Choosing a CRM for small business (and consultants

Choosing a CRM (customer relationship management system) for a small business can be a daunting task. Small business CRM systems can be off-the-shelf, customized, hosted or hybrid.

 Mid-market companies tend to choose hosted CRM systems so they can get best-of-breed systems at an affordable price, without the tech support headaches. But, for smaller businesses, such systems may be too expensive.

 Off-the-shelf shrinkwrapped CRM packages may be tempting. Simply install a package, set up the licenses and you’re ready to go….or so it seems. Suddenly, you and your users are faced with a new technology, no real direction and lots of different approaches to using the system. Before you know it, you may have a nightmare on your hands.

 Fearing the worst, some companies hire a technical consultant to do a custom CRM implementation. The techie takes care of all the IT details and integrates the system with existing systems and applications. This consultant may also train staff and help set up business processes. But an IT consultant may not provide a complete solution either.

 What’s really important for small businesses setting up CRMs is that they start with the end in mind. Put together a plan before you buy an application or hire a consultant. You can work with a CRM implementation consultant, if you want, but, even then, it’s helpful to have thought through the CRM process. With careful planning, you can make your CRM work – whether you do it yourself with an off-the-shelf solution, opt for a hosted solution or get a consultant to customize a package for you.

 Some questions to answer before you choose a CRM:

  • Why are you doing this? What do envision a CRM doing for you?
  • What business processes do you want your CRM to manage?
  • What contacts and relationships do you want your CRM to look after?
  • Who will provide tech support? An outsourced consultant, an in-house resource or someone else?
  • Who will use this CRM? What abilities do they have?
  • What’s your budget? Include both initial and ongoing budgets.
  • How will this CRM fit into your overall IT strategy and infrastructure?

Those are just a few questions to get you started. Choosing a CRM for small business is a multistep process. If you find it overwhelming, consider turning to a CRM consultant to help you with both the business and IT issues.

This article was originally published on Suite101 by Andrea Coutu of Become a Consultant at ConsultantJournal.com.