If you run a business, then you need a tool to help you manage, track and organise all communications with customers and potential customers. That tool is called a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. 

There are a lot of CRM’s to choose from. And not all CRM’s are created equal. 

This can make it incredibly difficult to choose which one is right for your business. Luckily, I’m here to help, providing you with a guide to the features and other important factors you need to take into consideration when determining which CRM is right for your business. 

What is an all-in-one sales and marketing CRM?

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is software that enables effective customer relationship management. However, this is a fairly broad product category that encompasses a wide variety of collaborative, operational and analytical tools. 

Not all CRM’s have sales and marketing capabilities. In the same way that not all email marketing tools are CRM’s. 

For example, Mailchimp is not a CRM. Mailchimp is an email marketing platform that allows you to collect, store and manage email addresses and then send targeted marketing emails to those addresses. It does have some marketing automation. But it doesn’t have CRM capabilities. Therefore it is not an ideal solution for most businesses. 

An all-in-one sales and marketing CRM refers to software that businesses use to manage interactions with current and prospective customers, store information about them, and automate some of the sales and marketing processes throughout the customer lifecycle.

It encompasses customer data, email marketing and marketing automation features. It’s when you put all three of these components together that you can start streamlining and automating your digital marketing processes and activities. This results in better organisation, increased efficiency, improved lead nurturing, more sales, higher customer satisfaction, and increased profitability.

Implementing an all-in-one CRM within your business can help you replace the multitude of spreadsheets, databases and apps that you no doubt have patched together to track client data.

Imagine how much easier that would make your life…

Benefits of an all-in-one CRM

There are many benefits of incorporating all your sales and marketing activities and data within the one system, including:

  • Centralised database of information
  • Higher productivity and efficiency
  • Improved customer segmentation and personalisation
  • Manage communications with prospective leads
  • Better customer service
  • Scale your sales process
  • Increased sales
  • Improved customer retention
  • Improved data insights and analytics
  • More accurate sales forecasting
  • Streamlined internal communications

Deciding on the best all-in-one CRM for your business

The is no ‘one’ all-in-one CRM that is best for every business. The system that is right from you is going to depend upon:

Your stage of business

If you’re early on in your business journey, you may not need (or be able to afford) all the bells and whistles. Therefore, it will be important that you choose a system that has all the features you require right now, with the ability to add more functionality and capacity down the track as required. 

Your existing tool

The switching costs between CRMs can be quite high, so if you’re already using a tool, then you may need to weigh up the benefits of a new system against the cost of switching. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, so if you’re switching tools, make sure you thoroughly research the best tool for your business and make the switch ‘before’ your current tool starts holding you back. 

Your ‘must have’ features

These can vary from business to business. Use the list of features to consider below to help you determine what features you can’t live without in your all-in-one CRM. 

Your ‘nice to have’ features

I am yet to find a tool that does absolutely everything I need to do in my business ‘all in the one system’. But that’s OK, as I still have tools for everything that needs to be done. It’s likely that some of the things you would love to have in your CRM don’t exist in your chosen ‘all-in-one’ CRM. And sometimes that’s better anyway, as for some important functions it’s better to have a purpose designed tool for that, rather than a jack-of-all trades tool, that might not be best in class for that specific operation. The important thing is that your ‘all-in-one’ CRM includes your ‘must have’ features and if it can include some of your ‘nice to have’ features as well, then that’s a bonus. 

They type of business you have

If you have an ecommerce business, then having an all-in-one CRM that includes a sales pipeline and ability to book appointments wouldn’t be as high a priority. Whereas these features are more likely to be on your ‘must have’ list if you’re a service provider. As an e-commerce business, might be OK with using Shopify as your CRM and just need an email marketing platform, with strong email marketing automation, that plays well with Shopify. 

The ecommerce platform are you using (if any)

If you have an ecommerce store, such as Shopify, then you’re going to need to choose a platform that integrates well with Shopify. If you don’t have an ecommerce platform, but would like to be able to sell online, then you may need to find a CRM that has a sales component to it, such as the ability to create quotes, invoices, checkout forms and payment processing.

The other tools you need your CRM to integrate with

Consider the other digital tools you’re using in your business. Is there a direct integration between the CRM and your main business tools, or can you used a third party integration tool, like Zapier to get them talking to each other. 

Level of customisation required

Some CRMs have little or no customisation. You want to check out what the system allows you to customise in terms of layout, custom fields, branding, automations, sales pipelines or any other key features you are likely to want to be able to change from how it is delivered out of the box. 

Your tech competency

If you’re not very comfortable when it comes to tech, then you’re probably better off with a system that is very intuitive, easy to navigate and uses a lot of templates, recipes and drag and drop functionality. Learning resources and tech support are also going to be features high up on your ‘must have’ list. 

Time, money or other resources available to invest in setup and learning

No matter how intuitive a system is, there is always going to be a learning curve and set up time required whenever you start using a new system. If you don’t have the resources to invest in this, then you’re going to need a simple system that can get you up and running quickly. 

The number of contacts you have (and plan to have)

Most CRM’s incorporate the number of contacts you have in your system as part of their pricing structure. Don’t get caught out with those systems that have a ‘freemium’ or ‘low cost’ starter option if you don’t have many contacts, as often their pricing goes through the roof as the number of contacts in your system increases. Consider pricing based on where you expect your business to be in a few year’s time, not where it is now. Otherwise, you may be forced down the track to make a decision between high monthly software fees or the high cost of switching. 

Number of team members that require access (and level of access)

Even if you’re a solo-entreprenuer, you should still be choosing a system that provides you with more than one user login. This is important if you gain a team member or choose to outsource anything to do with your CRM, as you won’t want to give them your ‘Admin’ keys to the house. You want to be able to provide them with their own login details, preferably with limited access so that they can’t bring down your business by deleting your data or changing your login details and effectively taking off with the keys. 

