What CRM is best for my business?

I get many questions from clients and other consultants who specialize in marketing on what is the best CRM solution for a certain type of business. It always makes me wonder what people are thinking about when they go to find a software solution to help manage, nurture and convert leads to sales.

It should always start at defining the needs of the business first. Are they small or large in size? Can they support taking care and managing the “technical” side of a CRM solution or is a hosted solution off premise a better alternative? Sometimes the answer to this helps reduce the choices right from the start. Most companies today recognize they need to have both solutions so in that case which works best if both options will work?

Typically, the answer may lie in two areas – number of users and cost per user. At some point if I say have 10 users at $35 per month that cost will exceed the cost of having the solution on site that you pay for once. Don’t forget to add on the upgrade and maintenance charges and the ongoing cost of either doing it yourself or having the vendor who sold it to you come back and bill for more. Either way it’s important to sit down and do the math. Sometimes the up-front cost can’t be met and there is no choice. Other times the spend on a monthly basis won’t work but a loan to purchase it outright may. Sometimes it’s based on the “hassle Factor” or having to maintain or support it yourself.

Either way you still have to take care of and nurture the data in the solution. If not the money is wasted. Most clients don’t take the time to define who owns the solution? Who is responsible for defining and managing how the data goes in and what is done on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. How is the data going to be used and are we collecting the information we need to be able to effectively use it? The hard part starts after the purchase. No solution will take care of itself. You can automate the steps and tracks that a new lead or contact should follow but who will setup that path?

Oh so what is the best solution for your type of business? The answer is one that allows you to customize the system so that it meets the needs of your business and can be managed by the current staff you have in place. Most of those give you some capability to modify the fields, screens, views, reports with information specific to your business. If I am a dentist I want to know the date of the last checkup. If I own a salon I want to know what products my customer likes and uses. Information and the way you track it is unique to you and in most cases the reason you want to use a CRM system to help you have better customer interactions resulting in more sales from that customer or prospect.