CRM considers customers as assets
and is all about putting them first.


Finding prospective customers and retaining them has always been important for businesses. But in this digital age, where there is plenty of competition for every conceivable service and brand out there, when customers have a plethora of options and can switch loyalties at any time, it becomes all the more harder to create and maintain solid customer relationships. This is where CRM (Customer Relationship Management), can play a vital role in your organisation.

With a CRM strategy you can manage clients, as well as convert leads to clients, by implementing a CRM system within your business organisation. Managing contact information, automating workflow processes, sales and customer service management are all areas for which CRM has tools to increase efficiency and productivity. A CRM system has become necessary for most businesses, no matter the size, and there are enough types and brands of CRM software available out there, for you to choose the right one depending on the industry you are in, size of your organisation, and the amount you are able to spend among other things.

A brief history

CRM considers customers as assets and is all about putting them first. The concept came to be in the 1970s and has evolved over the years and improved thanks to technological advances. At its core, CRM is all about gathering and analysing customer data, and using this data to draw in more customers and maintain customer satisfaction. This was originally done manually, via surveys and front-line asking. Then statistical methods were employed, as was seen in Database marketing. In the mid 1980s, ACT! was released. This was a digital type of Rolodex and offered contact management service.  Taking off from all these initial inventions, the first official CRM product was released by Siebel Systems in 1993. Other big names like IBM, Oracle etc got into the CRM game and the capabilities of CRM software widened to include enterprise resource planning, marketing automation etc. By the early 2000s, CRM software could be downloaded on to mobile devices, and migrated to the clouds, which made it cheaper and more accessible. With the advent, popularity and ubiquitous-ness of social media, CRM started offering tools to reach customers through the channels of social media.

Now, thanks to the ability to integrate CRM software with third-party apps the functionalities and capabilities of the software continues to widen and improve. There are industry-specific CRMs available that can be highly customised to meet your business needs. And the latest innovation is AI for CRM, but at the rate advances are constantly taking place by the time you finish reading this piece, there could be something new available in the CRM field.

Types of CRM Systems

Depending on the need of a business, CRM systems can be broadly divided into four categories—Strategic CRM, Operational CRM, Analytical CRM and Collaborative CRM. The first one, Strategic CRM is primarily focused on customers.  It is used to collect, store and analyse customer data with the view of using the information to collect and retain customers. Market trends and buying behavior of the customers is also gathered together so that the business using this particular type of CRM can better learn how to sell to its customer.

When it comes to Operational CRM, this type of CRM mainly automates business processes such as sales, marketing, and customer service. With the sales force automation component, sales processes such as storing client information, tracking client history, and setting reminders among other processes are automated. It also helps in Lead Management i.e., converting leads to clients and managing client accounts. With regards to marketing, this type of CRM automates repetitive tasks like sending emails, engaging with customers on social media etc. And finally in the area of service automation, an operational CRM makes sure customers are able to get support required quickly via various channels of communication.

An Analytical CRM is one that mines data regarding customer behavior and market trends from various sources and it sifts through it, categorise it and analyses it, the inferences from the analysis can be used to help make important decision regarding your company. By studying the reports and charts that are put together, you get insight in to areas within the business where there are weaknesses, and can give it the attention it needs.  You can also sell better and provide better customer service based on the analytics.

Finally, you have the Collaborative CRM, where external resources and stakeholders can be brought into the fold and information shared between all of them. Suppliers, distributors, other businesses can easily share customer information and feedback amongst themselves via channels provided and this enables them to make better decisions when it comes to product manufacturing or even marketing. This type of CRM system finds application in B2B situations.

The above is just a broad idea of what different CRM systems can offer, it is something for you to keep in mind with regards to what your organisation needs in terms of a CRM system. You will also have to take into account the size of your business, budget, goal and business requirements of your organisation whilst choosing the CRM system that will be the right fit for your company.

What is a CRM software?

So far we have talked about the history of CRM, what it broadly does and the types of systems are available. Now, let us get into the nitty-gritties of what the software does precisely and how it helps your business exactly.

A quick search of CRM software online, will throw up tons of names such as SugarCRM, Zoho, Salesforce, Oracle to name a few. All of them contain tools and apps to manage business processes such as contact management, tracking leads, sales process automation, customer support etc. A common feature across CRM software is the use of dashboards. A dashboard is a screen that gives you an overview of things like activities, sales pipeline, customer profiles among other things. At a glance you can see what is happening with regards to your business and you can customise the dashboard so it shows you what you want, maybe you want a snapshot of the helpdesk to see pending queries etc, or maybe you want your dashboard to give you information regarding current leads. You can make it yours for the most part.

