How To Choose A CRM System – A Small Business Guide

21 June 2022 in Sales & CRM

The benefits of CRM (customer relationship management) are well documented. The right CRM system can help your business manage customer data, streamline processes for your staff, and boost end-to-end organisational efficiency. Whereas the core functions of CRM software remain common across the choices out there, they also come with multiple variations. We have compiled guidance on how to choose a CRM across 11 key considerations to help you make the right choice for your business and unique needs.

Below you’ll find some important considerations to keep in mind in your CRM search. Read on as we share some useful tips on how to choose a CRM that will help your business grow.

But First… Why Implement A CRM System In The First Place?

CRM systems were previously viewed as tools primarily used to maintain contact and account records. While they still perform this same basic function today, they bring a lot more to the table. A CRM platform is a great way to gain valuable insight into your customers. The more you know your customers, the better you can cater to their needs.

The wealth of data available via your CRM software also helps you personalise customer experiences. According to Epsilon research, 80% of consumers are more likely to spend money with your business if you offer personalised experiences. So, in addition to keeping customer records, your CRM tool plays a key role in improving decision-making, which leads to more sales and revenue for your business.

A Guide On How To Choose A CRM Solution

Without further ado, here’s a handy checklist of important aspects to consider when choosing CRM software for your business.

What Features To Look For In A CRM

There’s a plethora of CRM systems out there, all offering a range of features and functionality. However, large businesses and small businesses often require different components. Further, businesses in different industries often have distinct processes that call for certain CRM system requirements.

If you’ve wondered what features to look for in a CRM system, just remember to establish your unique needs first before shortlisting any software. It’ll help you avoid wasting budget on ‘nice-to-have’ features that, in reality, add no value to your company or don’t end up getting used

Here are some of the most important CRM features for small businesses:

  • Contact management
  • Account management
  • Reporting and dashboards
  • Workflow automation
  • Customer database
  • Lead Management
  • Email marketing
  • Sales forecasting
  • Document management
  • Customisations
  • Integrations
  • Cross-platform compatibility

Remember, your business may not need all of these, but this list is a good starting point. To get this step right, evaluate your business goals and requirements before beginning your search for CRM systems. The following ‘CRM Questions To Ask’ section will help in that regard.

CRM Questions To Ask

Ask yourself some important questions to ensure your new CRM system delivers the desired results. Not only does it help you affirm that you’re implementing CRM for the right reasons, it also positions you to get maximum returns on your investment post-implementation.


  • Which business goals CRM software will help you achieve. For example, will the CRM system help me make more sales?
  • How a CRM system will help you fulfil your business needs. For example, do you need workflow automation tools to improve efficiency while relieving pressure on your staff? An example of this might be automating email follow-ups or streamlining the links between your CRM, financial systems and regular customer billing.
  • How you’ll measure the impact of the system after CRM deployment.
  • What resources you’ll need to appropriately manage your CRM system.
  • The adjustments you’ll need to make to get the most out of your CRM solution.
  • Whether it’s a scalable CRM solution that can grow with your business.

By answering these types of questions, you’ll be in a much stronger position to find CRM software that’s a perfect match for your unique business requirements.

If you’re unsure of the answers, engaging with other local business owners who have benefitted from their own CRMs will help you understand the potential. Additionally, local business support owners will have advisors familiar with CRMs who can further help point you in the right direction.

CRM Security

With never-ending news about yet another big technology breach, security has rightfully become a main priority rather than an afterthought for most businesses. There is more policy around protecting customer data, and failing to do so can come with hefty fines as well as the reputational damage that accompanies it.

As part of your CRM search, carefully evaluate each system’s security track record. The right CRM software will also come complete with powerful tools to control access and privileges, protecting your records and customer data. This adds an additional layer of security by limiting the number of people who can access sensitive information.

Consider Your CRM Budget

Anytime you’re investing in new technology for your business, you need to consider your budget carefully. Factor in the technology price you’re paying initially as well as any added or ongoing costs that may come along with it. This could include implementation, additional hardware, staff resources to manage the system, ongoing support and maintenance, as well as software upgrades to name a few.

The pricing of the CRM software itself is also dependent on aspects like the features you’ll need activated and the number of users you’re registering for the system. Request a free trial to test drive the CRM software before finalising a purchase to understand what exactly you’ll need. Once you have a better feel for your requirements, weigh them up against your budget before making a final decision.

A CRM solution will pay for itself over time by boosting productivity, enhancing customer service, improving the effectiveness and accountability of marketing, and increasing sales. According to Nuclear Research, companies record an average ROI of $8.71 for every dollar invested in CRM.

Get Input From CRM End Users

If you’re looking to implement new software for your business, it only makes sense to get input from the people who’ll actually rely on it to carry out their roles every day. CRM adoption among your end users is a key element that will impact the success or failure of your investment.

Is it a user-friendly CRM system that’s intuitive, which makes work easier? Or might a poor interface hinder work processes instead of improving them? Consult with your end users before and during your CRM search. When it’s time to view demos or test the software, keep them involved as well. This will ensure you get high adoption rates when you implement the CRM system and it performs its intended function of helping you achieve your business objectives.

Cloud-Based Or On-Premise CRM?