What is your budget

Your budget should always be a consideration, but it’s important that you see this as an investment in your business, rather than just as a cost. If you’ve chosen well, invested time in your learning, set the  system up effectively and are using it as part of your daily business-as-usual activities, then it should be paying for itself through it’s contribution to increases efficiency and profitability of your business.  

Features to consider in your all-in-one CRM

These are the features that I consider to be ‘must haves’ in any all-in-one sales and marketing CRM:

  • Contacts
  • Email broadcast
  • Automations/Campaigns
  • Forms
  • Sales Integration
  • Reporting
  • Integrations
  • Deliverability
  • Privacy and compliance
  • Domain verification
  • User permissions
  • Support

Other CRM features you may wish to consider are:

From the above list, it’s only landing pages, SMS and languages that don’t also make it to my ‘must have’ list.

Another big thing to consider when choosing a CRM is the company itself. How long have they been around, how are they funded, what is their reputation, how often do they update their software, what’s the process for suggesting updates as a user, is there an active user group you can tap into? 

Whilst I am usually first in line to get my hands on a lifetime deal for a piece of software that shows potential, I wouldn’t usually jump in boots and all for a too-good-to-be-true deal for my CRM. 

Your all-in-one CRM will be one of the (if not THE) most important tool in your business. Therefore, you need to ensure that you’re investing in a company that is likely to be around for the longterm and growing it’s features and functionality in advance of when your business requires them. 

Which CRM platforms should I shortlist?

There are a lot of factors (as mentioned above) that go into choosing the best CRM for your business. But I am going to focus on two main factors for now. Those being stage of business and type of business.

If you’re in absolute start-up, with minimal resources and are unlikely to be making enough money from your business to be able to afford your preferred all-in-one CRM, then you may wish to get started with an email marketing platform. This is not my ideal recommendation due to the potential switching costs down the track, but for some people, it is necessary to start here. 

If that’s the case, you may wish to research the following email marketing systems: 

  • AWeber
  • Campaign Monitor
  • Constant Contact
  • ConvertKit
  • GetResponse
  • Keap (Lite)
  • Mailchimp

If you have an e-commerce business and are using Shopify or WooCommerce as your CRM, then you may wish to consider: 

  • AutoPilot
  • Drip
  • Keap (Max)
  • Omnisend
  • Klavyio
  • Sendinblue

If you’re a service based business or a business that has a longer sales cycle, then you should start your research by checking out the following all-in-one sales and marketing CRM’s:

  • ActiveCampaign
  • Groove
  • Hubspot
  • Keap (Pro, Max)
  • Ontraport
  • Salesforce
  • Zoho

Pricing

Most people focus on the price when comparing tools. Finding a low-cost tool should not be your focus here. Instead, you should be trying to find a great ‘value for money’ tool that includes all the ‘must have’ and as many of the ‘nice to have” features and functionality as possible. 

Comparing all-in-one CRM tools is like comparing apples and oranges. Each tool is different, therefore it doesn’t make sense to compare them on price alone. 

You also need to be mindful of hidden costs that may bite you later in terms of additional fees for:

  • Setup
  • Training
  • Outsourcing (because the system is too hard for you to set up or operate on your own)
  • Additional contacts
  • Additional users
  • Additional email sends (only usually a problem if they have low send limits)
  • Add on features
  • Exit fees

In deciding which tool will provide you with the best value for money, you also need to consider where potential savings will be made as a result of implementing this new CRM. Are there any systems you’re currently using that this all-in-one system will now replace. How much time will it save you? How much money does it have the potential to make you? 

When you frame it like this, you’ll most likely realise that you’re business can’t continue to operate without an all-in-one CRM that is most suitable to your business. 

I would also encourage you to find a system that provides either a free trial or an initial discounted period. This will reduce your expenses whilst you’re getting everything set up, when it’s unlikely to be providing you with a positive return on investment. 

If you’re in the early stages of business, best to find a tool that has an entry level option, with ability to add more features, users, contacts, etc or upgrade to the next plan with greater functionality as your business grows. For example, Keap has Keap Lite, Keep Pro and Keap Max, which allows you to add upgrade (or downgrade) between as your business requirements change over time. 

You should also avoid any systems that insists on a large set up fee or length contact. You need to have some flexibility to get out of your chosen system quickly and with minimal loss, should you realise early that it’s not right for you once you get under the hood.  

How do I choose the right all-in-one CRM for my business?

Start by making a shortlist of those systems that you feel would work for your business based on your ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ requirements.

Then research which systems include all or most of them.

Read the reviews, join their user groups to get a feel for customer sentiment and support. Chat to actual users of your shortlisted preferred systems to get their honest opinion of the software.

If you can manage to get a ‘behind the scenes’ demo, either from the software provider or someone who is already using the software, then do it! A glossy sales page with lists of product functions does very little for being able to help you make an informed decision when compared to actually seeing the system in action.

If you can find a local partner for your preferred system, then see what they can offer you. Sometimes they can provide you with deals better than what you can get if you go directly to the software provider. For example, Impactiv8 is a Keap Certified Partner, which allows us to offer 2,500 contacts and 2 users for a better price than if you were to go to Keap direct and only get 500 contacts and 1 user. We can also offer an initial discounted period whilst you get set up.

If after you’ve done all your research, you’re still confused and want someone to help you weigh up the pros and cons of your shortlisted system, you can always book in for a software discovery session with Impactiv8. We can take take a look at your requirements, the research you’ve already done and provide recommendations as to which all-in-one CRM would be best for your business. 

We charge a small fee for this service, but it has the potential to save you from making a costly mistake and will be a great investment in your business. Contact us if you’d like to find out more about this service.