A Guide to Choosing CRM Software

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software lets you effectively manage your business, but choosing the right software is often a daunting process. This nubifer.com blog is aimed at alleviating some of the more challenging decision making processes.

CRMs offer several levels of organization to help strengthen and deepen customer relationships, ranging from basic contact management software, to tracking and managing sales, or tweets on Twitter. The Return on Investment (ROI) usually is an increase in sales, and should also translate to better customer service. The following guide will help you through the process, from pinpointing your customer relationship needs to ultimately selecting a CRM software application.

Choosing CRM Software: Why Invest in a CRM?

CRM is a term used to describe methodologies, software and Internet capabilities designed to help businesses effectively manage customer relationships. Traditionally, CRMs have been seen as an automated way to track and maintain client contact information, but the CRMs of today are faster, smarter and highlight the most current computing technologies available.

In this way, the CRM can be used as a tool to set and measure sales goals, devise, deliver and track email marketing campaigns up through and including interfacing with social media accounts. The importance of CRMs in the marketplace has grown as well, and with sales, marketing and customer service on the playing field, an enterprise can match customer needs with company offerings, thus becoming more efficient and profitable.

Raju Vegesna, Executive Evangelist for Zoho, an online CRM company based in Pleasanton, California, adds that beyond managing customer relations, “A CRM system comes in handy in such situations as it helps you aggregate all customer related information in a single place,” which is crucial for a small business owner trying to keep track of contracts, invoices and emails.

Vegesna added that if small business owners frequently personalize and email customers manually–or if they are unaware of the status of each customer in the pipeline–they will likely need a CRM system.

Chad Collins, CEO of Nubifer Inc., a Cloud, SaaS and CRM strategic advisory company based in San Diego, California, says that, essentially, CRMs offer “business functionality at your fingertips that will save a ton of time for front-line personnel by streamlining your varied sales processes.”

Collins suggests a top-down approach, in which management sets the example by using the tool, as a way to encourage employee buy-in. Collins also suggests having a designated go-to employee (someone that is not the boss) who really knows the ins and outs of the system, called the “CRM Evangelist.” He also suggested offerings rewards and incentives to help employees approach the new system without fear.

The cost is the next major challenge to CRM success. According to Collins, it can cost anywhere from $300 to $2,000 per user per year to implement a CRM. “The CEO needs to understand the cost of CRM goes beyond simple licensing, rather it encompass the license, training, and whatever business process changes they need to make,” says Collins.

According to Chad Collins of Nubifer Inc., there are three main areas to consider when evaluating the pros and cons of a CRM: Platform, how easy it is to implement the CRM and vendor strength and weakness.

Platform

  • How much flexibility is there in the software/product so the company can create their own process?
  • How easy is it to configure the software or to get started with on-demand (Internet-based) solutions?
  • How easy is it to integrate data from other sources into the software or on-demand solution?
  • How scalable is the software or on-demand solution?
  • Will it deliver what you need it to deliver in terms of performance?
  • Will it offer portals or front end screens to help you and your colleagues to collaborate with one another?

Ease of Implementation

  • Are you looking for on-demand, SaaS, cloud, and Internet-based solutions?
  • Thin or thick clients: Will you have the software on your machine when you travel or do you need to dial up using a browser?
  • How much mobility do you want? Can it be done on a laptop or can it be done using mobile phones?

Vendor Strength and Weakness

  • How long has the company been around­?
  • Where have they gone in terms of their vertical thrust –do they specialize in just one sector?
  • What computing platform are they using to make sure it’s compatible with your system?
  • What’s their domain expertise in terms of your particular business area?
  • What professional services do they offer to help you get up and running?
  • What partnerships do they have with companies like Microsoft Outlook to work with your CRM?

It will be easier to determine what technology is the best fit for your company once these questions are answered.

Choosing CRM Software: Social CRMs

The latest trend to emerge in CRM is social networking, but industry executives are still trying to figure out whether or not small businesses need their CRM to track their social networking. Collins of Nubifer Inc. says that the advantages of social CRM—for those that are ready to embrace it—are three-fold:

  1. The ability to connect with people using free (or very cheap) means.
  2. The ability to find those that you want to do business with on social networks and learn what’s important to them using monitoring tools.
  3. The ability to create a message that responds directly to what customer challenges are right then and there.

Collins added, “What’s [also] really important today is leveraging the web and creating opportunities to engage people. Traditional CRMs weren’t built for that. Now with online social networks you can create content that works for you 24/7 and builds leads for you. People can find what you’re talking about and ask you for questions. You can create more online relationships than you can face to face.”

An example is given by Collins: “If you have a large group of people on Twitter talking about a specific problem they are trying to solve, you want to be able to grab those Tweets or Facebook posts and route them to the appropriate person in your company so the customer can get the answer they require directly from the source.”

When you are ready to take the leap, there is a CRM available to fit your needs, whether you need to simply organize contact information or require robust assistance in meeting and tracking your sales goal. For more information regarding choosing the right CRM for your business contact a Nubifer Consultant.

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    • jodie_microsoft _smb
    • August 11th, 2010

    Microsoft CRM Online is an “instant on” solution that comes out of the box with sales, marketing and service. You can fully integrate a smart phone to keep your information current and the online video gallery, training and resource center will answer your questions and help you make the CRM run the way you need it to. Here’s a link with more details: http://democrmonline.com/

    Regards,
    Jodi E.
    Microsoft SMB Outreach Team
    v-jodie@microsoft.com

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