If you’re in the business of marketing, customer service, donor development or relationship management of any type, you may be familiar with customer relationship management software or, as we commonly refer to it, a CRM.

At its simplest form, a CRM system allows businesses to manage business relationships and the data and information associated with them. Some of the most common off-the-shelf CRM software programs include Salesforce, Hubspot, InfusionSoft, and Insightly.

Not a fan of off-the-shelf products? Many for profits and non profits alike use custom-built CRM systems, either headed up by their internal IT guru or in collaboration with a CRM software developer. Whichever route your organization has gone, as new technology and marketing techniques emerge, it’s important to carefully review your system’s capabilities and ask yourself if your CRM is standing in the way of you and your customer. If so, it may be time for you to let go of your old system and upgrade to a new one. 

Here are nine telltale signs that you need a new CRM:

1. Your CRM is a glorified contact database. While CRMs should keep information such as contact information, emails and email history, phone calls and in-person meetings, your CRM should also help you interpret trends and draw insights about your consumers’ behaviors. If it isn’t telling you anything about WHO your customer is, their preferences or their purchase or registration history, you may be missing out on marketing and communications opportunities.

2. Your system doesn’t play nice with ANYTHING else—even you. If you’re finding it difficult to add, input or update data, it may be time to start considering alternatives. On a similar note, if you’re struggling to integrate your system with your website or your contact or RFI forms, we strongly recommend a new system. When you can’t easily integrate other efforts or technologies to your CRM, this can become a barrier to you reaching your audience.

3. Only Jim or Pam knows how to use your CRM. If the guy or gal who built it is the only one who knows how to use or interpret it, it might be time for a new system. It’s critical that your team knows how to use, interpret and navigate your CRM with or without the person who built it. And if you’re paying Jim or Pam to primarily keep up your homebrew system, it’s time to move on. Instead, consider using a system like Salesforce or Hubspot where a professional will not only build it, but they’ll keep it running and maintained, AND they’ll provide troubleshooting support for you.

4. Yes, we can do that, but it’s going to cost you money. If you’re always hearing this answer when asking a question about whether or not your CRM has XYZ feature, it may be time to start researching new software options. We recommend that as you are selecting a CRM, you take a close look at the feature list. If your organization is complex, a short feature list likely won’t cut it. Instead, make a list of the key functions that you utilize in your current system or need in a new one. Keep this list handy as you’re researching CRM alternatives and feature lists. If you don’t see a key function on the feature list, we recommend that you contact the developer to see if it can be built in or cross that software off your list and keep looking.

5. You have a registration system, an email system, a scheduling system and a billing system. But they are all separate from one another. We see this all the time, and we can tell you right now, this is one of the biggest red flags when determining whether it’s time to let go of your CRM. If your organization has systems that need to communicate with one another, but are currently working those functions in silos, it’s time to move on. The problem with siloed systems is that it forces manual exports and imports of information from one to the other to “update” data. Having a one-stop shop for all your information and marketing efforts will not only streamline communications, but it will save your team hours of unnecessary (and may we say painful!) work.

6. You’re using an Excel spreadsheet to track customer contact, demographic and psychographic data. We want to say this with all due respect—if your organization wants to grow and market effectively to your audience, customers and constituents, keeping information in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets as a substitute for a CRM will not cut it. We’re not saying that Excel spreadsheets don’t have a place in data collection—they certainly do! But managing this type of information without a system is too manual. CRMs can help automate and speed up communications and reporting processes. There are many CRM options out there that are cost-effective, user-friendly and offer customizations that can be added as your organization’s needs grow.

7. You’re running reports from multiple systems to find the information you want. We’ve all been there: in this system to get that number. Logout, but now need to login to another system to get different data. Logout of that system and finally, login to one more to get the final piece of the puzzle. Must we say more? If you’re tracking sales, running reports or reviewing analytics, a CRM is essential! Not only will all your data be housed in one system (say goodbye to all those other systems!), you will easily be able to pull reports and key metrics to review performance and determine effectiveness.

8. You don’t have segmentation capabilities. In other words, your organization has several audience segments that need different types of communication and with your current CRM, you are unable to accommodate this. This is a HUGE feature of a CRM and a critical component of a successful content marketing strategy. Without the ability to segment, your organization is forced to blanket market with impersonal mass messages that can leave users feeling disconnected, alienated and even angry. When determining whether your system has this functionality, ask yourself: can I segment my audience into lists based on the data I’ve collected in this system? Be that a behavior (purchased this book), geographical location (all customers in the Southeast) or demographics (parent, teen, donor, etc.). Your system should be collecting this data so that you not only can segment your audience, but you can communicate with them from within that system.

9. Your CRM is standing between you and your customer. We saved the best for last—or in this case, the number one reason to let go of your current CRM and move on.  As an organization, if your CRM is prohibiting you from connecting with your customers, generating new leads or cultivating relationships with potential leads, it’s time to walk away. We know it’s not easy to say goodbye, but we promise you’ll thank us later when you’ve implemented your new system, connected with customer in ways you never thought were possible, automated once tedious tasks and communications, built relationships with key stakeholders and audiences and have increased conversions, registration, sales and more!

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