Customer relationship management (CRM) software can help your business communicate with and market to customers more effectively.
CRM software for small businesses provides instant access to vital information, helping you target customers with offers or analyse customer data to aid your marketing strategy.
How does small business CRM software work?
Central to every small business CRM system is the customer database. This stores information about your customers - their names, addresses, social media details, what they've bought, when you last contacted them and so on - so whoever answers the phone has access to all the relevant details.
CRM software enables you to segment and analyse this data. For instance, your best customers (those who spend the most, order frequently or have been with you longest) might deserve special treatment and can be more easily found.
Small business CRM software will also include a contact manager, allowing you to log every customer contact. This means customers don't need to repeat information when they call.
Is CRM software right for your business?
CRM software is most beneficial to small businesses with a wide product range and customer base that is contacted frequently.
Depending on the CRM package you choose, implementing a CRM system can be a big project, so there are some circumstances where full-blown CRM software is overkill:
- If you make simple, one-off sales, tracking customer contacts might be unimportant. For instance, a used car dealership might only sell to the same customer once every five years.
- If you have few customers, you may be able to track them using a simple spreadsheet. For instance, a graphic designer with ten clients can probably keep tabs on them manually.
If you run a small company, good CRM software will boost customer satisfaction by ensuring you contact customers at the right time, with the right information.
What types of small business CRM software is available?
There are three main types of CRM software:
- Cloud CRM software like Really Simple Systems and Salesforce are subscription services. You pay a monthly fee to access your CRM system via a web browser. It's a form of cloud computing and a great way to get the benefits of CRM software wherever you happen to be, without the need for expensive on-site hardware.
- Standalone CRM software runs on a single computer and can cost as little as £20 for a single user. These days, however, it plays second fiddle to the more popular cloud-based alternatives.
- Server-based customer relationship software runs from a central server. To set one up may require new hardware plus the software - budget at least £1,000 for a ten-person company. However, just like standalone CRM software, server-based alternatives are fast giving way to cloud services.
It's important to determine what you want from your CRM system from the outset. Your IT supplier will be able to help you identify the right software for your needs. It is also worth checking out CRM software reviews.
Make sure you think about how you might want to expand your small business CRM software in future. You may also be able to connect your CRM system to other business systems (such as your telephone or email system), to log calls or contact details automatically.
Need CRM software? We can help!
We have taken the guesswork out of buying CRM. See our top picks
Best free package
HubSpot | Free version, starter CRM from £45 per month | Popular free tool offers plenty of functionality
Best for small businesses
Capsule | £12 - £36 per user per month (free starter package up to 250 contacts) | Modern, simple and competitively priced
Best for sales
Pipedrive | £14.90 - £79.90 per user per month (free 14-day trial) | Optional lead generation tools add real strength
Best for customer service
Zendesk | £15 - £79 per user per month (free trial available) | Strong customer support offering
Best for power users
Freshsales | £12 - £55 per month (free version available) | Family of powerful tools for growing businesses