Selecting a CRM for your startup

Selecting an ERP is one of the most critical decisions any business must make and the risks are much higher when the selection is made at the startup phase. Customer relationship management (CRM), is a component of a lot of the ERP you will look at, and the vital function it plays in your business means it merits the same care in its selection.

Whether you are looking for a standalone CRM or one integrated into an ERP system, here are some things to bear in mind.

Have a plan

Know what you plan to use your CRM to do immediately and into the future. Even though the C stands for ‘customer’, and most of think of a CRM as a tool for prospecting and nurturing leads to become excellent customers, there are other possibilities. CRM can be used for project management, for example. Be sure the fields can be renamed from salesperson to project title so the CRM looks like you want it to look. Some will use their CRM for customer support rather than lead development so be sure it has the ability to create action tickets. How much security you need is another factor. If you are in a HIPAA-regulated business, you know your names and conditions must be confidential.

Recommended reading: find ERPs with the CRM capability you need with our completely up-to-date ERP vendor directory.

“Keep it simple, Stupid”

The KISS principle is important to any startup. You have few resources and all must be used effectively. Avoid a CRM that requires a lot of IT support or needs to be customized unless you can afford the support. Consider using a CRM from the cloud. Lower upfront costs and often these can be used from the very first day. Don’t pay for any features you aren’t going to use. They probably cost money you have too little of and could get in the way of users who still must tab by those fields.

Integrated with ERP?

There are some very good reasons to use a CRM that is combined with your ERP. The incremental cost might be low compared to a standalone CRM. There can be powerful advantages to a single database avoiding controversy over which version is correct. Think whether those reasons are important in your startup phase. Your best CRM at this time could be one of the free ones available over the internet today. One size does not fit all.

If you choose this path, check carefully whether you can easily import and export data between your CRM and ERP and other databases. Copying data and converting it to .csv is easy and might serve for some time but you also might need a more sophisticated solution right away. Understand the integration capabilities of your CRM and have a plan for today and tomorrow too.

There is no simple answer to selecting ERP or any of the components like CRM. Know your own requirements and find tools that provide you with the actionable information you need as a startup.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at

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Tom Miller

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