A step-by-step guide to finding a CRM that works for your small business


Owning a small business means you are responsible for all aspects of your business; the marketing, the accounts, the admin. Perhaps the last thing you think about is setting up a database to store your customer and contact details.

But, as your business grows you will find that keeping handwritten notes of meetings and phone calls, and storing contact details across your inbox, phone book, and LinkedIn is not the most efficient, professional or legal way to store important client and contact data. In order to quickly recall previous conversations and contact details, it is essential that your data is stored in one central, easy-to-access place.

When the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come in to effect on the 25th May, all businesses are expected to securely manage their data flows, processes, and record-keeping to ensure the proper and appropriate use of the data they hold. Creating a robust and secure database will mean that your data is kept legally and can be easily accessed should you need to provide the data for a Subject Access Request.

A good database, or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, will improve the efficiency of your business through sales monitoring, enable business growth by helping to find new clients, and help you retain your existing clients. But if you haven’t already got a robust database in place, it can be a minefield trying to understand which is the right one for your business. Over the years, I have worked with many businesses and many different CRMs, and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly! With this in mind, I have put together this list of what I feel are essential to the creation and maintenance of a great CRM system.

Understand your requirements

This step is crucial and will shape the entire process of finding the right CRM for your business. All businesses are different, and what information is vital for one business may be unnecessary to another, so the first step is to understand what you want the CRM to accomplish. What do you need it to do, who will be using it, what and how much information does it need to hold, and what is your budget?

An ideal starting point here would be to create a spreadsheet with all your criteria. I like to use Essential, Negotiable and Bonus for my columns, so I can understand what I absolutely must have and what is non-essential but a ‘nice to have’.

Next, write a list of all features and note how important it is for your system to have it. Setting everything out in an easy to read format will help when it comes to making the important decisions later. Examples of the features you may need are:

  • Customer data management - purchases, prices, activity, and other information

  • Lead management

  • Email tracking

  • Appointments management

  • User access level

  • File storage

  • Project management

  • Stock and inventory levels

  • Event scheduling

  • Social media management

  • Marketing opt-in

  • Reporting & Dashboard

Research your options

When you have defined your criteria, the next step is to look at the options that are available to you. There are hundreds of options, with costs ranging from free, to several hundred pounds so it is important that you choose one that it is appropriate for your business.

Questions you should ask each supplier are:

  • Is it suitable for your size of business?

  • What is the set-up process? Can it be done by you or do you need help to set it up?

  • Will you need training to use it?

  • Will it integrate with other software (this will depend on which other software you use for sales and marketing, invoicing, etc.)

  • Is it desktop or cloud-based?

  • If there is a cost, is it per user, per records, or per functionality?

  • Is it a secure system?

  • Is it GDPR compliant?

The CRM you choose will very much depend on your individual needs. You may be happy to use an excel spreadsheet to record all your client data, or you may need to use a paid-for service to get all the functionality you need. This article from SelectHub can help you decide whether you should use a free or paid-for CRM.

Implement your system and get started

Once you have chosen your system, the next step is to start populating it. It is important that all data fields are filled inaccurately. If you already have a lot of data stored in lots of different places, this can become a very time-consuming task. It might be a good idea to outsource this task to ensure the data is transferred correctly and in good time!

Next, if the CRM you have chosen integrates with other

Your chosen CRM may also require you to have some training to use all of its functionalities. If this is included as part of your package, then make sure you get this booked in straight away. If you have opted for a free CRM, or have chosen a package that doesn’t include training, have a quick look on Google and YouTube to see if there are any free tutorials you can follow. It is much better to get the training done sooner rather than later so you can start using the CRM correctly straight away.

A good CRM can help take your business to the next level. Choose wisely and it will improve efficiency, retention rates and sales. However, it is vital that the CRM is used correctly from day one with accurate data being entered as soon as you receive it and any amendments being recorded immediately. A CRM is an ongoing project, it needs continuous management and use to really see the long-term benefits.

Which CRM to use?

There are literally hundreds of options to choose from whether free or paid CRM, and I must stress that your decision needs to be based on your individual business needs. If you would like help getting started, here are a few that I tend to suggest to clients depending on whether they are Freelancers or SMEs:

Free basic version CRMs offered;

Hubspot

Insightly CRM

Paid only version CRMs (some offering a trial period);

Zoho CRM

SalesForce (Industry leader!)

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Netsuite

When choosing a CRM, remember that they are designed for, and must make your company achieve its ultimate goal by effectively organising in one central place, all the details of your current and prospective customers/clients. In this way, your marketing, sales and services efforts come together and interact better in order to serve, engage and guide your customers and leads. It must be a user-friendly system from which you can extract information easily and promptly, and ensure that no communication has been missed by any of the departments involved.

If you would like to use the services of MoGio to set-up, maintain or manage your businesses CRM, or for any other business support activity, get in touch. You can contact me on 07712 585 299, use the contact form on my website, or email me at info@mogiova.com

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