If you’re looking for a Customer Relationship Management system, you aren’t alone. In fact, the demand for CRM technologies is fueling growth in the CRM industry worth over $40 billion in 2018 alone, according to Gartner.

But with all those shiny CRMs out there adorning the market, what’s the best strategy for your brand when it comes to choosing a CRM? To help you formulate that strategy, we’ve asked industry experts for their advice.

No One-Size-Fits-All CRM

If you’re asking around about what the “best CRM” solution is, you’re asking the wrong question, according to JP Lessard, President, Business Software Solutions at Miles Technologies. “CRM solutions aren't one-size-fits-all, and the features you should insist on will vary from industry to industry, organization to organization. Before you start shopping for or building a new solution, you should conduct an analysis to determine which features map best to the vision you have for running your business,” said Lessard.  

Chris Fritsch, President of Atlanta, GA.-based CLIENTSFirst Consulting, concurred, “Because each organization defines CRM success differently, we recommend that companies ensure they understand their specific requirements and goals and then make sure that the CRM technology they choose directly meets those goals.”

Related Article: 6 Customer Experience Trends to Watch in 2018

Identify Bottlenecks and Create a Feature Wish List 

A CRM is supposed to streamline business processes, particularly in the way of sales and marketing. With that in mind, you need to identify your business bottlenecks before you begin your hunt for a CRM. That’s why Lessard believes brands should first look inwards. He explained that brands should begin by, “evaluating their existing business processes and their outcomes, then compare them to their desired outcomes and business objectives to determine the gap. Maybe you want to reduce the time your sales team spends managing their leads and increase the time they spend talking to customers, or use marketing automation functionality so nothing slips through the cracks, for example.”

Lessard went on to advise companies to create a "wish list" of goals that they want in a CRM. Determine which items are high priority and which are "nice-to-haves," then refer to that list when comparing potential solutions to determine which features and which product will help you best accomplish your goals.

Prioritize The User Experience

The features and pricing of your chosen CRM may be perfect, but is it actually easy to use? Your employees will need to work with your CRM on a daily basis, so you should emphasize the importance of the UX during the selection process. “User adoption and user experience [are paramount]. What you want as a sales manager is a system that, first and foremost, is going to be used by the sales team. They must have something that they feel completely at home with when using it,” said Víctor Sanchez, Sales Director at Barcelona-based ForceManager.

If employees avoid using the system instead of embracing it you'll find it difficult to glean consistent insights. "...There will be no data entered into the system, and no data being entered into the system means no insight, and no insight means, well, how can you be expected to make solid business decisions with little idea of the what the team is actually doing?” asked Sanchez.

Learning Opportunities

Fritsch also hammered this point home, “Ultimately, users have to buy in to the CRM and see the value added and be comfortable with the technology — or they simply won't use it.”

Related Article: Customer Experience Best Practices: A Framework for Designing Outstanding CX

Ensure Your Choice is Mobile-friendly

Accessibility is a key feature of any good CRM. According to Sanchez. Sales reps and managers need increasing access to their data on the fly, including customer history, previous purchase orders, sales collateral and pipeline activity, to name a few. “If the CRM lacks a [strong] mobile arm — or worse, is completely condemned to the desktop — it’s going to be impossible to ensure access to this key information. What I’d recommend is looking at a CRM that was built natively for each OS (whether that’s Android, iOS or Windows) to maximize end user adoption,” Sanchez added.

Integrations, Integrations, Integrations

A great CRM needs to be able to work in harmony with your existing applications. If your CRM doesn’t play nice with your email marketing solution for example, you’re in for a world of hurt. In fact, Fritsch said that brands should take it as a “red flag” when a CRM system doesn’t easily integrate with other technology platforms. So if the integrations aren't there you may want to look elsewhere.

Go Cloud Or Go Home

Opting for the cloud over on-premise solutions has its benefits. With a SaaS solution, your customer data will be easier to manage and access, no matter where in the world your team is. “Alarm bells should be ringing as soon as you hear the words 'on-site' or 'remote hard-drive',” stated Sanchez. “Data has been hanging around in the clouds for a while now — and for good reason. SaaS CRM systems can be accessed at almost anytime and anyplace from a multitude of devices, not stored on a great big dinosaur back in the office,” he said.

If You Can’t Find It, Consider Building It

As high and wide as you may search, the CRM market may just not have the right solution for you industry, workflows or team. It happens. That why Lessard emphasized that, “if out-of-the-box CRM solutions don't fulfill your high priority wish list items, you shouldn't settle for software that doesn't fit your needs. That's when you should consider developing a custom solution.”

Sure, building instead of buying (or in the case of a SaaS solution, renting) is a loftier task, but if none of the shoes fit, Lessard is a fan of investing in a bespoke solution instead of jumping between different CRMs — sinking time and money in the process.