Choosing CRM Software: a Complete Guide for Businesses Looking for CRM Platforms

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    Customer Relationships Management (CRM) solutions have evolved from spreadsheets and databases to complex software that helps automate both customer-facing and operational business processes.

    This modern CRM software can significantly enhance growth by streamlining lead generation and sales processes and boost retention by enhancing customer service. Therefore, choosing the right CRM system is an important milestone in every company’s life. Considering how complex and diverse such solutions have gotten, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact tool to support your business.

    In this article, we explain how to choose the best CRM for your business, show what features to look for, and highlight pricing models that foster cost-efficient choices.

    How to Choose CRM Software?

    The following steps will help you determine the features and characteristics of the perfect CRM for your business

    1. Define your objectives, business requirements, and challenges

    To understand your business requirements, cooperate with customer-facing teams to round up customer relationship management use cases. Gather the challenges these teams face when interacting with prospects and clients and consider how these challenges can be solved with a CRM solution.

    Identify which business operations could be automated – among them simple routine actions or the tasks that require data processing.

    Here’s a common example: let’s say your sales pipeline is littered with old and irrelevant leads and the sales representatives have to comb through them to find valid prospects. Lead scoring and filtering provided by CRM systems could help solve this problem and streamline your sales operations.

    In addition to brainstorming with the front-office teams and business analysts, you can look through the success studies of digital transformation from various industries to see what challenges other companies solve with the help of CRM solutions.

    2. Define your budget

    CRM systems offer different pricing structures, influenced by factors such as the number of users using the software, deployment method (cloud-based or on-premise), and additional features. Moreover, there can be additional costs that come with implementation and user training, either in terms of money or time spent on these activities. To learn more about CRM costs, refer to the “What Does CRM Software Cost” section of the article.

    Before committing, research various CRM providers to grasp their pricing models. Factor in your long-term investment strategy, accounting for the growth trajectory that you envision.

    3. Ensure scalability and customization

    As the number of customers and operations increases, the CRM software needs the corresponding levels of storage and performance. The system you go with should be able to evolve and grow at the same pace as your company. Make sure you choose a scalable CRM solution to accommodate your growing business.

    4. Prioritize customization

    With customization, you don’t need to change your established sales and service processes to fit the technology; you can adapt the technology to your existing workflows. This greatly expedites the adoption and learning of the new system, ultimately resulting in faster ROI.

    Consider investing in a no-code CRM solution to guarantee easy scalability. No-code development provides limitless scalability and customization by giving you tools to develop features without any technical knowledge. For example, Creatio enables you to build custom workflows, apps, and solutions that support your business operations with simple drag-and-drop features. 

    Creatio CRM screen

    5. Define the functionality scope

    Firstly, choose between B2C and B2B CRM systems – they differ in focus and scope and are not interchangeable in most cases.

    Building on your business objectives and challenges, determine the scope of features your perfect CRM should provide. Here’s a list of functionalities you can expect from a CRM system.

    • Customer 360-degree view, which allows you to see all the data and the history of interactions for an individual customer
    • Collaboration and productivity tools to manage tasks inside different teams and exchange information and documents
    • Business analytics and reporting features that give you a flexible view of Sales and Marketing performance and help optimize the work of employees.
    • Pipeline management tools enable lead capturing, distribution, processing, and handoff combined with opportunity management workflows of different types.
    • Sales forecasting is made possible by data management and machine learning models that enable predictions and reporting.
    • Order and contract management tools include quotation management, product catalogs, order processing, and approval automation.
    • Marketing campaign management tools allow you to design, automate, and execute omnichannel campaigns.
    • Ad management helps run and track digital advertising, complete with performance analytics.
    • Case management tools help customer service specialists automate the process of assigning and tracking issues.
    • The contact center serves as a center of real-time communications and customer data.
    • Knowledge management tools allow customer service teams to build and share access to knowledge bases.
    • Workflow automation supports the activities mentioned above and other business operations such as supply management, hiring, accounting, etc.

      Creatio CRM screen

    In addition to that, the software needs to be user-friendly to facilitate easy adoption in the company. Research the UI and user experience of the CRM systems you’re considering and make sure they are accessible to non-technical specialists.

    Another important characteristic to consider is interoperability meaning the capability of a CRM system to integrate with other services you’re using, such as email clients, messengers, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, and industry-specific software. Additional integrations are often provided through a marketplace, where you can find connectors and apps unavailable in the out-of-the-box version.

    One of the main concerns of any business is security. CRM systems provide security and compliance tools to safeguard customer and organization data from hackers. GDPR and PDPA compliance as well as encryption and Role Based Access Control (RBAC) help ensure the security of the CRM service.

    6. Consider the vendor’s experience in your industry

    CRM systems provide diverse functionalities for organizations, but if your company operates in an industry that requires distinctive automation features, research the vendors’ experience with the businesses in your field.

