What Is CRM Software? The Definitive Guide

Losing a qualified lead because you misplaced their information, sent a wrong message, or ran into schedule conflicts during onboarding can be tough. Targeted leads and prospects have the possibility of becoming long-term, repeat customers if you nurture relationships well. 

Good customer relationship management (CRM) is the key to building long-lasting and beneficial relationships with leads and customers. CRM software helps to nurture these relationships. When choosing the right CRM software for your needs, you may feel overwhelmed with questions about features to look for, how much to pay, or how to integrate with other tools. 

This CRM guide answers these questions and more. First, we'll start with the basics, including what CRM means. What is CRM software? Why is CRM important?  

What does CRM mean?

At its most basic level, customer relationship management refers to a system or program that enables organizations to provide a seamless customer experience while carrying leads, prospects, and existing clients through various stages of the customer journey

Using CRM software boosts your productivity, customer satisfaction and experience, and eventually sales numbers. CRM software helps maintain clean and current records of sales and marketing contact information and engagement. 

With the ideal CRM software that fits your needs, your teams can add, update, organize, automate, and retrieve customer details, enabling productive cross-functional team collaboration between marketing, sales, and other departments.

What is CRM software used for?

CRM software helps sales and marketing teams acquire and develop relationships with new customers and nurture lasting relationships with existing ones. It organizes lead and customer data in a structured way that provides valuable insights to develop appropriate relationships with each customer.

CRM software, especially when automated and integrated with other sales and marketing tools, gathers insightful but unstructured customer information from numerous touchpoints: website visits, ad clicks and engagement, and transaction history. It then structures this in an easy-to-read format. 

CRM software also provides valuable reports to support sales and marketing plans. Other information relating to a specific lead or customer, such as social engagement and communication preferences, may be automatically pulled into and updated in the CRM system. 

CRM software provides a data-driven perspective of customers' interactions with your product throughout the customer life cycle. Setting up and analyzing CRM reports with high-performing sales and marketing managers can provide valuable insights for your company. 

Advantages of CRM

A CRM system brings together various moving parts of customer relationship management into one platform. Every team – sales and marketing, customer service, business development, revenue operations, and management – can access the system with the proper permissions and pull current customer information to make better decisions. Other advantages of CRM software include:

Consolidates your data

Instead of moving between various platforms to retrieve customer details, a CRM gathers it on one platform. This serves as a central database for customer details such as phone numbers, social profiles, order history, and contact addresses.

CRM data updates in real-time across synced apps and channels. Most CRM software solutions are cloud-based, allowing teams to access them from any location. Team members control how they view CRM data with customizable dashboards.

Helps build and manage your sales pipeline

An effective CRM tool tracks and measures sales and marketing activity and performance in addition to storing and updating the customer database. 

Using CRM improves operational efficiency by helping to develop and automate critical aspects of your workflows and defining important milestones in your marketing funnel. If you have a large sales team, match leads to accounts or contacts responsible for maintaining relationship satisfaction and progress.  

Automates your workflows

An essential use of CRM software is automation. CRM software closes gaps in your sales and marketing workflows, reducing time spent on repetitive data entry tasks and updates. Link your CRM to other work tools for scheduling meetings and demos, signing documents, processing billing, and allowing information to flow both ways.

CRM software significantly increases employee productivity by freeing up more time for high-value work. It becomes easier to close deals and satisfy customers. CRM automation also helps build consistency with customer engagement, which boosts brand reputation and customer loyalty. 

What Is CRM Software? The Definitive Guide 2
Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

Integrates with sales and marketing tools

You may be wondering: what is a CRM software integration? CRM software integration means connecting and synchronizing CRM software to other useful work tools through APIs or third-party integrations. 

The CRM project management integration is one of the more popular integrations. Here, you connect your CRM and project management software to achieve more coordinated collaboration and execution of sales and marketing projects. Syncing CRM and project management software helps simplify, streamline, and automate your entire sales and marketing data and workflow. Other valuable CRM integrations are:

  • CRM marketing automation integration for managing digital and social media marketing campaigns
  • CRM calendar integration for scheduling meetings and product demos
  • CRM instant messaging integration for quick and timely customer communication
  • CRM content management integration for publishing and sharing relevant content with target audiences

Provides valuable customer insights

When used and updated regularly, CRM software aggregates valuable sales, marketing, and customer data. This helps teams track which demographic is most engaged and brings in the most revenue, helping them focus and forecast ROI on future marketing campaigns. 

A CRM system also helps keep current customers happy by revealing patterns in their preferences, tastes, and wants. You can identify and study patterns that show when a customer is losing interest or buying and engaging less than usual using data from your CRM. When you can read, understand, and predict customer behavior, you can deliver what they need.

Helps create more sales opportunities

As you learn more about your customers, you notice gaps and new customer needs, creating new sales opportunities to upsell, cross-sell, or establish business lines. CRM software helps visualize and reveal customer patterns and themes that can help your business expand. You may use CRM data to create micro-targeted action plans or large-scale marketing campaigns.

