8 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Small Business CRM

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Chicago CRM agency, OurHelix, provides questions that a small business should ask any vendor when selecting a customer relationship management system (CRM).

A CRM is meant to facilitate, automate and add intelligence so you can spend more time doing human-things and not tasks that technology takes care of.

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and embark on the hype of a customer relationship management system. 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 9 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; one of 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. 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.

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.

4)    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 CRM is meant to facilitate, automate and add intelligence so you can spend more time doing human-things and not tasks that technology takes care of. Salesforce is an extremely robust CRM that can fulfill the most complicated workflows.

5)    Usability
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.

6)    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, fixes, enhancements or general maintenance.

7)    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. If you ask the company what their past release schedule for the last 6 months is, this should give you a good idea.

8)    High-touch or packaged?
When you’re selecting a doctor, you’re selecting someone that knows you. They have a record of your history and they know your goals. 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.

This is just a quick checklist of 8 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.

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