How to choose a CRM system for an agency - Heart Internet Blog - Focusing on all aspects of the web

Thinking about a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for your agency? Great. That means your business is growing faster than Jack’s beanstalk. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a web developer, marketer or designer, eventually the agency life will transcend the specifics of your core skills.

That means you’ll be thinking about project, team and client management. And that’s where a CRM comes in. The marketing, sales, and service software aims to help businesses by helping their customers. And demand for CRM technologies is growing. According to Gartner, the market was worth more than $40 billion in 2018 alone.

Perhaps that’s why the market has exploded with vendors. As such, choosing a CRM that’s best for your brand can prove trickier than solving a Rubix Cube. To help you organise that strategy, here’s some key things for you to consider before buying.

What is a CRM system?

Let’s start with the basics. A CRM system essentially provides a central hub where an agency like yours can store customer and prospect data and track customer interactions. The end goal is to help you win more customers by boosting your sales team’s ability to close deals, improve your support team’s customer service, and automate your marketing.

It allows businesses to manage relationships with customers which in turn helps the business to grow. But does your business really need one?

Why do I need a CRM?

Most agencies have a number of work streams, services and product ranges. Juggling ever-burgeoning contracts, ad hoc work and large-scale projects can therefore become increasingly difficult. You know the deal. Where’s the web project at? How much did you quote and agree with the client? When are your review points? When can it be billed? Once launched, would the client benefit from ongoing marketing?

Like a tumbleweed kicking up dust on the road, things can quickly spiral out of control. A lack of central management weighs heavy on internal resources and tasks, triggering confusion amongst the team which, most importantly, means you’re spread too thin to deliver kick ass customer relations.

Oh, and what about those five leads you’re chasing?

Unless you have a Limitless brain capacity, you’ll need somewhere to store, organise and share that data with all relevant stakeholders. Sounds like you? Then a CRM system can integrate all aspects of your infrastructure.

Collaboration between your marketing, sales, service and IT teams will empower them to nurture your customers.

How you’ll want your CRM system to function will be specific to your agency. Like Cinderalla’s glass slipper, it will need to be configured to be the perfect fit.

There are, however, a number of leading reasons why creative agencies embrace a CRM system for both themselves and clients.

  • Managing tasks
  • Managing marketing
  • Managing leads

How to choose a CRM system

There are more CRM systems on the market than direct to DVD Nicolas Cage movies. So do your research diligently, understand what you’ll get, how payment works and, crucially, how the CRM in question integrates with your existing set up.

Take a moment to consider this scenario: your agency runs on iMacs. Some of the more alluring budget CRM systems on the market might not have the capability to integrate with these machines. If so, you could go down the virtual desktop route or deploy something like Bootcamp to run Windows on your Mac.

This, of course, can require ninja-levels of IT skills whilst ramping up cost as you’ll have to invest in hard and software alongside your new CRM.

So, before you start deciding which CRM is perfect for your agency, ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the most important functionality you need?
  • Do you want to use the CRM for your own agency, clients, or both?
  • What’s your budget?
  • How many users will be using the system? (Note: this will likely impact budget)
  • What operational processes and workflows do you need to improve/create?
  • Where are you current process bottlenecks and how much time and money would automation save you?
  • How much time does your team spend managing leads?
  • What other software do you want to integrate with a CRM system?
  • What marketing activities do you want to automate and reporting do you need?

Which CRM software is best for agencies?

This will really depend on two factors:

  1. Your budget
  2. Your requirements

No doubt you’ve heard of Salesforce and HubSpot CRM. They are widely regarded as the grandmasters of CRM systems. If budget is a factor, bear in mind that a modular payment system might mean you have to keep shelling out to acquire all the bells and whistles you need.

So define your budget, then define your requirements. Do your research online, then start talking to vendors. If a modular payment system leaves you in hot sweats, some CRM providers offer an all-in-one payment system such as Really Simple Systems.

As a starting point, you could also check out Hatchbuck, Podio, Sage and Apptivo.

Build a custom CRM system

Another CRM option is, build the system yourself. If you’re technically minded or have the resource at hand, then this gives you the chance to tailor a system to your exact requirements.

This could be as simple as a spreadsheet to as complex as developing a custom platform. If you don’t want to build it totally from scratch, there are plugins out there. You can, for instance, jump on the WordPress bandwagon and check out something like WeDevs’ ‘WP Project Manager Pro’.

Because you’re unique, so are your process needs. So whether you buy an existing system or develop one yourself, ensure it ticks all the right boxes.

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