    Offering industry-specific features such as online delivery tracking or AML compliance tools and industry workflows is not enough; look out for industry-targeted training and learning materials. The implementation experience in your field also ensures that the vendor’s customer service agents understand your challenges and can help you utilize the full potential of the CRM software to solve them.

    7. Choose between on-premise or cloud-based CRM

    Cloud-based CRM vendors store data on the servers offered by cloud providers – these are typically Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Since the servers are located all around the world, vendors can guarantee the best software performance. Moreover, vendors carry our regular security and compliance checks as well as backups to ensure the safety of your data.

    On-premise deployment means the CRM system is installed on customer-owned servers. This way, customers receive full control of application infrastructure and the ability to implement any security and data privacy policies.​ Such deployment ensures direct access to the database, setting up complex integrations, using own certificates, individual reserve and update settings, etc. However, it requires strong security protocols and technical capacity from the customer.

    Some providers offer only one deployment option, usually cloud-based. Others provide both cloud-based and on-premise implementation, and you can choose which type to go with.

    8. Research the vendors’ offers

    Based on the previous steps, compile a list of features and characteristics you require from a CRM system. Start looking at the market’s offers and see which vendors check all your boxes in terms of functionality, scalability, and pricing.

    You can begin the search with Google, but there are some trusted platforms that provide reliable and comprehensive reviews, such as Gartner, G2, TrustRadius, and Capterra. In addition to that, research companies like Gartner and Forrester offer paid industry reports that provide in-depth reviews and rankings of CRM vendors.

    9. Narrow down your options and test-drive your options

    Once you’ve short-listed solutions that suit your requirements, try them out using free trials or during a live demo.

    How to Understand What Functionality You Need?

    CRM systems are primarily targeted at front office teams i.e. Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service.

    Sales teams can benefit from CRM by utilizing their pipeline management features that cover capturing, scoring, and distributing any leads that come into your system. In addition to that, sales executives can utilize sales forecasting tools and analytics to set quotas and track performance. Such CRMs also offer sales productivity tools to manage tasks and facilitate team collaboration.

    Marketers are able to benefit from CRM’s campaign management features including omnichannel campaign automation, content creation tools, and analytics. Marketing CRMs provide a center for all your marketing activities from emails to events and bring all the analytics and data to showcase overall marketing performance. You can easily build, launch, and track marketing campaigns using solely the CRM solution.

    CRM systems are vital for the efficient and quick work of customer service managers. With features like a contact center and automated case management, they are able to respond to customer questions and solve issues much faster. Customer 360 view allows them to see the entire history of interactions in a matter of seconds, which helps personalize customer engagement and spot persisting and recurring issues.

    CRM solutions can also be utilized by back-office teams to automate internal operations. For example, Ringler used Creatio to manage product lines for structured settlements and automate accounting procedures. CRM automation can also streamline the hiring process by automatically scoring and assigning candidates to talent acquisition specialists.

    What Is the Cost of CRM Software?

    Most CRM vendors follow the Software as a Service model, meaning they offer a monthly subscription, the price of which depends on the number of users and features the CRM provides. Typically you pay an accumulated per-user per-month fee. Some providers, for instance, Hubspot, offer a set fee for a specific number of users, but this is uncommon.

    The pricing for SMB solutions usually starts around $10; for Enterprise CRMs the starting point is $20 with higher-priced plans offering more storage, additional features, and advanced customer support. The pricing for the most expensive plans in some cases may surpass $500 per user/month.

    CRM systems are often subject to hidden costs – the complexity of the solutions causes vendors to separate them into different tools and platforms which you need to purchase separately. To avoid overspending, prioritize solutions that are easy to navigate and don’t require additional technologies to fulfill your business requirements. For example, CRM Creatio provides one platform for Sales, Marketing, Service, and business process automation with no additional tools required.

    Moreover, monetary costs are not the only price you pay. CRM systems take time to set up and learn, which can slow down employees’ productivity. By prioritizing ease of implementation and adoption when choosing the CRM, you can ensure that such costs are kept to a minimum.

    Creatio offers composable flexible pricing, which enables you to select suits and user types for your plan to ensure you only pay for the functionality that’s needed.

    The Benefits of No-code CRM Solutions

    Low-code and no-code tools are widely adopted among enterprise CRM vendors. They allow citizen developers i.e. knowledge workers without coding skills to customize the CRM system and add new features. However, the low-code/no-code capabilities widely differ from vendor to vendor.

    No-code approach, on the contrary, provides intuitive UI and drag-and-drop app design to make development easy for anyone. Products like Creatio require only short-term training to empower knowledge workers to build software.

    This approach empowers users to develop the software they utilize, closing the communication gap between users and developers that leads to unsatisfying products and extended development cycles.

    Choose the right CRM software

    In conclusion, selecting the right CRM software for your business involves a systematic approach that considers various factors. By following the step-by-step process provided in this article, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your company's needs and goals.

    Creatio’s one-platform CRM empowers users to automate front-office and back-office operations with ease. Its no-code architecture enables limitless customization and software development, fostering more productive CRM utilization. 

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