What Is A Small Business CRM?

How to Use a CRM for Project Management

Have a project but no project management tools to manage the tasks, people and resources involved? Project management is a major undertaking by yourself. You’ll need to split your time between meetings, managing people, acquiring resources, deadlines, etc. Overwhelming isn’t it?

The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints. This information is usually described in a user or project manual created at the beginning of the development process. The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary — and more ambitious — challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet predefined objectives.

Now at our disposal exists an array of automated analytical, artistic and productivity tools. Because of technology, the gap between generalist and specialist is closing and CRM automation is leading the way.

 Since we first began setting out of office responses for our email, automated processes are becoming the preferred approach to streamlining workflows.

Automating elements of project management can help keep projects on-track, on-time and within budget. It begins early in the project with initiation and planning and ends with completion (hopefully on-time) and review, and with the program involved at each step in the process. Projects can be reviewed while the project is in progress though that can be left up to the project manager's discretion.

An examination may include comparing approved project management processes with how the project is actually being managed. Each project should be assessed for the appropriate level of control needed: too much control is time consuming, too little control risks project going off projected timelines. If project control is not implemented correctly, the cost to the business should be clarified in terms of errors and fixes.

Traditionally, project management includes a number of elements: four to five project management process groups, and a control system. Regardless of the methodology or terminology used, the same basic project management processes or stages of development will be used. Major process groups generally include:

  • Initiation – Determine a project is needed
  • Planning – Laying out all aspects
  • Execution – Launching the project
  • Monitoring – Observing the progress
  • Close out – Completing and reviewing

Why Use Crm With Project Management?

CRM (customer relationship management) platforms are designed to help businesses manage customer interactions and information by enabling easier communication and behavioral tracking.

So what does a CRM have to do with project management?

Well, the purpose of project management is to ensure tasks and projects are completed in a timely manner. That could be internal projects, product releases, or marketing campaigns. If your goals are not completed on time, you could damage the trust of the clients you’ve earned.

In short — a CRM has a lot to do with project management, especially when it comes to learning about and appeasing customers.

By adopting a CRM platform into your project management, you can:

  • Create strategic alignment between PM teams, sales, and customer service
  • Allow sales and account managers to see where a project is in the process
  • Promote quality control by allowing customers to see and approve deliverables (convert relationships into partnerships)
  • Sharpen your marketing teams with insights about where sales leads and accounts are in the customer journey (develop triggers and personalized content)
  • See customer activities while working on a project
  • Bring clients to the software (create tasks, provide notes, etc.)
  • Execute projects as soon as sales occur
  • Mine data to improve deliverables
  • Maintain contact management all in one place
  • Let’s take for example a small business that sells home electronics. Its marketing team focused heavily on creating a knowledge base with how-to tutorials for setting up systems.

But there was an area they weren’t covering — troubleshooting. Thanks to the CRM they adopted, they could see complaints about certain products not working properly. So, they decided to create troubleshooting guides to help resolve their problems.

These guides were also made available to customer support so they could email the guides during tech support calls. In addition, the marketing team kept track of who received the guides (via the CRM) and sent follow-up emails asking for an update (and feedback).

What is CRM for small business?

A small business CRM system is software that helps small businesses organise large volumes of data, manage their relationships with customers, and streamline sales and marketing processes. All in all, it’s a nifty little tool that allows small companies to control their business workflows in a more efficient manner that enables business growth.

So, what’s the difference between a regular CRM and a small business CRM solution?

To be honest, there isn’t a definitive answer to that. There’s no set-in-stone list of things that turn a small business CRM into an enterprise-level system. However, there are a handful of features that are common between small business CRMs, and not between regular, enterprise CRM platforms.

They're easy to set up. Small business CRM solutions tend to be cloud-based. Hence, they’re significantly easier to implement and start running than enterprise-level systems, with a shallow learning curve than larger CRM systems.

They're more suitable for smaller teams. Small business CRMs can be used by as many employees as needed, but they’re built with smaller teams of under a hundred people in mind.

