Now more than ever, having a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is crucial for running a business. We live in the social age; one in which customer praise and complaints can be easily spread to thousands if not millions of followers across the world on social sites like Twitter and Facebook. Customers expect to be in constant conversation with the brands they follow, and their loyalty is far more likely to convert into a sale when companies have a CRM plan in place.

All this interaction creates a lot of customer data that can be leveraged into conversions, but how do you cut out all the noise? Excel sheets aren’t going to cut it for most businesses. Rather, you need to move to a more organized system that can not only cull all the data, but can also help measure and analyze it.

That is where a CRM system comes into play. Here is a breakdown of why they are beneficial and the different options for getting your CRM workflow organized.

The Good, the Bad and the Cloud

All of this customer interaction opens up a world of possibilities to companies of all sizes. Small companies can reach customers and markets they could have never before reached on their small budget. Big corporations can highlight their human and caring side. We can all focus more on the relationship, rather than just closing the deal.

But there are difficulties, too. More interactions mean more data to track and manage. A fundamental shift in mentality is also required, one in which businesses must see themselves as the ones who start conversations, but don’t necessarily control where they go. They need to understand that it isn’t all about the bottom line, but about improving the path to a long-term growth of sales.

To do this, businesses need to keep in-depth social profiles on their most influential customers and know when to reach out to whom. And they need precise tools to measure the effectiveness of their many campaigns across multiple social media and email channels. But how do they do this when there is so much data?

That’s where a good CRM system comes in. It used to be that such systems were only available for big businesses with an IT department that could develop a customized, company-wide system that addresses the needs of every department. Each had to be built from the ground up, making CRM costly and time-consuming to develop.

But all of that has changed with the advent of the cloud. Now companies are popping up that have created one-size fits all template systems suitable for a range of functions, stored on servers and accessible from anywhere in the world. This makes CRM tools available to everyone, meaning there is no excuse for not getting organized.

These readymade CRM platforms can complete a wide range of tasks that can help businesses get organized, increase the effectiveness of campaigns, strengthen relationships with both prospective and current clients, and make post-sale nurturing a breeze.

What are some of the features that are helping companies seamlessly implement a strong CRM process? First there is a…

Collaborative Workspace

Most good CRM systems are built with easy to use dashboards to centralize the workflow. Many come equipped with chat and social media systems to move employees away from bulky email chains and toward instant communication. These types of tools help multiple members or departments track who is doing what when, minimizing the time wasted on duplicating effort.

Data Integration and Evaluation

Just as more access to toys can clutter a child’s room, more access to data can clutter a business’ workflow. CRM platforms merge data from across the company and provide powerful analysis tools so companies can measure precisely the success or failure of their current strategies. This can aid businesses with decision making, identifying holes in the market, forecasting sales and returns and spotting trends.


Operating on the cloud means instant access from any location worldwide. This leads to greater agility, allowing salespeople to upload information on the go and remote workers to contribute across the country.

Better Customer Interaction

CRM systems help companies track customer interaction, reroute inquiries quickly to the right department, identify and nurture loyal customers, manage social media profiles, and provide the kind of quality content that will keep customers returning.

These are just some of the ways a CRM can help companies get their act together and win in CRM. While all CRM systems will have these functionalities, not all are created equally. As I mentioned before, readymade CRM tools are created with accessibility in mind. However, a one size fits all approach doesn’t work for all businesses. So how do you decide which one is right for you?

Template vs. Customized CRM Platforms

There are a number of template CRM systems for businesses to choose from, such as Zoho, Sugar and Netsuite. However, while many of these CRM tools are effective for a lot of businesses, they can mean limitations for some industries. The more unique or innovative a business is, the harder will be to manage their unique processes in a readymade CRM.

So what are your options if your business falls under this category? You can adapt an existing CRM to make it fit your innovative business model or you can build your own custom CRM.

The problem with adapting an existing CRM system is that you’ll be trying to fit a really fat square peg into a tiny round hole. And in the process you’ll be wasting your precious time and money.

The second option is to build your own custom CRM from scratch. If you said something like this out loud some years ago, you would have been called insane. Fortunately, today, developing custom applications is a viable alternative, web application development tools like the one from OutSystems make complete custom applications possible.

The perfect CRM is out there and ready to help you make your business more interactive, agile, organized and cutting-edge. Think deeply about your day to day and long-term needs before you buy, and do your research. The question is not, “Do I need a CRM?” but, “What do I need, and how can I get one ready to go now?”

About the Author: James Daugherty writes about business, technology, and OutSystems – a leader in custom applications.