CRM_body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

Customer Relationship Management software, or CRM, has evolved from a simple customer contact capability to a suite of automated business-building tools. CRM solutions can now handle prospecting, lead generation, customer management, invoicing—in short, many tasks in the sales cycle.

 

When does a small business need CRM tools? How do you find one that's right for your company? What should you consider from a technology perspective? The online publication Small Business Trends gives these tips:

 

1. Know what your goal is

CRM comes with myriad features and benefits. Before you invest in a system, be clear on why you're getting it. What do you want it to do for your small business? What problems will it solve for you? How could it make you more profitable or save you time?

 

2. Make a wish list of features

After you identify the main goal, come up with a checklist of features to reach them. For example, a business that wants to broaden their marketing reach should look for CRM that offers good lead generation and enhanced customer contact.

 

3. Look for customization

Since your customers fall into different segments of the sales cycle, you'll need to send different targeted messaging. CRM that allows you to customize your communications will give you control and efficiency.

 

4. Make sure your CRM is easy to operate

There's no point in getting CRM with terrific features and benefits if you and your team find it hard or time-consuming to use. Look for a system with software and a dashboard that is clearly designed and simple to navigate.

 

CRM_PQ.jpg5. Be aware of costs and hidden fees

How much can you comfortably spend on a system? Let that guide you as you shop around. Keep in mind that the lowest-priced system is not always the best choice if it does not provide the service and speed you want. Know exactly what you're paying for. Watch out for providers that entice you with a low upfront price and then tack on hidden fees.

 

A growing number of companies are switching to cloud-based CRM, but is it right for your business? KarmaCRM, a CRM provider for small businesses, assesses the risks and rewards:

 

Pros:

 

1. Get access to your data at anytime

A cloud-based CRM lets you tap into your database whenever and wherever you need it, and from any device—smartphone, laptop, tablet, workstation—as long as you have an Internet connection.

 

2. Greater flexibility

A cloud-based CRM gives you the ability to update and add features to meet the demands of a growing business.

 

3. Cost effectiveness

Some businesses find that cloud-based solutions fit their budget better than maintaining and running an on-site CRM system.

 

Cons:

 

1. Security threats

Small businesses that adopt a cloud-based CRM solution also entrust the security of their data to the CRM provider. Despite the vigilance that cloud-based providers devote to security, it could be an area of concern.

 

2. Vendor stability

Your data could also be at risk if the CRM provider goes out of business. Some providers address this by setting up an arrangement that gives the small business owner access to their data even if the provider curtails its service.

 

3. Uploading data

Migrating data among different clouds could be problematic because of the diversity and incompatibility of operating systems and apps.

 

As with other key purchasing decisions, investing in CRM requires research in order to find the solution that works best for your small business. Whether you choose an on-site system or a cloud-based service, the point is to find the tools that make running and building your company easier and more efficient.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

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