Customer relationship management (CRM) is at the heart of every effective long-term marketing strategy. A CRM is designed to help businesses effectively manage every aspect of the customer relationship and journey. Without your customers, your business wouldn’t work, and if you want repeat business, you need to support and nurture every one of them. You can do this by providing your sales team with the right CRM solution.
In a nutshell, CRM software increases customer retention, produces deeper customer satisfaction, and makes sales teams more effective. While these improvements are possible without software, using a CRM system takes results to a whole new level.
There are countless options out there, and like all applications, what’s right for you will depend on your specific needs. However, there are key features your sales reps need to be successful.
CRMs provide different features
It’s important to choose the right type of CRM, so before looking at features, it’s important to know what you need. You have a few different options:
Hosted CRM services
For most individuals and businesses, a hosted solution is ideal because you need technical knowledge to set up a CRM on your own server. It’s also hard to keep applications secure on your own.
Hosted CRMs tend to be loaded with powerful features and integrations because they’re developed and regularly maintained by professional software developers who have a stake in the outcome. Hosted environments are usually scalable, which means you can get more resources as your business grows without having to pay for more than you need.
Some of the most popular hosted CRMs include Keap, Keap Max Classic (formerly Infusionsoft), Salesforce, Zoho, HubSpot, and Insightly.
Features aside, the biggest benefit to using a hosted CRM is not having to manage hardware, software updates, patches, or storage. Once you sign up for an account, you only need to go through the setup and configuration process and the rest is managed by your provider. You’ll pay a bit more for a hosted solution, but that’s the price of doing business and making sure your customer data is secure.
A self-hosted CRM requires you to have your own hosting account where you’ll install the software. However, you’ll also need to find the right application and you might need to pay for a license. Some self-hosted solutions are free and open source, while others come with a fee.
You’ll save plenty of money on a self-hosted CRM compared to hosted, but there are several reasons not to choose this option. The biggest obstacle is the steep learning curve. You will be responsible for installing and configuring every aspect of the software. If you don’t do it right, it might not work, or you could end up with a security vulnerability that leads to a data breach or leak.
If you choose a self-hosted CRM and you’re not an experienced developer, be prepared to hire an IT professional to install and maintain your application.
Custom CRM application
Your third and final option is to have a custom CRM developed just for your needs. When your project is completed, you’ll own the application and won’t have any licensing fees to maintain. Every feature you need can be customized to your specifications.
The biggest benefit to having a custom CRM built from scratch is that you’ll get everything you need and nothing extraneous. However, there’s a caveat. While a custom development can provide you with all the features you want, there’s no guarantee they’ll be as efficient as a hosted CRM.
The downside is that a custom CRM needs to be self-hosted, which means you’ll need to install, configure, and maintain your application with a heightened focus on security. If you don’t already have a full-time IT team to manage your CRM, you’re better off with a hosted solution. However, if you already get managed IT services or have an in-house team, this is an excellent option.
9 Must-have CRM features
Now that we’ve discussed the different types of CRM software, let’s dive into the most important features you need in a customer relationship management application.
1. Sales pipeline management
A CRM with sales pipeline management will help you get more sales. Your sales team will be able to see how many leads have converted compared to the number who qualify but have yet to buy. This can be expressed as potential profit in dollar values as well.
Sales pipeline management will also show you where leads are in your funnel, which will help your sales team have effective conversations to close more deals. Your salespeople can use the system to schedule sales and marketing efforts, plan return calls, and they’ll have all the information they need on each lead at their fingertips, available to reference during sales calls.
2. Marketing automation
Marketing automation is the holy grail of features in a CRM. This is where you get to program your application to run commands based on certain conditions. For example, whenever a web form is submitted and the contact provides a phone number, the system can immediately send a specific welcome email, wait an hour, and send a text message. These fast, automated actions allow you to satisfy the expectation for immediate follow-up communication.
Part of getting leads to the point of an easy sale is all the communication that happens before they speak with a sales rep. Automation is a key part of this nurturing process.
