At what point will I need to switch over to a CRM system?
I am still using excel right now, and I'm curious at what point in my business should I switch over to a CRM system. My business is still small, so I'm unsure if switching over now is worth the costs or the time of learning a new system until I've grown my customer base a little more.
The sooner the better. There are relatively inexpensive ones that can still be powerful (I know of one that is $20 per month). I started with relatively low-priced one, and then when I needed more functionality than the one I had, I migrated to another one. There are usually easy processes for integrating your existing database onto a new system electronically.
With a CRM or not, you must always have a consistent process for staying in touch with your prospects (sometimes called a 'drip campaign'.). The reason this is so important is that statistically, only 1 - 3% of your prospects on average are looking right now to buy what you are looking for. Therefore, the rest buy only after between 8 - 12 "touches". You have to make it easy to do this with a CRM and ability to mass mail/email prospects.
Hi Carrie, I believe it's worth your while to start using a CRM system right away. This will have many benefits such as putting your clients through the sales funnel, generating leads and moving them to accounts once they become clients.
Besides this it will also automatically make your business more valuable to potential investors or if at some stage you consider selling it.
A CRM system doesn't have to be expensive and I believe if you look at www.zoho.com you will see that it is even free up to 3 users (of course it depends on your own needs but a basic system that zoho can provide is usually more than enough in the starting phase).
I like zoho because it's easy to use, it's cloud based and can be accessed from any browser, world wide and it's simple enough to navigate. It may take some time to get used to it, but I believe this is with any CRM system out there the case.
You can see the stage of your prospects and pipeline immediately and you can import your excel spreadsheet directly into zoho. You may need to tweak your spreadsheet here and there but I'm sure you will figure it out.
I hope this is helpful. If you need some guidance, I'm happy to talk you through zoho if you like.
Switch now. You will only waste time later, more data, longer migration, probably associated costs.
Now - I will yet again upset a lot of people as I will recommend a program for new businesses. Please don't be offended (all you sales guys and affiliates)
Have a look at ZOHO.com - 2 weeks free and the customer support is FANTASTIC. It works, modular - etc. I used SugarCRM (which is a sledgehammer to crack a nut) and tried others. Those guys are good.
Well - here we go guys - I opened a can of worms!
My advice is start now, setting up or migrating data into a new CRM is a painful process and will provide you with more questions than answers. It is much easier to do with small and focused data set that you want to nurture, manage and extract value from as opposed to continuing to grow in excel and then add to a CRM, as it may require you to buy a more expensive system due to the size of the data set.
A good CRM will help you grow your customer base and the right choice will help you with lead nurturing. Buy a system that will grow with your business Hubspot or Communigator both are cloud based and will allow you to tailor the solution for the short, medium and long term.
Biggest thing I have learnt is test your processes from a software and people perspective, don't implement a new system and new processes that people are not used to as it will cause confusion and adoption of the system will be slow. Create your perfect scenario and work backwards from there.
Start now and get used to using. If you want to scale your business in the long run, you need to start building your sales processes so when it comes time to delegate or if you have an influx of leadsm your will have your process and CRM systems ready.
There are many free to low cost options out there. HubSpot is offering their CRM for free right now. http://www.hubspot.com/products/crm
Carrie ...There are plenty of small business CRM platforms that have a free version that allow you to trial their platforms before starting to invest $15+/mo on them. Furthermore, most of the CRMs today are very user-friendly and have plenty of training videos if necessary.
The transitioning from Excel to a CRM is pretty painless since most of them have the ability to create custom fields and offer templates to match the data in your spreadsheet and import it into the CRM.
For new customers some of the platforms are able to search the web so that there is no need for data entry.
So no matter how many contacts, records, notes you have currently the platforms are able to handle what you have and more.
Lastly, unless you are using Office 360 and are using their mobile apps, you must have a laptop computer to access the records in your spreadsheet; whereas, with almost all of the SaaS-based CRM platforms you can access and manage your database from any device or computer at anytime from anywhere. Also, most are built on open API so you can connect/link your CRM to many other programs like accounting, email, etc.
A simple approach - costs benefits analysis with a NVP or ROI to quantify whether your investment in new system worthwhile or not.
I going to use a slightly different approach than my esteemed fellow posters. I would suggest that you take it in stages. I know a number of people who use Excel and they have hundreds of clients. Not as efficient, but they feel very comfortable with their current system. You could check with different CRM companies and get a feeling for which one allows for the easiest uploading of Excel spreadsheets. You could then take them up on their two week or month trial memberships to see which fields they use, and then tailor your Excel to them. Continue using Excel with the new fields until you feel as though you cannot keep up with the number of your customers. You may never switch, but if you do, it will be more painless than entering everything from scratch.