The software will also store, manage and categorise all customer information. There will be an option to import and share contact information, and fields will be available where history of interaction with a particular client or their preferences can be stored (this can help you send them personalised messages and speed up sales). All your activities with regards to a customer or lead can be updated and tracked, so you don’t miss out on a meeting and you can even set up email triggers so that after a meeting or call the lead gets a personalised email, which will make them feel special and could help with making the sale.

With a CRM software information regarding accounts can be shared among employees and tasks can be assigned. In this way everyone knows what their role is, their progress can be tracked, interactions can be recorded and nothing falls through the cracks. Even when it comes to customer support, CRM has tools to speed up the time in which queries are answered and increasing customer satisfaction.

The CRM software also comes with tools for data-mining and data analysis. It will churn out reports and charts based on parameters you set, so you can get visual representations and have the numbers crunched on everything from inventory to customer behavior. This will give you insight into buying trends, help find patterns when it comes to how customers buy and where there are bottle-necks when it comes to sales or customer service. This data is priceless and can help you sell more, come up with marketing ideas and keep your customers happy.

Plenty of tedious processes and workflows, which are a part of every organisation can be automated by the CRM software. So instead of wasting time on repetitive and tedious jobs, employees can concentrate their time on valuable things like interacting with customers, selling more and marketing campaigns. Project Management can also be streamlined and made more efficient thanks to CRM. Roles can be assigned, information can be shared easily and updated, progress can be tracked and deadlines met with ease.

Integrations are the name of the game. And most CRM vendors provide you with plenty of options when it comes to connecting with other business apps they have created as well as third-party apps.  Using integrations the software can track customer interactions on social media or even see how a particular marketing campaign is doing.

CRM software can be downloaded on to mobile devices, thanks to everything being on the cloud, so you can take your work with you and make sales while on the move. There are loads of features and functionalities offered by CRM software and new advances happening constantly to make your work life that much easier. With the introduction of AI technology within CRM, you can set up reminders and make calls from your mobile CRM app with just a press of a button.

It is vital to know how to harness all the power and capabilities of the CRM software you choose, so that you get the most of it. This will take a certain amount of learning and trial-and-error. It also means, and we cannot stress this enough, choosing the right CRM software for your organisation.

Horizontal CRM vs Vertical CRM

CRMs like Sugar CRM, Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce are powerful, feature-rich software. They come under horizontal CRM solutions as they can be used across industries, and have a wide range of capabilities. Horizontal CRMs can be used in manufacturing industry, telecommunications etc. They can be customised to an extent and keep offering technological updates. But this also makes them more expensive, and there is a steeper learning curve thanks to all the tools and features it comes with, and it will take a certain amount of time and effort to learn the ropes.

Certain industries like pharmacy, real estate etc could benefit more from an industry-specific CRM. This is where vertical CRMs come into play. The nuanced nature of the business and distinct solutions needed for some industries calls for a CRM that meets those requirements.  Vertical CRMs are sleeker, simpler and are integrated with industry specific apps.  Everything from the workflow processes that can be automated to the fields provided is highly customised and works only for a particular type of business. And so the negative that naturally crops up is that vertical CRMs cannot be used across various types of businesses. And it also means the number of tools and features available are far, far less than what you would find in a Horizontal CRM.

So when choosing the right CRM for your business do some research, look at ease-of-use, which workflows and processes can be automated, what integrations are available, the tech support provided and the cost of the CRM software. Speak to people in the industry who have used a particular CRM and ask them about their experience. Most vendors offer free-trials so make use of that. And once you zoom-in on a particular CRM software for your company, get as much knowledge and training as you can on how to use it and how to get the most out of the tools it offers.

How CRM impacts your business

Now that we are pretty clear on what CRM is and how it works, let us move on to finding out how CRM has a positive impact on certain areas within your organisation.

How does CRM help you retain customers?

As we know already CRM collects and saves all information with regards to clients. All that valuable information can be used in a number of ways towards retaining customers. Personalised mails and newsletters can be sent out automatically, targeted marketing campaigns can be applied based on data collected about your audience via CRM, feedback from clients that is collected can be utilised to increase customer satisfaction and boost sales, and you can learn what the buying trends are and sell accordingly thereby making sure your clients are getting what they want. You can use CRM to schedule meetings and follow-up calls with customer, and set reminders. In this way nothing falls through the cracks and you customer is always prioritized.

How can you increase sales with CRM?

