CRM systems for SMEs

News: Tracey Cladwell face

July 01, 2013

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Salesforce research shows a good customer relationship management (CRM) system can increase sales by almost a third. CRM systems used to be the preserve of big business but there are now a number of realistic CRM system options for small businesses.

Often the first indication that something more than a customer spreadsheet is needed comes when something goes wrong. A major customer is lost due to poor admin or lack of contact at a critical juncture, perhaps.

There is now a plethora of hosted CRM solutions on the web. Some are free for a handful of users; many charge per user per month. The time-pressed small business may be forgiven for wondering where to start and how to choose a solution.

Here are five starting points:

  • Mobile access. If your business is based on flexibility or sales people out on the road, mobile access to a hosted customer relationship system will be essential. Don’t assume any given system will work equally well on all mobile platforms. A Maximiser study, ‘Everything, Everywhere, Right Now’, which surveyed 1,367 SMEs, revealed that SME adoption of mobile CRM rose steadily between 2009 and 2012 in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). In 2012, 46% of SMEs with a CRM system had mobile access to it.
  • Integration. A CRM solution will be most useful if it works with at least one other business system. It may link with your invoicing or accounts systems, your order management system or web store. Decide which is most critical to you before selecting a CRM system.
  • Cost. Low cost or free entry-level systems are tempting but work out the cost in advance of adding more users and modules. If it is to be successful, just about everyone needs to use the CRM system daily as the central store of customer information. Check out any supplementary costs there may be for add-ons, such as analytics or advanced security, as it is likely you will end up wanting these.
  • Staff. A small professional services company would do well to involve staff in the decision making process when choosing a solution. Find out what data they need to store, where it comes from and which data a system could usefully integrate. Make sure staff are fully trained in the solution and consider promoting it to them regularly and possibly appointing super users to champion the CRM and troubleshoot for anyone who is struggling.
  • Analytics. Spend a little time evaluating the analytics features offered by competing solutions, as this is what really differentiates a CRM solution from a spreadsheet. Think about how analytics could work for your business, to identify sales trends or inventory issues, for example.

Think technology, Think Tracey Caldwell. As an experienced business technology journalist who writes for radio, newspapers, as well as various IT journals and publications, Tracey continues to provide insightful articles for Moneypenny.