How to Choose the Best CRM for Your Small Business
So, the moment has arrived! Your business is making progress and the need to have everything organized is clearer than ever, which leads to the question of the day: How do I choose a small business CRM?
Taking into account all the available alternatives and factors that influence this decision, reaching the right answer is not something you want to take lightly - but we’re here to help with that.
In this article, we’ll show you how to choose the best CRM for your small business by looking at nine factors that need to be considered before finding the right fit for your company.
Let’s dive right in.
There’s no doubt that pricing is one of the factors that come first when evaluating a CRM for your business.
The fact that some of the most popular CRMs offer free versions of their product doesn’t make the decision any easier.
Free offerings are alluring, but also limited in nature, and getting what you really need might require costly upgrades and paid extras that don’t fit your desired cost calculations.
And here’s the key to this problem: Your needs.
In order to get the best-priced product, you’ll have to evaluate your business priorities in relation to the CRM. For example, if your business needs to manage thousands of contacts to thrive, you’ll have to check how many contacts each CRM supports, and at which price.
In short, don’t necessarily fall for CRMs with low (or inexistent) barriers of entry, as the trade-off can prove costly down the road.
Instead, identify what your business needs, and check which products satisfy those needs in a cost-effective way.
Where there’s a need, there’s a feature…or not!
Along with pricing, features are probably the most important aspect you want to look at before onboarding a new CRM.
These should reflect solutions to your current and future business needs and pain points, so the advice here is simple: Have a clear understanding of how your business works, what the processes look like, and how the different CRMs fit in features-wise.
As mentioned above, contact and lead management is a great place to start. Other important features that you should consider include analytics, reporting, integrations (we’ll get back to these later on), data storage, user permissions, and knowledge base capabilities.
After reviewing all of this, don’t be afraid to go granular and check for specific features that would optimize your business as you need.
3. Customization options
The logical step after reviewing features is looking at the customization options in your CRM candidates.
Some CRMs offer plenty of customization options - products like Salesforce and HubSpot feature their own marketplaces with thousands of additional features you can incorporate to match your needs on the spot.
As with features, the key to customization lies within identifying what you need beforehand.
Go from general to particular, and see which product allows you to customize your CRM so it becomes a key part of your business, and not an annoying add-on.
4. User reviews
CRMs are popular among all kinds of businesses, which means you’ll find reviews for most, if not every single offering out there.
First of all, the more reviews a product has, the better.
You want reviews to be representative enough (statistically speaking) to trust them in the first place.
Second, many review sites allow you to filter reviews by company size.
This will allow you to get the reviews of people who run small and medium-sized businesses, and who probably have faced similar problems than you before making their choice.
If you’re unsure of where to start, you can check out Capterra, G2, and TrustPilot - just don’t forget to filter the reviews before reading!
5. Implementation and ease of use
Most CRMs are easy enough to implement, and provide step-by-step dynamic guides that make the installation process a walk in the park.
On the other hand, a number of feature-packed CRMs can be hard to understand at a glance, so it’s always good to give them a try before making a final decision.
Free trial periods and free plans are your friends here.
You will get a sense of how the CRM works, and be able to check whether you can hit the ground running in terms of usability.
Also, it’s vital that the end users of the product get some exposure to it. It’s the people who will actually use the product the most who need to be comfortable with it in the first place.
6. Customer support
Nowadays, it’s a mistake to take customer support as a given.
In reality, some companies are better than others at providing support, and depending on the usage you’ll be giving to the CRM, this aspect might tilt the scales.
In order to make the right call, check what kind of support you’ll get for each available plan, and cross-check this with customer reviews addressing the subject.
If there’s something no one enjoys, that is waiting for an answer from a laggy customer support service.
7. Contract flexibility
Horror stories of companies getting stuck in long-term contracts - or worse, facing legal action for not complying with these - are not that uncommon, and that is why it’s crucial to give those long, technical service agreements a thorough read.
Doing so is vital to understand what you’ll get for your money, for how long, and under which conditions and circumstances.
Also, pay special attention to what qualifies as a contract breach on your side, so as to avoid a potential situation that can impact your business in a harmful manner.
Sit down, take your time, jot down any questions you have, research, and ask around before stamping your signature in that service agreement.
8. Automation and integrations
CRM integrations are a lifeline for small and medium-sized businesses that need to scale both fast and efficiently.
Integrations are the entrance point to workflow automation, something you can easily achieve by connecting your most used apps together.
For example, imagine that you’re running a (paid) lead generation campaign on LinkedIn. A simple integration between LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms and your CRM would allow you to automatically add new leads to your CRM on the spot, without having to rely on anyone.
While some CRMs are known for offering multiple native integrations, it’s always recommended to untie these from the CRM, and to lean on products like Make to create and maintain all your integrations.
The reason why is simple: If at one point you switch from one CRM to another, all your integrations will be gone too. On the other hand, you’ll be able to recreate them in minutes with Make.
The final factor: Do you really need it?
To conclude, you’ll have to ask yourself a series of questions before going for the purchase:
What processes will the CRM rule, organize, and influence?
Are there easier or more affordable ways to do this?
How many people will be using it?
How much ROI do you expect from your CRM?
As obvious as it may sound, a CRM can be overkill depending on what you’re trying to organize and solve. Sometimes, a product management tool makes more sense; in other occasions, spreadsheets and app integrations are more than enough.
Now that you know the factors that influence the search for the best CRM, it’s time to start evaluating your options and finding the one that really matches your needs and budget.