A CRM software facilitates sharing of information between employees as well as makes collaboration easier, this is done by storing information regarding clients and prospective clients at one location. So your sales team will be able to use all the data they have to strengthen their sales pitch and increase the chances of making the sale.  You can set up processes for your sales team to follow and monitor them to make sure they are following through. Up-selling and Cross-selling opportunities are highlighted by the CRM software, so you can take advantage of that to make an additional sale. CRM automates many tasks like data entry and sending emails, this frees up your sales staffs time, which they can use to go after a sale. You can also keep track of contacts and see what they are up to on social media via CRM integrations and assign the best resources towards making the sale. Finally, as most CRM software can be downloaded on to mobile devices, you never miss an opportunity and can make sales while on the move.

How does CRM help when it comes to ROI and increasing revenue?

It is cheaper and less work to keep a current customer than to acquire a new customer. Well CRM helps you retain your customers and keep them happy, which in itself saved your company money and time. A CRM system will crunch the data and produce charts and reports which allow you to see where attention is needed within the organisation, by spotting these issues early on you can fix them before it starts to affect your business. It also industry trends and buying trends, so you don’t waste effort and money on marketing campaigns that have no buyers. By automating tasks, CRM frees up time that employees can spend on more important aspect of their jobs, which means productivity is increased.

Types of CRM software

There are plenty of CRM software available in the market. From established names like Microsoft, to newer businesses like Zoho, most of these companies that specialise in SaaS products, especially for businesses, offer CRM software as well. In no particular order, we list some popular and effective CRM software, and tell you a little more about them.

HubSpot CRM

You might be familiar with HubSpot, a well-known inbound marketing and sales platform. They company offers a host of software for everything from social media marketing to content management. It also has a free CRM software. While the CRM software is free and you can add unlimited users and 1,000,000 contacts, when you connect it to HubSpot’s marketing and sales tools and software you will be charged a certain amount. But this increases the CRM’s functionalities and capabilities many-folds and what you can then achieve in terms of sales makes the investment worth it.

Contacts from CRM will be saved within the marketing, sales and service hubs as well, if you go all in when it comes to picking a package, this sharing of information helps employees boost sales, create better marketing campaigns and increase customer satisfaction. The CRM takes over repetitive tasks such as data entry and putting together spreadsheets, this means employees have more time to concentrate on sales and customer retention. It comes with a dashboard that is neat and streamlined, which allows you to quickly take in everything related to sales—whether it is sales won, meetings scheduled or even track performance. You can also adjust the filter settings so you see the information you need.

HubSpot CRM integrated with your email, whether it is Gmail or Outlook, so all your interactions with customers are saved. It also tracks your customers movements on social media, i.e. facebook, twitter etc, with regards to your products. So you can gather more valuable information, which helps towards making a sale or even quickly offer customer support if they have an issue with a products or a query.

All the interactions with, and data regarding, clients and leads is stored in a timeline manner, so it is easy to find the information you are looking for. You can use the CRM to trigger and queue emails, and it gives you real-time notification when an email is opened, so following-up becomes easier. You can also make calls from within the software and sync it with Calendar, so that you never miss a meeting.

Integrations increase the capability of your CRM and make it more powerful. HubSpot CRM, integrated with other products offered by them as well as a host of third-party apps. It is a certified partner of Google and can be integrated with their products like Gmail, Google Chrome etc, as well as other products such as Dropbox, LiveChat, Salesforce etc. All these integrations makes saving and sharing of contact information easier, helps in scheduling appointments, and communicating with clients and leads.

The HubSpot CRM software is very intuitive and easy to get a handle on. It can be used as a stand-alone free product, which makes it a good fit for start-ups and small businesses that don’t have a budget for CRM. It also can be used across industries. When used along with the marketing, sales and service tools that HubSpot is known for you will have all your bases covered.

Salesforce CRM

In the field of Customer Relationship Management, Salesforce is a trailblazer. The capabilities and tools this CRM can offer are unmatched and finds use across industries. The Salesforce CRM comes with a plethora of features and integrations and add-ons and is perfect for large and growing businesses.

The software has tools for lead management, customer service and marketing automation among others. All customer interactions can be tracked and stored at one place, marketing campaigns can be tracked and leads routed to sales reps, workflows can be automated, and sales paths can be set up, so that even new employees will be able to follow the steps towards making a sale. Multiple dashboards are available showing you particular sets of data, which you can flip between.

It also has AI capabilities via Salesforce Einstein, so you have access a personal assistant that can automate tasks, provide insight into leads won and leads lost, and highlights what needs to be done next. Customisation is taken to the next level in Salesforce CRM. You can tune the software to reflect and represent your company and brand. You can also create apps that your business needs and increase productivity and efficiency. It goes way beyond just providing CRM functions and becomes a platform for you to create tools and build functionality.

