A cloud-based CRM can be an extremely useful tool for sales and marketing teams, but knowing which Cloud CRM software is right for your business, or if you need one at all, is tricky — especially now that many cloud-based CRM providers offer an affordable, flexible solution, making them attractive propositions to organizations of all sizes.
In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what a cloud CRM is, the benefits it can have to your business, the challenges of implementing one and how to choose the right CRM solution for your needs.
Cloud CRMs are a tool used in Customer Relationship Management (known as CRM for short) by an organization to manage information for a range of internal and external contacts and relationships, specifically in the cloud.
CRMs aren’t only used to manage customer information though; these are powerful tools to automate business processes and centralize information across departments, making comprehensive data from your CRM software cloud and elsewhere easy to access across sales, marketing and even HR.
With CRM software, your sales team will know the best time to reach out to their hot leads and how to engage them across every customer journey touchpoint, while providing sales managers with comprehensive data about team performance, missed opportunities and best strengths.
Alongside cloud CRM platforms, other tools that organizations often employ are third-party integrated apps, which help to boost functionality in a range of key areas including marketing campaigns, help desk, emails and social media. When connected to a cloud CRM, these tools help teams to save time on repetitive tasks and spend more of their time taking the actions necessary to win their next deal.
Unlike traditional, premise CRM software, cloud CRM systems operate in the cloud on servers provided by the client, offering more flexibility when it comes to collaborating on, accessing and updating client records and customer data. Getting to grips with what cloud CRM software is and what it can provide your company can be a daunting process, but realizing the benefits of a CRM is simple when broken down into a series of points – so let’s do just that!
The benefits of cloud CRMs
While CRMs provide an effective and transparent way of managing customer and employee information, sometimes they come with the drawbacks associated with being in-house applications. Cloud CRMs which operate in an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model avoid these drawbacks and have the following benefits:
All information is kept on the cloud storage, so no need to install or maintain a server on-premise.
Updates, maintenance and data backup and protection are handled by the cloud CRM provider.
Top cloud CRMs are specialized for keeping information secure, doing away with the need for in-house IT teams.
Users aren’t limited to accessing cloud CRMs on pre-installed devices – they can be accessed from any location or device with an internet connection, with many cloud CRMs offering app support for mobile devices.
Cloud CRMs provide a cost effective means of scaling. With clear pricing and immediate access, this translates to lower upfront costs and significantly more scalability than premise CRM systems.
Subscriptions can be paid monthly or quarterly and can be canceled immediately.
Cloud CRMs do away with the need for expensive in-house applications, making them an attractive option to organizations of all sizes. It’s prohibitively expensive for a start-up or small business to afford on-site CRM software, not to mention the associated servers and maintenance staff. However, with hardware costs and overheads being absorbed by the CRM vendor, cloud CRMs are made affordable by simple monthly or quarterly subscriptions, without any nasty surprise costs or complications.
Likewise, for a larger company seeking to upgrade their storage, cloud CRMs provide a simple and immediate solution, so no need to source hardware and have it installed and maintained by a team of in-house IT specialists.
Cloud CRMs also allow for far greater mobility than their in-house counterparts. You’re no longer tied to your desk and can access your CRM applications via the internet from any device, giving you greater flexibility and less down-time while traveling or out of the office. Many providers have specialized mobile apps, meaning they can be updated on the go for even quicker access to information.
If your organization only needs certain aspects of a CRM, then you can often choose to subscribe to a pricing plan that includes just those features. Unlike most traditional options, cloud CRMs offer a much more customizable package so you don’t have to pay for services you won’t need: you pay for exactly what you want, for the number of users you require.
Your organization wants to do what it does best: providing a great service and customer experience. Resources spent building and maintaining a server and ensuring data security are resources diverted from helping your organization grow. Cloud CRMs handle all this backend for you, ensuring your information is encrypted, backed up and never lost. Moreover, many cloud CRM providers give uptime guarantees to ensure a consistent service without risk to your organization.
One of the best ways of transforming your CRM software into a much more powerful package is to use integrated software. With in-house CRMs, organizations need a team of IT specialists to build programs from the ground up or modify existing programs to ensure compatibility with the CRM and meet your specific needs.
Cloud CRMs provide a simpler solution, with a host of intuitive third-party programs designed to work perfectly with your CRM and provide specific and targeted solutions for your unique needs.
