A Simple Guide to Calculating the Costs & Benefits of CRM for SMBs

February 15, 2018
by Christine Viera
  • Value of CRM for SMBs in 2018

Why Should SMBs Bother with CRM If They Haven’t Already Done It Yet?

Co-Authored with Michelle Bechamps, President – Brand Strategist, Bechamps & Associates

Branding and marketing expert, Michelle Bechamps, works with a mix of small and medium business (SMB) clients across commercial, public sector, and quasi-governmental organizations. Michelle’s key question: Given that it’s 2018, what’s the value of CRM if you haven’t already found a reason to use it? If you find yourself asking the same question, here’s some guidance on: (1) why CRM still matters, (2) how to identify the value, and (3) guidance and tools on calculating ROI.


Why CRM Adds Value to SMBs in 2018

Michelle: So, why does CRM matter to a smaller, unique organization?

Christine: Customer Relationship Management Software = Customer Experience Software

Ultimately, customer relationship management (CRM) software assists organizations in meeting their final outcome: to be a trusted partner to clients.

How? It enables you to track customer contacts, coordinate communications across multiple channels, use data to identify needs, and proactively offer relevant information, services and experiences.

A good CRM system allows you to easily see who and how often you’re interacting with clients. It helps you understand what topics clients are contacting you about. And, it reveals a pattern of interaction that can help you make better decisions. Who is contacting you more? Who is contacting you less? Which contacts within a client organization are engaging the most? 

Ultimately, CRM is a hub for effectively managing customer relationships, marketing outreach, new offers, business opportunities, and support requests.


3 Key Benefits for SMBs

Michelle: But with limited resources, why make the effort to do this?

Christine: It’s all about visibility, productivity, business outcomes, and client focus.

CRM is valuable when it reduces manual effort and improves your effectiveness in key operational areas—letting you spend more time with customers and on delivering great services.

  1. Customer InsightsEven in smaller organizations, there’s a need to capture information on customers. It’ll be far easier to see all the people and organizations you’re interacting with in one place. For example, you may see that several key customers have booked less business with you over the last two years, and have a rising number of service inquiries. Now, you can drive check-ins with these customers and strengthen the relationships. Or, you may have a new offering and want to target select customers for the product or service. CRM allows you to easily find the right customers for the offer, create email marketing campaigns, and track business results. All of it should be faster and lower effort with key information stored in one place.
  2. Improved Teamwork. Another key benefit of CRM is teamwork. It can empower your employees with a 360-degree view of your clients’ organizations, products, and interactions with you. Commitments such as sending quotes or renewals, closing out service requests, and follow-up actions are visible to the entire team. With the right information at their fingertips, it’s easier for your people to collaborate in serving customers.
  3. Revenue Planning and Insights. CRM also helps you manage revenue. You’ll more easily see the volume of closed business, pending deals, and likelihood to close revenue on an ongoing basis. If this was a weekly effort using spreadsheets and hours of meetings before, now it can be visible by logging into your CRM and running reports. Of course, reports are only as good as the data that goes into to it. So, you’ll want to establish good practices with your people. When you do, you’ll spend more time on finding and cultivating new business instead of chasing down status updates.

It all comes down to enhancing client relationships and delivering new services to customers more effectively.

Here are some further resources:


Is It Really Just About the Technology?

Michelle: So, what makes CRM really work? Other than software and IT?

Christine: CRM succeeds when your team engages.

Your business experts need to be involved in shaping the requirements of CRM in the first place. CRM needs to solve for tedious, complex, and manual work that they do. So, give these critical folks a seat at the table during design and selection. It fuels this next factor of success with a CRM.

“Functionality is critical, but so is user-friendliness.” ~ Harvard Business Review

Adoption by your team is what fuels results. That happens when you free them of tedious administrative tasks. Also, design your CRM to reduce the need for cumbersome manual coordination across spreadsheets, emails, and handwritten notes while managing client work. Your marketing and sales teams want easier access to the right information so they can reach their goals more readily. Not only does business capability matter, but also the CRM needs to be easy to use.

Focus on making core work more efficient and effective. By doing so, you’ll see better productivity and increased focus on customer relationships, which grow your business.

Michelle: Is there an upside to being a late adopter?

Christine: Late adopters get better technology at a lower price.

By the time late adopters are ready for technology–costs are lower, quality is higher, and expertise is readily available. It reduces the risk of deploying technology, while the functionality is better than earlier versions. Also, employees may be ready to adopt the technology, as it has become standard across businesses.


How Do We Build a Business Case?

Michelle: Does a system require a large capital outlay? How do we evaluate the cost/benefit?

Christine: The best way to know is to run a ballpark estimate. Try these tools and factor in these benefits.

Here are resources you can use to test assumptions and estimate costs:

Better yet, calculate your own. Be sure to include these cost/benefit factors:

  • Costs – Cash Flow Impact
    • Software* 
    • IT costs to build* or deploy CRM 
    • Business analysts and other resource costs
    • Consulting fees for technology advice, configuration, and training
  • Benefits – Business Impact
    • Improved cross-selling and upselling to current clients
    • Increased productivity
    • Increased marketing effectiveness 
    • Reduced customer churn
    • Improved customer satisfaction

*Cloud-based software also known as ‘Software as a Service’ solutions may be optimal for SMBs. Cloud-based software requires less IT expertise to build, configure, and maintain. Also, new software features can be easily turned on without the cost and risk of traditional “on premise” software. Here’s a good resource to learn more: On-Premise vs. Cloud Software: Which Is Really the Better Choice? by mHelpDeskNews.

Overall, benefits add up fast – even for small organizations. What’s better, employee and customer satisfaction with less paperwork and easier processes creates loyalty you can count on.



High energy, inspired B2B Marketer. Lessons learned largely in high tech and communications industries where I've worked with very smart folks, on very cool things, in very dynamic environments. I like helping others navigate people, tech, programs, and problems with vision, courage, and impact. All opinions are solely my own.

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