The Complete Guide To Choosing The Right CRM

Last year the Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) market grew 15% compared to a year before. This is very logical. Customers and new laws expect companies to manage, collect and use their customer data well.

If your business doesn’t currently use a CRM, it’s definitely time to make the move.

We want to know how to start selecting the right CRM.

There are the big guns, of course: Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP combine to corner 75% of the market. There are industry-specific CRMs for freelancers, multi-level marketing, and attorneys’ offices. Then you have CRMs that focus on one feature like automation or email marketing and others that claim to do it all.

All that leaves us asking the same question that you are: which CRM should a business choose? That’s what this guide is looking to find out.

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How To Choose Your CRM

I have been exactly where you are, right now. Choosing a CRM is a daunting task, regardless of whether you are an SMB or an enterprise business. It’s difficult to know where to start. And you want to know you’ve got everything covered. If you don’t research it will probably to choosing the wrong CRM. This is down to functionality or simple user-experience.

choosing crm questions

Choosing a CRM doesn’t have to be complex or difficult though. The reason for implementing your CRM is key. What do you want it to do for you? There are three ways of identifying why you need a CRM. Let’s take a look.

The biggest benefits of CRM

In a nutshell, if you’re not using a CRM you’re likely to be doing some or a combination of the following:

  • Managing your customer data in spreadsheets
  • Managing your customer data with paper files
  • Sending out email campaigns one by one
  • Using / creating a written task list (on paper)
  • Trying to remember your todo’s in your head
  • Trusting employees with time management

… And the list goes on.

But what you didn’t realise is that a CRM has so many benefits to your business. Time saving and more potential revenue are the two biggest benefits of CRM.

Here are more benefits of using CRM:

  • Keep your customer data in one place (no more paper files)
  • Setup repeating reminders for task so you have minimal chance that you will forget
  • Keep track of your staff goals, targets and track their time
  • Setup automated staff reports to identify performance. This will show areas performing well for your business. Also areas which you need to further train staff should appear too.
  • Setup automated email campaigns
  • Analyse your marketing data (including ROI) all through one central hub

A CRM will help you to develop your customer relationship and your staff performance. Two elements of business that have a significant impact on your bottom line.

The 6 core CRM uses that matter most

You will find a CRM can have a sheer bewildering list of features. That is quite intimidating. Most users would want a simple and easy-to-use CRM. But not all users want the same features. Let’s take a look at the six core uses of CRMs, and you can pick the most important to you:

1) Lead Management. This is how you guide a lead from one end of your sales pipeline to the other. All the way through your sales pipeline, you keep data on the lead. How many times you contacted the prospect, how you contacted them, how likely they are to buy (lead scoring) and so on. There is a big difference between Marketing automation and CRM though, Marketing Automation focusses more on the top of the funnel.
Purpose: This helps your sales team targets and convert leads.

2) Contact Management. Contact management is where you store any and all data on your customers or clients. Every detail that you have (age, demographic etc) is in one place where any user department can access it at any time.
Purpose: To make everybody’s work more efficient.

3) Social Media Management. Tracking the social media activity of your audience in relation to your content.
Purpose: To get a much better idea of how effective your social media content is.

4) Campaign Management. With campaign management, you handle your marketing campaigns from start to finish. You can do campaign management through the CRM. Setting up target customers/groups and collecting data on success rates afterwards.
Purpose: Making your marketing efforts uniform, testable and more effective.

5) Email Tracking. With email tracking, you can track email opens, read, or clicks-through.
Purpose: To get a much better idea of how effective your email campaigns are.

6) Reports and Analysis. You can collate and analyse your marketing data in one place using a CRM. You can compare and contrast data streams, and even track customers/clients in real time.
Purpose: This is where you analyse your business performance. Reports can show where you are doing well and improvement areas.

Once you know which of the features above are most useful to you and your business – do a little research into how other businesses use them.

CRM uses Department by Department

If yours is a big business, then your CRM isn’t just relevant to Sales and Marketing. You also have to think about Accounting, maybe even HR. The CRM Industry User Report from Capterra found that 80% of businesses use a CRM in Sales and just under 50% in both Marketing and Customer Service. So when you’re picking your CRM, the best place to start is by figuring out how each department could benefit.


For Sales, you need to be able to track where sales are in the pipeline;

Marketing will want to know where each lead came from, how likely they are to buy, and any other information they can use in their advertising;

Accounting/Finance will want to be able to work with invoices within the CRM.

HR will want to know who spoke with whom in the event of a complaint for potential discipline issues. Then you might also have to think of other departments like Legal, IT and Customer Service.

How To Find the Right CRM Functionality

Start by looking at every department you have. If you’re a small business look at the whole business. Look at all of the issues / problems / snags you’ve faced across the last 12 months.

Also think about things which might not be a problem now, but when you’re business grows it’s most likely to become more important! These can be to do with customers, staff, marketing or a combination of all. One example might be your receptionist has to manually update all records via spreadsheets. Currently you only have 20 customers so this isn’t a problem but in the future this could be a massive time swamp!

Use this list as a testing phase to see which CRM features will help you to either resolve a problem or reduce the chances of a problem happening in future.

