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Selecting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platform for the first (or fifth) time is never easy. There are many business triggers that cause firms to evaluate a CRM solution for their Sales team: the software may be creating more work than the system is creating value, you may have outgrown your current system’s features, or your Sales team can’t get critical tasks done on their mobile devices, or the data isn’t as accessible as you’d like, or, simply put, no one on your team may be using your current system (…tumble weed blows by…).

This post originally appears on Business2Community.

These are great reasons to take a look at what CRM options are out there and determine which may be the best fit for your teams, both Sales and Marketing.

If Marketing is regularly generating leads by creating amazing content for each stage of the Buyer Journey to fuel the brand’s digital channels – from social communities, to email, to SEO, to display – then it’s important that the CRM you select be integrated with those content & community marketing activities. You want to ensure that all of the actions and engagements that Marketing content is receiving is then being automatically recorded into the CRM and contributing to a lead scoring model that Marketing and Sales have co-created.

Yes, Sales will want to know the source of the lead (Google? LinkedIn? Email?), how many Marketing content assets they engaged with, how recently, which specific assets they engaged with so they may tailor their initial touches (was it a whitepaper they downloaded? a webinar they attended?), and which leads are the hottest ones in the system right now, based on the aggregation and insights work that the CRM is doing in the background.

Which CRM systems can do all of this for you? Here is a shortlist of ten of the best CRM platforms, with brief descriptions from TrustRadius, ranging from nearly-free to enterprise-level in features and cost:

Salesforce.com: “The innovative standard bearer among SaaS CRM platforms. It has transitioned from being a pure-play CRM vendor to being a true platform vendor with some loss of focus on CRM functionality.”

Insightly: “A SaaS CRM / project management solution designed for SMBs. The product is essentially a plug-in to Google Apps, and has pre-built integrations to social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.”

Infusionsoft: “A small business-focused, comprehensive sales and marketing platform, which includes basic contact management, CRM, marketing automation and e-commerce capabilities into a single, subscription-based SaaS product.”

Zoho CRM: “Simple, very low-cost CRM option for the smaller end of the SMB segment. The product has several useful integrations with other products, including QuickBooks, and Google Apps and Google Docs.”

SugarCRM: “Open-source CRM system designed for SMBs. The product has about 170,000 paid subscriptions and is growing fast. The product features strong marketing capabilities and is a fully-featured platform for a relatively low cost.”

Microsoft Dynamics CRM: “A CRM system providing sales, marketing, and service (help desk) functionality. It is offered in two flavors: Online (competing directly with Salesforce) and on-premise.”

Sage CRM: “An SMB-oriented CRM platform offered in both SaaS and on-premise editions. Unlike the Sage SalesLogix product, the SaaS version is a true multi-tenant offering. The platform offers excellent integration with Sage ERP and accounting products.”

ONTRAPORT: “Offers customer relations management services that help with content management, such as creating and hosting webpages; lead tracking, which includes collecting customer data and behavior; traditional marketing approaches, such as e-mail, SMS, social media, and direct mail.”

Nimble: “A social customer relationship management (CRM) system with features such as contact management and data-driven analytics.”

Sparkcentral: “Provides a cloud-based customer engagement platform that caters specifically to customer care teams within large enterprises, enabling them to deliver real-time social customer service.”

Selecting the system that’s the best fit for your Marketing and Sales teams going into 2016 is no easy task. That depends on a set of criteria that your team will have to define. Things like:

1. How many Sales managers will need access to the system?

2. How many records are we starting with, and how do we see that scaling?

3. What kind of custom reporting do we need for both Sales and Marketing?

4. How much Marketing data (e.g. content marketing KPIs) will we want to capture?

5. How much social data (e.g. contact profiles, influence, etc.) do we need available?

6. What touches, if any, do we want the system to automate on behalf of Sales or Marketing?

7. Are we comfortable with the Cloud, or do we need local systems, too?

8. What features do we need for Sales managers on their mobile devices?

When it comes to selecting CRM or Marketing Automation software, it’s better to measure twice and cut once, as costs for migration, training, and manual data entry can’t be recouped if you decide you’ve made the wrong decision 3 months down the road.

Our consultants regularly conduct CRM and Marketing Automation Best Fit analyses, setup and API implementations, and tech training. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you see 2016 as a big growth year, both for content & community marketing and for sales performance.

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