CRM software examples

What are examples of CRM software? Below, we list three types of CRM software tools and share at least one example of each. This is not an exhaustive list of all available CRM software, but a good one to get you started. Some CRM tools combine features and functionalities of all three types, making it difficult to categorize them. 

Analytical CRM software

Analytical CRMs process and analyze customer data and interactions to identify meaningful patterns and trends. They help predict customer behavior and uncover new business opportunities. Analytical CRMs create in-depth reports that are actionable and easy to read. Analytical CRM software capabilities include data warehousing, mining, and online analytical processing (OLAP). Examples of analytical CRM are Hubspot CRM and Zoho CRM.

  • HubSpot CRM: HubSpot CRM has dashboard reporting and analytics capabilities that allow you to track the progress of your sales funnel. If you need more sophisticated analytics, combine HubSpot CRM with rich data analytics tools. You can start using HubSpot CRM for free and get premium add-ons starting at $45 per month. 
  • Zoho CRM: Zoho CRM uses powerful, real-time analytics to help teams make smarter, data-driven decisions. It's a cloud-based CRM software starting at $14 per user per month with a 15-day free trial of its premium software. Zoho CRM also offers a free version with essential CRM for up to three team members. 

Operational CRM software

Operational CRM software helps maintain updated contact databases, acquire and validate customer information, and direct leads or customers to the appropriate representative. Operational CRM functionalities include sales funnel automation, digital marketing automation, contact management, and lead scoring. An operational CRM software example is Salesforce.

  • Salesforce CRM: Salesforce CRM software is one of the most popular CRM platforms we have today. It delivers useful sales, marketing, community management, and customer support capabilities. Simple to use and robust, four Salesforce price options are available with the monthly package starting at $25 per user.

Collaborative CRM software

Collaborative CRM software, also known as strategic CRM tools, aims to share data between teams to improve the customer experience across all touchpoints on their purchase path. Collaborative CRMs improve customer satisfaction by monitoring all interactions and communication channels. An example of collaborative CRM software is Pipedrive.

  • Pipedrive: Pipedrive fosters the connection between teamwork and sales and marketing performance. The software allows users to manage lead flows from a simple dashboard, route tasks to the appropriate accounts, and share data quickly. Pipedrive is available for $12.5 per month per user and provides a 14-day free trial for its premium features. 

CRM software for project management

Customer relationship management and project management are two pillars driving the success of any business. CRM software can provide real-time customer insights and feedback to boost decision-making in project management. 

A CRM project management integration puts the customers at the heart of sales and marketing projects and activities, ensuring your team delivers value to your customers while nurturing your relationship with them.

How does CRM assist with project management?

CRM software assists sales and marketing project management by tracking customer behavior, marketing campaign resource allocation, and sales pipeline management. Other functionalities for CRM project management software include: 

  • Keeping track of a customer's life cycle 
  • Completing projects on time and within budget
  • Planning and executing marketing projects from a customer-centric standpoint
  • Aligning sales, marketing, and customer service tasks
  • Beginning new projects as soon as new customer contracts are signed
  • Tracking milestones to identify realistic project goals
  • Showing and distributing report summaries to assess project status
  • Automating recurring tasks to enable team members to focus on high-value work
  • Allowing remote teams to work with unified sales and marketing pipelines
  • Enhancing collaboration with cloud-based task management and reporting
  • Connecting ongoing projects with customer feedback and suggestions
  • Providing a higher total return on investment for software, since you pay for one product for CRM project management instead of two products
  • Keeping sales and marketing projects on track by setting realistic goals based on real-time CRM data
  • Generating and distributing reports at regular, scheduled intervals to stakeholders and key project personnel
  • Managing and adjusting employee workload with increased visibility into each project in the CRM project management software

How to use Wrike as CRM software

The adaptability of all-in-one project management platforms like Wrike has helped companies of all sizes grow faster. 

CRM project management software does a great job of keeping your contacts, project timelines, and messaging in a central, cloud-based workspace. This helps you better understand your customers, improve customer experience, and increase sales. 

Learn how Wrike, a simple CRM project management software, can make your work easier and more productive. Follow the instructions below to create a rudimentary CRM workflow system with folders and tasks in Wrike.

  • Create a new parent folder and assign clients to tasks within it
  • Use tasks to serve as deadlines or reminders
  • Make a subset of folders according to your goals and priorities
  • Make a new folder with tags for each client's current status
  • Create a templates folder for all your recurring communications
  • Organize your files into subfolders for each stage of the sales process
  • Schedule follow-ups and allocate tasks to particular sales representatives by creating subfolders for each sales cycle step
  • For each new step, update the associated project tag
  • Utilize scheduled reports to keep track of performance and update key stakeholders
  • Use in-app communications to speed up time-sensitive reviews and approvals
  • View your activity stream to get updates on specific clients

Are you ready to organize your CRM project management processes and execute better-planned marketing projects to delight your customers? Set your team up for success with a two-week free trial of Wrike’s CRM project management software. 

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