The importance of a customer relationship management (CRM) software is something you may already know about as a small business owner. If trying to manage your business with spreadsheets is too overwhelming, a CRM probably sounds like salvation to you.

Let’s say you’ve decided your business needs a CRM (or your existing CRM needs an upgrade). How do you set it up correctly?

You’ll also want to consider how you’ll use your CRM on a daily basis. The bells and whistles are great, but if you’re not using all the features in your CRM, what are you really paying for?

If you’re wondering how to best implement and use your CRM, we’ve got 5 common CRM mistakes to avoid and what you should do instead.

Mistake 1: Not Identifying Your Goals before Using Your CRM

The most important thing you need to know to successfully set up your CRM is what business needs it should fulfill. The way you implement your CRM should depend on your goals, not the other way around.

Identify what short- and long-term goals you want to achieve. Keep them in mind as you set up your CRM. Maybe you want to tackle organizing your contact list first. Then you can start working on sending marketing campaigns from your CRM.

In order to successfully use a CRM for your small business, you’ve got to implement it smartly. And that means making sure your CRM rollout aligns with your business goals. Failing to do this is the top dog of common CRM mistakes. Why? Because a bad implementation can lead to poor user experience for your entire team down the road.

Mistake 2: Not Involving Your Staff

If only you’re using your CRM, you’re free to set it up and use it as you see fit. But if you employ staff, it’s a good idea to make them part of the implementation process.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • Will your staff use the CRM in any way?
  • How many staff members will need access to it?
  • How much freedom will they have to access its features?

Answering these questions gives you a better idea of how to best use your CRM. It should support as many users as you want to have access to it. But it should also limit access where you need to.

Another thing to consider is how to get your staff up to speed on your CRM. Make sure you offer employees training before they start using it. If possible, obtain training materials directly from the CRM software company.

Once you’ve implemented your CRM and trained your team, establish best practices so they use it effectively and avoid unnecessary errors.

Ever had to clean up your contact list? If you have, maybe you found duplicate or incomplete client contact records. These create clutter in your CRM. When your staff knows how to properly enter client information into your CRM, it cuts down on that clutter.

Maintain a good standard for staff to follow when using CRM software. Be available to answer questions as needed, and provide refresher trainings periodically. This is especially helpful when new staff members join the team.

Mistake 3: Not Keeping Your CRM Free of Dirty Data

Part of the responsibility of having a CRM is keeping it clean. Remember, it’s only as good as the information you put in it. And your CRM should also help streamline this process for you.

Look for automations and customizations in your CRM that make data entry more error-proof and facilitate cleanup.

Do these things to keep your CRM spotless:
  • Can your CRM automatically remove duplicate contacts or merge them automatically after you’ve identified them? Do it.
  • Can you edit the fields in client intake forms? Unneeded fields make data entry slower and more tedious.
  • Can you edit CRM reporting templates so you only see the data you care about? Do it.

The more you customize and automate your CRM, the easier it is to keep it from becoming a data dumpster.

Pro Tip: You may not always be able to prevent bad data from making it into your CRM. So you should establish a cleanup schedule. Twice a year is a good benchmark for giving your CRM a deep cleaning.

Mistake 4: Not Making the Most of Your CRM’s Reporting Features

Let’s take a moment and expand on the topic of CRM reports. They’re an invaluable tool for any small business owner who wants to know how their business is doing.

But sadly, not all business owners make use of CRM reporting. In fact, only 20% of small business owners use analytics and reporting on a weekly basis. (Yikes!) So this one’s pretty high on our list of common CRM mistakes to watch out for.

If you already have a CRM, are you using it to pull reporting? If you answered “yes,” give yourself a pat on the back!

A good CRM is more than just a glorified contact record system. The ability to run reports is what makes it so useful, especially to a small business. You need to make sound decisions as you run and grow your business, and reporting helps you do that.

It doesn’t matter what type of business you own. There are 3 reports a CRM should provide that you should look at on the regular:

  1. Sales and revenue reports — This one’s a no-brainer. You need to know how much money your business is making!
  2. Customer reports — Managing your contact list is much easier when you know who’s engaging with your business and how often.
  3. Campaign analytics reports — If you run email, text or social media campaigns through your CRM, these reports let you see how they’re performing.

If you’re not familiar with the types of reports your CRM provides, do some digging to find out. See if your CRM software vendor provides customer support. If so, contact them, and ask them to help you learn how to pull reports and analyze them.

Mistake 5: Not Thinking About the Future

Ask any small business owner, and they’ll tell you they want to be more in control of their business. And a CRM certainly helps achieve that goal by streamlining day-to-day processes, thereby saving you time.

But how adaptable is your CRM? Will it grow and change with your business, or is it rigid and inflexible? You should be able to scale your CRM to match your business needs.

Ask yourself:
  • Do you plan on having more than one business location?
  • Will you hire additional staff?
  • Are you going to increase your client base?
  • If you currently have a CRM, does it have limitations that might make growing your business more challenging?

If your business is outgrowing your CRM, don’t struggle trying to make it work and hope for the best. Your CRM should make it easier to run your business, not harder!

If you’re ready for a new CRM, choose one that can keep up with your business needs. Some CRMs like Thryv let you start with a plan that’s the right size for your business. You can then easily upgrade as your needs change.