They're more affordable. One of the key things that CRM for small business has to offer is reasonable pricing plans and shorter subscription periods. Small business CRMs let their users pay for the solution monthly as opposed to making a long-term contract-based commitment. This is much more appealing to small business owners who don’t have the budget for a larger CRM.

When should small businesses implement CRM?

Today, many industries struggle because of fierce market competition. An exceptional customer experience is no longer a competitive business advantage. User-oriented products, effective communication, and immediate support are essential.

Customers want to be the main focus; they should feel important. So, starting with the first interaction with the brand and every detail onwards, we all expect to be heard, respected and satisfied. Agreed?

Agreed, and if your small business doesn’t make customers feel that way, get ready for the worst. Most likely, clients prefer rivals who establish better customer connections. That’s why you need to adopt a CRM strategy from the very beginning.

You can start off with a simple spreadsheet CRM. Then, learn how to make one in our series of posts. The first is How to build a Spreadsheet CRM: The basics, outlining all the first steps towards getting a simple spreadsheet CRM up and running. The second, How to build a Spreadsheet CRM: Advanced, explains how to add lead generation features to a spreadsheet CRM.

That being said, a spreadsheet CRM is only good when your business is still young. As soon as it starts to grow and your sales pipeline fills with more leads, a spreadsheet CRM no longer suffices.

Frequently Asked Questions

A system simply cannot think, make strategic decisions regarding customer segmentation or come up with the most suitable KPIs and initiatives. Many CRM projects fail because of this myth before they are introduced, during or after.

CRM means customer relationship management. All about infos on customers and potential customers. POS means point of sale: This is imho more about cash registers and that stuff. It depends on the point of view, but the two topics may have some common grounds.

In customer relationship management (CRM), customer lifecycle is a term used to describe the progression of steps a customer goes through when considering, purchasing, using and maintaining loyalty to a product or service.
 

CRM systems compile customer data across different channels, or points of contact, between the customer and the company, which could include the company's website, telephone, live chat, direct mail, marketing materials and social networks.

The term CRM (customer relationship management) refers to the effort taken by a business to build and maintain customer relationships across the entire customer journey — right from the first marketing touchpoint, through the sales funnel and to their post-purchase customer service as well.

10 Best Crms For Project Management

If your CRM does not deal with project management, you might find yourself still carrying out various tasks manually. Not only can this waste a lot of time but think about the impact it must have upon project deadlines and keeping the client happy. According to recent CRM research, this is especially concerning when over 60% of businesses implement CRM to improve their efficiency. You may even wonder if you could just manage projects yourselves without a CRM. After all, you all know what you are doing and not having to buy specialist software would save a lot of money... wouldn’t it?

Traditionalists may believe that project management is not necessary, so why use a CRM to take care of it? Unfortunately, they don’t understand that failing to use project management is literally a false economy. It may use up to 20% of the overall contract budget but is certainly not an unnecessary expense.

It not only keeps the team working together, focused on the same targets, but also enables proactive dealing with any issues that may occur.   

We have taken the time to check out the ten best CRMs for project management available, but before we get into that, let’s look why project management is important.

Work[etc]

Suitable for: small businesses looking a powerful but affordable all-in-one CRM

Work[etc] provides a CRM solution that encompasses project management and billing functionalities. Price-wise it is one of the most affordable all-in-one solutions on the market. This makes it attractive to small businesses who need a solution to fit a workforce that wears many hats.

The project management side of the CRM includes:

  • Built-in project budgeting.
  • The ability to attach key documents to a project.
  • A clever feature that allows you to create a dependency between tasks and trigger alerts once certain tasks are complete.

Work[etc] offers various ways of viewing a project - from Gantt charts and graphical timelines to budget and progress focused views.

Reviewers loved the range of features Work[etc] offers for its price point, and were generally happy with how it integrated with their existing software. Some small businesses were initially concerned about investing in an all-in-one solution, but report that the system has paid for itself post-implementation.

