What to look for when choosing your CRM Solution

For effective Relations and Direct marketing, a CRM (Customer/ Contacts Management Solution) is a must-have tool. Let’s face it; your default address book is a great place to store your contacts in. But it’s not going to take you far when it comes to marketing intelligently.

The purpose of using a CRM for marketing is not only to manage complaints and incidents, but more importantly to accumulate data and put that to good use in the form of launching targeted marketing campaigns.

Choosing the best CRM solution is not easy, especially when considering the countless options available. It takes a lot of research and investigating. Probably some demos and trials as well. So how does a company go about choosing the most suitable solution that stands a good chance to yield a solid ROI?

Identify and document your requirements

Invest into determining what you aim to get out of your CRM solution. Do you need a centralized depository for your business contacts, or do you require a dynamic tool that lets you launch interests-based promotions for example? Depending on what you come up with, you could either do with a simple trick such as a shared address book, or a comprehensive setup such as Salesforce,  Zoho CRM, or ACT!.

Data portability

Technology gets only cheaper with time. So there’s not much value in buying something today that you don’t need until tomorrow. If your CRM needs are simple for the time being, stick with a simple (and cost efficient) solution for now. In other words, if the standard edition does the job, don’t buy the premium version yet.

Then, when your needs become more complex, you can always migrate and move to something else if your current solution can’t be upgraded. What’s very important here though is to make sure the data you accumulate in any system can be easily exported into a file format that can then be imported into your future solution.


CRM solutions must be accessible at anytime and via any device. Be default, this puts cloud-based solutions at a significant competitive advantage. After all, you want to capture the main points of that sales meeting you just had right there and then, not at then end of the day when you’ve forgotten half of what was said during the six sales meetings you had during the day.

If your solution of choice is cloud based and comes with an app, you’ve made a great choice. If it can be accessed via web browsers, it’s a good solution but not a great one. If it doesn’t do either, you should reconsider.

Integration with other application

Marketing is most effective when it’s integrated, and it’s most efficient when it becomes semi-automated. To achieve this scenario, your marketing engine (CRM) needs to talk to a lot of other systems bi-directionally.

For example, ideally you can build – with a few mouse-clicks- a custom-group that’s composed of customers who haven’t made a purchase in the last six months, yet are actively reading your newsletter and product announcements. For that, your CRM needs to talk to your financial records and your emailing system. This might be  complex, but imagine the power of the messages you could communicate to such a focused audience.

Avoid hefty start-up fees

Most solutions come with a time-bound trial period that’s free. But we’ve also seen some that insist on a hefty setup fee. We’ve contacted one particular solution and were told that the fee includes importing existing contacts and what have you. Well, this is child play nowadays, so the investment is definitely not warranted.

Our advice is to definitely go for a solution that comes with no entry barriers (setup fees and such), is billed on a monthly basis, and can be discontinued at any time with no strings attached. Keep in mind, you really won’t know whether you’ve made the perfect choice or not until a few months have passed and you’ve tested it thoroughly in real-time mode.

Hidden pricing options and limitations

Beware of solutions that trick you with ease-of-entry but pose severe limitations that you won’t discover until later on. You could for example come across a great solution that’s billed at $5 per month per user, but only allows you to handle 500 records. Additional records are then billed at $15 per so and so many.

Others could come with a hefty fee for sending out emails beyond 50 per day, storing more than 25MB in data, and so forth. In some cases, the additional fees you will be asked to pay are prohibitive, so always do your homework upfront so you know what you might be getting into later on.

24/7 support

Make not mistake, you will need a lot of support during the early phase of your deployment, especially when setting up customized fields, automating workflows, and so forth.

Your service provider must be responsive and get back to your pressing inquiries within 24 hours or less. Ideally, you should also have access to phone support, even if that comes at a charge per incident.


In the age of digital marketing, we cannot fathom how a brand could possible engage customers, leads, and prospects without a CRM solution, which primary purpose is to harvest and provide access to usable marketing intelligence. Providers of CRM solutions have figured out a long time ago, which is probably why there are so many options on the market.

But not every solution is a great – or even a good one. Doing your homework and research may be a pain at the time being because you want to get started with all these great marketing programs you’ve got lined up, but it’s time and energy spent well that will pay off down the line.

A final and serious word of advice; the best CRM solution is the one that you’ll end up actually using, and not the one that comes with the most functions and features. It’s one thing to have a system that comes with all the bells and whistles, and it’s entirely another issue whether you actually need those and will effectively use them.


We’ve done a lot of research and analysis into which CRM solutions work great for various cases. If you need help, let us know. We’ll be happy to share some pointers and guidance that will help in you making the right decision and choice. (You may also want to checkout our CRM service profile on our website.)

 About the Author

Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.

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