So you have a revolutionary idea for a new product or service. Perhaps you are bootstrapping it, or possibly have funding already, either way, starting a new business venture can be an exciting, yet daunting proposition.
While it isn’t the most glamorous part of the process, taking the time to set up the right tools and processes to run your new business is a critical step. It is likely that you already have your website or possibly an app under development. However, one tool that is sometimes overlooked at an early stage is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Even if you are still just getting started, creating the right framework for understanding your current and future customers can boost your chances of success.
Modern CRM software is much more than a digital Rolodex. Many CRM platforms contain a suite of complementary tools such as marketing automation and artificial intelligence capabilities to help give you the real-time sales and marketing data to enable you to make the best business decisions.
So what are some of the most compelling reasons for using a CRM?
Collecting and managing leads
Your startup is going to be collecting leads from many different sources that could include sales calls, trade shows, online ads, social media, search engine traffic, and more. Having a central place to collect and manage leads that can be accessed by everyone in your company that needs it is essential to grow your business.
Improving customer experience
Having a customer’s entire history with your company available in one location allows all of your team to do their jobs better and give the customer a better and more personalized experience.
Enhancing efficiency with automation of repetitive tasks
Web forms can add prospects straight to the CRM, emails and calls can be automatically logged for every customer, and personalized email drip campaigns can be created. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what CRM software can offer, and by removing repetitive tasks, your employees can be more productive.
Accurate reporting to make better decisions
By collecting and updating customer data in one central location, stakeholders are able to see real-time reports on the KPIs that matter to your business such as the number of prospects at each stage in a sales pipeline, ROI from online advertising, sales forecasts and more.
Better collaboration between marketing and sales
Most CRM platforms offer the ability to score leads as they move through the sales pipeline. This means that your marketing team can ensure that only the most qualified leads go to your sales team.
What are some considerations when choosing CRM software for your startup?
There are a huge number of CRM software offerings available on the market today with an equally large number of features and price points to fit most needs and budgets. While your budget will certainly be a limiting factor in the CRM software you choose for your startup, there are other important factors that should guide your choice including:
Your planned marketing and sales methods
Different CRM systems have different strengths when it comes to capturing and inputting customer data. If you plan on using content marketing as a significant part of your marketing strategy, then having a system that includes or tightly integrates with marketing automation software will be a good choice for tracking customer behavior on your website. This may be a less valuable feature if you expect to rely on sales staff cold calling for leads.
The number of employees you have now, and expect to have in the future
Most CRM systems charge per user, so if your startup is bootstrapped, then this may become an issue as the number of users increases. Paid CRM software generally starts as low as $<10 per user per month, but can jump in price enormously. Of course, your ROI is always going to be more important than the cost, and the right CRM software for your startup should be helping your business grow.
Where you are located and what privacy laws might affect your business
Data privacy has become big news in recent years, especially in the case of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). By design, CRM software collects personal data from customers, so making sure you are using software that helps you comply with privacy laws, wherever you or your customers are located can help save you from any issues.
What software tools do you already use, or anticipate requiring?
You may already be using essential software for your company, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform. In that case, looking for CRM software that can be integrated smoothly with your ERP system to enable you to get the most out of both while avoiding the pitfalls of duplicate data entry would be a good starting point in your research.
At some point, you may need support for your CRM system, so making sure the solution you choose has a level of support that is suitable to you is important. Free software options generally only offer community support, which may be fine if you have an in-house team with the skills to manage everything.
What are some of the best CRM software options for a startup?
While there are many more options available, we have rounded up a list of some of our favorite CRM tools for startups based on their features, reputation, and pricing options that should cover the spectrum for most new company needs.
Salesforce is marketed as the number one CRM in the world and for good reason. It is flexible enough to work for just about any type of business, and scalable to grow with your company to any size. In addition to its robust feature set, it has the AppExchange marketplace and can also be integrated with many popular software platforms to add almost limitless functionality. Because it is used by a large number of companies, it means that when hiring staff, there is a good chance that they may already be familiar with the software. Its popularity also means that there are companies that are highly experienced with Salesforce platform and can help with all aspects of customizations and integrations to help your startup succeed.
Hubspot is well known for its powerful free CRM software. For bootstrapped startups, this can be a great option to ensure that you are getting the benefit of a CRM system, but don’t yet have the budget to take advantage of more advanced features. For companies heavily invested in online content marketing to drive customer acquisition and sales, the Hubspot ecosystem of premium software products can be an excellent choice. Like Salesforce, Hubspot is a solution that integrates well with many other software solutions and can scale to enterprise.
Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) is a powerful software platform that combines CRM with marketing automation. The company’s original product, Infusionsoft (still available as Keep Max Classic), while being quite powerful, was relatively complex to use. As a result the company built a more streamlined and easy to use CRM product, and rebranded as Keap in 2019. Keap is able to automate a lot of the sales and marketing tasks you perform daily without much of a learning curve. Like Hubspot and Salesforce, Keap is extensible through a 3rd party marketplace to add additional features.
LessAnnoyingCRM is different from a lot of the other CRM platforms in that one of its key selling points is its straightforward, low cost pricing model – no different pricing and feature tiers, every user gets the same version of the software. There is a limited number of pre-configured software integrations available, however, an API is available for creating other custom integrations should you need it. The feature set is solid and offers a good view of the sales pipeline, but you are not getting advanced features like powerful automation or AI. The customer support is well regarded and they offer easy exporting of your data should you wish to migrate to another platform.
Assuming that CRM software is only for more established companies would definitely be an oversight when launching your business. The right CRM software for your startup will help you automate repetitive tasks and save time, improve collaboration between sales and marketing, and gather the data you need to make the best business decisions. Most importantly, it will help you to truly understand your customers and keep them happy – possibly becoming the difference between a startup that succeeds and one that doesn’t.