be able to do this well and fit your needs. Try some free versions or free trials and test them out and make sure it feels like a good fit for how you want to manage your workflow before committing and putting all of your data in there. You can read more about CRM data and best practices here.
So, now you have an idea about what a CRM is, the different kinds of CRM available, some cool functionality they can have and some things to watch out for when picking which one to start using.
If you’re a business owner in need of a CRM or looking for a change to suit your needs, please take one piece of advice away with you from this article; make sure you’ve had a think about what you’re going to use your CRM for and then find the one, or ones, that will fulfill your needs and fit in with your business model and how it operates. Get free trials on the ones that look like the best fit and test them over and over! You won’t regret doing your homework. After all, “to ASSUME is to make an ‘ASS of U and ME’…”
If you have any questions regarding what you’ve read, please get in touch for a chat. We are always happy to help. Jan’s the man for questions regarding CRMs, so why not start by emailing him; firstname.lastname@example.org