The number of integrations and add-ons offered by Salesforce are unsurpassed. While you can integrated it with other Salesforce products such as Salesforce Platform (a cloud-based app builder), Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Chatter (enterprise social network) to name a few, you can also connect it to plenty of third-party apps like, Zapier, Outlook etc. What you can do with this software is nearly limitless thanks to the integrations available.

This is a powerful CRM and created and hosted by a company that is constantly coming up with new business related tools and technology updates. The only drawbacks to this CRM is that it is expensive, it starts at $25 per-month/per-user and can go up to $300 per-month/per-user depending on the plan you choose, and that there is a steep learning curve and you have to be well-versed in its nuances to get the most out of it. To address the latter issue, demos and tutorials are available for every feature and tool that comprises the CRM, so you learn exactly how to work it. And if money is not an issue you should definitely look into finding out more about Salesforce CRM.

Capsule CRM

Are you a small business or a start-up that is looking for a basic CRM software that is easy to use and won’t make a dent in your company’s pocket? Then Capsule CRM is the right choice for you. You can choose between two plans, with the Free plan you can have up to 2 users, 250 contacts and 10 MB storage space, and with the Professional plan you can add as many users and pay per user, each user gets 2GB storage space and 50,000 contacts can be added.

When it comes to contact management, this CRM gives you a modern and minimalistic dashboard where you can view all customer information, add notes and attachments, and store emails. It helps you track, add and manage tasks. And by allowing you to share all this with co-workers everyone will be on the same page. A clients social media contact details can also be added and if you have some special data regarding a particular customer, a custom field can be added to store it. After all, when it comes to your customers any and all information surrounding them is vital. Contacts can also easily be exported from your mail IDs and the search feature offered within the CRM is easy to use and you can access what you need quickly.

With the Calendar tool, appointments and meeting can be recorded and you can see what lies ahead in your work-week so that nothing gets missed out. Tasks can also be created and categorized and shared with co-workers so that there is no duplication of work, and you can keep track of progress. Standard processes that are followed by your organisation with regards to certain jobs can be configured, so that the steps are followed.

When it comes to sales, with the dashboard available you can get a view into the sales pipeline and keep track of your sales and history of opportunity. You can also collaborate with co-workers when it comes to making a sale and generate reports from the pipeline to give you insight and improve your selling practices. Customisation is possible to some extent when it comes to Capsule CRM. You can customise the look of the software when it comes to logo and colours used, as well as add custom fields, tags and processes that are unique to your company.

Like most CRMs available in the market you can download it on to your mobile devices. So that while you are on the move you can keep track of appointments, view sales pipeline, see co-workers activity, and add contact information—all helping you make sales even when you are not at your desk. The CRM also integrated with apps like G Suite, MailChimp, Twitter etc thereby increasing its functionalities. This is a good CRM for those on a budget and while it might lack the extra frills, it is a responsive and user-friendly software.

Zoho CRM

If you need a particular business software solution, then Zoho will definitely have what you are looking for. The company, which specializes in SaaS products, boasts of offering over 30 tools, apps and software and is constantly coming up with something new. Their CRM software is reasonably priced and very popular, one of the many reasons being that when it is used in combination with the other Zoho Products, like Zoho Mail, Zoho Desk, Zoho Projects to name a few, the functionalities and capabilities of the CRM skyrockets.

You can choose from four plans– Standard, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate—when it comes to Zoho CRM. The price ranges from $12 per-user/per-month to $100 per-user/per-month. The more you are willing to pay, the more tools and features become available to you. You can also avail a 15-day free trial before deciding to go with this product.

The Zoho CRM does everything a good CRM software should. It takes care of Lead Management and provides analytics, it also fosters collaboration and automates workflow and processes to boost sales. With this CRM you can contact clients and potential clients through multiple channels such as email, telephone, social media and chat. The SalesSignals component of Zoho CRM allows you to bring all the channels into one timeline, and you will be notified when a lead is reading an email from your company or sending a tweet on twitter with regards to your product of brand—this way you get plenty of opportunities to engage with your target audience, make a sale and keep your customers happy.

Another cool and very futuristic aspect of Zoho CRM is Zia. Zia is an AI sales assistant. Through a call or chat you can have Zia do everything from schedule meetings to record some information. It can also automatically automate certain recurring tasks, and by analysing data be able to predict trends and anomalies so that you are always one step ahead of the game. This is a one of kind feature and a very useful one at that.

