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CRM customer relationship management
Startup Guides 5 min read
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CRM: What is a CRM system and does your startup need one?

Published:  Nov 24, 2023
Callum Brankley
Callum Brankley

CRM and Marketing Manager

Suzanne Worthington
Suzanne Worthington

Senior Writer

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been an entrepreneur for a while, you’ve probably heard about CRM platforms. But what exactly are they? Do you need one to help your company grow? And what’s the best way to use a CRM system?

We asked our CRM expert Callum Brankley to explain. Get ready to dive into his world of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and discover how they can be your secret weapon in building a successful startup.


What is a CRM system? Do I need one?

Imagine you’re in charge of a ship navigating through a vast ocean of potential customers. A CRM system is like your ship’s log, map and compass. CRM platforms – the CRM stands for ‘Customer Relationship Management’ – are a set of digital tools to help you manage, develop and build relationships with your customers.

In the early days of a startup, you might not have many customers. But as your business grows, so does the complexity of managing those valuable relationships. A good CRM system helps you protect and keep track of customer data, interactions and preferences. A great CRM system will also help you report on customer data and gain actionable insights into their behaviour.

Working with a CRM system can be like having a brilliant first mate: an assistant who remembers every detail about your customers, from their birthdays and where they live, to which of your products they’ve bought most frequently and how often they open your emails.

Next, let’s look at some of the advantages of using a CRM system.

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Advantages of using CRM software

1. Send personalised messages

One of the main benefits of CRM platforms is the ability to personalise your interactions with each customer. Instead of sending generic, one-size-fits-all messages, you can use a CRM to create tailored experiences. This personalisation adds the magic to your comms, and can be an incredible boost to your company’s growth.

You can separate your customers into different groups – segments – based on their behaviour, needs and/or preferences. Or any other way you’d like to segment them: by age, by gender, by geographical region – whatever you like. If you have the data, you can create the segments.

2024 is predicted to be the year of personalisation so consumers will increasingly expect to see messages tailored for them. With their data at your fingertips, you can use your CRM to send a targeted message at the right time, increasing the chances of converting leads into loyal customers.

2. Boost your efficiency

Startups thrive on efficiency and a CRM system can help streamline your operations. No more flipping through spreadsheets, sticky notes or trying to remember the details of your last call with a client. The CRM platform centralises your customer data, interactions and communication history in one place, saving you time and ensuring you don’t miss any critical details.

3. Automate tasks and messages

For founders with an endless to-do list, CRM automation can be a game-changer. You can automate routine tasks like sending follow-up emails, scheduling appointments and assigning leads to the right salesperson. This frees up your time to focus on strategic decision-making and nurturing high-value relationships with investors, customers and suppliers.

Still like manual to-do lists? In a CRM system, you can create a list of tasks categorised by priority and the CRM will remind your team to complete them by specific dates, no need to ask your co-workers yourself.

4. Protect your customers’ data

At some point, your customer database will outgrow an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet and you’ll need a more powerful way to manage your customer relationships. But even if you hold data for only a small number of customers, are you sure you’re doing enough to secure their personal information?

Storing customer data in a spreadsheet on your laptop’s harddrive or in the cloud is not secure enough to comply with data protection regulations. With a CRM system, data protection compliance should be built in, with controlled access, different permission levels, encryption, backup and recovery protocols.

5. Scale up as you grow

As your business grows, a CRM system can adapt to grow with you. CRM providers usually charge less for newer or smaller companies, so you can choose a flexible CRM with the option to upgrade in future and add more sophisticated tools when the time comes.

How to choose the right CRM system for your startup

There are many options out there, designed for businesses of all sizes and in all sectors. Some popular choices include HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho and Campaign Monitor.

Before contacting vendors, consider your startup’s operations and goals. Do you need robust sales and marketing features? Or is customer support your main concern?

What’s your budget? CRM platforms offer different pricing packages. Many offer free trials, so you can explore the features before committing.

Here’s a checklist to help you decide which CRM platform is best for your business:

📋 Define your goals and what you need
Take a step back and identify what you need. Are you looking for sales automation, customer support, marketing, or all of these? When you’re clear about your goals, it’s easier to find a CRM to suit your company. List the software and tools you’re already using – make sure your CRM is compatible and you’ll save countless hours of manual data entry.

🧮 Clarify your budget
As a startup, you’re probably very careful with your spending. Fortunately, there’s a CRM system for every budget. Weigh the cost against the value you’ll get. Sometimes, a slightly more expensive CRM can save you much more time and effort in the long run.

🔮 Predict what you’ll need in future
Your company won’t be a startup forever so your CRM should be able to grow with you. What do you predict you’ll need in future? Choose a platform that can handle this and adapt as your business expands.

🛡️ Check the platform is secure and compliant
Protecting your customer data is non-negotiable. Make sure the CRM platform complies with data protection regulations and offers robust security features such as different levels of access permissions, two-factor authentication, data encryption and secure backup.

🔬 Test the platform
Do a free trial to make sure the CRM platform you choose is intuitive, user-friendly and customisable. When you need training and support, is the CRM platform’s customer service team responsive? If you want to stay connected to your CRM when you’re away from your laptop, check the system has a user-friendly mobile mode. Gather feedback from your team and other startup founders before you go ahead to buy.

If you have customers, you need a CRM system

In the dynamic world of startups, CRM systems have evolved from simple databases to become indispensable, sophisticated digital tools.

There’s no perfect CRM system which fits all businesses. The best CRM for your startup is the one that aligns with your goals and systems you already use, and integrates well with the operations and culture of your business. Ask your network what CRM system they use – and whether they’re happy with it!

With the right CRM in your toolkit, your startup can navigate the turbulent waters of entrepreneurship with confidence, knowing that you’re equipped to build lasting customer relationships and chart a course to success.

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Callum Brankley

Callum Brankley

Callum is our CRM go-to guy and HubSpot wizard.
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