Many local business owners view CRMs (customer relationship management systems) as databases. Basically, they see these systems as a place to store customer data and contact information. But CRMs can do much more than that.

Your CRM should be your most trusted sales tool. More than a place to dump customer data and let it collect dust (*shudder*), a quality CRM integrates with your sales process – helping you nurture leads, convert customers and create loyal followers.

That said, if you want it to live up to its full potential, you need more than a digital file cabinet. You need a powerful system, with specific features and functionality.

What to Look for in a CRM: Top 9 Features

1. Unlimited (Or Really, Really High) Storage Space

I know I sound hypocritical. I just said your CRM should do more than store data. And that’s still true. But, data management is where any useful CRM starts – helping you collect, keep and manage information about your contacts and customers.

That said, some CRM systems limit the number of records you can keep. If you’re limiting your records, you’re limiting your business’s ability to grow. Look for a CRM that allows either unlimited records, or records in the tens of thousands. That may sound excessive, but there are systems out there that come with that level of storage at a really reasonable price.

2. Integration with Other Systems

If your CRM doesn’t play nice with others, I don’t need a crystal ball to see a lot of manual data entry in your future. Any system you settle on should allow for easy import of existing contact information, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

If you don’t have a CRM in place already, chances are you use Microsoft Excel (or something like it), your email account, your calendar, and even your smartphone to store important contacts and customer data. Ensure your new CRM can easily import what you’ve already got…and even export it back out should you need it later.

3. Custom Fields to Suit Your Business

Speaking of importing data, a CRM should also allow you to choose the fields you use for each record. Many systems come with the obvious recommended fields like name, address, phone number, and email. But you know all too well that your business is more complex than that.

If you run an auto repair shop, for example, you probably know the types of vehicles you’ve serviced for past customers, maybe even the specific services you provided. Can you imagine how annoying it would be for customers to have to give you their vehicle’s information each and every time they visit? If your CRM can’t offer up a custom field where you can input this information, you’re severely limiting your ability to provide customized service.

4. Segmentation for Easy Organization of Your Contacts

Depending on the CRM, these groupings will have various names from system to system. Whether the CRM you choose calls them “groups,” “segments,” or “tags” isn’t important. What matters is the system’s ability to recognize commonalities between records and manipulate the data accordingly. That way, when you need to segment your records by demographic, product or service, location or more, you’re able to.

5. Social Profile Integration

The best social media integrations will link contacts in your database with their public social profiles and pull in any available information from the social media networks. Not only will it help you flesh out incomplete records, it will also provide you additional insights on these individuals – things like their picture, interests and more.

6. Private (For Your Eyes Only) Notes and Document Storage

When it comes to customer service, your small business is at a huge advantage compared to your larger, corporate counterparts. That’s because you have the ability to get closer to your customers, learn more about them, and personalize the experience each and every person has with your brand.

But as you grow, remembering every customer’s preferences and past interactions with you will become more and more challenging. That’s where having a CRM that allows you to attach additional information to records will come in handy. Whether it’s private notes or documents, your team should be able to access unique information to support your business’s customer service activities.

7. Marketing Automation Integration

CRMs have evolved a lot over time. Many of the systems that first came out were meant mainly for sales teams and customer service representatives to store customer data, track someone’s place in the sales funnel and support the sales process.

Now, your CRM should plug into your text and email marketing software or have fully integrated marketing automation capabilities of its own. That way, there’s no need to export the contact details stored within to another system when you send communications or create text and email marketing campaigns.

8. A Mobile App

How much time do you spend behind your desk? What could you get done if you were able to spend that time out and about instead? Probably a lot.

That’s why having a CRM that can be as on-the-go as you want to be is crucial. Not only should you be able to enter data from a mobile device, you should also be able to access and sort the information that’s already in there.

9. A Dashboard with Insights and Reminders

Many of the CRM features we’ve talked about (but not all) come standard on the higher-end CRM systems on the market. Here’s a feature that won’t be as easy to find.

Rows and rows of records are great. And marketing campaign integration is, too. But what good are all of these bells and whistles if you lack the birds-eye view of everything your CRM is doing for your business? Our tool, Thryv, opens straight to a dashboard where you can view key performance indicators (KPIs) and campaign progress, as well as any actionable items like unread messages in your inbox.

Check out the dashboard, and see why Thryv is the ultimate CRM for your local business.