As a new business owner you may have become confident about the quality of your sales and customer services. But do you need a CRM to manage these departmental interactions with customers? The definition of a CRM is: a system to manage the communications amongst internal departments (sales, marketing, support, etc), customers and potential customers. To you, that may sound like something a large corporation needs, when in fact companies of all sizes can benefit. After reading this article you will understand the benefit of adopting a CRM solution for yourself.

Your company may still only be a team of 3 people at this point and it’s easy to shout over to sales that a customer called in for some service. This type of communication makes you feel like a family and your customers pick up on that vibe. However, we want to avoid the situations where notes go missing or someone is out sick or worse, someone is leaving your company and taking their brain with them! This is where a CRM can save your customer relationships and help to organize new ones.

Components of a CRM

Let’s look at the common components (or record types) of a CRM. A CRM typically divides up your information by the Contact or the Account record type. This differs slightly from B2B and B2C with terminology (ex. Account vs. Household or Contact vs Person). Since the goal is to track communications, it is logical to have your information in the hierarchy of Account→ Contact. Some CRM systems will put another record type in called Leads or Prospects to track potential customers. Often you can link these to an Account.

Under each record type there is a way to link additional record types such as Notes from phone calls, sent and received Emails, Quotes or Service Requests.

A CRM may or may not include marketing automation. Marketing automation deserves a post all on its own but for purposes here, you should understand that this feature automates email campaigns, sales pitches and much more.

Access to CRM

CRMs these days live in the cloud. You can access them anywhere and through any device. Offline work on Account and Contact records can be, synced when back online, meaning there is no excuse not to use the CRM because of connectivity issues.

Without going into too much detail on permissions and security, you have many ways to limit the information on each record type to your users of the CRM. However, a best practice is to make most (if not all) the information available to all users. This means that if Customer Jane calls into the service line to ask a question and User Mike notes this in the CRM, then Sales Guy Tom would be able to see this note in Jane’s record.

Cost of a CRM

There is a wide price range for CRMs with different fee schedules. Some fee schedules are based on number of records in the CRM, some are based on number of users and some even based on number of outgoing emails sent per month. Even though CRMs have a reputation for being costly, there are affordable options including free options out there. Each will have different features. It is up to you as the business owner to weigh the benefits and go with a choice that will meet your needs today and grow with you tomorrow.

Here are a few free options to consider (in no particular order) to experiment with. They may even be the solution you are looking for:

  • Zoho CRM offers a free option for up to 10 users.
  • SuiteCRM offers an open source version.
  • Insightly offers its free option for up to 2 users.
  • HubSpot CRM is “100% free for unlimited users and contacts. Forever.”

When comparing CRM costs look at features such as:

  • Number of users included
  • Number of records (Total or by Record type)
  • Quantity of storage
  • Is Support included
  • What are the breakpoints for fee increases
  • Is marketing automation included
  • Is an email client included
  • Is reporting possible?

Comparing CRMs is a lot like comparing apples to crabapples. There are some similarities to make an educated decision. Thankfully you can get a free trial to test drive most any CRM out.

Conclusion

There may come a time in your very near future where your Google Sheet or your Outlook Contacts will not be sufficient for managing your customer interactions. Now would be a good time to outline your present needs for tracking communications and use a bit of foresight for how you see your business growing.

Successful businesses use good customer care as a cornerstone and a CRM can support that goal. Caffeine uses a CRM and has first hand experience with the big popular players and the small ones too. Contact us today for a free 30-minute conversation on your customer relationship ideas.

Danielle Rydberg

Danielle Rydberg

Danielle, a scientific thinker, received her MBA from UMass and has focused on Marketing since then. She started off with basic market research and competitive analysis and has expanded her skill set to include customer success, campaign management, CRM administration, lead generation, sales support, and customer training.Danielle, a native New Yorker, now lives outside of Boston, MA. She is married and has twin daughters and a son. She enjoys sports, the beach, warmer weather, reading fiction, scrapbooking, sunny vacations, volunteering, cooking and baking.