Apptivo

Suitable for: those looking for a feature-rich CRM with a flexible modular structure and first class customer support

Apptivo is a web-based solution comprised of over 50 ‘apps’ (modules) that businesses can pick and choose to create their own. The ‘build it yourself’ approach and affordable price point will appeal to small businesses who want to combine several business processes into a single software package - as well as project management and CRM, Apptivo offers apps for HR management, supply chain management, and financials, to name a few.

Find the right CRM for your company using this comprehensive CRM vendor directory

Their project management app offers a comprehensive set of collaborative tools to oversee an unlimited amount of projects at once, fully interactive Gantt charts and customizable project templates. Apptivo also offers integrated project billing, so that users can specify how they want to invoice for a project - whether as a flat rate, phased-based payments or total hourly rate.

Reviewers were nearly unanimous in their appreciation of the customer support and loved the software's price point. For startups who want the option of CRM, project management and potentially more covered by one solution, Apptivo comes highly recommended.

SugarCRM

Suitable for: companies who want an easy-to-use and quick-to-implement system with a range of integration options.

SugarCRM has been offering project management functionality since back in 2007. These are available in all of SugarCRM’s product editions. While the minimum ten user license will put off the smallest organizations and early-stage startups, more established companies will find the software reasonably priced for its features.

With SugarCRM’s project management feature, companies can take full control of campaigns and how they progress. Users can easily view and track activity using Gantt charts and customizable project dashboards, share project information, collaborate fully by attaching meeting notes or store call records, and export data to other programmes such as Microsoft Project.

Reviewers liked SugarCRM’s were impressed at how easy the system was to customize - this is largely thanks to the range of third-party integrations it offers and the database of add-on apps. It also scores highly for flexibility and ease of implementation, making it ideal for those looking for a system that can evolve with changing business needs.

Insightly

Insightly’s small business CRM provides a full set of project management features reasonably priced. These are fully available in the free version of the software - for up to two users - making it a perfect option for early-stage startups and sole traders who couldn’t otherwise afford it. In addition, clients can switch up or down to any of Insightly’s five pricing plans at any time, offering an unparalleled amount of flexibility for high-growth companies.

Users can view project progress using both pipeline and milestone-focused views. Insightly also doesn’t forget the basics either - the ‘recurring tasks’ feature allows people to set task alerts to recur at regular intervals to ensure regular checkups are done on client accounts. Project status reports are simple to produce and easy to view.

Reviews frequently mention how easy Insightly is to use, and were full of praise for its intuitive interface and range of integration (G Suite, QuickBooks, MailChimp, Outlook…). While the reporting functionality isn’t customizable enough to meet everyone’s needs, Insightly provides a solid set of tools for companies that would otherwise be priced out of an all-in-one solution.

Podio

Podio is a CRM and project management tool provided by Citrix. It will appeal to companies looking for a robust and adaptable CRM tool that integrates well with existing software - Podio’s list of integrations includes G Suite, email, Excel and Gotomeeting, as well as the less common Zendesk, Zapier and FreshBooks.

Nail down your key project management requirements and select the right software for your team with this CRM selection survival guide

Podio offers a comprehensive set of project management features, including customizable project views, task alerts and automated workflows. API access allows those with the know-how to create their own apps and add-ons, whilst the Podio App Market offers a wide range of free pre-built apps which can expand the software’s functionality.

The flexibility this offers for a mid-market price point was praised by reviewers, who also liked the frequent updates, range of integrations, and user-friendliness of the platform. Whilst some mentioned that the reporting functionality could be more advanced, users were generally very happy with how Podio’s features met key business requirements.  

Apollo HQ

Suitable for: companies looking for more of a project management focus than a CRM one.

Unlike most other systems on this list, Apollo HQ is best thought of as a project management tool with added CRM functionality rather than a CRM with added project management functionality. If you have extensive project management needs but only limited requirements for CRM, this could be the software for you.  

Unusually and refreshingly a chunk of Apollo’s development is user-led - you can vote for features you’d like to see in upcoming releases on their website. All plans offer unlimited project users, and features include time tracking, customizable task list templates and the ability to merge related projects together to reduce confusion and administrative workload.

