How to choose a CRM

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Four Steps to Choosing a Contact Database Management System for Your Organization

Joan’s a volunteer with a non-profit organization that keeps an unwieldy list of supporters and stakeholders on a messy set of spreadsheets. Peter is the administrator of a start-up business whose client base is quickly growing, and he recognizes the need to be in touch with customers on a regular basis. Louise is in charge of sales and marketing for a larger company that has developed a contact database that includes thousands of records, but she is not satisfied with the functionality of the company’s current Customer Relationship software and would like to be able to manage staff and supplier lists as well.

What might any of the above managers do, faced with the challenge of choosing a contact database system to fill the specific needs of their operation? How on earth might they make this important decision, selecting from dozens of available options? Why, we guess they would start with an online search, of course! But sifting through more than 8 million results (with many at the top of the list being paid advertising) might be just a little daunting for any knowledgeable manager. Some of the content may actually be useful but the sheer volume of information and advice can be overwhelming.

Here are a few tips to help your company define its contact database management needs and find the best CRM solution that will help managers categorize and prioritize their business contacts, as well as monitor relationships with previous, current, and prospective clients and customers and stakeholders. 

Step One: Define your company’s requirements for contact management. Outline the likely users, their skill level, the expectation for managing and manipulating the data, and of course the ultimate success measure that will be used to evaluate the customer relationship tool in the end result. 

Itemize the features that are necessary for the company and the “nice-to-have” add-ons. For example, will it be used only for contact recordkeeping by the administrator, or will your company expect to add or change users, view statistics, create contact groups, manage campaigns and lock or unlock login accounts?

Step Two: Define a budget. For smaller operations a basic system may fulfill all the necessary contact management needs and an affordable price point is paramount. For instance, a small business or non-profit organization without a huge database of contacts may do very well with a simplified system that streamlines processes without complicating the lives of the volunteers or over-stressed multi-tasking staff. 

A mid-sized company may already be using a system, but is looking for additional features that will pay off in terms of efficiencies in visitor management and communication with partners and customers. The well-priced Contact Boss Pro or Premium version should easily pay for itself in the first year of use.  

A larger business that expects to generate revenue directly from its new and improved customer relationship system will be willing to invest more in purchasing a CRM that can perform more complicated analyses, providing sales managers with details on customers’ contact history, purchase patterns and general preferences. The more you know about your customers the greater the customer satisfaction level, which surely leads to increased revenue. A smoothly efficient contact database management system will support your company with more targeted marketing campaigns. Contact Boss can  handle all of the above and in addition has filter features that support the organization and categorization of visitors, staff and supplier lists into useful groups. 

Also be sure to check to see if there are any additional fees related to the purchase and set-up of the CRM. Find out how many users can access the system before additional fees are applied, and be sure to ask for a free trial. 

Step Three: Assess usability. It’s commonly agreed that a CRM is only effective if its users willingly embrace and adopt the tool. All too often a contact database management system is selected and purchased without the input of the people who will be entering and manipulating records on a day-to-day basis. Without doubt, usability is a key component of every effective contact database management system. Contact Boss for example is a simple-to-use CRM database management system with intuitive functions that requires a minimal amount of training. 

Because staff from all divisions and levels of the company may need to access the system, it must be very user friendly.  Find out what the learning curve could look like and what kind of customer support is available from the CRM software provider especially during onboarding. Is the system able to be customized for your operation? How challenging will the set-up and data transfer be? When looking at a CRM decide if it will easily integrate with other applications you regularly use such as email newsletter software. Don’t forget to test the system on mobile platforms, as we know staff are often on the move when trying to keep up with customers! 

If you host a number of events, would this system ensure your event invitation and RSVP process goes smoothly and that you will be able to easily optimize the contacts? Contact Boss offers a system that easily handles event registration, simplifying followup. 

Sometimes overlooked, but well worth evaluating is the searchability of the database. Valuable time is often wasted as staff make futile searches looking for specific customer contact records. The new contact database management software, Contact Boss, can find your contact by searching your detailed notes, date of entry, where you met the contact, company name etc.  Above all be sure to set up a thorough demonstration of the software and include as many relevant staff as necessary. Through this hands-on “test drive” you and your team will soon know if it is the tool that best suits your team members and fills your company needs.  At Contact Boss, you can request a free demo as well as a free one-month trial.

Step Four: Assess the security features of the CRM.  Stories of data breaches have become commonplace – the impact of such events can be extremely serious.  Contact Boss has developed a checklist that will help you ensure that your data is protected and that internal processes are both secure and compliant with international guidelines.

It’s a big step, making the move to a contact database management system or upgrading to a new system, but if you do your homework and carefully consider all the important factors, you can ensure that the choice you make will serve your needs at an affordable price, satisfy the day-to-day users and safely protect your valuable contact records.


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A consummate communicator, Carol Horne has undertaken a variety of content creation projects over the past few decades. She supplied, assigned and edited copy for the majority of Tourism PEI’s consumer content. She led the marketing team at Confederation Centre where she developed marketing and communications strategies to enhance awareness and generate revenue for the theatre, gallery, restaurant and gift shop. In her role as Chief Marketing Officer she oversaw the development and execution of marketing, graphic design, social media, communications and PR, sales, development and guest services activity plans. As manager of the Canadian Tourism Commission’s online media centre and the US consumer E-Newsletter she was in charge of creating and curating Canada’s tourism promotion content.

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