One Important Factor

If you are looking for an all round performance from a CRM, here are the biggest benefits to check out:

  • Boost falling sales figures. Lead tracking makes sales more efficient, and effective email marketing campaigns help you make repeat sales too.
  • Generate all sorts of useful data. Data from marketing, sales, and inventory can all come together to help you generate genuine insights into how your business works.
  • Generate more complete, more accurate customer profiles. With all your data in one place, you can learn and remember more about each customer than ever before.
  • Help you make more accurate forecasts. With your pipeline laid out clearly, you can see who’s where and who’s likely to become a sale in the near future.
  • ‘Bring everybody together’ by having each department working within the same CRM. Everyone has access to the same data, the same workstreams and more.

If any one of these concerns is one that you’re familiar with, then pick a CRM that addresses those concerns first. Don’t get distracted by any other flashy features, apart from the ones you really need.

CRM Examples of businesses you know

Five industries use CRMs the most. Retail, business services, technology, manufacturing, banking and finance. Let’s take a look at some examples of how CRMs are used different industries, you can find some inspiration on how CRM can deliver value to your business and your customers.

Healthcare: Valley Surgical

A great example is US small business Valley Surgical, which buys and redistributes excess medical supplies. They were only founded about 10 years ago. Their CRM is helping them corner their niche market.

David Johnson, the Vice President of Valley Surgical, described what he liked most about using a CRM:

“I would say bringing all of the sales process under one roof, meaning I didn’t have multiple systems. I now have everything in one place so streamlining it makes it more efficient. I’m able to track all my data.

We have been able to customize it to fit us perfectly. The campaigns section in the marketing module allows you to add members, so good strong data in means good strong data out. This allows us to be able to really drill down on certain contacts and accounts and be able to home in on them much more.” (source)

That’s what it’s all about: being able to tailor your CRM to fit your business and your needs. It’s vital for Valley Surgical to ‘drill down’ into their data, because knowing when to buy and who to buy from is part of their business model.

IT and Computing: 848 Group

848 group is a small business that helps others with their IT. For instance, transitions to new systems, learning about cloud tech, that sort of thing. 848 Group combine their CRM with a email marketing software plugin to build targeted email marketing campaigns.

This is really important in a crowded sector like IT, where there’s so much competition already, that you have to use a CRM to make a difference.

They also use time-tracking to see how much time they work on each client. To generate accurate invoices. Time tracking really saves on time for small businesses, and even freelancers. They can rely on their CRM to track hours and send ready-made invoices for them. Check out this review of the best freelance marketing websites to hire freelancers for marketing or sales.

CRM in Banking/Finance: Wells Fargo

It is a good idea to see how big companies are using CRM to improve how they do business. Because they do a lot with it. Wells Fargo has many uses for CRM, including:

Setting and gradually increasing call targets for their sales teams
Managing social media
Using data from their CRMs to give messages to customers through ATMs [source]

In fact, it was their sales targets that actually got them in hot water not long ago. With a lack of foresight, management continually upped the sales team’s quotas. Not just for general sales, but for cross-selling new accounts to existing customers. (source)

This is a great example of how CRMs do work and can’t work, all in one. They can help you sell more effectively, but if you push quotas without thinking them through, it can’t save you from your own bad decision-making!

CRM in Travel: British Airways

Airline British Airways is a very early adopter of CRM tools. They were so early to the game that they created their own bespoke CRM system (T-CRM), which they implemented in 2002. (source) They centralised all of their data for both marketing and sales.

With T-CRM, British Airways was one of the first businesses to integrate email, direct mail, and call centre data in one platform. They use it to send targeted email campaigns to their executive clients and boost sales.

But most important of all was that their data is centralised. This meant they can quickly analyse the data and directly see the impact on ROI. Much easier to make sound decisions based on factual data.

T-CRM was key for BA to come out of their 90’s and early 00’s slump. A focus on their high-value travel customers. These days all businesses can take advantage of ready-made, proven Saas CRM. Definitely preferable to commissioning your own data centre, your own CRM platform, and hoping it works!

Selecting the best CRM – a recap

In CRM there is a plugin for anything, and by extension, a CRM for everyone. The key to success isn’t only in goal-setting. It’s not just about encouraging more sales. It’s about using CRM to encourage natural growth. Pick a CRM that’s right for your industry, and your business.

To recap, what are the appropriate steps for CRM selection?

  • Analyse your business needs
  • Identify any common problems / issues you’ve experienced in past years
  • Try to pre-empt any future problems your business is likely to face
  • Look at CRM providers and assess them based on how they would help your business to solve your problems

If you’re looking at choosing a CRM, it’s probably because you have come to the point where it is important for your business success. Of course, your time is extremely precious and you’re probably keen to jump right in and quickly choose a CRM.

But make sure you take the time to research the right CRM platform. Good luck and happy CRM hunting!

About Alex Brooke

Alex Brooke is the Marketing Director of Ripple CRM. A CRM and marketing automation platform currently under development. He believes that CRM systems need to be focused on intuitive user experience and functionality.

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