Choosing a CRM for your micro business

How do you go about choosing a CRM for your micro business? I hang around in a lot of Facebook groups for very small business and the question ‘which CRM are you all using?’ comes up a lot. This is usually followed by someone saying ‘whoa, I had no idea there were so many!’ But the obvious follow-on question that I don’t often see is ‘How do I choose between them?’ That’s what prompted me to write this post.

If you’re not sure what Customer Relationship Management software is or how it could help a micro business in particular, I cover both in this post.

I would love to be able to recommend my favourite but it really isn’t that simple. Instead, I’m going to list the top things you’ll need to think about when making your choice.

You might also like to take my quiz.

It’s hard to choose…

What’s the main problem you need a CRM to solve for you right now?

Is your priority to get on top of your client data? Is your Excel spreadsheet no longer cutting it? Are you losing sales because you’re focusing on reaching out to new prospects rather than taking care of existing customers? Are you not tracking your sales team’s progress effectively? A CRM can help with all of these things but unless you know exactly what you want to achieve you’ll be dazzled by all the possibilities and risk not getting the right tool for your business.

If you’ve tried to implement a CRM before and it was abandoned, what went wrong and how can you avoid it happening this time?

What’s your budget?

A typical answer in the world of the micro business is ‘as little as possible’! And while I can really relate to this, it could be holding you back. Think about how much money you’re NOT making because you’re not following up with customers effectively. Investing just a little of this each month in a CRM will pay for itself many times over IF it’s a good fit for your business AND you use it consistently.

The cost of some CRMs go up over time as you add on more features or hire more staff. So look at what your budget might be in a year and five years time, too.

How many users?

If you have a sales team then you’ll have more users than if you are a one-person business. Some CRMs charge per user, others charge a fee for (say) 5 or 10 users. But more importantly, if you’re managing a team you’ll probably need more advanced features, for example things like being able to set up a pipeline, workflows, track conversions and do more advanced reporting become important.

Which tools are you already using?

Many of your current software tools can – and will need to be – integrated with your CRM. Examples include email, email marketing systems, calendar booking apps, accounting software and so on. The good news is that most CRMs can be hooked up to many other tools. And if there isn’t already an integration available, it can often be done with an app like Zapier. But there are CRMs that are one tool in a suite of other business tools (such as Zoho or Hubspot) that may work together better for your business than a stand alone CRM with integrations to other tools.

Also, think about any other features you may want to use a year or two from now so you have room to grow.

How comfortable are you with technology? What about your team?

Most CRM software comes with a mind-boggling range of features and while this is good in many ways, it means a steeper learning curve. You need to strike a balance between finding a CRM that does what you need, but doesn’t frustrate and confuse you to the point where it slows you down or, even worse, you stop using it. If you have a team (which could include freelancers and temporary staff) you may well need to factor in how quick and easy it is to train them to use it, too.

It’s also worth considering the interface. If it looks friendly and familiar, say like a social media platform, it may be easier to for some to use than one with a more bare-bones feel to it.

I’d say that having a mobile app so you can update your CRM when you’re out and about is fairly standard these days, but it’s worth checking your choice of CRM to be sure.

Where is your data currently stored?

All CRMs that I’m aware of have an import or even a migrate feature, so you can get your customer/contact data in from a spreadsheet or another CRM system. But it’s worth checking how easy this is for the CRM you’re thinking of using, how much data you can store with that account and whether the CRM provider will offer you support with this. If the data is in a less tidy format, for example in a variety of different files or needs manually pulling out of a series of emails, then remember to include this in your set up time.

Do you have any specific security or data requirements?

Let me just pause here for a quick disclaimer…I’m not a GDPR expert, so please take advice from someone who is. OK, onwards…

GDPR is of course something you need to consider when you start to use a CRM, but you’ll need to go through the proper GDPR audit process with your business as a whole, then look for a CRM that does what you need. It isn’t going to be enough to say you’ve signed up with GDPR compliant CRM software. If you need to know how a specific CRM allows you to be GDPR compliant, search for ‘software name GDPR’ (e.g. ‘Capsule CRM GDPR’) to get the full run-down.

Also take a look at any other data or security requirements that might apply to your business, for example do you have a professional body that requires you to keep all your client data on servers within the EU? Make sure the CRM you choose meets these requirements.

As I said, it’s complicated

Yes, choosing a CRM for your micro business can be very complicated! If you would like me help in choosing the right one for your business, please get in touch!

2 thoughts on “Choosing a CRM for your micro business”

  1. Oh Helen, CRM choices are mind boggling! I think that many business owners, like with most technological solutions, choose not to engage with something they don’t know about, rather than explore the options which are right for them.

    I find one question I ask business owners I work with is, “What are you wanting to achieve in the next 12 months?”, and then once we’ve got the big picture, work backwards to what they need to put in place to achieve that.

    I’ve used many different ones in my time, and sometimes it’s simply the interface (how the screen looks) that makes the choice for people. Fascinating conversations continue 😉

  2. Really good points thanks, Tracey-Jane. I was a software trainer for many years and on many occasions I saw systems that logically speaking would make peoples’ lives so much easier, but they sometimes resisted it for very human, emotional reasons. And I agree, interfaces are incredibly important.


Leave a comment