Customer relationship management (CRM) can make a huge difference as far as managing and growing your business. It helps you organize, track, and easily access a wealth of valuable information about your current customers and future prospects. Depending on your niche and the size of your business, CRM software can be customized and scaled to your unique needs. The number of available CRM platforms is a large one, but there’s a systematic number of steps you can take to narrow down the best options for your organization.

data in your hand


Defining Your Software Requirements

While it may be tempting to purchase a CRM platform based on a winning sales pitch, you could end up spending money you don’t need to. Before comparing any specifications, make a list of software functions you need in order to make your day-to-day operations run smoothly. This step in the process can be a challenging one, given the large number of options, features, and prices available. To narrow down the specifics of your software requirements, first list the tasks you want to accomplish with a CRM software package. These can include:

  • Recording client contact information
  • Tracking different customer interactions
  • Planning and scheduling client follow-up
  • Creating and posting personalized marketing messages

Your requirements also depend on whether your business operates primarily online. In this case, you’ll want a CRM package with a robust set of online marketing tools. Some of the best available features let you track each visitor’s behavior while browsing through your website. Examples are the amounts of time spent on each page, the number of links clicked, and which purchases were made. With this information, you can then use your CRM program to build detailed profiles of your repeat customers and thus create online marketing campaigns that will appeal to their interests.

One of the primary functions of CRM software is seamless and efficient interaction between a company’s upper management team, its marketing team, and its core customers. The tools and features of a well-designed CRM program allow each department to track and monitor how well the organization is meeting each target customer’s needs and wants. The most user-friendly software can filter down sales leads by specific criteria and then determine which marketing messages will help move them further along in the purchase process. Another useful and customizable function in most CRM software is the aggregation of data into reports of information relevant to various departments in the organization.

Major Advantages of CRM Software

The right CRM software will make handling large volumes of customer and sales data much easier and less time-consuming. If you’re overseeing a team of sales representatives, you’ll most likely want software features that allow you to keep track of their progress with each type of product sale, including their hot leads, repeat customers, and follow-up. These tools will also let you compare conversion rates and various task completion times between different sales reps, and this way you’ll be able to make accurate performance evaluations.

An additional plus with using CRM software is that it can be tailored to the various tasks and goals of different roles in a larger company, from sales representatives to the CEO. The information-tracking tools in many of these programs can give everyone in the company a valuable snapshot of common customer traits or of current progress in the marketing campaigns of newer products. As more information on target customers is added, it will become easier to spot common trends and patterns in purchasing behavior.

Most CRM software packages now have features that allow easy integration of social media when you create and launch a new marketing campaign. When you connect the software to your company’s social network accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, this option allows you to track every part of your social media promotion campaigns, including how many people have viewed and liked your ads, what each of your followers is saying about your business, and overall impressions of your marketing efforts among your target customers. With this information, you can get a much better sense of what’s working and what needs to be changed or improved.

CRM and Data

A large percentage of CRM implementations fail because of a poor use of data. The CRM system is nothing but a shell to run your workflow and reports. However, without relevant data, your CRM is doomed to become a stale repository. Think of Data as the fuel of the CRM, the power that makes the tool run. Without good data your reports will be skewed. Without accurate contact information, you are likely to spend your time selling on LinkedIn or on your email account. Hence, it is crucial that setting your CRM strategy will take into account a Customer Data strategy both for your inbound and for your outbound sales and marketing activities.

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