crm solutions
Customer relationship management

Got leads? If you do, it means there’s a lot you’re doing right. And if you’re at the point where you’re using a spreadsheet or text editor to make notes about new contacts, it’s probably time for some kind of CRM solution, such as Salesforce’s CRM solution.

That’s right: your very own CRM system. Whether you’re a one-person show or a fast-growing start-up, there’s almost certainly a CRM solution out there that fits your lead nurturing process and communication style. Here are a few ideas to consider as you hunt for the perfect CRM app.

Head in the clouds?

Whichever CRM system you eventually choose to adopt, it’s worth thinking about how you (and indeed the team of people who will be using the CRM system) need to be able to access it.

Cloud-based apps and tools are becoming increasingly popular because they offer a huge range of benefits. ‘Cloud-based’ just means on the Internet – i.e. rather than running programs via software which is installed a particular computer; cloud-based apps and tools are accessed online.

The key benefit is that cloud apps allow people to work from anywhere they have Internet access. Essentially they don’t need to be in the office, or even using a particular computer. They can access everything they need online, via any computer (or tablet, or smart phone).

2. Figure out what functionality you need and what you can live without

Whilst some of the market-leading CRM systems undoubtedly offer amazing features, the costs involved can be prohibitive; plus they may include functionality way above and beyond what you really need.

The ability to schedule tasks, automatically import emails, and quickly access lead contact info are bread and butter CRM features, and many organizations need little else.

For example, apps like Tactile CRM and Capsule help fill this “ultralight” CRM niche, and they come with a price tag even the most cash-strapped start-ups can afford.

3. Think Social

If your communication model relies heavily on social media outreach, social CRM solutions are the new frontier for nurturing customer relationships. There are several social-focused apps that are available for forward-looking organizations growing their client lists through social networks.

For Gmail and Google Apps users, Rapportive may be worth a look. Whilst it couldn’t accurately be described as a fully-fledged social CRM tool it is free (who doesn’t love free, right?) and offers some really useful functionality. It integrates with your email to show you everything about your contacts at a glance. Instead of the Gmail’s standard sidebar ads, you see pictures of your contacts (when they provide them), links to their social media profiles, and a list of recent correspondence. It’s certainly an easy way to keep up with your most important connections.

4. Integrated Tools

In recent years, a whole slew of project management and collaboration tools have come to market. Why? Because for professionals who work with various third parties, there’s nothing better than having a simple, one-stop hub where everyone can share information.

But sometimes it’s difficult – and frustrating – to reconcile communication among disparate project management, email, and CRM apps. That’s where integrated tools come in.

Applications like Buzzstream, WORKetc, and 37 Signals’ Highrise connect your relationship management activities to an associated collaboration or project management hub. Bottom line: If project management matters to you, these apps could save you a lot of headaches.

If you are having difficulty integrating these solutions, consider how you can utilize application development solutions to create a customized system specifically for your needs. However, note these can be expensive, but the rewards from increased functionality and efficiency could be a good return on investment.

All of these go to show that CRM solutions are not just for the big guys. Rather, all teams can figure out an efficient system for effectively interacting with customers and managing the relationships. And wasn’t that the point of CRM all along?