Customer relationship management (CRM) software was once best suited to large enterprises, but today they are essential to businesses of all sizes and are available in various forms. Small business CRM tools will enhance any business’ productivity in sales and marketing, reduce the costs of finding and retaining leads, and increase revenues by unifying many business management processes in one platform.
Of course, the trick to success with small business CRM software is finding the right solution for your company.
Enterprise-scale CRM can be intimidating for smaller businesses, and it also tends to offer many more capabilities than smaller companies actually require, and at a price small-business owners will likely balk at paying. Large-scale CRM often requires more IT support than small businesses can readily provide, adding even more expenses. Thankfully, the growing need among small businesses for streamlined sales, marketing, and customer management processes has led to the emergence of small business CRM software, which many refer to as “CRM lite.” These solutions acknowledge that employees of small businesses tend to wear many hats and have a variety of responsibilities, and these platforms are traditionally dialed-down versions of the large-enterprise products.
This brings us to an important thing to consider when selecting small business CRM software for your company: scalability. Most businesses start small, but when choosing a CRM solution, you have to look down the line and take consideration for growth. Your chosen solution should be able to both accommodate an increase in the user base and allow for more capabilities as the company’s needs evolve. Numbers-wise, small business CRM software is designed for companies with fewer than 500 clients, or fewer than 50 customer-facing staff members. Though CRM lite products have a small-business slant, they can still be appropriate for divisions of larger enterprises with fewer than 100 simultaneous CRM users. For the most part, small business CRM software caters to companies whose user bases are physically concentrated, rather than spread out over multi-server networks.
Almost as important as selecting the appropriate system for a certain number of end-users is deciding which type of deployment is best for your company: on-premise or hosted. Most small business CRM software is offered as software-as-a-service (SaaS), or on-demand platforms, which is an option that provides numerous benefits to a small enterprise. For starters, on-demand solutions require much less up-front capital, as they require neither hardware nor the licensing fees necessary for on-premise CRM platforms. On-demand CRM solutions are ideal for budding companies in need of a system than can be deployed quickly and with little impact on IT resources, in contrast to on-premise solutions which often call for long and complicated implementation processes. On-premise solutions tend to work best for large enterprises that need a constant pulse on their CRM data and that can afford the temporal and monetary costs of implementation.
The best small business CRM software will allow companies to customize the platform’s dashboards and key features. This customization is usually offered in the form of smaller “license bundles” that allow users to pick and choose only the features needed, and therefore prevent them for overpaying on extensive packages with features that will remain unused. Small business CRM software also reflects the tendency of smaller companies to manage business across a number of different (and sometimes disjointed) productivity applications. This propensity to work across disparate applications adds to the importance of a simple user interface and options for customization, and explains why small business CRM software that resembles basic word processing and reporting applications are so successful.
Many small business CRM software offerings are primarily contact managers that secondarily provide the ability to organize sales and marketing campaigns and that offer some standard reporting capabilities. Common add-ons include help desk automation, sales forecasting, order-processing and tracking, and advanced analytics. Two companies that offer web-based CRM solutions and recently released contact management tools are Salesforce.com and SugarCRM. Salesforce’s Contact Management Edition and Sugar’s SugarExpress are both very basic forms of CRM, offering simple contact information and communications records, and both are meant for a small number of users (about 5-10). They are intended for the small business users, but the good thing about these products – and another advantage of SaaS solutions – is that they are wholly integrative into Salesforce’s and Sugar’s more extensive CRM products should the company grow.
Another thing you’ll want to look for when choosing the right small business CRM software is social networking tools. There has been great debate as to how helpful integrating products like Twitter and Facebook is to CRM processes, but there is no doubt that small businesses benefit greatly from incorporating social media. Unlike large enterprises, small businesses have more direct interactions with their customers. So while large enterprises use social networking tools to maintain a strong web presence and track conversations around their brand, small businesses have the advantage of using these platforms to nurture their existing relationships with customers. Most SaaS CRM solutions have social networking integrations, so look for a system that provides basic social media functionality and has a good tool for monitoring conversations.
The best small business CRM software is out there. Just remember to assess your needs and find a product that is scalable with strong contact management features and social media integrations.