Best CRM for Small Business 2019
Important Decision Criteria
What is the best CRM software program for small businesses? Well that depends who you ask. Most reviewers evaluate CRM solutions based on three criteria; features, functions and price. It’s the old checklist game whereby they make a list of every feature they can think of then award 1 point to the vendors that offer that feature. Next, they add up the points and the one with the most points at the lowest cost is the best CRM vendor. But is this really the right way to determine which CRM solution is right for your business? I don’t think so.
Most CRM solutions for small businesses are very much the same regarding features, functions and price which is why it is so hard to differentiate them. They all manage accounts and contacts, notes, activities, sales and leads. If you really think about it how many ways are there to enter a new account or contact, add a note, or schedule a follow-up activity? They all appear the same because at the most basic level they are the same. Even the price points are within a few dollars. So now what? How do you determine which is the best one for your business? Well, the devil is in the details.
Finding the best CRM solution for your business may mean it’s time to look past feature, functions and price and focus on the not so obvious, that is; things that you have not asked about or are unaware of that differentiate one solution from another. I have listed several of them below.
Where is My Data?
The secure storage of your data and getting access to it in case of an emergency (such as, the vendor going out of business or their data center shuts down) should be one of the most important criteria for your decision, but you have not asked any of the vendors about this, have you? Its okay most people don’t. It’s in the cloud so that’s good enough, but no its not. You need to ask the vendor where your data is stored, is it properly backed up and protected and how can you get periodic access to it. Here’s a tip. If the cost is free or very low, chances are it’s not as well protected as you think.
Security Permissions – What Are They and Why Do I Need Them?
Most low-cost CRM solutions do not offer robust security permissions and maybe that’s ok, but if you need to limit data access for specific individuals then security moves up the list of decision criteria. Maybe you have some outside contractors or consultants that need access to customer data, but you only want to provide them with read-only access meaning they can view the data but cannot update, edit or delete it. Maybe you don’t want your New York sales team to have access to west coast leads or accounts. It does not matter. What matters is that the CRM solution provider you select offers multi-level security permissions.
Your business is going to grow. You would not be in business if you were not confident in this. But will the CRM solution you select support your growth? Is it scalable to add a bunch more users? Does it offer additional functionality for other departments that you don’t need today, but may need tomorrow? You wouldn’t invest in a CRM solution with the thought that you will change it in 2 or 3 years. You better have this as one of your selection criteria.
This is a big one because most low-cost CRM solutions offer very limited reporting. What you see is what you get and this is by design. Custom report generators are typically third party products that the vendor incorporates in their offering. They can be expensive because the vendor has to pay the third party for its use so it’s easier to leave it out of the product. The ability to generate custom reports and graphical reports or analytics, can be an easy way to differentiate one solution provider from another.
This is the one of the most overlooked areas by small businesses when making their CRM selection and its one area that truly differentiates products serving the small business sector. The challenge is that most companies are not really sure what customization they need today or in the future, so they do not know what to ask. They are instead focused on the list of features they need today, not what they may need in the future and that’s ok, because I have some advice that will help.
Freemium or low-cost CRM solutions are typically ‘cookie-cutter’, one-size-fits-all products, so customization is quite limited. The reason for this is easy to appreciate. Customization generates customer phone calls for assistance, and if I am a vendor that is offering my product for free or at a very low cost I simply cannot afford to hire a staff to support you. Your best course of action however is to ask for a demonstration of how you can add custom fields, create customer views of data, run customer reports or change column labels. Lack of customization is the number one reason why so many businesses are forced to change CRM solutions 2-3 years after implementation. It’s a costly mistake that you can avoid.
Integration to Disparate Systems
You have other software solutions you use for your business and integrating customer data between these systems may be something that you want to do down the road. Have you asked what level of system integration or experience the vendor has? Do they offer an API (application programming interface) for system integration? You need to know this upfront – so ask!
If you are serious about implementing a CRM system and getting the maximum value from it, you are going to need customer support from the solution provider. If you do not appreciate this I can assure you that you will become part of the 73% of implementations that fail within the small business community. CRM is not an appliance that you simply plug in the wall and good things happen. It requires experienced people who are properly trained to use the system to automate and streamline your internal processes. The challenge here is that most small businesses do not have a wealth of experienced human resources on board. This makes selecting the right solution provider that much more important. Ask what level of training and onboarding the vendor provides and if they have the resources to ensure your success with their product. This is another significant differentiator between vendors serving the small business community.
Thanks for reviewing this article. I hope this information will help you to make the best decision for your business.
About the author:
Larry Caretsky is the CEO of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software and sales enablement services to the small and mid-business community. He has written numerous articles about the use of CRM and an e-book, Practices That Pay. He is considered an expert in the field. If you have questions about the content you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.