What are your main goals for getting CRM software? If your answer is to increase efficiency and productivity, well and good, but that’s like jabbing at air. Let’s be more specific: Is it to increase website traffic? To streamline the sales process? Or to get sales, marketing and support to work closely together? Whatever your reasons for using a CRM, having them stacked up like a totem pole in order of priority would more likely to get the right CRM software that matches your needs. That’s because many CRM apps are designed with a value proposition addressing a specific priority.
In the examples of CRM below, you’ll realize how these software solutions are classified in a general way, so you get to narrow down your options along a specific type that suits your business. A disclaimer though: these types are not fixed. Rather, they shift to the evolving needs of businesses, which vendors pick up and position their software around. Also, many CRM solutions have a diverse set of features or regularly introduce new features so that they cannot be boxed in one type alone.
Many businesses today have their CRM at the core of their enterprise system. That’s not surprising when you consider that business revolves around customers. And their loyalty is one of the most important business success metrics. With the right CRM strategy and technology in place, businesses do improve the bottom line by reaping CRM benefits resulting from streamlining if not automating customer-relevant processes, such as contact management, lead generation, pipeline management and customer service.
But CRM solutions come in a variety of types, as we mentioned earlier. We’re not talking about deployment or business type or even CRM pricing models, these are easily described. Rather, what we are presenting to you below are CRM types by function. What your priority function is will dictate the software solution of your choice. Keep in mind though that whatever the type, CRMs do help you achieve the following:
Let’s break down the examples of CRM by their priority function:
Most solutions will fall under general CRM, providing standard features for contacts and deals. They almost always have plans for small business to large enterprise and they adapt to a wide range of industries.
When Salesforce started to popularize cloud-hosted CRM in the early 2000s it sort of established the key CRM features that have become the industry benchmark. These Salesforce features are standard today on top of built-in tools for collaboration, email integration and communication:
An Example of General CRM
What can be a better example of a general CRM than the one that started it all. Salesforce CRM solution redefined the sales space when it launched a cloud sales system with tools that today has evolved into standard CRM features we mentioned above.
Over the years, the CRM software has ballooned with more functions as internet, cloud computing and mobile technologies improve and business processes become more integrated.
Salesforce CRM today is part of Sales Cloud, the over-arching cloud solution that includes AI-powered sales tools, integrated sales workflow management, custom app development for sales, CPQ tools and data integration with other systems like support, marketing and ecommerce. You’ll also find built-in or add-on help desk tools, productivity apps, marketing automation features in this CRM. In short, this CRM adapts horizontally across industries and use cases and is very flexible price-wise.
The bottom line, a general CRM like Salesforce is an excellent long-term investment, that is, you get to utilize it for various sales and marketing goals, whether to get more leads, close more deals, shorten sales cycle or get more insights from your sales operations.
This CRM is available to you at no cost for a limited time. Simply sign up for a Salesforce CRM free trial here.
Some CRM can be classified by their specific thrust towards a main function, like promoting inbound marketing or the traditioanl sales-stage approach. While these CRMs also provide standard features and adapt to horizontal uses, the vendors position their product along particular expertise or thought leadership. In other words, they promote a specific sales or marketing approach around which their product is designed. These tools, coupled with sound inbound CRM marketing strategies can positively impact your business.
An Example of Inbound CRM
HubSpot CRM stems from the vendor’s solid positioning as a thought leader in inbound marketing, the use of content to pull customers in, as opposed to advertising, which pushes your brand out to a target audience. A prolific content publisher, HubSpot presented its own marketing brand as the better approach in the digital space, using its own experience as a case. One of its strongest pull strategies is offering free tools and this is where HubSpot CRM is coming from.
The CRM is 100% free. It is not a free trial or freemium with a limited feature set to tease you to a premium plan. You get the whole thing at no cost. And like in any premium CRM, the HubSpot CRM features are robust. The app has the deals pipeline to help you visualize the entire sales funnel. You can sort deals by value, name, stage or customized filter. The deals are bi-directionally associated with contact management. Any update from both ends is synced, giving you the latest on customer data. The app can capture customer interactions in your email (it has good integration with Gmail and Outlook), social media, phone and website channels and automatically updates relevant leads, deals and contacts.
You also get free tools like live chat, team inbox and bots. The team inbox is shared with your marketing, sales and support reps, so it’s easy to track conversations and events across the customer journey.
I know you’re asking–how can the vendor offer the CRM for free? Simple, the CRM helps you to grow your customer base. As it grows though you’ll need more sophisticated tools like marketing and sales automation. HubSpot provides both apps through paid plans, HubSpot Marketing and HubSpot Sales. The free CRM natively integrates with these two systems, giving you a more robust architecture to generate leads, convert them into deals and increase your win rate. But it’s the free CRM that makes the whole engine whirling. There are other free CRM solutions out there, you just need a bit of research to find out about them.
