Photo Credit - Kokio

A CRM Tool: Another great ‘cloud’ solution

It’s just smart to be organized.

It may seem that we’ve evolved from notes on scrap pieces of paper, but in some cases we’ve simply replaced computers for paper. Good customer record keeping facilitates a host of opportunities. A CRM (customer relationship management) tool that’s affordable, easy to manage will not only keep company records organized and current but generate new leads.

In the past, CRMs used to be overly complicated and cost prohibitive for smaller businesses. They weren’t user-friendly and required an enormous amount of computer memory and tech know-how to operate.

Now web-based or cloud solutions are introducing simple CRM tools. And there are lots of great reasons to turn to the cloud over purchasing computer software.

A business doesn’t host a cloud solution so there isn’t a costly upfront software purchase, complicated installation, and storage problem. In most cases the only requirement is to sign up and jump in.

Photo Credit - Kokio
Photo Credit | Kokio

Most CRM web-based solutions are progressive – so you can start out small and figure things out as you go along. It’s no longer necessary to know every long-term requirement before purchasing. Initial sign-ups, often free, offer a number of great features. Then as business needs grow it’s easy to migrate to a more advanced level or just purchase the products you need.

In today’s mobile world, security and accessibility are critical. Web based programs encrypt data often with a higher level of security than some company back-ups. Companies that depend on the travelling sales staff will appreciate open ended time and location access. Say nothing of marketing opportunities.  Imagine entering sales leads at a trade show via mobile device.

Shopping for a web-based CRM tool can be confusing.  Start out with this checklist to help establish priorities and needs. Anyone of these could be more important than the others for a particular business – and any one might be a breaking point.

What does your business require from a CRM tool?

> Does it integrate with your current office and online properties? Is it simple to important data from a company website or Outlook Express?

> Will the tool perform basic online marketing functions such as creating email newsletters?

> Is it simple to import and export data?

> What is the reporting functionality?

> What kind of encryption and security features are provided?

> How many users are allowed?

> How much storage space is allotted per account? And it’s worth noting not just MG but number of records.

> Is it compatible with mobile devices? It might be wise to ask if the CRM calendar will synch with the Blackberry or iPhone.

> What does the dashboard look like? Is it simple or will it consume too many hours and take away from other projects?

> How soon will you require the next level?

There are several well established online CRM tools both paid and free. A quick Google Search will garner numerous results. If you are looking strictly for free tools check out Zoho CRM and Free CRM. If you are looking for something robust and don’t mind a monthly charge, start with salesforce or Infusionsoft.

Initially, investigating and setting up a CRM tool will require an investment of time and dollars. But it’s ‘initial pain for long term gain’ considering the benefits.

~Heather

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like to read:
Generating Leads From Your Website – December 2012
Send In the Clouds – September 2012

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