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Investing in a CRM Platform

In the early days of a business, business owners can use a database or spreadsheet to store clients contact information. However, as a business grows and gains more clients, there should be an organized, more secure system for communication and sales management. Enter the CRM - Client Relationship Management software! Designed to help your business reach your goals quicker and easier. How do you know when investing in a CRM platform is the right move and which one should you select?


When to Invest in a CRM system?

This is an easy answer - right away! Here's why:

  • Learning to use a CRM requires an investment of your time. While starting a business takes a lot or work, so does growing a business. Setting up and knowing how to use your CRM system from the beginning will save you the aggravation of taking a time out to learn and set up a new system while growing your business.

  • Using a CRM system requires you to get your operational practices into place. This will set you up as a professional operation from the very beginning and will be very helpful to your business as you grow and bring on new staff.

  • When your time is already stretched thin and you are trying to learn new software, most business owners will "set it and forget it." Meaning they do the minimum amount of work possible to set up their CRM system and never learn to use the many tools and functions the CRM can do for your business.

What Does the CRM do?

Let's take a look at the features of a CRM system, keeping in mind not all are created equally. Some software has many features while others offer lesser capabilities and features. Depending on your industry or your business, some of the features may be more important than others. Keep that in mind as you read through this list.



Contacts

First and foremost, you will store all the names and contact information for each of your clients, prospects and vendors into your CRM system. This is the crux of the CRM system so every one will have this component. Here are features to look for:


If there are multiple employees in your business, you may want to have the option to assign each contact to a specific employee. Some systems assign access to the complete database to your staff while others allow you to assign specific contacts to specific staff. For example, a real estate brokerage with multiple agents will likely want to limit each agents access to their clients only, versus the entire client database for the brokerage.


CRM systems also allow you to segment your customers based on certain criteria such as product type, interests, services provided, location and more. In addition, you can identify who referred the customer (which helps identify significant referral partners and the success of various marketing campaigns).



Communications

Most CRM systems allow you to send communications directly from the client record, which provides a complete record of communications with your client. In addition, most systems allow you to store e-mail templates and schedule messages to be sent to the client with client-specific information inserted into the e-mail. For example, you can set up an email template for an appointment reminder to go out to your client 24 hours prior to your scheduled appointment. The CRM system will pull the data from the client record, such as the appointment date, time and any specifics and will send the email the day prior to the appointment. No more remembering (or forgetting!) to send communications - these types of emails should be automated when you set up appointments.


Some CRM systems also have the ability to send, or allow integrations with other software, SMS text messaging.


Tasks and Reminders

Most CRM systems have the ability to track tasks and provide you with reminders. You sent a client a proposal and s/he didn't get back to you? Set up a reminder 3 days and 1 week after the proposal is sent o follow-up with the prospect to confirm s/he received the proposal and offer to answer any questions. One week later you'll receive another reminder to check in with the prospect. You can use the tasks an reminders manually or create automated processes. It's an essential part of your business.


Scheduling

CRM systems allow you to integrate your calendar with their scheduling feature and opens up the ability for clients to schedule appointments with you from your website, connected app or social media buttons. The best thing about this is that you can set up an automated process, such as sending an email with a link to the required forms prior to your appointment.


Integrations

Do you want to be able to make updates to your website, post on your blog, publish updates to your business app, integrate with third party e-mail platforms, or post on social media from your CRM platform? Yes, some offer the ability to do all of this! For example, if you have a WordPress site, you can integrate with the CRM plugin for your system, Wix integrates with the Ascend CRM, Shopify can integrate with multiple CRM systems via their app store, etc.


Invoicing/Financials

Not all CRM systems include invoicing. While it sure is handy to have everything under one roof, keep in mind you may be able to integrate another software which seamlessly tracks your invoicing and financials. For the software that includes invoicing, you can send invoices directly from within your client record, offering the ability to pay via a link (to your payment processor) and automate payment reminders until the invoice is paid. Keep track of income (by segment) and expenses from within the CRM. Use the financial reporting to determine the most profitable customers and products/services.


Agreements

Some CRM systems have the ability to generate agreements or contracts that can be electronically signed by your client and is attached to their client record or event.


Reporting/Analytics

Generally CRMs allow you to generate reports based on results such as sales volume, number of new clients, sales conversions, goal tracking, marketing reports and more. Each system will have different capabilities so consider what types of reports are necessary for your business.

Marketing

You can and should use your CRM system for marketing your business. Some marketing examples include sending monthly or annual reminders to schedule appointments, birthday or anniversary email messages, quarterly e-newsletters, or post social content from your CRM. Your CRM should be able to distribute meaningful, targeted content to your clients and prospects in an automated fashion to help you grow your business.


Which Software Should I Invest In?

This question is much harder to answer. As I mentioned earlier, there are many different CRM systems, and they each offer different services at different price tags. There are robust systems with all the bells and whistles for large businesses or smaller businesses who plan to scale quickly, or there are systems that are designed for a specific industry. Some systems even offer free trials or even versions and allow you to unlock additional features for paid versions as you grow. Here are a few options to consider when investing in a CRM platform:



  1. HubSpot is one of the top cloud-based CRM platforms on the market offering client management, sales, pipeline tracking, digital marketing (e-mail, social, website) and reporting. It has a free version which, while limited in functions, is a great way to get your feet wet. I personally use this for my business and have used the paid version for clients to support marketing goals. As a bigger platform, HubSpot also has the ability to integrate with many different apps making it a standout in the CRM field.

  2. Salesforce is another top cloud-based CRM system. The biggest differences between HubSpot and Salesforce is the pricing, features and ease of use. Salesforce has a better dashboard for sales reporting, has access to more apps for integration and the system is more customizable if you want to customize code. While Salesforce does not offer a free version, you can price compare with the features you need to ascertain which system would be the better investment for your business.

  3. Popular small business CRM platforms for any industry:

4. Industry specific CRM systems worth mentioning:


The CRM system that is right for you is one that will help you save time through automation and integration and will allow you to monitor and reach your business goals. By researching which platform has the features to help you achieve that goal, you will know when investing in a CRM platform makes sense.


To strategize the next investment in your business, schedule a marketing strategy session for your small business with Core Marketing Now!

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