As a business owner, you know that the customer is king. You strive to deliver great customer service and create products that add value to your client’s lives. To do so takes great organisation, great discipline, great accuracy… or a great CRM system.

What is a CRM system?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. 91% of companies with more than 11 employees now uses CRM software (

It makes sense. You know that the best way to build a business is to anticipate, meet and exceed customer expectations, so any system that can help build actionable insight about our customers has the potential to deliver progress and profit.

A CRM system is a database that lets you record all the interactions you’ve had with a particular customer and the ‘touchpoints’ they’ve encountered with your business.

On the surface, it just looks like data. But it is actually a rich source of insight that can help drive your sales and marketing strategy.

You can use this data to predict the next steps needed to nudge your customers into taking action. Like downloading information, booking an event or making a purchase.

What are the advantages of a CRM system?

A CRM system can give your business a competitive advantage by:

  • capturing information you can use to segment and target your market more effectively
  • encouraging leads through the sales funnel with more relevant information and offers
  • prompting you to connect with people who are showing signs of buying
  • giving your customer a more personalised experience that strengthens your relationship
Feature Function Benefit
Contact management Stores customer details such as contact details, demographic information, interests, interactions to date Provides a central store of all customer data. Allows everyone in your company to enter and access customer information. Provides consistent structure to customer data. Helps you comply with rules around data protection/GDPR.
Lead management Identifies the optimum leads to pursue based on information you hold on them. Alerts you when customers meet certain criteria that suggests they’re ready to make a purchase. Focus your efforts on the opportunities that are most likely to be successful. Never miss an opportunity to make a sale to a qualified lead. Builds a picture of the action required to convert interest into a sale.
Dashboards and reporting Provides easy access to data, creating graphs and reports from real-time data. Lets you uncover business insights and easily spot trends in buyer behaviour.
Workflow automation Automatically performs repetitive business functions such as data analysis or sending out marketing messages. Reduces the time you spend on manually performing tasks and reduces risk of human error.
Tasks and actions Prompts you when a task becomes due or is assigned to you Creates a bespoke to do list and keeps work flowing between team members
Marketing management Collects data from your website, social media, email campaigns etc to analyse conversion rates of past campaigns Understand the impact of your marketing campaigns and use insights to improve impact in future
Email integration and tracking Let’s you contact people from within your CRM, whether they’ve opened the email. Some even provide the option for users to make calls within the system Keeps all correspondence in the system for future reference. Helps you understand the success rate of your email marketing and make improvements

How does CRM work in practice?

Here’s an example of how a CRM system can be used to send targeted marketing to a qualified lead, to convert their interest into a sale.

Capture details

Let’s say you sell motorhomes. You offer an ebook online called ‘Considering your first motorhome? How to pick the right motorhome for you’. People have to submit their email address in order to receive it.

By capturing customer data in your CRM, you can see that someone has downloaded the book... But they haven’t contacted you to make an enquiry yet.

Tailor your marketing message

You can imagine this customer dreams of touring the country in their own motorhome but needs more information to take the leap. It’s a big financial commitment, after all.

Knowing that they’re already downloaded your ebook lets you send a targeted message to that customer, to help nudge them towards a purchase. For example:

  • an inspiring email about the 10 most beautiful motorhome getaways in the UK, with details of your buy-now-pay-later offer
  • an invite to test drive the latest motorhome model and receive a £500 off any future purchase
  • a video review from an existing customer who talks about how much they love their motorhome and what great value it is

Improve your conversation rate

Those marketing messages are far more likely to result in the customer taking your desired action than if you’d sent out something generic to your whole database.

‘Please take a look at our latest catalogue’ is far less likely to inspire your lead to take the next step towards their dream camper van.

Now imagine that you can do this for your entire database of everyone who has ever come into contact with your business, delivering targeted marketing messages to people at different stages of the buying funnel.

And that the whole process has been automated based on pre-agreed rules that you’ve determined. All the while, collecting data about open rates and onward journeys, to help you hone your marketing for your next campaign.

That’s the power of CRM.

Important features in a CRM system for startups

1. Affordability

When you’re trying to scale up your startup, every penny counts. Look out for affordable CRM systems that aren’t going to cost the earth. Many suppliers provide a starter package for smaller businesses. [Link to Marketplace]

2. Intuitive interface

Startups and solo business owners don’t have access to an IT team on call. So make sure your chosen CRM system is easy-to-use with intuitive features that you can get to grips with alone.

3. Customer support

Look out for a software supplier with a strong reputation for customer support. If you do need to call for help, you don’t want to be hanging on the phone or dealing with dubious chatbots.

4. Out-the-box functionality

Whilst it makes sense for some businesses to commission bespoke software, this is an expensive option. Aim to find an off-the-shelf product with options to customise it to your needs.

5. Mobile functionality

If you’re prone to whipping out your mobile to work at the weekend, you need a system that is designed for mobile. A mobile app or cloud-based solution will let you access your CRM wherever you are.

6. Security

CRM systems store people’s personal data and are governed in the UK by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which provides a set of principles, rights and obligations about how to process that data. Choose a system that has robust security to protect your customers’ information and your company from risk.

7. Scale-ability

Sure, you’re a small business now. But what about the future? If you’re expecting to grow rapidly, make sure your CRM system can cope with more users and more data. Don’t forget to check the price will still be affordable at the next pricing band.

What are the disadvantages of a CRM system?

There’s no doubting that CRM has the potential to transform business processes. However, there are time and financial implications to bear in mind.

Even with an off-the-shelf solution, you’ll need to think about your business processes and configure the system to meet your needs. So whilst CRM can be a time saver long term, it can be a time sink when you’re starting out.

You also need to consider the cost of using the system against the financial benefits it will deliver to your business. Make sure you have the potential to get ROI from any investment you make in business tech.

Thinking about scaling up your startup? Transmit Growth Loans might be just what you need. Check our interest rates and eligibility criteria online.

Download your Ultimate Guide to Starting a Business now, for free!