A Beginner’s Guide to CRM’s

by Jessi Burg and Taryn Shaw

Many small businesses struggle to keep track of information related to their clients, projects, and jobs. There are a variety of CRM’s, or Customer Relationship Management software, available that can make managing the details of your business so much simpler. 

The idea behind a CRM is to help you organize and keep track of your leads, clients, and projects. A CRM replaces the spreadsheets, databases and apps that many businesses use in different places to track client data. 

A CRM consolidates all of your communication types – like forms, calls, emails, texts, meetings, documents, quotes, purchases, or tasks associated with every lead and client you have. Your entire team can access those details whenever they need to in order to close sales or provide high quality customer service.

Why not just use a spreadsheet? A spreadsheet is a fine option if you have around 100 contacts or fewer, or you’re organizing basic information like names, email addresses, phone numbers, websites, etc. 

But a spreadsheet can’t track the more complex data, like what emails a contact has opened, what pages they’ve visited on your website, or date of last purchase. Your CRM is always updating itself as your leads and customers do things!

Do your research before choosing a CRM, and answer the following questions:

  • How many contacts do you have? 
  • Do you need a CRM?
  • What features do you need?
  • What are the goals you are trying to achieve?
  • Do you need it to keep track of client information? Send out newsletters? Both?
  • Are you interested in having a client portal that makes job tracking easy for clients?
  • Do you want it for current clients or networking contacts?
  • What’s your budget?

If you are looking for something that will help you manage existing client projects, then you might want to consider a project management tool rather than a CRM. Project management tools focus on keeping track of client contact information and client communications surrounding a job, as opposed to tracking leads, client actions, and sales. 

When deciding what will work best for you and your business, list out the features of each system you’re considering. Take a look at what other people are using, see how they like it, or even do a quick internet search for the best CRMs for small businesses and start digging around. This will give you a good idea of the options that are out there, and you can compare and contrast them to find the most efficient one. 

Zoho, for example, is one particular system that is popular amongst small business owners. It’s easy to use, has plenty of add-ons, and works really well with small businesses. 

If you want a CRM that also functions as an email marketing platform, we recommend Mailchimp or Constant Contact. We’ve also seen companies that like using Asana or Trello, which are task tracking softwares, to organize client information in a way that works for them.

Once you have a better idea of what kind of system you are looking for, think about what your budget is.

Keep in mind that it’s not just how many dollars it costs per month, but how much time it will save you overall. If your CRM doesn’t make your operations easier or save you time in the long run, then that system may not be right for you. 

That means that you will want to take your time savings into consideration when you factor out your budget. For example, if a system costs $50/month and saves you 2 hours a week (6-8 hours a month), then it’s probably worth it! If it costs you $500/month and saves you 2 hours a week, it’s probably not worth it. 

Think about what your budget is in terms of dollars, but also about how much extra time you could spend increasing your revenue in other areas of your business. Most platforms offer demos, a free option, and paid options. Evaluate if you can operate using the free version, but more often than not those will have limited features. 

For example, a free version may have a limit on the number of contacts you can include, the inability to use certain features, or will only allow 2 users. Look at the difference between the free and paid version and decide if the paid version will benefit you the most. 

You want something that’s fairly intuitive to use, since not all CRMs are created equal. Do you understand how it works? Is there a support team that can answer questions? Are there tutorials you can use to understand the ins and outs of the program?

If you pay for something but aren’t sure how to get the most use out of it, you can end up spending more time than you’d like just trying to figure it out. If you are someone who asks a lot of questions (this isn’t a bad thing, you just want to learn more!), then take into account the availability and responsiveness of the support team. Is there an online chat? Do they have a phone number listed? It’s important to know that someone is available to answer your questions  within a reasonable amount of time. 

As always, it doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles something has if you don’t use them – the CRM you need for your business is the one you are going to get the most use out of.


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