10 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Small Business CRM


10 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Small Business CRM


By: Kevin LaManna, OurHelix, Co-Founder & President

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and embark on the hype of a customer relationship management system. If you’ve done that, you know enough to understand the ROI of such a feat. Now, you’re swimming through the depths of the web trying to figure out which CRM to purchase and what does what. Here’s a list of 10 things to keep in mind when trying to figure out the best fit for your business. 

1)  Open source or commercial 

Open source software is software that you have access to the core code to modify, customize or distribute under the same license. There are several open source CRMs out there; the biggest being SugarCRM Community Edition. Open source code is freely distributed, but can often be costly to maintain, customize or integrate with your existing systems. On the other hand, open source CRMs can save a lot of money on licenses since you wouldn’t be paying a company on a per-license basis. Some of the world’s best code has been derived Commercial CRMs are a bit more straightforward. There’s most likely a customization fee as well as per-license fees. Most commercial CRM options are hosted and fully supported, so if you don’t have a technology resource or team, this is the way to go. 

There are also options in-between; so open source options that are customized, but hosted and maintained by a commercial provider. This is more of a hybrid approach. 

2)  Ongoing fees and maintenance 

CRM fees can be nightmarish. Average CRM fees can run a business $30-40 a month, and many organizations simply cannot afford that type of investment. OurHelix is an option that doesn’t charge on a licensing basis, so there are never any surprises, and they’ll do all of the customization (including a site redesign so the CRM is actually part of the solution). 

3)  Integration 

Integration can be extremely costly. Businesses want their systems to play nice together, and since every workflow is different, seamlessly integrating the CRM into the rest of the technology stack must be a priority. In an ideal world, the site’s content management system and the CRM is the same thing, so there’s only one platform to support versus supporting multiple products and services.
For the nonprofit world, CiviCRM is a great option to look at that’s integrated with the site itself. The site and the CRM are literally bundled up together, making it highly customized and easier to maintain. 

4)  User Experience and CRM 

Put yourself in the chair of an unknown potential customer. How do they hear about you? What’s the first thing they see when going to their site? How do they tell you they exist, and how do you follow-up with them and convert them into a paying customer? If any point along this experience is less-than-stellar, then you’re risking lowering your conversion rate. A solid conversion rate is 3%, but that can obviously depend based about your industry. 

5)  What’s the hook? 

Small business CRMs should be loaded with potential “hooks.” A hook can be anything that gets the user to leave his or her information in exchange for something. That something should be something of immediate or soon-to-be value to the user. A few examples:

-A user wants to sign up for a free webinar. She leaves her first name, last name and email in exchange for being able to attend the webinar. 

-A user from Facebook sees that a business is offering a free coupon. They go to the business’ site (immersed in the brand instead of Facebook… yay!) and then in order to receive the coupon, they leave their information and immediately receive something of value. -A business decides to repurpose their existing blog content into an e-book. In order to receive the e-book, they leave their information. 

-A simple contact us form. 

-A financial advisory company uses a CRM to have a calculator to show potential customers how much they’re worth in assets. In order to get the score, they must leave their email address. 

These are just a few examples, but you’ll notice that all of the above examples are also strengthening the business as “the expert.” They are the experts to lead the webinar, write the e-book, and come up with the proper calculations. 

The CRM is meant to facilitate, automate and add intelligence to this process, so you can spend more time doing human-things and not tasks that technology can take care of for you. Salesforce is

6)  Usability 

#4 talks about CRM user experience from the end user’s perspective, but what about the users of the CRM itself. A small business CRM must be lean and easy to use. No fat. Nothing. Many small biz CRMs are extremely bloated and have tons of technology that businesses are paying dearly for. This is extremely expensive to maintain. Imagine paying rent on property you don’t use; well, many CRMs are built this way. The more “fat” a CRM has, the more confusing it is for the users to take advantage of it. That’s training time that could be spent on revenue-generating opportunities. Simple and clean; the way small business CRM should be. 

7)  Training, enhancements and other hidden fees. 

When selecting a CRM, always ask about the fee structure. Many CRMs have a per-user cost, but then have pricey hourly rates to do any subsequent training, maintenance. 

8)  Is it growing? 

Looking at the existing stack of features and functionality is important, but also get an idea of the roadmap for new features as well. Is the CRM going to grow with your business or remain stagnant? If you ask the company what their past release schedule for the last 6 months is, this should give you a good idea. 

9)  High-touch or packaged? 

This is the most important (in our very humble opinion) thing to consider. When you’re selecting an account or a doctor, you’re selecting someone that knows you. They have a record of your history, they know your goals, and they know with a level of intimacy about what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. It’s vital that a small business CRM provider also knows your business as well as someone that’s worked there for years. Otherwise, how will they know you will enough to make suggestions for improvement? Most CRMs on the market are packaged; meaning every customer gets the same thing. OurHelix offers a lot of customization that’s built around the business, and not the other way around. They’ll spend hours learning about the business before writing a line of code. 

10)  Social and reporting 

You can’t improve what you can’t measure, so it’s important to have both comprehensive reporting in the CRM as well as how social and web analytics play into that. Sprout Social is a great reporting tool that is extremely clean and easy to read (and their customer service is always super friendly as well). 

This is just a quick checklist of 10 things to consider. The details are far beyond, but hopefully this primer will help weed out the bad and put some focus on the right questions to ask a potential vendor.    

If you found this information helpful, you may also be interested in, CRM Agency Provides Complimentary Services to Small Businesses

Kevin LaManna, OurHelix,  Co-Founder & President

OurHelix is a high-touch digital agency that integrates the web, social and mobile with CRM into marketing platform solutions and campaigns that help businesses obtain more leads and convert them into customers.  We get to know our clients’ brands and businesses, their visions and their goals; then formulate a game-plan that architects the right digital environment and tools to get them there.