Home

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

How to Make Your CRM Your Company's Most Flexible Tool

Stella Morrison
Stella Morrison

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a key tool for most modern businesses. Here's how to make your CRM system adapt to your existing business operations.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software has gone from a handy tool to an essential platform that's central to keeping all company departments in sync.  These systems are extremely powerful because of their ability to unite sales, marketing, customer service and many other business departments.

A flexible CRM can help small businesses shine. Here's how a small company can accomplish its CRM software goals and, consequently, enjoy higher sales volume and greater customer satisfaction.

How CRMs help a company stay flexible

Large corporations often require significant time and capital investment to extract and transfer vital information housed in disparate sales, marketing and customer service tools. Small and midsize businesses don't usually have this problem; they can integrate new tech that helps them share information more easily, giving them a competitive edge in engaging with customers and establishing relationships that lead to sales.

Small businesses that use a CRM can quickly pivot to serve their customers. The right CRM software can easily and seamlessly integrate with a new productivity tool or marketing platform, which, in turn, improves engagement with customers. This flexibility becomes especially important when small businesses need to consider new communication channels and social media platforms.

FYIFYI: CRM software can boost the performance of sales and marketing teams.

CRM features that help companies stay flexible

There are a number of key benefits that a properly implemented CRM can offer small businesses. Here are some features to look for in a flexible CRM:

Predictive analytics

You don't need a crystal ball when you have the right CRM software. The best CRMs for small businesses can support sales through predictive analytics technology, which can provide invaluable insight into identifying the right contacts, as well as when, where and how to maximize each interaction to drive transactions.

Without the right tools, efforts to forecast the most effective next step to take with a lead can be both unreliable and frustrating. A CRM can help to alleviate that problem by providing sophisticated and fact-based forecasts.

Predictive analytics can allow your small business to take both macro and micro views of every scenario, maximize each interaction and analyze how that engagement can lead to a sale.

Marketing tools

Marketing plays an indispensable role in ensuring the financial success of almost any company. The trouble is, small businesses don't normally have sizable marketing budgets.

Your CRM can help stretch those dollars to support marketing objectives through supported integrations with marketing automation, email marketing technology and more. Better still, you can use a CRM to create targeted marketing campaigns, personalized content and other strategies that offer customers a more relevant shopping experience. CRMs should have the flexibility to add new platforms as they develop and emerge as well; your marketing strategy may shift depending on the prevalence of new and emerging platforms.

Adaptability

Whereas large enterprises can often afford to employ different tools to support their sales, marketing, customer service and organizational management efforts, small businesses need their CRMs to act as a jack-of-all-trades.

Small businesses must find a CRM solution that's adaptable enough to capture the information they need both now and as they grow. Choosing a flexible CRM will help strengthen customer engagement at every point of the company's development.

For example, a small business owner who's looking to bolster sales and buyer satisfaction should seek a CRM solution that can be built around their specific sales and customer service needs, given their business model and organizational goals. The CRM should be customizable and capture data that's relevant to your requirements.

Task automation

Rote tasks can take hours of your staff's time that can be better spent on more complex projects. CRMs can help develop and execute the following tasks:

  • Send automatic responses to common questions
  • Automatically send welcome, order confirmation or other routine emails
  • Pass information to new leads
  • Measure data and run reports
  • Build and automate workflows

Industry-specific functionality

How prevalent is the specific CRM you're using (or considering) in your industry? Does it provide the specific functionality you need to be successful in your space? The CRM you choose should be flexible enough to meet the needs of both your specific industry and your particular business.

Companies are increasingly recognizing the need for industry-specific business tools, and your CRM should accommodate the unique challenges and opportunities of your space. Your CRM doesn't have to be exclusive to your industry, but it should be able to demonstrate how it will help your business achieve growth in your space.

Lead automation

CRM software can help field new leads and assign them to the right contact. This way, you can ensure that nobody misses a beat and no customer is accidentally overlooked. When you use these tools, your sales team should receive an email whenever someone inquires about a possible new customer or client. A flexible CRM can schedule follow-up actions as your company sees fit, as opposed to making your workflows fit into the software. If you force an inflexible CRM to work for you, it can mess with your own processes.

Mobility

As the number of people working remotely increased substantially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, these changing workplace dynamics have made mobility vital for small businesses. Flexible CRM software allows you to meaningfully engage with customers in an environment where sales are made – and customer support is provided – outside office hours. It ensures that you and your employees can work from anywhere without missing a beat.

Be careful when choosing a mobile CRM strategy; a full-featured mobile version of complex CRM software can often lead to frustration and minimal use among small businesses. Instead, opt for a smaller-scale CRM that's optimized with the features your business and employees need while working on the go.

A streamlined mobile CRM with the right features allows sales reps and other employees to remotely access data quickly and efficiently, thus improving sales and customer satisfaction. The growing popularity of mobile CRMs can boost the performance of sales representatives, who can connect with clients at all hours as they work toward making a sale.

Third-party integrations

The world has become an information superhighway with data hitting us from a multitude of sources and directions. Adapting third-party integrations within your CRM can ensure your reps are up to speed as the latest customer data pours in.

All CRMs, no matter how sophisticated they might be, can benefit from incorporating outside applications. Whether you're linking your CRM to Twitter or a customer support system, third-party apps can strengthen your sales, organizational and communication efforts.

Aside from helping you keep pace with the latest data, incorporating outside software can be a valuable way to manage schedules, enhance marketing, connect with customers and achieve other organizational objectives.

Support for both acquisition and retention

Acquiring new customers often requires different strategies than maintaining existing clients. By now, you may have a handle on your longtime customers' buying histories, communication preferences and shopping habits. Conversely, there's a lot to learn about the new and prospective customers you're trying to woo.

Your CRM should be capable of supporting customer acquisition and retention efforts with equal aplomb. The software should provide functionality for tracking new relationships through the sales funnel, as well as following established connections as you look to sell upgrades and add-ons and generally maintain those relationships.

The CRM industry has become one of the largest software markets in the world, and the technology's popularity shows no signs of slowing. As the market grows, the best small business CRMs continue to expand upon and improve the features that benefit the small business community.

The best small business CRMs can capture complex and relevant data sets, help small businesses take sophisticated collections of information, and make them actionable to drive business growth through successful interactions with both new and existing customers.

There are a lot of CRM options, and many of them position themselves as offering business tools and features in addition to basic contact management functionality. But the key is to determine which CRM can adapt to the needs of your organization.

Bottom LineBottom line: CRM software can influence a wide range of business operations, making it a useful tool for many types of businesses.

Best flexible CRM systems

If you're looking for the best flexible CRM systems for your small business, check out our recommendations:

H. John Oechsle contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article. 

Image Credit: InsideCreativeHouse / Getty Images
Stella Morrison
Stella Morrison
business.com Contributing Writer
Stella Morrison is an award-winning writer who focuses on marketing for small businesses, including useful tools and best practices that help business owners introduce their products and services to new audiences. She is also a digital marketing professional who has worked with leading brands in the tech industry.