This business model makes HubSpot CRM an ideal tool for startups and small businesses in a hyper-growth market.
To start using this free CRM you can simply sign up for a HubSpot CRM free app here.
You would think that CRM, being a sales tool, is all about selling. But selling today is more complex and, in fact, requires closer cooperation with management, marketing, support and other departments to manage customer experience across the buying stages. The result is robust CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot that try to cover all customer-facing processes in your operation.
Some vendors stick to the selling proposition and, in fact, these are ideal if your revenues come mainly from the skill of your top sales reps. But of course, you will need to come up with an effective sales process in order to optimize your use of CRM.
An Example of Sales CRM
Pipedrive CRM focuses on the function of the sales rep. And what tool that sales reps use? The sales pipeline.
It is Pipedrive’s banner feature and where the other tools connect. It is a clear visual interface that gives sales reps the whole picture: deal owner, deal value, activities, action to be taken, bottleneck issue, close probability and more. The pipeline is based on sales stages that your team can customize to follow contacts from lead to deal to won. It features a smart filter for stats that matter to the health of your sales like conversion rate, won-loss ratio and best performers.
The visual pipeline gives clarity to your sales reps’ daily activities and allows you to forecast goals with accuracy. Again, this works best if your revenues come mainly from below-the-line selling, riding on the strength of your reps’ contacts and less on your campaigns.
You can try all its features at no cost when you sign up for a Pipedrive free trial here.
Social CRM arose from the need to manage brand conversations now controlled by customers on social media. As brand managers realized paid channels no longer cut it, they needed a listening tool that, at the least, would help them keep tab of customer conversations and steer them to a positive note. Enter social media software. They allow marketers to join in social conversations, follow brand mentions, capture and address posts in real time and from one platform.
Because these tools help shape and nurture leads and create sales opportunities, they quickly found their way to CRM, giving birth to social CRM. These CRMs go beyond collecting customer data like demographics, transactions and conversations; they add a layer that can prove critical to selling: social influence and network effect. Likewise, social CRM taps into the publicly shared customer social data and leverage it for a more personalized campaign or deal.
An Example of Social CRM
Salesforce CRM, HubSpot CRM and Freshsales can qualify for social CRM to an extent. That is, they can help you manage and market on social media. But their social tools are integrated separately. Salesforce CRM requires integration with Social Studio, the vendor’s social marketing app. HubSpot CRM has Facebook & Instagram lead ads, but the main social media toolkit is found in HubSpot Marketing, a paid module. While Freshales can only provide social media information.
A good social CRM example should be Zoho CRM. Zoho CRM basic plans have Facebook, Twitter and Google+ integrations, while the premium plans let you capture leads from Facebook and Twitter and interact with them from the CRM interface. In short, the social tools are built inside the CRM itself. This way it’s easier to follow your leads’ social posts and conversations, and if necessary, address their issues with you at once. Conversely, you can push conversations or deals to your contacts on social media right inside Zoho CRM, so long as they allow it. Online retailers with bulk orders coming from Facebook will benefit most from a social CRM like Zoho.
That said, Zoho CRM isn’t just for social media. It is a fully integrated CRM also with features for marketing automation, lead management, salesforce automation, deal pipeline and even inventory management.
If you want to test the full CRM for free you can easily do so. Simply sign up for a Zoho CRM free trial here.
The typical tech setup of how marketing, sales and support cooperate goes like this. Leads from a marketing software, which handles campaigns, are qualified and fed into the CRM. The CRM converts them into won customers. Post-sale complaints are then handled by another software, a help desk app. These three apps are closely integrated, but are often sold separately. However, some CRMs today evolve into a platform that fully integrates the three functions in one place. Inside the system, marketing can launch email campaigns; sales can follow up deals via phone, chat or email; while support can answer tickets.
An Example of a Fully Integrated CRM
Freshsales unifies marketing, sales and support tools in one platform. Its basic plan has a built-in phone (other vendors only allow integration), email integration, lead scoring, sales pipeline, contact management, campaign management and standard reporting. From campaign to customer complaints, the app covers the entire customer journey.
Premium Freshsales pricing adds more tools like web forms, event activity tracking and IP whitelisting. You also get to access the system via mobile app, ideal for on-the-go sales reps and remote working.
The advantage of an integrated setup like Freshsales, as opposed to stacking up your apps gradually, is you get the essential customer-engagement tools at once in a neat price bundle. The minor drawback is, you better have people using all the tools you’re paying for to get your money’s worth. In short, Freshsales works best for companies with a clearly defined marketing-sales-support workflow in place.
You can check its full features at no cost when you sign up for a Freshsales free trial here.
With a clear picture of the different CRM types, it is easier to gauge now a software solution for its value proposition and not for a feature it is not designed for. You’ll also have a more meaningful way to compare products. That said, if you’re ready to match products, you can read this best 20 CRM solutions to fast track your product research.
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