What kind of address book do you use?
Do you use a rolodex, a spiral-bound notebook, or even a series of scrawled post-it notes!? Or are you at least organized and modern enough to rely on software like your email contacts, online apps or LinkedIn?
Have you ever considered how vital the data you keep in there is? After all, scattered across your memory, some software and several apps is all your client data and your business contacts.
So why, if it’s so valuable, is it so poorly organized? Think about it.
Even if you’ve integrated it all into one place, like your email server, it’s pretty hard to get a good overview of what’s going on. Basically, you can search through it based on first and last name, their company and keywords.
And if it isn’t integrated, have you ever thought about how much time you waste switching between your different platforms figuring out who said what to who?
What is Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM)?
Imagine if instead it was all connected into a cohesive whole, where you’ve got such options as finding out:
- Where you are in the client process and how close you are to a deal.
- Who else is in their team — so that you call Bob if Mary isn’t available.
- Who in your company has had contact with them and what they said when they did.
- Where and what they like to eat and drink! Seriously.
- What they posted on their Facebook and LinkedIn feeds.
- When somebody in your company is next going to reach out to them.
- What current contracts you’ve got with them and their competitors.
- Whether the price package you offered is actually profitable compared to other situations where you’ve done this kind of business.
- And so much more.
And what if that software also unified your data with all the other people in your company, so that it was all available in one place and when they learn something new, so do you.
Congratulations, you’ve just successfully imagined Customer Relationship Management Software (or CRM, for short).
The key letter in that acronym is the ‘R’ – for relationships are the key to modern business.
The different types of CRM
There are in effect three different kinds of CRM. Those are: Communication CRMs, sales CRMs, and Contact CRMs.
Communications CRM are all about streamlining internal and external communication.
To this end, they’re a bit like an email service and an internal social media server, so that everybody knows who is doing what in a company.
A good example of this is Salesforce. Check out this informative video:
(They cost $25 per user, per month for the basic package).
Sales or ‘pipeline’ CRMs help you know where you’re at with your different clients, what needs to get done and who needs to do it.
A good example of this is Pipedrive.
They, too, have a good video that explains how they work:
(They cost $24 per user, per month at the basic package).
And finally, Contact CRMs are the most like the email service that you probably use now, but they are more integrated with other apps and social media.
Check out Insightly’s video to get a better idea about this type of CRM:
(They are free if you’ve got less than 2 people and cost $12 per month for the basic package)
Please note, that I’m not trying to directly endorse these CRMs. They just happen to have decent videos that explain the different CRMs processes.
Most of the other CRMs I looked at demonstrate once again why your marketing should never be done by your development team.
So yes, there are many different types of CRM and, in fact, every single CRM does things a little bit differently. As, atlhough they have the same general idea, the model in which it’s executed does vary greatly.
If you’re thinking this is like VHS and Betamax all over again (or DVD vs. Blu-ray!), then you’re pretty accurate.
What should you use?
Well, there are a lot of factors to consider.
What do you need it for?
As outlined above there’s thee different directions that CRMs take.
How much are you willing to pay?
Their prices vary a great deal as well. Some, like Sage, for the most basic level will cost you back $39 per employee.
Others, like Zoho are free up to 10 employees. Of course, they’d argue that you get what you pay for. You’ll have to find out the truth your yourself and, like with most investments, your mileage may vary.
What I will say is that the different types of CRM are priced differently, with the more involved communications CRMs and Sales CRMs on average more expensive, while the Contacts CRMs are more modestly priced.
Also, with the internet being what it is, there are a lot of comparison websites out there. Here are just a few to help you get started in your search for the perfect CRM:
How big is your company?
Different CRMs are focused on different sized companies. For businesses with fewer employees, Business Week Daily did a detailed review and decided that Salesforce was best for small business (you and a few).
Whilst they found that Unsightly was great for tiny (you and your cat) businesses, and Zoho for those that needed to watch the pennies.
A further recommendation and something that’s fairly new on the market. Studio Ninja offers a videographer / photographer aimed product that solves a lot of the problems we talk about here.
At $29.95 (in Australia dollars!) it fits in the middle of the pack price wise, but it’s a really solid video production-centric solution that might be exactly what you need.
Go forth and experiment
Most importantly, once you’ve settled on a few, sign up and give them a try! You can read about it as much as you like, but if you don’t try it you won’t really understand CRMs.
Also, since they’re all so different you’ve got to find the one that fits you and your unique requirements.
Almost all of the CRM options we’ve discussed here offer some form of free trial. So trying before you buy, without costing you a cent, has never been easier. Often you don’t even need to give credit card details. So really, nothing is holding you back from giving this a shot!
One piece of advice, when you try it out: Really try it out. Don’t hold back and put the software through its paces. Press every button, try every slider. After all, you want to make absolutely certain it won’t break down on you when you need it most. And the best way to do that is to try and “break it” when you’re just in the testing stage.
As they say, ‘an intelligent person can get out of problems that a wise person would never have let themselves get into.’ And in this case, wisdom is pretending you’re seven years old and you just got your hands on your dad’s new gadget.
Go on, see what that button does!
I hope this article on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions was informative and useful in helping you choose a CRM that fits you and your needs. Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions, thoughts or feedback. I’d especially be interested to hear if you have any tried-and-tested suggestions for other CRMs to add to this list.
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