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Inbound’s Ultimate CRM Guide: What They Are and Why You Need Them

CRMs are a hot topic at the moment but what are they really and what value do they offer your business? To some small and mid-sized businesses the thought of them might even appear unnecessary. If your business only has a handful of customers, why do you need a dedicated system to keep track of them when a few spreadsheets and rules of thumb work just fine?


But what happens when business starts to boom? At some point, the organisation will need to implement a customer contact management system that’s more organised and streamlined than a mass of spreadsheets. Such a migration could be painful if the decision has been put off a few too many months, or even years. 


At its core, a CRM is not just useful to large enterprise companies - it’s essential for businesses of all sizes. In this guide, we break down all the basics on CRMs so you can understand what they do and how they can benefit your business. 


What is a CRM?

CRM stands for customer relationship management, referring to software that tracks interactions with a company’s current and prospective customers. 


This allows companies to nurture relationships with their customers and keep on top of the admin that comes with that. With a CRM you can track all the data you have on a customer, whether a new potential lead or a longtime business partner. 


Marketing departments would use a CRM to ensure that they’re passing the right leads to their sales team, while salespeople would use it to source prospective customers, communicate and track interactions with them. Also, your services team might use one to manage customer support operations. A CRM is indispensable for keeping track of precious customer data and making sure different teams align with each other and the customers themselves in their journey.

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Which Companies Should Use a CRM?

The short answer is that any company who seeks to maintain a relationship with their customers can benefit from using a CRM system. To be more specific though, there are two groups of companies that often see the most benefit:


  • B2B companies that typically need to track leads and customers across long sales cycles and through upgrade paths e.g. software companies, recruiting firms
  • B2C companies with considered purchase customers e.g. landscaping services, realtors 


However, there are a lot of companies who don’t fit the above two profiles but still find value in using a CRM system. To understand whether or not a CRM system can help your business is to think about the challenges that CRM aims to solve:


  • Do you need to maintain a central list of information on your leads and customers? Does this information live in many different places?
  • Are your customers regularly interfacing with multiple people on your team? How does everyone keep track of where the conversation with a customer left off?
  • Do you struggle to understand the productivity of your sales team? Does your sales team follow a structured process?


If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, chances are your business could benefit from a CRM system.


Benefits of a CRM

There are many things a CRM can do that should get marketers, salespeople, or business owners pretty excited! Here’s how a CRM can make you a more effective marketing and sales machine:


  1. Better Lead Intelligence for Both Marketing and Sales


Wouldn’t it be helpful if you knew when a potential customer was looking at your website? Implementing a CRM will allow your sales team to know how many times potential customers have visited your site or if they ever talked to a member of your sales team.


When a salesperson works within a CRM that integrates with their company’s marketing software, they’re able to access this type of detailed, real-time lead intelligence all from one place.


This isn’t just beneficial to sales; it’s beneficial to marketing as well. A CRM will allow your marketing team to see which leads turn into customers. More specifically, you can see what brought them to your website and what pages they looked at before becoming a customer.


When a marketer works in a marketing platform that is integrated with a CRM, they are able to figure out which of their efforts are working best. 


  1. Better Sales and Marketing Alignment


Sales and marketing both have numbers they need to hit each month and when both teams have visibility into each other’s metrics they can easily assess each team’s progress and identify and remedy problems early on in the month.


Real-time reporting holds both teams accountable to their goals and helps one another work together toward shared outcomes. Also, CRMs are used for customers too, not just leads, so customer service communications and metrics can be easily documented for account managers to reference as well. 


  1. Help Sales Prioritise its Pipeline


A CRM not only gives complete visibility into the sales pipeline, but it also helps salespeople prioritise who to call first so they don’t miss important opportunities. When sales and marketing set up a CRM, they can identify important criteria and even implement a lead scoring system. Organisational systems like these reduce time spent sifting through leads and enable salespeople to prioritise the best opportunities.


