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From customer retention to detailed analytics, CRM software provides a variety of benefits. — Getty Images/PixelsEffect

Customer relationship management (CRM) software can be used for a variety of business purposes, including keeping your sales and marketing activities organized. However, it’s important you choose a CRM that best suits your business’s needs.

Here's what you need to know about finding and using CRM software.

What is CRM software?

CRM software stores and organizes customer information like contact information and sales data in a central location, making it easier to access and manage. Using CRM software helps business owners maintain better relationships and communication with their customers by streamlining the sales process and tracking all interactions with each individual customer.

[Read: Ready to Grow Your Business? It's Time for CRM Software]

Benefits of CRM

Businesses of all industries and sizes can use CRM tools to help manage their customer relationships and sales funnel. Here are some specific benefits of CRM software:

  • Better customer service: An obvious plus of using CRM is that it allows businesses to deliver better customer service, as all information is in one easily-accessible centralized place.
  • Increased sales: CRMs help to streamline lead nurturing and your sales process by building a pipeline and automating associated tasks, making it easy for employees to get involved.
  • Customer retention: CRMs offer sentiment analysis, automated ticketing, customer support automation and user behavior tracking, all of which help flag potential issues to prevent poor customer experiences.
  • Detailed analytics: CRM software collects and analyzes data (like click-through rates, bounce rates and demographics) so you can use it to your advantage.
  • Streamlined communications: Through CRM software, all employees will be on the same page when communicating with customers, ensuring a consistent customer experience and unified brand voice.

Key CRM features

When searching for the right CRM service for your business, you’ll want to consider the features it offers. Some key features of CRM software include:

  • Contact management: Make sure your CRM stores all of your customers’ names, addresses, contact information like emails and phone numbers, social media accounts and more.
  • Interaction tracking: CRMs should allow you to track your conversations with customers and add any necessary notes.
  • Lead management: A good CRM will have a streamlined lead management process, which involves identifying, scoring and moving leads through your sales pipeline.
  • Email integration: This feature allows your CRM to manage and segment your contacts by syncing information with your email inbox.
  • Document management: Document management offers a centralized hub where you can collect, upload, store and share documents across your team.
  • Proposal management: Many CRMs allow you to create and send proposals to leads and customers.
  • Pipeline management: It’s important to oversee your sales pipeline through your CRM to stay up to date on the status of each stage.
  • Workflow automation: CRMs are meant to streamline your customer service efforts, automating repetitive tasks so you can focus on more important ones.

[Read: How to Use CRM Software]

CRM cost

Some CRM services are entirely free, but only offer very limited features. When you invest in a CRM, you typically pay per user, per month. The price varies depending on your needs as a business, as many CRM services offer different packages (from basic to full-feature) with specific features. For example, some packages start as low as $25 per user monthly, while others are over $200.

Finding the best CRM for you

When searching for the right CRM service for your business, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Features: The CRM you choose should have the key features you’re looking for, like contact management, lead management, workflow automation, etc.
  • Price: Prices vary depending on your needs. However, you don’t want to settle for less just to save a few bucks per month. Understand what compromises you’re willing to make.
  • Ease of use: Especially if you’re new to CRM or have employees who are unfamiliar with CRM software, you’ll want to choose one that is easy to use.
  • Maximum number of contacts: Some CRMs have a limit for the number of contacts you can have, so make sure you’re not choosing a service that doesn’t accommodate your contact list.
  • Trial period: Most CRMs offer free trials, some longer than others. You might consider sampling a few before choosing one.
  • Customer service: Should you run into any issues using your CRM, you’ll want your CRM software to be backed by good customer service.

Since CRM keeps all your customer data in one centralized place, as well as segments your contacts for you, you’ll be able to better target your audience to appeal to their wants and needs.

How to use CRM for sales

To properly use your CRM software, you’ll want to add all your salespeople so every effort is streamlined and customize your settings to accommodate your sales process. From there, you can import your contacts, integrate other tools (like email), set up your dashboard and enable reports.

How to use CRM for marketing

Believe it or not, CRM is a great tool for marketing. Since CRM keeps all your customer data in one centralized place, as well as segments your contacts for you, you’ll be able to better target your audience to appeal to their wants and needs.

[Read: How to Make the Most of Your CRM Software]

CRM reviews

Before you settle on a CRM for your business, you’ll want to do some research on the best CRMs. Here are some websites who offer actual reviews of CRM systems:

Top CRM companies

Here are the top five CRM services to consider for your business:

  • Salesforce CRM: Salesforce is a market share leader with 24/7 customer support and numerous available integrations.
  • Hubspot CRM: Hubspot’s free CRM meets the basic needs of most businesses. However, since this version offers limited reporting, you might consider their paid version.
  • Zoho CRM: Zoho is a great option overall, offering customization, multi-user portals and real-time reports.
  • FreshWorks CRM: Formerly known as FreshSales CRM, FreshWorks offers various pricing plans, SMS integration and built-in phone with automatic call recording.
  • Pipedrive: Pipedrive is praised for its ease of use and straightforward user interface. It also offers a convenient visual sales funnel.

For more tips on choosing the best CRM software for your needs, check out our guide.

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 April 14, 2021