Businesses will face growing challenges throughout 2023 as they deal with economic headwinds and changing customer spending habits. Smart companies are navigating this by leveraging efficiencies wherever they can. This doesn’t always mean cutting costs; sometimes, investing in new software tools and technology can provide the efficiencies that organizations seek. For companies looking to streamline their sales processes and deal with rising costs, customer relationship management (CRM) tools may be something to consider strongly.
The purpose of this annual report is to explore the current state of adoption and usage of CRM platforms such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Zoho, Monday.com, or FreshSales. To examine the market, we asked business decision-makers at small to medium businesses how they leverage CRMs to improve efficiency and maximize profits, as well as their plans for future CRM usage. We define small to medium businesses (SMB) as companies with less than 250 employees.
|What is CRM Software?
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a type of software that companies can use to manage their sales and marketing communications with current and potential customers. Common CRM features include lead management, customer data management, sales forecasting, social media monitoring, workflow automation, reporting, and third-party integrations.
CRMs have a proven track record when it comes to improving an organization’s workflows and improving revenue. However, our data has shown that many companies still need to leverage these tools. Only 26% of small businesses reported using CRMs currently, with 9% saying they plan to implement CRMs this year.
Technology and scientific companies were most likely to use or consider using CRMs (54%). Retail companies were next, with 40% reporting the use or consideration of CRMs.
Technical and scientific companies may be more willing to adopt new technology or tools earlier than other industries. They are also generally more focused on analytics and metrics, which may account for the higher usage.
Similarly, retail is an industry that relies heavily on metrics and analytics to measure sales, trends, and margins at more granular levels. It stands to reason these two industries will gravitate towards a CRM more than others. However, even with this, our numbers show that most smaller retail businesses are not using a CRM, something the Harvard Business Review warned against in a recent article
A reason for this hesitation may be that businesses are often bombarded with various SaaS (software as a service) options. Each category, even in the CRM sector, has a dozen or more choices, and companies may be weary about having to go through and test each one to decide on the right choice.
However, there are ways to improve and streamline the decision-making process. For example, teams can audit the features they truly need the most or seek feedback from the current users of a particular CRM.
Our study of the top 5 CRMs found that over 80% of users would recommend their chosen CRM. This suggests that many of the popular CRMs are capable of meeting the needs of most businesses. Therefore, the goal should not be to find the “perfect” CRM, but rather to find the CRM that best fits your company’s core workflows and environment.
Our survey found that Salesforce is the clear leader among small businesses. It was used at over twice the rate of the closest competitor.
There are several likely reasons for Salesforce holding the top spot. First, it’s a market leader with the most name recognition among sales professionals. Large enterprise customers like Amazon and Wal-Mart are also listed as Salesforce customers, lending to its credibility.
Another reason Salesforce leads in market share is its helpful and productivity-boosting integrations. Salesforce has over 2500 integrations with popular productivity apps and even other CRMs. In comparison, offerings from Zoho or Hubspot have 500 and just over 1000 integrations, respectively. Integrations allow users to automate processes, ensure their customer data is accurate across platforms, improve collaboration across teams, and improve their customer experience.
The previous sections dealt with the benefits of using a CRM. The data seems conclusive that almost every small business can see an improvement if they adopt a CRM. So why aren’t more small businesses using a CRM?
We found the number one hurdle when adopting a CRM is simply the need for more knowledge or expertise about using the product. 32% of small businesses listed this as the main issue when considering a CRM. Hesitation over the price was the second most significant concern.
|What challenges have you encountered while using a CRM?||Percent of users|
|Lack of Expertise||32%|
|Need more app integrations||23%|
Note: Multiple responses allowed
One way businesses can overcome their lack of knowledge is to use their CRM tool’s training resources. For example, Salesforce offers its Trailhead online learning platform with free and paid options.
For most teams, the CRM training process will be twofold: first, IT professionals must develop extensive knowledge on their company’s CRM platforms to support and train other users. Second, each individual user will need to receive enough training to use their CRM effectively. To gain the maximum benefit from CRM tools, teams must invest time and budget to ensure users at all levels can navigate their CRM solution correctly.
Small businesses need to look at CRM adoption as an investment and something that will fundamentally transform their operations in a positive way over time. In this way, adoption must be seen as a process, not a one-time decision or implementation.
Software integrations caused issues for other small business CRM users. After making a significant investment of time and money into a new CRM, it’s important for it to work seamlessly with existing tools and software. Many top CRMs are designed to integrate with thousands of productivity apps and software. However, implementing these integrations may be another issue for smaller firms lacking people and resources.
Once again, by taking advantage of training and other free resources, most teams should be able to become skilled users of their CRMs with an understanding of how they interact with other business software.
Based on our data, it seems clear that small businesses who invest in a CRM overwhelmingly believe the return on that investment was worthwhile. A significant majority also feel that their CRM has become an indispensable component of their core businesses moving forward.
In these times of economic uncertainty and inflationary pressures, companies often fear spending more money. However, spending in the right areas can lead to efficiencies and benefits that give them the tools to not only navigate these economic headwinds but also emerge as a stronger company.
We conducted an online poll of 2,300 professionals employed at companies with less than 250 workers. Among these respondents, 433 were personally involved in using CRMs or researching and evaluating CRMs for their companies. These respondents were asked a set of more detailed questions about their companies’ experiences with CRM tools.