Automated segmentation is powerful
Once your system is set up to automatically apply tags to leads when they first sign up, you can use automation to continually add new tags when contacts click certain links in your emails.
You can also use automation to remove tags from contacts based on actions they take, like clicking links or making a specific purchase. For instance, say you have a lead currently receiving an email marketing sequence designed to sell a specific product. Once they buy it, they need to be removed from that sequence, but their current tag will make them continue to receive those emails.
Automation can be used to remove tags that tie contacts to email sequences. In fact, you can remove people from one sequence and drop them into another based on any of their actions.
3. Email marketing
Perhaps the most essential feature of a good CRM is email marketing. What’s the point of collecting leads if you can’t run your email campaigns from the same program?
The email marketing features that come with a CRM will generally be exceptional compared to using platforms like Mailchimp and AWeber. While those are decent programs, they aren’t the same and lack important features.
Your customer relationship management tool should come with powerful email marketing capabilities like professionally crafted templates, the ability to send emails only to certain segments, content personalization, automation, split testing, and analytics.
4. Lead management and segmentation
Capturing, organizing, and managing leads is crucial for email marketing. In the past, people just sent mass emails to everyone on their list and hoped for a response. Today, that won’t fly.
To get results from email marketing, you need a highly organized contact management database. You need the ability to continually capture new information about your leads and categorize them, which is the basis of segmentation.
Lead segmentation is another must-have in CRM systems. Segmenting your contacts makes it possible to market your products and services more specifically, which increases your email marketing success. However, manually doing this isn’t the answer.
As you collect email addresses, you need a system that will automatically segment your leads according to your specifications. For example, you might have five different web forms that source leads from vastly different places. A good CRM will allow you to automatically apply a unique set of tags to contacts that come from each web form so you always know where you acquired each lead.
5. A/B testing
Split testing, also known as A/B testing, is a crucial feature to have in a CRM. There are many different applications that will track your campaigns, but it’s better to have it all done by the same system that sends your emails. Reason being all your data is in one place and will be far easier to analyze.
Split testing is how you progressively increase the effectiveness of your landing pages. If those pages are designed to generate direct calls, performing A/B testing will give your sales team more prospects as you implement changes that get results.
Although invoicing isn’t included in every CRM, if you find this feature, it will save you a lot of time. Many CRMs have the option for integrating third-party apps for invoices, but it’s more convenient to initiate them from the same program you use to manage your customer base. Finding a CRM with an invoicing feature will be a game changer.
7. Ecommerce and upsells
If you’re running an ecommerce store, you need a CRM that has a built-in shopping cart and payment processing system. It’s also convenient when your CRM facilitates upsells and promotions.
More than 70% of marketers who upsell, and cross-sell say it increases revenue by 30%. If you’ve never used these features before, get a CRM that makes it easy and try it out.
8. Lead scoring
Your CRM should score leads automatically. Sales teams have an easier time pursuing and converting leads when they know who’s hot and who’s not. A hot lead is someone who is ready to buy and just needs a little more persuasion. A cold lead is someone who isn’t ready to buy and needs more interaction and/or education before they’ll become a paying customer.
You can’t market to everyone with the same pitch or strategy; it must be done based on where the prospect is in the buyer’s journey. When your CRM offers lead scoring, your sales team will know which marketing tactics to use on each prospect in order to get the most conversions.
Integrations are underrated – they’re the best way to supercharge your CRM. When you already use several different applications to manage your business, you’ll benefit from connecting it to your CRM. Once you integrate your third-party apps, you can trigger more creative automations based on user actions that go beyond sign-up form input and email clicks.
Need a good CRM? We’ll build one for you
If you’re looking for a CRM with high usability and strong features, we can set you up with everything you need. Whether you’re in the market for a hosted solution, a completely custom app, or if you’d like to use an open-source CRM, we have you covered. At Dev.co, our team is Salesforce Silver Certified, and we work with numerous open-source CRM solutions, including customizations and integrations.
Don’t settle for a disjointed customer relationship management strategy – consolidate your needs into one powerful CRM application. Contact us today to learn more about our services.
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