Small Business vs Midsized: How businesses tackle CRM implementation in real life

(Image credit: Future)

There is no shortage of online articles telling you how you should be using CRM solutions. Just sticking with TechRadar, we’ve got articles on the best CRM software, the best free CRM software, the best open-source CRM, and many more besides. But reading these pieces can only tell you so much. Ultimately, you need to gain direct experience with a CRM to see what kind of tangible impact it can make at a company.

One of the first things you’ll notice - especially if you’ve worked at multiple organizations - is that CRM implementation varies depending on the business. This difference is particularly true between small businesses and midsize companies. Their strategies will be different, the features they need will be different, and the customers they are targeting will be different.

Abstract ideas of what makes a good CRM will only get you so far. Below, we take a deep dive into how businesses tackle CRM implementation in real life. These strategies will inform you how to get the most from your chosen CRM solution - no matter how big or small you are.

Reader Offer: Save 18% on annual memberships

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""" target="_blank">Reader Offer: Save 18% on annual memberships is an easy-to-use and customizable work management platform, enabling teams of all sizes to plan, manage and centralize work. Get started now and boost your team's communication and productivity.

Preferred partner (<a href="" data-link-merchant=""" data-link-merchant=""" target="_self">What does this mean?) 

Small business or midsize? Our guide to real-world CRM implementation

What does it mean to be a small business?

Man and Woman at laptop

(Image credit: EE)

The term “small business” covers a broad spectrum of organizations, from sole traders up to teams of around 10, perhaps with revenue as much as $1 million or more. In between, you have startups, businesses that often prioritize growth over profitability in the hope that the latter will come around eventually. 

There is a wide range of CRM platforms on the market today, with some specifically designed for smaller firms, including the best CRMs for startups and the best for small businesses. These tools recognize that the needs of these firms are likely to differ from those of multinational enterprises. But they still need to know how to use them properly. 

Small business CRM implementation

If you’ve already reached the stage where you can call yourself a small business, you’ve already achieved the kind of success that is beyond many startups, which frequently fail before their first year. You probably already utilize a number of other business tools alongside your CRM, including cloud storage, productivity tools, business intelligence platforms, and all manner of other small business software. Given your small business may already have a well-established IT stack, keep integration front-of-mind when implementing your CRM so you avoid workplace silos.

Your level of business maturity also likely means that you won’t want to use a CRM tool straight out of the box. Customizations are likely to be important in order that you don’t overly disrupt your existing workflows. You may be familiar with using custom fields, custom objects and custom page layouts so your CRM fits into your current business processes. Some platforms, such as Salesforce and Freshsales, have customization as a major strength.

As a small business, you should also have established a number of objectives and may have things that you enjoy about your current CRM deployment - as well as what improvements could be made. Think carefully about these objectives when creating your CRM strategy to ensure that your implementation is geared towards achieving the right result. KPIs are likely to be important there too - giving tangible validation to your processes. 

However, although a small business may have progressed to the stage that it’s no longer bootstrapping or relying on outside investment, it’s unlikely to be so well established that money troubles have been forgotten completely. How CRM implementation relates directly to revenue and outgoings is still likely to prove of major importance.

Some of the more basic CRM features are likely to be essential to the day-to-day operations of your sales and marketing teams. These could include things like contact management, email marketing tools, or project management functionality. More advanced features may not be necessary for smaller businesses that may not want to commit to the higher pricing tiers needed to access them and may not have employees with the necessary skillsets to get the most out of them. For the same reasons, it’s probable that a small business will prefer the scalability, support, and subscription pricing that comes with the best cloud CRM software

As mentioned, of course, small businesses vary in size markedly so no two CRM implementations will be identical. But whichever CRM tool you choose (and however you decide to use it), think beyond your present-day needs. Will your CRM continue to serve you well as you continue to grow? 

What does it mean to be a midsized business?

On the way to becoming an enterprise but not quite there yet, a midsize business is likely to have employees in the orders of hundreds. Revenues may be as large as $3 million and the business may have been around for several years. It may enjoy decent brand recognition locally or domestically and will have a number of loyal customers. 

A midsize company may have ambitions of entering other markets - or they may be content with dominating their current market. In either case, a CRM platform can help but the strategies that midsize companies need are likely to differ from those of a small business.

Midsize business CRM implementation

Data center

(Image credit: Pexels)

As a midsize company, it’s more likely that you’ll have a dedicated IT team that will have a say in your CRM strategy. In fact, you’ll probably have a CRM strategy in place already, so implementing a new CRM (or tweaking your current one) will likely involve plenty of discussion with stakeholders from sales and marketing teams regarding what could be improved upon. 

From the perspective of a midsize company, any CRM implementation is about taking your business to the next level. Features like advanced reporting, workflow automation, and customer segmentation may be discussed, as well as the possibility of integrating with additional tools. 

And remember that midsize companies also have more to lose than small businesses. Ensure compliance and security are important considerations for your CRM vendor as any missteps here could result in significant financial and reputational damage for midsize firms that have worked hard over numerous years to build up their customer base. Leverage the scale that you’ve built up too when negotiating with your vendor - get the most bang for your buck. 

Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.