I know you’re looking for the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform for your business. I also know you probably haven’t found it.
How? Because every day on LinkedIn I see yet another small business owner or team member ask “How can I find a CRM for my company?” or “What’s the best CRM for a small business?”
While multiple people associated with CRM platforms weigh in that their CRM is the best, I sit back and shake my head because I know that’s not the way to find the CRM that will best fit their business. Usually, I’ll offer some version of the same advice: you have to know why and how you’ll use a CRM for your business needs before you can choose one.
Lucky for you, I’ve put it all together in this post so you and your business can avoid the same fate.
The Furniture Analogy
Imagine you’re buying furniture for a house that you don’t know anything about. It’s not a special house so there are the usual rooms to furnish: dining room, living room, bedrooms, etc. But, you don’t know how many there are or their size.
Not sure how to find the right furniture, you ask friends and family what furniture they bought for their house. You get all sorts of answers from modern Ikea to traditional Ethan Allen. And every person sings the praises of the furniture they bought and tell you how awesome it’s been for them – even though no two people bought the same furniture!
Now you’re more confused. Each piece sounded great when they described it, but you weren’t any closer to choosing the furniture for your house. You finally decide to go to a furniture store and see if an expert can help.
Getting Expert Advice
After carefully listening to your dilemma, the experienced furniture salesperson asks you how large the rooms are, and how many you need to furnish. Instead of answering (because you don’t know), you mention this cool dining room hutch one of your friends bought. You tell the salesperson that you want that same hutch because it’s working really well for your friend, and holds everything they need it to.
He asks if you have enough space for the hutch and have you thought of how you’ll use it and what to put in it. What he’s saying slowly sinks in and you realize:
💡Just because furniture has worked for other people’s houses doesn’t mean it will work for yours.
💡And you need as much information as possible about the house and the rooms to make the right decision for you.
Of course you wouldn’t buy furniture without knowing all of the details that would get you the best items for your house. So why would you buy a CRM platform for a process you’ve never documented?
Why You Need Written Processes
As I tell my clients and workshop attendees, you can’t know which tools and systems will help you until you know what steps you take to complete your business activities.
The main function of a CRM is to track incoming leads and move them through your marketing and sales funnels. Start there and write down the steps you take now when a lead or prospective customer comes to you from your marketing efforts or a referral.
Please don’t skip this crucial first step of documenting your potential customer process steps, because this will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run. Think of doing all of the legwork to find the CRM you think you need, and when you use it for the first time for your business you find that it doesn’t do what you need it to.
Now that you know what you’re doing and how, think about what you’ll need to support those business activities.
What Features Do You Need?
Continuing with our furniture analogy, let’s say that you did all the work and now have the information you need: number of rooms along with the use and dimensions for each. The main rooms in your house are: kitchen, dining room, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, living room, and family room.
This time, you do some online research before heading to the store. You find furniture that fits the dimensions you need for each room type. Even better, the furniture is in stock at the same place you went the other day.
You head back to the furniture store ready to buy! You greet the furniture salesman excitedly and hand him the list of the furniture you found online. He takes the list and sees that some of the furniture has sharp edges and glass, so is better suited to a house without small children. Other pieces seem to be purposely selected for being kid-friendly.
And while the dining room furniture is the right size, you didn’t take your open floor plan into consideration. Now that you see it next to the living room furniture in person, you realize it clashes.
Sure, the furniture fit your general criteria of being made for each type of room, and the right size, but it wasn’t actually useful.
The salesman wants to make sure that you don’t just have furniture for each room, but that you have the right furniture. He starts to ask you questions about styles that will suit you and your family. Do you have pets? Do you entertain often? Do you have kids?
💡 You have another light bulb moment! To make the furniture truly functional for your needs, you have to consider the features.
Your CRM Features
And so it is with your CRM selection. Once you have your written process steps, as we talked about first, you’ll be able to see which CRM features will support them when you search for and compare CRMs online.
If you’re on the go, a mobile app may be a must-have for you. If you use email or document templates, you’ll want to see the specifics for those when you compare CRMs. Will you want to integrate your email marketing platform or your survey platform with your CRM?
Pay attention to the price points when comparing features, too. Some CRMs have different price points based on features, while others base it on the number of users on your account.
To make it even more complicated, some features may be free in one platform and paid in another. And some CRMs give you all of the features, but have time limit for how long you can use it for free.
Having a good understanding of the features that will support your business activities will save you a lot of frustration later.
Is It User Friendly?
Now for the third consideration when choosing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platform: is it user friendly? More specifically, is it user friendly for you. One CRM might be perfect for one person, or business, but seem difficult to navigate for another.
One more time to the furniture store. On the first day, you got all of the information about the rooms in your house. The second day, you found furniture that fit the rooms AND met your needs.
And now, you’re at the furniture store ready to purchase your chosen items. Just as you’re pulling out your wallet, the sales person says, “Don’t you want to try them out first?”
Because what good is a couch that fits your room size, is the right color and is kid-friendly, but is so uncomfortable that nobody sits on it? Or the dining room set made of high quality material, but the chairs are too low for the table. Sure, you’ll have a house full of furniture that technically meets your needs, but you won’t use them.
Test drive your CRM choices
So when you get those CRM recommendations from other business owners or through your Google search that seem to match your process and needed features, take time to make sure the design, flow, and visual aspects of the CRM will work for you and anyone else on your team who will be using it.
You don’t want to spend money and time on a CRM that seems like it would fit on the surface, then find out it won’t work for you when you start using it. Take advantage of the free trial options for a few CRMs you think will fit your needs, and use them for 3 – 5 days with data from a few contacts.
There are other considerations when choosing the right CRM, of course, such as your budget, integration with third party apps, or how many people need user accounts. Start with the three things I covered in this series of articles: process, features, and user friendliness, and you’ll have a good foundation for choosing the right CRM for you.
If you need more help with this, I’ve created an online course called Choosing the Right CRM for Your Business. It comes with a CRM Comparison Tool so you’ll make the right choice the first time!