By CommenceCRM

A Three Step Approach for Differentiating CRM Software

Selecting a CRM software solution for your business does not have to be a grueling exercise or require months of analysis.  Believe me, it’s not as hard as you think if you know how and where to focus your time.  This three step approach will help you to determine what type or category of CRM solution you should be looking for in just minutes – I promise.  This paper is a three part series starting with an introduction and discussion of the first step in the three step approach.

google top crm vendors

First, and I know this may sound strange, forget about consultant reviews or Google searches you may have done for the top CRM or best CRM systems.  Vendors pay for these reviews, for Google listings and for their position on these search pages. So when you see a particular company listed in the first few positions on the page this simply means they paid more than the other vendors.  Some people are comfortable with this and will simply select two to three of the top vendors listed and make a decision for one of them.  If you feel that this is a good way to select the best solution for your business that’s fine, but stop here.  My three step approach won’t help you.

There is an interesting correlation between the CRM sector and the automobile industry in the following way.  They both have a targeted audience (or profile of the company or person they want to sell to).  Ferrari for example, has a targeted audience and so do General Motors and Kia. The CRM sector is no different and just like the automobile industry the products and value added services they offer have been designed and priced for a specific audience.

Of course every vendor will claim to have a solution for you regardless of your size or requirements. But if you analyze the myriad of CRM solutions that are available today they almost always fall into one of three categories:

1)      Small business solutions

2)      Mid-market products

3)      Enterprise solutions

Step 1  – The 3 Classifications of CRM Solutions

The first step in this process is to know thy-self.  Take a moment to fully understand your business and what you are really trying to achieve then document it.  You’ll see why in a few minutes.  This does not have to look like the yellow pages or incorporate every detail.

I suggest listing the top three challenges you are looking to address.  Perhaps it’s simply data consolidation so that you have a sharable customer data base. Maybe you want to incorporate a structured methodology or process for managing leads and the sales cycle. Maybe it’s much more.  It does not matter — just get it down on paper so that you can match your objectives to one of the three categories above.

Let’s take a brief look at each one of the three categories.

Small Business CRM

CRM solutions that cater to the small business community offer basic functionality and are often referred to as out-of-the-box solutions”.  The term “out of the box” simply means what you see is what you get.  There is a core set of functionality, but little more and there is nothing wrong with this.  These are self-service commodity products that are inexpensive and perfect for the start-up company or small business that simply wants to manage contacts, add activities and notes, tag e-mails and perhaps view a sales pipeline.

Small business CRM offerings may be purchased over the internet.  You put your credit card in and you are ready to go.  Don’t expect too much in the way of customization however.  You may be able to add a few custom fields, but you are not going to get security or role permissions, full search capabilities, ad hoc reporting or analytics at this level. And you can’t simply call and talk with a representative about your specific business requirements.  Customer service is traditionally only available via e-mail.

Mid-Market CRM

For companies that need more than account management and a sales forecast there are several good mid-market products offering functionality that rivals many of the more costly enterprise solutions. Unlike the out-of-the-box solutions described above, these solutions allow for a high level of customizability and an array of value added services that help you realize the maximum value from the solution.  Mid-market CRM solutions traditionally offer a suite of applications including robust sales and lead management, marketing campaign management, customer support, a document library, quoting, project management, analytical reporting and the ability to integrate data with other third party solutions.

These products are traditionally offered in different versions so you can start small and add functionality as needed. They are designed for companies that are serious about improving how they market, sell and provide services to their customers.  You will need to take ownership of them and assign an in-house system administrator to work in conjunction with the solution provider.  These are not programs that you buy over the internet and they traditionally require an annual agreement for utilization.

Enterprise CRM

Enterprise CRM systems are obviously designed for large corporations, and large companies traditionally have comprehensive and complex requirements.  Many are multi-national which means they require multi-language and multi-currency support, scalability to several thousand users, comprehensive security and role permissions and a system architecture built for high performance and high transaction levels.  Integration with third party solutions such as accounting and EFP systems is a must have, and so are value added services for global implementation support, system development services, system integration, disaster recovery and more.  This is a whole different level of product and support services than outlined above.  So if you are a large or multi-national corporation, your selection of product category is easy.  You need an Enterprise CRM system.

Now that you have a good understanding of the three classifications of CRM software take a moment to review the requirements you wrote down and compare them to the three categories above.  At this point you will have narrowed down your search to a “category” of CRM providers, but we have more work to do.

In Step 2 of the report we are going to take a look at something most people pay little attention to – the quality of the cloud hosted service provided by the CRM vendor and how their platform can ensure high reliability and system performance.

Image “Mama Bear, Pappa Bear, and Baby Bear” by HiddenJester on Flickr under Creative Commons license.