  1. Closed-Loop Reporting Lets Marketers Improve Campaigns


When you integrate marketing software into your CRM, marketing can easily analyze the effectiveness of its campaigns using closed-loop reporting. For example, when a salesperson converts a lead into a paying customer, he or she can mark it in the CRM and it will automatically be noted in your marketing software, too.


This allows marketing to do two important things. First, marketing can automatically remove this lead for their nurturing sequences and instead, send it customer-focused information. Secondly, marketing is now able to attribute this new customer to a specific campaign and channel. Mapping marketing activities to sales events is critical for marketing to improve future campaigns. 

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Must-Have CRM Features

A CRM system should be useful to its end users: salespeople, sales managers, marketers and business leaders. CRM systems have a range of functionalities, but these nine features are must-haves for any business that is aiming to organize their systems and improve their efficiency.


  1. Contact Management


You won’t find a CRM that doesn’t have a contact management capability. If you do, chances are you aren’t looking at a CRM. All CRM systems allow salespeople to create contact records and store prospect or customer information in a database. However, the best systems that truly improve efficiency will reduce and streamline contact data entry as much as possible.


Judge this feature with ease of use in mind.


  1. Deal Stages


Most CRM systems can be customized to operate on a specific sales process. Whether your company has three deal stages or 15, you should be able to program these levels into the software and attach associated values. For example, in Hubspot CRM, advancing a deal is as simple as dragging and dropping, or through automation. 


  1. Daily Dashboard


Sales people need visibility into a number of metrics on a daily basis. Metrics such as their progress to date against quota, how many deals they have in their pipelines at which stages, and what outstanding tasks they need to complete. Similarly, sales managers and leaders need to be able to view these pipelines and forecast on projected revenues. 


Evaluate this function based on visual appeal and simplicity.


  1. Task Management


A sales person who has to toggle back and forth between several different systems to view and complete their daily tasks is not a happy person (though this is common). CRM systems that include task management capabilities streamline salespeople’s day-to-day workflow and help them keep on top of their follow up.


  1. Content Repository


According to Docurated’s State of Sales Productivity 2015 study, salespeople spend 31% of their time hunting for or creating content. To cut back on wasted time searching for content, look for a CRM system with an embedded content repository and allows salespeople to save their go-to pieces of collateral in one place.


It’s not just about collateral though. Writing email copy can be another time sink for a busy sales person. Look for a system that also allows the user to file away customised email templates, so the sales rep is not reinventing the wheel with every new outreach.


  1. Automated Data Capture


One of the primary reasons companies decide to adopt a CRM is to keep better track of customer and prospect touches (emails, calls etc). 


Systems like Hubspot CRM automatically log calls made and emails sent, posting them in a timeline-like view on a contacts record page. 


  1. Reporting


A CRM system is only as good as the insights it provides. Be sure that your CRM provides reporting features that make it easy to export and distribute the trends that the system reveals.


  1. Mobile


Sales reps have seen productivity increased by 15% when they had mobile access to CRM applications. Tying reps to a CRM system that can only be accessed via laptop is bound to annoy them, especially if they’re in a role that requires travel.


The majority of CRM systems today allow salespeople to log on to the application from mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. Make sure the ones you’re considering do as well.


  1. Integration with Marketing Automation


Last but not least, integration between your marketing and sales platform is crucial. After all, the underlying concept of “customer relationship management” is to provide a complete lifecycle view into each prospect and client. A gap between marketing automation and CRM can lead to lost information and lost opportunities.




To reap the full benefits of a CRM, you have to choose one with the features that are right for your business today and that can grow with you as your business evolves. Think about your company’s growth goals and consider both your short-term and long-term needs when investing in a CRM platform. 


Keep in mind, a CRM is not only a financial investment, it is also a time investment for your sales and marketing organisation. Picking the right system, implementing it, and enforcing best practises around it’s usage will pay dividends as your company continues to grow and scale.


Looking to onboard a CRM for your own business or organisation? Have a chat with us at Inbound to learn more about a CRM solution for you.

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