Reviews praise Apollo’s user interface, particularly the use of tabs to switch between projects and the ability to create project shortcuts with just a couple of clicks. If you’re looking for a fully-featured CRM alongside your project management tool this probably isn’t the system for you, but the contact management and sales pipeline tools provide a solid baseline functionality.

Zoho

Zoho produces a great CRM with the ability to provide in-depth analytics; they also offer a bolt on Projects module that is free of charge when you purchase the Professional and Enterprise editions. If you already have this version of their CRM in place, all you have to do is download the Projects add-on.  

Here you will find some powerful tools such as the ability to track timelines, check on the adherence to milestones, and use Gantt charts. All this comes with detailed analytics and planning options and cross-team access and visibility.

Reviewers love the scope for customization Zoho offers and were positive about the add-ons on offer in Zoho Marketplace. For companies that can spend the time and resources customizing their software, Zoho can be adapted to suit their business processes perfectly.

NetSuite SRP

Suitable for: ERP-using companies who want a fully-integrated project management tool

NetSuite’s SRP is unique in that it’s the only cloud solution that unites ERP and professional services automation in one software product. It’s not technically a CRM in itself - but NetSuite do offer a companion CRM product (CRM+) that integrates easily. SRP is therefore ideal for companies who need ERP, but want fully-integrated project management functionality alongside it.

As with all of NetSuite’s products, SRP offers a range of powerful features, including customizable timesheets and billing and invoicing management. In addition, the project management solution aims to deliver complete visibility and control over a project, with users able to collaborate in real-time, create detailed project level budgets and track all key financial metrics of projects they work on.  

Find CRMs with project management functionality using this free online CRM comparison tool

Reviewers liked the powerful reporting features SRP offers, and found the software easy to customize and highly flexible. They were also very positive about NetSuite’s ability to seamlessly integrate front office functions (CRM, marketing, support management) with back office functions like accounting and project management. Of course, SRP won’t suit everyone, but it's a uniquely powerful tool for companies that need some ERP functionality and are willing to purchase CRM+ alongside it.

TaskRay Project Management for Salesforce

Suitable for: companies who use Salesforce and want to expand their project management functionalities

TaskRay is a project management solution native to the Salesforce platform. All information within the app can be tied to existing Salesforce data like accounts, opportunities, and contacts. As available on the AppExchange, TaskRay is particularly easy to install and implement for Salesforce-using companies.

With TaskRay, project managers can visualize their data that best suits them - a range of project overview screens are available, including Kanban, calendar and Gantt chart-based views. The app also offers robust reporting features, cloneable project templates, and repeating task automation, which allow users to cut down on the administrative burden of starting a new project.

Reviewers like the visualization options TaskRay offers and how intuitive the software is to use - they were particularly impressed with the drag and drop and how easy it is to customize the software. Support was rated as first class.

Crowe Project Management

Suitable for: Dynamics-using companies who want extended project management functionality, but don’t want to replace their CRM

Crowe Project Management (formerly AbleBridge) is a powerful add-on that expands Microsoft Dynamics from a sales-focused CRM into a project management tool. Suitable for companies of all sizes, it seamlessly takes care of project management. Whether you are the manager of the project or dealing with customer service, it will keep everyone in the picture when it comes to time-related tasks, budgets, and general progress.  

Crowe Project Management allows users to convert incoming emails into a project task, assign resources from within Microsoft Outlook, and offer real-time project dashboards. While managing CRM-based projects, you can also drill down into the details for a speedy resolution. Alongside this, users can automate routine processes and create customized project templates.

Project management is essential and without it, both teams and clients can find themselves in a state of chaos. Objectives may become muddied, resources limited, planning unrealistic, the quality of deliverable low with ultimately, the project running over in terms of both time and budget.

Effective project management keeps everything on track and provides a clear vision of where you need to be at any one time. When you know what you need to do to achieve success, getting there is so much easier and, at the same time, a real return on investment is achieved. The result? Not only a happy team, but also a happy client.

Gone are the days when scribbling notes onto a notebook stuffed in your pocket was enough. Now clients expect far more professionalism and it is only by having one of the best CRMs for project management that you can provide this.

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