The Challenge

I recently met “Joe”, a small business owner who is having issues with his Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Joe has a CRM software application designed for small businesses, and it is installed locally.

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Over the years Joe’s customer base has increased, and so has the amount of data in his CRM system database. The software he is currently using is outdated. As the amount of data increases, the system performance decreases. In the past, when Joe upgraded the tool, he lost some data.

Joe and his team of 6 employees are too busy and don’t have time to look into another CRM software to replace this one.

When he described the situation, I realized there are probably several small business owners having similar  issues. In a recent article Anita Campbell mentioned that the number one technology challenge of small business owners is to find the time to evaluate new technology.

CRM Cloud Software Options

In the last few years, several cloud based CRM software solutions targeting small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have reached the market. Cloud based solutions are great for SMBs for several reasons:

  • They are an operating expense, and it does not require small business owners to spend money on servers and software licenses.
  • They are quick to set up and get started with.
  • As a business owner you don’t have to deal with software upgrades because the software evolves with the market needs and upgrades are done behind the scenes.

Sara Angeles’ article Best CRM Software 2015 has information on more than 50 options for small businesses.

What are your requirements?

Before you move on to a new cloud based solution:

  • Understand your requirements. Take a look at your internal processes, evaluate what is currently working well with your solution and what is not. Create a list of requirements for the CRM based on what you learned.
  • Once you understand your requirements, spend sometime evaluating the different solutions available. The goal is to find a solution that best matches your needs.
  • Engage some of your team members to work with you on this exciting project!
  • Take advantage of the trial subscriptions offered by most cloud CRM vendors and test it before committing to it.

How to Migrate to a New CRM Solution

Software migrations are challenging. Big companies hire consultants, spend a significant amount of time and resources planning it, and when they think they are ready, they flip a switch (disable the old system and enable the new one). Business is disrupted for a few days, but big companies can afford some level of disruption.

A small business, however, cannot afford disruption. It is possible to make great progress with appropriate planning and combining different approaches, such as:

  1. Create a realistic schedule for the migration, with goals for each month.
  2. Before migrating to the new CRM software, clean up your current database. Get rid of duplicate and incomplete account information.
  3. Review the data to evaluate which customers you want to bring to the new system. It might not be worth to migrate data for customers that have been dormant for more than 3 to 5 years.
  4. Decide on a date to start using the new software, and after that date add all new accounts to the new CRM Software.
  5. After you are confident the software is working well with the new accounts, create a schedule to move a certain number of accounts each month.
  6. Choose the accounts to move based on the amount of business per customer. You can move the smaller customers first or move the bigger customers first. It depends on your level of confidence in the new solution.

What happened to Joe?

After our conversation about his challenges I sent him an email suggesting the approaches I listed here, combined with a list of CRM solutions and the yearly cost for each of them. He replied to my email, thanking me for the suggestion. He really liked the idea of moving top customers to the new system, and adding other accounts over time. He said I definitely gave him something to think about!