This CRM, thanks to the price-point works for small to mid-size businesses. It can also serve larger companies and growing businesses as well. If you have a way of doing things and certain processes in place, this can be set up for new employees using the Blueprint feature. By setting conditions and making sure the previous step is completed before moving on to the next, your sales team will not veer away from the path you’ve set.

Zoho CRM can be highly customised. Layouts, forms, fields can all be made to suit your business. It even offers you the opportunity to create custom functions using Zoho’s scripting language, Deluge. There are also plenty of tools and features for sales process automation and pipeline management—so that leads can quickly be converted into clients and more sales can be made.

Integrations play a big role in turning a basic CRM into a powerhouse. Zoho CRM not only syncs with its own stellar products, it can also be integrated with third-party apps like Google Drive, G Suite, Mail Chimp, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Dropbox etc. to just name a few.

This is a CRM that offers a host of functionalities, is easy to use and also offers a great mobile app version so you can do business while on the move. For the price you pay you get a whole lot of features and tools out of Zoho CRM, making it a pretty sweet deal.

Microsoft Dynamics

Tech giant Microsoft has, develops and sells some of the most popular software and products around. So of course they have a CRM software as well. Their CRM, Microsoft Dynamics 365, is a combination of CRM (sales, marketing and customer service) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).

If you choose the Dynamics 365 plan, which combines CRM and ERP solutions you will get the most out of the product, but it will cost you $210 per-user/per-month. If all you are looking for is CRM functionalities, you can go for the Customer Engagement Plan that concentrates on CRM and can cost $115 per-user/per-month. Whichever way you look at it, this is an expensive software when compared to other CRM software available in the market.

This is a very powerful CRM that can work across industries due to the number of features and tools it offers. It allows for plenty of processes to be automated and responses to be triggered, has excellent reporting tools that will put together insightful reports and charts, and the look of the software is easy on the eyes. By providing multiple real-time dashboards, you can always stay up to date when it comes to sales trends and performances.

While there are other CRMs that offer more customisation options, Microsoft Dynamics has them all beat when it comes to storing and managing information and building up a library of customer data.  It offers efficient and capable tools to help with sales and retail. You can also use the CRM to manage projects, financials and customer service.

There are two main drawbacks to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, there is the steep learning curve and the hefty cost. But if you have a large company  that use a lot of Microsoft products already and are well-versed in using them, then this CRM will work well for your organisation. It integrates with Microsoft suite of products, as well as third-party apps.

Sugar CRM

Sugar CRM is a well-established and popular customer relationship management software. It is a CRM that is used across industries and businesses of different sizes and needs. The reason for this is because it is highly customisable, has an open API and comes in a mobile app version as well. Added to this is the attractive and user-friendly interface that makes working with it a breeze.

When it comes to analytics, Sugar CRM is very powerful. From studying how a particular campaign did to tracking customer satisfaction, it provides you with great insight. This way you make sound business decisions that are based on data and evidence. The CRM breaks down the silos between sales and marketing by sharing customer information, this means the sales team will be aware of leads that need attention and nothing will fall through the gaps.

Sugar CRM has an intuitive interface and is easy to deploy as it easily integrates with the native IT system. Automating and customising it to suit your businesses needs is also fairly straightforward. Integrations, extensions and custom apps can be added to the CRM, which increases the capabilities of the software. If you business has a unique problem this software provides you with the ability to design a specific app to address the issue.

Price-wise the cost can add up depending on the number of users you have, so it is a CRM favoured by mid-to-large size operations. You can choose from three plans—Sugar Professional which is priced at $40 per-user/per-month and offers basic CRM functions, Sugar Enterprise at $65 per-user/per-month that is perfect for large businesses, and finally Sugar Ultimate which costs $150 per-user/per-month and has all the features of the enterprise package plus more. At an extra $15 per-month/per-user, you get access to Hint, which is Sugar’s relationship intelligence service.

Hint is a new feature that allows you to speed up call preparation by providing you with all contact information regarding a client and their social media presence. By reducing the time you spend looking up a client and learning more about them, it makes sales more efficient. It aims to improve conversion rates, customer service and productivity. It does this by adding intelligence to business processes such as workflows, sales etc.

There are hardly any negatives when it comes to this CRM. Other than the price-point it pretty much ticks all the boxes and an ideal CRM for most businesses.

With all this information we have armed you with, it must be pretty clear that CRM software is a valuable and necessary tool in today’s world of doing business. As a next step we suggest you contact our CRM implementations experts, who can help you make an informed decision when choosing a CRM software for your organisation, and can help you get the most out of it.