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Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps businesses keep track of their customers in a central location, with each employee having access to the information. — Getty Images

A customer relationship management system (CRM) is a helpful investment for businesses of all types and sizes. CRM software helps keep track of customer data — from demographics to communications — to help improve marketing, sales and customer service.

However, CRMs can be complicated for new business owners who are used to managing customer information manually. If you’re unsure of any aspect of your CRM, you’re not alone. Here are six common CRM questions answered.

Do I need a CRM?

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not you need a CRM for your business. For instance, if you’re a small startup with a few loyal customers, you might get by with manually researching and managing their data. However, if you anticipate growth, you’ll want to invest in a CRM to handle these tasks for you. That way, you’ll have more time and resources to focus on business development and other responsibilities.

How much does a CRM typically cost?

According to the SBA, many business owners perceive CRMs as too expensive, preventing them from investing in one for their brand. However, the costs of CRMs depend entirely on your business’s needs. You can get a subscription plan with monthly payments, or opt to make a single payment. There are even free plans available, though their functionalities are limited.

Prices differ sometimes by thousands of dollars, depending on the company you choose, whether its on-premise, how extensive the software is and how much your business can invest.

[For more, see: Customer Relationship Management [CRM] Software Guide.]

What is the difference between CRM and ERP?

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and CRM software are very similar to one another as they both help your business become more efficient. However, each system uses a different approach.

CRM software is designed to manage relationships with customers and prospects with the overall goal to increase sales volume. ERP, on the other hand, is used to manage internal business processes rather than customers. The main goal with ERP software is to reduce overhead and costs by making business operations more efficient. ERP systems are used company-wide with employees having access to shared information within an organization.

How do I choose the right CRM?

When choosing a CRM for your business, you’ll want to consider price, security, company goals and projections, current and future automation, whether you want in-house or cloud-based, and any anticipated changes you might make within the next few years. Each consideration can be personalized to your business’s needs, so you need to be aware of what those needs and requirements are.

CRM software is designed to manage relationships with customers and prospects with the overall goal to increase sales volume.

How do I vet vendors?

There are many vendors to choose from when investing in a CRM, and you’ll want to narrow your options to those who will best meet your business’s needs. To help you do so, CIO.com advised querying vendors about the following topics:

  • Experience in the industry
  • Level of responsiveness
  • Typical clients
  • Partnerships with tech companies
  • Maintenance and support offerings
  • Security practices

Be sure not to rush the vetting process. Record the responses of each vendor and compare them to find the one best suited for your business’s needs.

What details should I track?

The details you track might depend on your company’s pain points and anticipated goals. For instance, if you’re having issues with personalized marketing efforts, your goal might be to find out where your customers spend the most time.

Some additional details you might track include demographics, contact information (from cell phone numbers and home addresses to social media accounts and emails), sales activities and any other data that might help you better understand your customers as both buyers and individuals.

How do I implement my CRM?

Generally, CRM software is used across several different teams or departments within an organization, so it’s important to implement it correctly. There are some best practices to consider, including the following recommended by Score.org:

  • Be transparent with your teamby explaining why you are investing in a CRM and how it might affect their work.
  • Give a plan of actionof when you will start using the CRM and stop using old methods of customer relationship management, like spreadsheets.
  • Schedule training for employeeswith your CRM’s vendor.
  • Follow upby asking if there are any questions or concerns.
  • Encourage feedback, both positive and negative.

CO— does not review or recommend products or services. For more information on choosing the best CRM software, visit our friends at business.com.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published June 05, 2019