Technology / Business technology

Customer relationship management: How to choose the right CRM for your business

With an almost never ending choice of customer relationship management (CRM) software it can seem daunting to select the right one. These tips will help you narrow down the options and select a system that will work for both your business and you!

17 November 2016 by

For any of you not yet sure what a CRM is let’s get that out of the way first – CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and when we refer to a CRM we mean a software or tool that, you guessed it, manages customer relationships.

Before discussing how to choose one of these tools for your business I want to make clear that a CRM is really just a means of tracking your customers’ journeys with your brand/business. By tracking their interactions, communication history and desires you receive the holy grail – data.

How you use this data is why a CRM can be an extremely powerful engine to grow your business. A CRM can help you:

  • Remember personal details about your customers/leads
  • Maximise your chance of converting leads
  • Monitor your customer’s behaviour on your website and emails
  • Remind you of anniversaries
  • Prompt you to upgrade or upsell new products based on time or behaviour patterns
  • Automate email responses, email funnels or SMS messages
  • I could keep going all day …

But, like most things, not all CRM systems are created equal. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of these systems in the market right now, each with their own set of features. How then to choose.

"Do not take CRM recommendations from people who have a different business model to you – try to see what other businesses in your industry use and get their feedback if you can."

Firstly, it’s important to understand that just because these features exist doesn’t mean you need to use them. Consider the following qualifying questions in relation to your own business needs and shortlist the CRM systems you find against the answers:

  • Does it need to cater (affordably) for a large database?
  • Does it need to track deals/leads or just contacts?
  • Do you need access for multiple team members to work collaboratively?
  • Do you need SMS functions?
  • Do you want the system to record your email history with customers/leads?
  • Do you need automation capability?
  • Should it integrate with your invoice/quoting software?
  • Should it integrate with your job or project management software?
  • Should it gather the social accounts of your contacts?
  • Does it have a mobile app? Do you need one?

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These qualification questions will help you narrow down the field to a system that is going to fit into your business and meet your needs. Here are a few more tips to help you when you need to make the final choice:

  • Do not take CRM recommendations from people who have a different business model to you – try to see what other businesses in your industry use and get their feedback if you can. First-hand experience is gold and will alert you to any potential roadblocks they have discovered.
  • Make sure the CRM integrates with your core systems – your accounting software, your job or project management software, your email software and file management. Don’t settle – good cloud software integrates.
  • Check how much the software license will increase for multiple users or as your database grows.
  • Where possible always request a demo and ask questions about what you specifically need it to do. Don’t accept answers like ‘I think it could do that’, get confirmation.
  • Trial the CRM yourself before committing.
  • Do not assume that the most expensive is what you need – when choosing software many businesses who are unsure what to choose to assume that the more they spend, the better the product will be as it has more features. This is not always true.

What CRM system does your business use? Are you glad you ended up with that one – or do you wish you’d gone with another?

Caroline Leppers

is the director of One Red Thread. She is passionate about helping businesses implement great systems and digital tools that enable them to work smarter and simplify the running of their business.


  • We are just about to implement ‘proper’ CRM for the first time. Being in a corporate environment I am limited in choice and will proceed with ACT.
    Whilst researching a little I came across HubSpot which looks pretty good and is free with lots of integrations of other cloud based software including sales and marketing. If I was an independent soloist I would trial that one first

  • I think businesses need look less at what “CRM”or “ERP” software and start looking to software “platforms” that allow you to build solutions. There is more planning, but the result is less integration needs, less feature bloat and the ability to change and build apps as you need. When you seek an out of the box CRM or any other solution you end up stuck in one.

  • Jirik Haselgrove

    From my experience working across MS Dynamics, SugarCRM and 1CRM (based originally on the OpenSource SugarCRM platform but largely separate now), the most powerful aspect of a CRM is the ability for it to be fitted to your business model rather than modifying your model/operations to suit it’s capabilities and the cost/timeframe associated with that.

    Several clients I have worked for have also reached the nightmare scenario where they have purchased a solution that doesn’t fit their business model, while not understanding their business model to begin with, or the CRM they are purchasing. As a result they are in a counter-productive no-man’s-land of a poorly utilised and understood system that is used incorrectly and results in little to no benefit to the business (or in some cases negatively impacts it).

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