Note: this article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com.
For years, customer relationship management software was exclusive to enterprise companies that could afford it, but increasingly, we’re seeing CRM software gain in popularity among the small business crowd.
When Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) surveyed nearly 1,500 American small business owners in October 2018, it discovered that more -- 23 percent, to be exact -- are using CRMs than the year prior. And that’s good news. CRMs make a business more organized and improve its customer service, giving it a shot of credibility and professionalism.
As a centralized database, a CRM will store your contact information in one place, track your referrals, remind you of follow-ups and equip you to capitalize on growth opportunities early in your company’s life. The challenge, though, is investing in the right CRM.
Walk before you run.
Today, both large companies and small businesses use CRM software to enable sales success -- but that doesn’t mean they use the same CRM software.
Generally speaking, enterprise CRMs must be packed with features and add-ons, such as automation and customization, to handle the complicated workflows and processes of a multifaceted organization. Considering the power and complexity of the software, enterprise CRM setup often requires a consultant or programmer.
While small business CRMs also track sales and manage the company’s workflow, they’re much simpler to use. They typically lack the features and add-ons of an enterprise solution -- and that’s perfectly fine. Small businesses simply don’t have the same need for feature-rich software.
As an entrepreneur, it’s tempting to think ahead and splurge on a fancy enterprise CRM that can scale with your company. But enterprise software that’s too robust and expensive could harm, not help, your small business. When companies buy software that’s too complicated for them to navigate, they simply won’t use it. And when they don’t use the software, they cannot enjoy its potential benefits.
Debating an upgrade.
When it comes to selecting a CRM that fits your needs, it’s not as simple as knowing your business size and selecting between option A and option B. You’d hate to buy a new system, only to let it sit in the corner because it’s too difficult to use.
You might need those fancy add-ons later, but for now, the goal is to invest in a system that will work for the business you have now and grow with your company. I’d recommend hitting the following milestones before you start thinking about an upgrade.
1. Your current system can’t handle your needs.
The lines between “want” and “need” can get blurry in the business world, especially with all the different capabilities offered by a CRM. Do you really need machine learning capabilities in your CRM, or are you simply getting caught up in a trend?
For some companies, added complexity can actually hurt their CRM setup. Jerome Collomb -- head of marketing at MyFeelBack, a customer feedback processing software -- made the mistake of thinking more was more when it came to CRMs. As a result, the company adopted a CRM that was far too complicated and confusing, ultimately wasting more time and money than it was worth. Collomb and his staff simply didn’t possess the technical know-how to get a complex CRM up and running in a way that benefited his company -- and he’s not alone. According to Salesforce, 72 percent of CRM users say they prefer usability when it comes to CRMs.
Do you really need a new feature or piece of functionality, or is there another less complicated workaround? If you decide you do need a new feature, consider whether your current CRM can meet that need. For example, is it possible to reconfigure your CRM or buy an extra add-on? If there are, in fact, no viable workarounds and your current CRM can’t meet your needs, then it’s time to start looking elsewhere.
2. You can afford the new system.
In the same Keap survey, 13 percent of small business owners indicated that they plan on increasing their CRM spending in 2019. As you evaluate your CRM needs, it’s critical to keep budget in mind. While that sounds simple, the cost of a CRM involves more than the software itself.
Maybe the base price of the CRM is $30 per user, per month, and on the surface, that sounds like a great fit for your budget. But you also have to factor in costs associated with implementation, training and integrations. The initial costs may fit your designated “CRM budget,” but the additional ones you didn’t think about could send you over the edge.
That’s why affordability is one of the most important milestones to reach. Complex enterprise systems often have equally as complicated (and expensive) pricing schemes. If you can financially handle the total cost of owning a CRM (and not just the software itself), the investment will likely pay off.
3. Your entire team is on board.
Perhaps the most significant signal that you’re ready for a CRM change is when your team is, too. To be frank, your CRM won’t work properly if you don’t have buy-in from your whole team. Team members will be nervous about a big switch -- that’s perfectly normal. But if they don’t see the benefit of your newly proposed system, you might need to step back and reassess the “why” behind your decision.
Look at the situation from their perspective. Consider, for instance, that according to HubSpot, only 22 percent of salespeople know what “CRM” means. Even with tech training, will they be able to take full advantage of the software’s offerings? If the answer is “no,” it doesn’t matter how robust your CRM is -- it can’t help you. Similarly, if you don’t have an IT team or a staff of consultants waiting in the wings, you may want to keep your CRM simple.
All businesses can benefit from CRMs, but you must buy the system that your business needs today -- not five years from now. So evaluate your business through the lens of these three milestones before you consider upgrading to an advanced piece of software, and you’ll ensure that you’re not getting ahead of yourself.