The two main CRM deployment methods are through the cloud and on-premises. A cloud-based CRM system, which people often refer to as a SaaS solution or on-demand CRM means your CRM’s data is stored online. An on-premise CRM system requires you to host the database on your own server. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Here’s a high-level breakdown of the main ones for both deployment methods below.

Cloud-Based CRM Advantages

  • Low setup costs
  • No need for local hardware
    Flexibility with remote working
  • Easy maintenance
  • Automatic updates and continuous development
  • Better scalability
  • Cloud-Based CRM Disadvantages
  • Dependence on the cloud provider
  • No data access without an Internet connection

On-Premise CRM Advantages

  • On premises control over data protection
  • Data access even without an Internet connection
  • No ongoing software costs
  • You wholly own your CRM solution

On-Premise CRM Disadvantages

  • Local hardware requirement
    Needs internal IT personnel
  • No automatic updates
  • System issues must be resolved internally
  • Requirement to secure your own infrastructure
  • Risk of software being discontinued

Small businesses normally go for a cloud-based CRM system for the advantages outlined above but carefully consider the pros and cons for your individual business before making a decision.

CRM Configuration (Choose The Right Vendor & Partner)

In order for CRM software to add maximum value to your business, it needs to be configured correctly. This means, your CRM should be customised to meet your specific business processes and workflow requirements — not the other way round.

To get this aspect right, consider looking into a reputable CRM vendor for your industry. They’re more likely to come with most of the configurations you’ll need right out of the box. In addition to this, it’ll be much easier and a lot more cost-effective to add any further customisations that are unique to your company.

You can even ask vendors if they invest some of the licensing fees you pay towards research and development. This shows how committed they are to consistently improve the CRM product, meaning it’s unlikely that you’ll have to go through the whole process of finding another solution in the near future.

Quality CRM vendors will also have a network of partners who can help you with CRM implementation and any customisations you need. They may even have partners local to you for extra peace of mind if you prefer in-person meetings, for example. What’s more, the vendor’s local partner network can also act as consultants that provide additional professional expertise to help you further improve your business performance.

CRM Integration Capabilities

Numerous standalone tools that aren’t connected to other business critical tools just won’t cut it today. So it’s crucial that your CRM integrates seamlessly with other systems your company relies on everyday. Do you need your CRM to integrate with Office 365, G-Suite, social media, live chat on your website, or anything else?

By making it a point to first identify your business needs, it becomes much easier to choose a CRM solution that comes complete with the necessary integration capabilities. This will help to remove the hassle of jumping between different systems, improve visibility across your different tools, and boost overall productivity.

Mobile-Friendly CRM

The world is going mobile. This was the trajectory even before COVID-19, and the pandemic only served to put more of a spotlight on why it is important to have this flexibility. The same goes for CRM. Mobile-friendly CRM allows your staff to access all the customer data they need online via mobile, meaning they don’t have to be sat in front of a desktop in the office to perform their jobs.

Using mobile CRM solutions has been shown to boost productivity according to many studies. Sales reps who use mobile CRM achieve their sales targets at a higher rate than staff who don’t. It’s a great way for your staff to continue providing the same high-level of service your customers have become accustomed to even when they’re on the go.

CRM Scalability

Anytime you implement new software, you want it to have the flexibility to grow with your business. So even if you don’t have a sales team and a defined sales process at present, you may intend to add these aspects in the future. Does the system you’re looking at offer this choice?

When you’re choosing a CRM, the sole focus shouldn’t only be on the now. Think ahead to avoid having to consider replacing your solution in the future. Remember that the best CRM providers will give you options to use and only pay for what you need initially and can expand features and functionality as and when you need them later.

GDPR Features

You’ve undoubtedly heard of GDPR (The General Data Protection Regulation) at some point. It’s a legal framework that sets guidelines for collecting and processing the personal data of people in the UK and EU. If you’re looking to incorporate CRM and or email marketing into your business operations, then GDPR legislation impacts your business directly.

The best CRM systems are GDPR-ready to streamline the process of managing your customer data. So, if you use email marketing, individuals will need to opt-in so you can legally send them marketing emails. As part of the opt-in you need to indicate what you intend to do with their email address. For example, getting an individual’s email details about Product X and then emailing them about Y could be viewed as a breach of GDPR. However, if you use a double opt-in, for instance, then the individual has given you explicit permission to send email communications about Product X as well as other related messaging you may intend to send in the future.

Quality CRM solutions will provide these types of options to help you stay GDPR compliant. As a result, be sure to factor this in to ensure you’re choosing the right CRM for your business.

Choose The Best CRM Software For Your Business

As you can see, with a bit of prior thought, you can set yourself up to choose the right CRM system for your business. Whether it’s your first forage into the world of customer relationship management or you’re looking to upgrade your current system, our guide on how to choose a CRM system will help set you on the right track.

However, from what features to look for in a CRM system to CRM questions to ask, the decision between cloud-based or on-premise, and CRM budget considerations, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed. Just remember to take your time. Speak to different CRM vendors and closely compare the various offers, weighing up how well they meet your individual business needs in the process.

Use the tips above as a guide for your search. Not only will it save you time and money, but it will also ensure you’re choosing the right CRM system for your business.

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