When you manage a small business, efficiency can often mean the difference between success and failure. You want to grow, but to grow you need more customers. To get more customers you need to source leads. Once the leads are sourced, you need to make sure you are marketing to them in the right way, and then following them up once contact has been made to pursue a sale. Once you have the sale, you then of course need to do the work, or sell the product.
The cycle is continuous, and keeping up with it can often be exhausting. For most business owners who have recently started, all of the above is done in their heads, or else written down on pieces of paper that inevitably go missing. Time is wasted by having to constantly look up emails, or remember phone calls, and money lost when leads are not followed up or forgotten.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can help to alleviate this stress and create a more streamlined process to running your business. All SME’s will have different requirements for what exactly they would like their CRM system to do for them. For this reason, we have narrowed down our list to the four products that we believe are best suited to small business needs. Simple to use, inexpensive, and above all features that help you to concentrate on your business.
We start with the ever popular, Insightly. This is a CRM system specifically designed for the very smallest of small businesses. Highly intuitive and easy to use, it initially offers very basic features to get you underway. Integrating a CRM isn’t always simple, and it takes time for it to become part of your routine. Insightly makes this process easy.
Insightly offers everything you would expect of a CRM. You have the ability to manage leads and document contact information, set up projects and track their progress and even keep track of the social media profiles attached to the email addresses you input for your clients. Most importantly, perhaps, is that Insightly is free for up to two users. This gives you the basic package, then, as the company grows, you begin to start paying for additional users and can unlock added features that suit the requirements of a larger organisation.
Less Annoying CRM
As the name suggests, Less Annoying CRM, focusses primarily on being a stress-free, simple to use system. There is nothing complex about what LACRM offers. Instead, you are given a series of short video clips that run through everything you need to know, from importing contact details from a spreadsheet, to syncing your calendar with Google.
LACRM also offer you the opportunity to create variations of what they call a ‘pipeline’. To begin with, you are given one for leads. This enables you to assign a status to a contact, that lets you know where you stand with them, and helps you group them together with others who are a ‘Prospect’ or ‘Qualified Lead’. You can create any pipeline you like, making this a highly flexible system for small business who may look to track a Project as well as a Lead. The price? £7.50 per user, per month.
Zoho is another hugely popular CRM. More advanced than the previous two, it is nonetheless still suitable for both small and medium sized businesses. The best thing about Zoho is its automation. It can be programmed to assign leads and send follow up reminders automatically if given specific criteria. This offers an added level of efficiency that gives it a decent edge.
Although still under the category of a CRM for SMEs, this particular software does work better for larger teams. This is thanks in part to the automation, but also the fact that you can so easily integrate with other business software that the organisation may use. This is another free option, this time up to 10 users with limited functionality.
This particular software is installed on your computer, whereas the others are cloud based. This gives not only added speed, but also added security if you are particularly robust with your own protection.
Act! ultimately does the job of bringing all of your activities together into a centralised location. You can store spreadsheets, documents and notes together, with customer and prospect information. You can also integrate with email campaigns, and track interactions from a simple, pleasant looking interface. Although you can begin with a free trial, this is the most expensive option of the group. You are asked to either pay a one-off cost of $199.99, or a monthly cost of $25.00 per user.
All of the CRMs above offer a trial period to new subscribers, so we recommend you try them all! There are huge benefits to using a CRM system to grow your business, but only if you are committed to getting the most from it. Once you have chosen a platform, stick with it. As we have said, it does take time get into a routine, so why not ask a Virtual Assistant (VA) to help get you started? By inputting all the required data on your behalf, and setting up the criteria for leads and projects, it becomes a simple process to incorporate the CRM into your schedule. Once you have, the difference in efficiency, and financially, can be staggering.