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CRM Systems for a new business - questions answered

You email list is one of your most valuable assets, in any business, new or old... actually, even before you're in business! A CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) is an ideal way of staying in touch, regularly.

This list of questions was asked recently so I thought we'd share the answers with you. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Mike Eastwood.

When is the best time for a new business to start looking for a CRM system?
Ideally you should get your team into a CRM as soon as possible. There's always a learning curve and it takes a while to find the best practices that the whole team can apply. In the early days your support network is an excellent group to practice on - before you have real customers entering your system - just be sure to tag contacts accordingly.
What are some signs that a new business is ready for a CRM system?
The most common sign, for a founder, is being overwhelmed while juggling opportunities - when the number of balls up in the air exceeds what you can keep in your head, you stop hearing the balls drop and miss out on following up opportunities.
The next most common sign is a new team missing out on shared opportunities because they didn't know who was following up which lead. A CRM that stores notes by contact, and by company, means less or no opportunities slip through the cracks. Every new lead counts, in every business.
What are the most important things a new business should think about before they start evaluating/comparing CRM systems?
Do you need a CRM that works on mobile? Several CRM companies have been slow to release apps or even make their websites mobile. Unless you're desk-bound you need a mobile friendly system
Do some research to ensure your CRM is a good fit for your business and your 'Customer Journey'. Some CRMs only focus on a small part of the marketing funnel e.g. Lead Conversion. Check your CRM can still be used to nurture a customer once they become a customer. When I asked one company about tracking emails for a customer (we'd closed a deal) their response was "we don't track them once the deal is completed". Huh? The C in CRM is Customer! Nurturing customers is an extremely important job - it's much easier, and cheaper, to get more business from an existing customer than it is to find a new customer.
Does the CRM fully integrate with your email system? If not people will revert back to their old email program and your CRM will end up gathering dust like the bound business plan on the bookshelf.
Does your preferred CRM send email from your email address or their external mail server? Sending email blasts from an external mail server is acceptable but you risk being delivered to Gmail's "Promotions" inbox or even worse - the Spam folder. Sending emails to individuals from your email account is great. But beware if you bulk send emails from your email address you will be blacklisted by other mail servers.
Should a startup prioritise the cost of the system above all else or are there other capabilities, features or functionality that outweigh cost considerations when choosing a CRM system?
There are several CRMs that start at $10 to $20 per month, per person. Migrating to a more full featured system later can be difficult but you're more likely to succeed if you start now and move to a more enterprising system as you grow. Be sure to check if you can export your contacts. Beware: you may lose all your contact notes if you migrate.
Think about - what is the opportunity cost? How many opportunities need to slip through the cracks before the cost of a CRM pays for itself?
What are some common mistakes startups or new businesses make when choosing a CRM system and how can they avoid them?
Document your workflows and business processes - even if it's a first draft. Standard operating procedures make it easier for everyone to be on the same page and will streamline the process of hiring new team members. We recommend documenting everything in a Wiki so people can quickly, and easily, find the Standard Operating Procedures (...but this is a whole other article).

Try before you buy. Shortlist your top two or three systems and run a trial - the vendors will usually do a 30 day trial free. This is plenty of time to assess your favoured systems.

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