What is a CRM?

CRM is a term you might have heard, but you may or may not know what it works for. The acronym stands for “customer relationship management”. Practically, what does this mean? It is a piece of software (either on your computer, or something you access online) that holds information about who your customers (and sometimes your prospective customers) are, what you know about them, and how they’ve interacted with your business.

If you’re having trouble visualizing it: In pre-computer times, all the notes from your sales team (their rolladex) and your purchase records for a customer would have been what is not considered a “CRM”. For some businesses now, this may take the form of a simple database or even a spreadsheet where the basic information about customers is kept.

Often marketing data is included in a crm. Things like what current campaigns you are running (monthly newsletter, pay-per-click advertisements, billboard campaign, etc.), their cost, what current or prospective customers you are targeting, etc. Including marketing data in your CRM is an “option” but a lot of the standard CRM tools out there have this functionality built in— and it can add a powerful layer of additional metrics and actionable data.

Why do I need a CRM?

A good CRM is essential to executing on marketing and sales both on a one-to-one basis and a one-to-many.

One-to-one: If you’re talking with a past customer (or one of your sales team is) trying to get them to come back to your business, you need to be able to see what they’ve purchased in the past, and whether they were happy with it. It could also be helpful to see if you’ve emailed them a coupon recently for a discount, and also to find out if there are other people at their company or household that could buy your product that you should reach out to instead. Where to find this data? In your CRM!

One-to-many: A sales rep from a online review company comes into your business asking you to re-buy your ad space you bought last year. You need to quickly be able to look at how much you spend last year, who you were trying to get in the door of your business, and how many of them ended up seeing your ad and subsequently buying something. Where to find this data? In your CRM!

Whether you are checking the effectiveness of a campaign, looking to deploy additional tactics, see how well a particular product line is selling with a certain age-group of your customers, or just trying to help your sales team close more sales, having a single place you can go to that combines all the relevant data into a single source is essential. This since source is called your CRM; and the tools it will give you will help you close more business.

What is the best CRM for my business?

Most likely, you’ve heard of Salesforce.com; they are the leader in both mid-size, enterprise, and even small businesses as a CRM choice. They offer and excellent tool, that integrates with just about every other piece of software. They will meet all of your needs, and then some. The major downside is price; and effort required to use effectively.

Vendor: Salesforce.com


  • Works with every other piece of software out there
  • “If you can dream it, you can do it”— Very flexible tool to enable almost any data storage need


  • Annual cost, even for small business accounts can be high

Vendor: Active Campaign


  • “80% of the tools for 5% of the price.” Active Campaign offers a lot of the tools that the higher-end CRMs offer, at a fractions of the price.


  • Limited integration with 3rd party tools (however some integrations can be built via third-party integration
  • Designed primarily as a Marketing Automation platform, and added on as a CRM tool after the fact.
  • Integrations to 3rd party tools are limited out of the box
  • Database structure is more limited; however it may work for most business cases



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