Not every CRM feature will be essential to a small business.

The important thing is it can support and enhance your current operations.

Don’t forget about the ability to scale along with future growth, too!

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As a small business it can be tough to find what CRM solution is right for you. Every vendor will give you the entire feature dump, where they tell you their software is the best because it supports, sales, customer service, has this feature, that feature, and even walks your dog!

The truth is, you’re a small business and you may need some features, but others you can clearly do without. Your goal is to be able to support and enhance your current operations, while having the option to scale later on down the road.


  • Cloud Support – In today’s business environment, you absolutely, positively, need your CRM to be web-based or exist in the Cloud. Being able to access your software anytime, from any device is crucial for small businesses. Especially, if you’re the owner and you plan to be on the go meeting with partners, clients, etc. You need to be able to access your CRM solution at all times.
  • Import and Export – While this may seem pretty basic, you’d be surprised how many CRM solutions botch this one. This is important if you’re out sampling different CRM systems and find that you want to switch to a different one. Being able to export all of your data easily and import to a new system without any errors will be a godsend.
  • Tracking the Sales Pipeline – Another “duh” of CRM software is the ability to track the sales pipeline. Your CRM solution needs to have the features to track your leads and contacts all the way through the sales pipeline as they become opportunities with an associated value to them, all the way to end of the lifecycle as they become your customer. Every step of this process should be trackable through your CRM software.
  • Lead Management – Basically, every prospect that comes to your store or website, needs to be managed. Lead management is another absolute must in your CRM solution because it allows you to score every prospect as ready to sell, cross-sell, up-sell, or needs to be nurtured or saved for a later time. Lead management helps you run more effective marketing and sales programs, and makes sure you prioritize the “hottest” leads.
  • Customer Database with Integrated Reports – Every CRM will have a customer database where you’ll be able to manage your contacts, but you need this database to also be able to support custom fields if you plan on tracking customers by other criteria than the ones that come out of the box. The integrated reporting comes into play if you want to be able to generate reports based on your customer details to gain better insight into your customer base. This allows you to see what demographics are purchasing your services/products most, and which campaigns have been most effective in driving new and repeat customers.

  • Email Campaigns and Management – It’s 2014, and if you’re not contacting customers and prospects via email, then I don’t know how your business is staying afloat. Within your CRM solution, a must have feature is email tracking and management. This ensures that every communication you send via email is tracked in your customer details, so you know exactly what has transpired in every single conversation ever. Being able to run email marketing campaigns at some level is a must as well. While your CRM may not provide the same level of mass emailing power as pure marketing solutions, they should have some campaign abilities. This enables you to try and build your sales pipeline and track all customer contacts within a single system.


Buying a CRM solution has become trickier than ever, the barriers of entry have dropped dramatically for entering the CRM market and there are a number of systems that may lack the basic features you need.

If you look for the above features, you’ll be able to find an effective CRM solution no matter your price point. Who knows, this list may even help save you from purchasing a system that wouldn’t have met your needs.

If you need more information, check out our article “Which CRM is right for my business?“, where we go into more detail on how to choose the best CRM solution.

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