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10 Tips for choosing a CRM for an SME

Updated: May 20

You might find yourself looking for a CRM or Marketing Automation platform for the first time. But where do you start and how do you know which is the right one for you?

Choosing a CRM or Marketing Automation Tool

1. Which areas of the customer or buyer’s journey do you need it for - This is your scope and requirements. The scope includes which areas of the buyer and customer journey the system will support such as only marketing, marketing & sales or marketing, sales & servicing. Obviously the broader the scope, the more the functionality you'll need. This is where your requirements come in – these are a list of the things that the system needs to do for you and should be informed by your business objectives, end-users and stakeholders. Make a list and be detailed – the clearer the better.

2. Prioritise – Once you have your list of requirements, you need to prioritise them. No one CRM system will have everything you need and you may end up paying for functionality you won’t use. You can prioritise your requirements anyway you like, but I like the MoSCoW method as it defines your must-haves i.e. if this functionality is missing from the system, the project will have failed. Google has lots more information about prioritising your requirements.

3. Budget – If you haven’t purchased a CRM before, you may need to do some research before deciding on a budget. Having an idea of the number of users and the contacts you’re likely to store in the CRM (and will market to) is good to have to hand before you start looking.

4. Length of Contract. If it’s your first CRM system or you don’t feel there's currently one meets your requirements yet, you might choose one CRM for a couple of years and then change to a newer one. If this is the case, ensure you document this decision - you don't want to end up using a system that's not right for years to come. Or you might decide to invest in one that will grow with you. Ensure you document any processes, integrations and workflows (both technical and the business information) so you know what they are, what they do and why. This will speed up any future implementations.

5. Integrations – are there any systems or data that the platform needs to interact with? If you have data in another system and that regularly needs to be imported, you might want to think about integrating the two systems. Once you’ve established this, talk to the supplier about how this integration might work. Some integrations in Marketing Automation tools can be amazingly simple or a full integration with your transactional database can be more complicated.

6. It’s also about the ‘How’ – Alongside listing and prioritising your requirements, the ‘how’ is just as crucial. Think about some common important scenarios such as producing a report, sending an email, building a list or building a form. Ask for a demo or better still, get a free account and test it yourself. Some systems have amazing functionality but if the effort to use it isn’t worth the benefit, you won’t use the system to its full potential.

7. Talk to the end-users – not only should end-users be involved in agreeing the requirements and the priorities, let them demo the system and get their feedback. Not only will you have an honest opinion, but they’ll also be more engaged in the project.

8. Make it a business decision – choose the system that’s going to support and drive your sales, marketing and servicing resulting in ROI, not the one that’s easiest to implement and integrate – which only happens once.

9. Industry specific – some systems are built for specific industries, but don’t be afraid to look outside of your industry. Just because a competitor or similar company is using a particular system, it doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Find out about user-groups and user-communities the suppliers organises, they’re a good way to network, get ideas and share best practise.

10. Internal skillsets – If you’re a small business or dept, this one needs additional thought as you may not wish to invest in a full-time specialist role – this can be expensive and cause a bottleneck. Consider the user interface and maintenance carefully. Systems that are based around ‘click not code’ or ‘drag and drop’ might the way to go. You can then have a few people who understand the basics of the system and get support from an external specialist for the implementation or as and when required.

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