The return on investment from selecting the best CRM software can be massive. However, with so many CRM platforms on the market, the search can be overwhelming. To help combat decision fatigue, follow these simple steps to find the best CRM for your small business.

Step 1: Know Your Priorities and Goals

It is imperative to know why you want a CRM system in the first place. A CRM system can only help your business if you outline clear goals. To help clarify goals, begin with a business audit or gap analysis. Review yearly business performance reports to find areas that need improvement and identify key goals with timeline markers. Business goals could vary from expanding product lines to increasing revenue to strengthening customer service. After identifying business goals, consider how a CRM system could help you reach those goals.

Step 2: Find Your Team Members’ Needs

It is important to identify exactly who will be using the system and why. Sales and marketing departments are generally the main users of CRM software, however, every department should have input in the decision-making process for the system to work seamlessly. Ask each team member what their needs are and how they think the software system could help them perform their duties.

Step 3: Determine Important Features

The sheer volume of CRM features and tools is overwhelming. Take control of the situation by making a list of what you are looking for before you begin the search. For the sake of clarity, create a “must-have” features list to narrow down the options. Compile the information gathered from team members, along with your business goals and timeline markers to create the list. For example, if you are using the CRM for marketing purposes, then software with marketing automation, lead tracking and data analysis might be on your must-have list.

No matter what your focus is, make sure robust data security and customer support features are on the must-have list. Required software security features are two-factor authentication, encryption and advanced user permissions. Customer support features like live chat and phone support will be crucial when questions or concerns arise.

Step 4: Consider Different Types of CRM

While all CRM systems should help you develop better relationships with your customer base (hence the name), there is no one-size-fits-all system. CRM solutions can vary widely depending on the features they focus on. The three major types of CRM are:

  • Collaborative: The main focus of the collaborative CRM is providing a seamless customer experience through the various departments of a company. Collaborative CRMs are great for larger companies where the marketing team, sales team and customer support teams are disconnected and need help sharing real-time customer information.
  • Operational: The operational CRM streamlines the customer relations process. It is the best of the three for an all-around CRM solution. Operational CRMs typically leverage three automation features—sales force automation, marketing automation and service automation. The automatic responses help guide the customer’s journey from their first interaction on your website through the sales pipeline.
  • Analytical: Digital platforms make it easy to collect large quantities of customer data. That data is wasted, however, if you do not have a way to analyze it. Analytical CRM analyzes your customers’ data, providing a deep insight into their buying behavior and purchasing trends. Business owners can use these insights to craft smarter marketing campaigns and enhance customer service.

Step 5: Create a Budget

The cost of CRM software swings widely based on the number of users, features, subscription base and more. Prices range from $9 per user per month on the low end to $99 per user per month on the high end. Some companies do offer free versions of their software, however, the features, number of users and storage capacity are highly limited.

Another way to whittle down the plethora of companies is to set a budget at the onset to give you search parameters. This will give you a clear ceiling and eliminate options that live outside your predetermined budget.

Step 6: Research Top CRM Platforms

Once your search is narrowed down to a handful of options, start researching those options. There are a few key things you can use to determine if a platform will be a good fit for your needs.

  • User reviews: Take time to read the user reviews of the potential software on your list. Pay attention to what reviews list as the pros and cons. This will give you a more honest version of the software than the company’s website.
  • Word of mouth: Ask colleagues and other business owners about their CRM system. Are they happy with it? Why or why not? Would they recommend it for someone in your industry?
  • Trade publications: Trade magazines and websites are always a great source of information on all things pertaining to your industry. Spend a few hours researching the mentions of CRM software on any trade publications.
  • Independent software comparisons: There are many reputable websites unaffiliated with software companies that score, compare, and contrast products for consumers. Forbes Advisor is one such website, and we’ve published our guide to the best CRMs for small business for your reference.

Once you have narrowed down your search to one software provider, test it out to make sure it works for your company. Most CRM vendors offer a free full-feature trial of their product. Take advantage of this to ensure the system meets your business requirements and expectations.

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