A great question. A lot depends on your NEED to KNOW rather than nice to have.
Most CRM systems work to some degree but rely on accurate and timely input. All CRM systems demand that everyone who has access to it also maintains the integrity of the information. To understand what you NEED from a CRM - you should make sure that any "PAPER BASED SYSTEM" you have (and that includes Excel) gives you what you need for your business. To test this you should involve all those in your business who need access to information now and later. Any system you purchase needs to be able to "keep up" with your business changes without the need for specialist input from a software house.
The real answer is research research research and talk to users in a similar business BEFORE you buy, The more you learn - especially if you are not technical - the better.
Switch Now. The time will be well spent. All CRM systems allow you to do much more and easier than using excel. CRM systems allow you categorize and have much information including notes and attachments. They prevent actions from falling through the cracks.
Carrie, I'm going to take a contrarian view:
Data Entry = Effort. And you need to justify that effort -- for each contact! CRM systems generally make that harder to do, as the level of effort is much higher. An Excel spreadsheet is unbeatable for simple, linear - and quick - data entry of names, contact information and titles, (e.g. your typical haul of business cards from a networking event or conference). If they're not likely customers, or you don't have a product or literature to send them, stick with Excel until you do.
Excel helps you understand your business model, and design an appropriate pipeline. A CRM tool will usually come with a pre-designed sales process that can be overwhelming, hard to adapt, and wrong for your particular industry.
Also, you may want to do campaign management, personalized outreach, lead nurturing and customer acquisition. But consider each of these tactics individually - again, to minimize the data you will be entering. CRMs can help you do all of these things, but you can plague yourself with to-do items, next actions, and tickle reminders. I found that I didn't need a CRM for customer acquisition, but it was useful for the first three.
At certain point I think the one who is using the excel can only decide when to switch over to another system , the value of work shows the need for another system , size of data reflects the need , in different ways specially in regard of clients & their data , As the owner it depends on your plans for future .
I have used Salesforce in two different business applications. I think sooner is better. You have to have confidence that your business will grow and if it does and you don't have the CRM in place you will be overwhelmed with data, contacts and information, and to take the time then to learn and transfer all of that will be very time consuming. Do it sooner than later. Most CRM's have small business models that you can grow with.
I recommend starting with a CRM system at the outset. There are several good ones that allow you to start for free. As your business grows and your customer base expands you may need to expand beyond the capabilities of the free offerings but you will likely be able to afford the paid versions by then.
One of the key things that you need to be doing is to segment your contacti list so that people receive tailored communications. Do this on the basis of interest in your service or industry segment or on some other means that makes sense to you. One of the products that makes this particularly easy is Contactually. In terms of timing, most CRM systems are much better at tracking communications with your prospects and helping you to see which messages achieve most for you so the sooner the better. Another good way to start is to create segmented lists in Mailchimp. You can track opens and also create the means to automatically add people to your database. Mailchimp is free too.
There is no time like the present. By using one of the systems mentioned by me or others you will start to get a much better view of what is possible and your business will evolve too plus migrating from one to another is not so hard - the biggest investment is in learning how a new system works. That investment buys you more knowledge of best practice and what is possible.
Now would be the time to learn a CRM before your business grows to a point that a CRM is a must and you become time poor.
I also agree with the gang here. Assuming you are profitable, I would start using it right away. My favorite is www.pipelinedeals.com. It is about $40/month and it integrates with Google Apps and MailChimp very easily.
It is best to get into the habit and get your systems set up right away. Even if you move to something later, you will already be the practice of using the CRM. Whenever I launch a business, I invest in Quickbooks, Pipeline Deals, Google Apps for Business, and a website right away. You need to look, act, and feel like a professional, and you definitely need to keep you financial house in order and your pipeline in order.
When does a business know it’s time to upgrade/switch over to a CRM system.
-There are too many orders/processes and your team simply cannot process them quickly enough to service your clients or customers in a timely manner.
-You’re working on the weekend.
-You’re sitting on “legacy technology” in an effort to save money and be lean.
-You can’t communicate across teams.
-You’re losing track of deals.
-You forget the follow-up.
-Your customers aren’t feeling the love.
-You don’t know what the future holds.
And the most important
-You’re spending too much.
Anything can be done on Excel so long as the data is manageable and volume of data is small enough to avoid errors. When transcation volumes become significant, may or may not be in Dollar terms, but understanding customer behaviour becomes critical and customer base is sufficently large, it is worth looking at a CRM system. This is partcularly required in B2C environment where your source of understanding customer is only by observing the transction behaviours, analysing them and drawing insights.
So to answer your question, till customer base is significantly large, you may as well do with Excel.