How To Choose a CRM: Tips from an Expert

5 min readJan 8, 2019

Customer/constituent relationship management software have grown extremely popular nowadays, their impact on the bottom line being widely recognized. Still, companies and organizations may not observe any benefits if CRM solution does not serve business or organizational purposes. Thus, careful choice and customization of a CRM system is a vital prerequisite for success. Agiliway is an expert in CRM implementation and a provider of CRM solutions for commercial and NGO organizations, and we truly wish everyone to make the most out of the CRM software. Thus, we have asked Maryana Cherkes, an Agiliway expert in enterprise solutions, to share her tips on how to choose a CRM for a business or an organization.

It is important to understand that CRM software are no longer merely contact management systems — they are used to systemize and automate various processes such as sales, marketing, organizational activities and events, fundraising, membership management, etc. Thus, CRM has become an indispensable tool for both commercial and nonprofit organizations.

So how to choose a CRM software and not regret your choice any time later? Take time to consider the following key points:

  1. Your needs. Let your needs drive your choice! Think about what challenges you currently face and what best practices you would like to automate. Therefore, find out if the suggested CRM can provide a practical solution satisfying your needs.
  2. CRM functionality. The best CRM will have enough features to handle your processes, as well as the processes you might have when the company/organization grows. Interaction tracking and project management (or workflow management) are the features, which are important for enterprises of all types and sizes. In addition, a quality CRM for e-commerce would have features such as marketing and sales automation, quotes management, email marketing, help desk management, referral tracking, and robust sales analytics. NGOs and nonprofits need a different set of features such as managing fundraising, events and campaigns, tracking memberships, tracking and managing activities of individual volunteers and organizational branches, etc. The more out-of-the-box solutions meet your needs, the better the software is.
  3. Customization opportunities. If you really want CRM to work well for you, make sure it is flexible and can be customized to your needs. Look at how many extensions and modules CRM software has. Look for the feedback of users concerning how complicated or expensive the process of CRM implementation and customization is. Do not only think about expanding the functionality, see whether some basic features can be disabled from your system, too — some out-of-the-box features may be not linked to your goals and managing them will only distract and frustrate your managers or constituents.
  4. Integration. To reap maximum benefits from CRM solution, it should be part of the general technological solution you use to reach your goals. Thus, make sure the CRM you choose integrates with other applications you already use such as your website, accounting software, e-commerce platform, etc.
  5. Reporting. Although reporting is just one of the features of a CRM software, it is worth paying an extra attention to it, as the flexibility of reporting (ability to create customized reports) will define how well your business or organization will act upon the collected data. When correctly configured, CRM reports can provide a valuable insight into the internal and external processes and bring perceived advantage over competitors, so analyze this feature thoroughly before making a choice.
  6. User experience. It is important to acknowledge that CRM systems are used not by tech-savvy people, but regular sales managers and members of organizations. This way, the best CRM will be intuitive and user-friendly — the one your employees and team members actually use.
  7. Security. When choosing a CRM software, consider how it addresses security concerns. In particular, CRM should not only keep your data secure, but also allow managing data access and controlling data sharing.
  8. Demo site. A good CRM will provide you with an ability to try the system and assess it before making a final decision. Thus, when choosing a CRM, cross out the options you cannot try; at the same time, if a software meets the demands stated above, do not skip using a demo site — ultimate user experience might tell you more than lengthy descriptions.
  9. Technical support and implementation. Remember that choosing a CRM, you also choose a partner (a consultant or a vendor) and a community (if the CRM is an open source technology). Thus, be sure to consider implementation, training, support and maintenance cost for a CRM of your choice.

CiviCRM is a good example of a CRM for non-profit organizations, which meets all the demands I recommend users to consider when choosing a CRM:

  • CiviCRM is open source (thus, free) and has a large and active community providing support and developing functionality of the software, making sure your organization can keep pace with technological innovations and trends.
  • CiviCRM has all the features organizations typically need, in particular membership management, case management, event management, contribution management, email marketing, advocacy campaigns, and peer-to-peer fundraising.
  • Considering reporting, users have an ability to create a custom report or choose from among 40 standard reports the one, which meets their needs.
  • CiviCRM is compatible with Drupal, WordPress and Joomla and integrates with accounting software, which is very important for effective contribution and expenses management.
  • It is secure, fully customizable to user’s needs, and expandable. Extensions may be easily installed by lay users from CRM backend, while CiviCRM experts, Agliway in particular, can add specific logic to the system developing and implementing custom modules.
  • The software has detailed documentation, which facilitates training and maintenance, and organizes regular events bringing the community together to share news and best practices.
  • Agiliway and other official CiviCRM partners provide users with experience of using demo sites showcasing the application of CiviCRM as a solution to various organizational needs.

Businesses and organizations of all sizes are turning to CRM systems to help them achieve their goals. Remember that success with the system is only possible if it meets your needs and is a supporting tool rather than another technology to service. Thus, be scrupulous and smart in your choice! If you need support determining how CRM technology can help to address the needs and automate the processes in your organization, feel free to contact us.

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