In such a competitive market there will always be the dominant players. Where Microsoft, Samsung and Apple rule the tech world, there are just as many big guns in the CRM space.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a CRM and why do you need it?
CRM is short for Customer Relationship Management system, which in turn is a tool that organisations use to collate, maintain and manage their customer and trading partner data. A CRM is essentially a singular master software application that controls the ins and outs of your business, especially if you are B2B and/or a company selling services by storing contact details and various related information.
Typically used by sales and marketing departments as a way of creating lists for campaigns and helping organise their schedules, the right CRM can be used to run your whole business with integrated calendars, contact information, emails and so on.
What to look for in a CRM
Open Vs Closed Source
Let’s refresh open source vs closed sourced software:
Open-Source Software (OSS) is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner.
Proprietary software is software that is owned by an individual or a company (usually the one that developed it). There are almost always major restrictions on its use, and its source code is almost always kept secret.
This won’t be the most defining factor in your search, but it is important to weigh up and the pros and cons of utilising open source software.
Cloud or on-site?
I suppose this is the topic of recent times. Do we host in the cloud or on-site? And I think that it comes down to what you use it for. You could easily get away with hosting on-site but you would have limitations to mobility and ease of access. But again it comes down to what it’s used for and the pros and cons of going, either way, need to reflect your needs. I believe that with technology progressing so rapidly, almost all of our software will be cloud-based in time which will lead to an ease of use.
This is the key to a CRM. There is no point doing work on a third-party program if it doesn’t talk to your other software. What is the point of having a marketing/sales campaign if you need to set up the contacts in your CRM to download the lists and upload in your mailing program, to only have to download and upload the results again? There aren’t many ERP systems available that let you pick and choose applications at the click of a button, as your business evolves and your needs change.
Your CRM MUST integrate with everything. Integration is the key to creating an efficient process, streamlining your resources and making your organisation more efficient as your needs become more complex. CRM’s like Odoo have integrated project management, website opt-in’s, sales pipelines and just about everything else you could imagine, including a mass mailing application. No need to invest in additional third-party applications.
Ease of use
Having a program that doesn’t dictate learning by spending hours watching videos or paying for support, is what we all want. We want to be able to use this tool and all of its features straight off the bat. I remember in a previous life I was using a CRM and doing my reporting the hard way and was none the wiser until I showed a colleague how I was producing reports. My complex methodology was amusing to him as it was pointed out that there were automated features that I hadn’t been aware of, which would have saved me a bunch of time. My point is, you shouldn’t have to read, watch or study a product in detail to undercover all of the features that should be apparent on first look.
Modifying to your needs
Having worked with hundreds of organisations, I have found that no matter the industry or company structure, there is generally a level of differentiation and your needs are never the same. It’s not often that I have heard of standard, off the shelf software being a perfect fit. If your resources are scarce and you don’t have the technological capabilities to modify the software, you can get by with standard base packages.
However, if you want a truly seamless experience with your CRM that works to your every need, I would suggest picking a solution that can be modified to your needs. And of course, having a trusted, professional and local partner that understands your industry and your needs can turn something okay into a shiny diamond that, unlike most diamonds, doesn’t cost a bomb and ultimately delivers significant operational efficiencies.