The Challenges of cloud CRMs
The inherent issue is that they’re based on the cloud. Information exchange takes place over the web and information is stored away from your organization on the provider’s servers, where it can sit for years.
It’s a double-edged sword: you’re free from the responsibility of storing data, but you’ve got to trust that the sensitive information you’re storing on the cloud computing servers will be secure and accessible only by you and your team.
It’s important to know going into a relationship with a provider that they can be trusted to keep your data and communications safe. Without this assurance, you run an enormous risk in today’s trust economy of damaging your company’s relationships from a potentially insecure host platform. In fact, 78% of customers would stop engaging with a brand online following a security breach. You also need to ensure your provider prevents outside sources from logging into your network, while still retaining ease of access for your staff.
You also run the risk of the tool or database crashing, leaving you without any way to access the data your teams need to work. While on-site CRM software requires a lot of upkeep, as ultimately you’re in charge of it, there’s no risk from outsourcing something as important to your company as maintenance to a provider that may not maintain your standards.
If something goes wrong, you will bear the brunt of a bad provider’s mistakes. Your core sales and marketing operations will be offline, potentially meaning missed deals, missed prospect leads, hurt customer relations and damaged customer experiences with existing clients, seriously affecting your organization’s current and future cash flow.
Choosing to use a cloud-based CRM tool over a traditional in-house CRM has huge benefits for your business, but comes with the caveat that you’re no longer responsible for protecting your most valuable data. While the best cloud CRMs are designed to keep this data as safe as possible, choosing the wrong provider could put your organization at an increased risk of hacking and lost data.
Moreover, with no physical backup of your data on-site, should your provider lose your data, it’s lost forever. Businesses need the peace of mind that their information is securely backed up in case of emergencies, or else operations will come to an abrupt halt.
How to find the right Cloud-based CRM
First of all, your cloud CRM must be secure. Look for ones with robust security measures such as:
Account and device logging to pinpoint any suspicious devices
Audits to review recent security and permissions changes
Risk alerts based on user access and permissions
Ensure your information is stored on reliable and secure servers and your data has state-of-the-art encryption both in transit and at rest, and make sure it’s being backed up regularly to a secure location. A quick way to tell if a CRM provider has great security is to check for certificates proving their reliability, such as SOC 2, SOC 3 and US-EU Privacy Shield awards.
With security taken care of, it’s time to work out which solution will suit your organization best. Cloud CRMs come with a bevy of features and third-party integrations to help your teams streamline their tasks, so look out for the following to ensure a positive experience for your team and clients:
Contact management. Contact communications and customer interactions are tracked and stored in one easily accessible place.
Workflow automation. Automation of repetitive administration tasks.
Lead management. Hot leads fed directly into your sales pipeline and follow-up notifications deployed based on custom triggers and criteria of prospect behavior.
Management tools. Extensive metrics produced from your data to measure against KPIs, giving visibility of which activities bring you the greatest success rates.
Mobility. Use of a mobile app for even more accessibility.
Project management. A clear and concise workflow with information gathered all in one place.
Ease of use. Easy collaboration for users within and across teams.
Here they are in more detail.
Tracked and stored communications from your contacts in one easily accessible place
The time of using Excel to track communications with your clients is long gone; with all your data in one place, ready to be updated in real time by anyone with permission, you can ensure there are no missed or forgotten leads.
Automation of repetitive administration tasks
Some cloud CRMs provide A.I. powered tools to provide performance tips and recommend features and third-party integrations that can automate manual work to free up your time.
Hot leads fed directly into your sales pipeline based on custom triggers and criteria of prospect behavior
Use customizable chatbots to sort through your leads and send them to the right people, or even get them to book meetings for you if the lead meets your criteria. Use online forms to establish lead contact information directly into a cloud CRM that has these features or integrates with the right tools.
Extensive metrics produced from your data to measure against KPIs and see which activities bring you the greatest success rates
Create reports using the data already stored in your cloud CRM – no more spreadsheet data-entry. Choose what metrics to compare to discover your strengths and weaknesses.
Use of a mobile app for even more accessibility
A good cloud CRM will have an app for iOS and Android, allowing users to access the system wherever they are, whenever they like.
A clear and concise workflow with information gathered all in one place
Deals and leads are arranged in a visually neat system, making progress along the sales pipeline simple and uncluttered.
Easy collaboration for users both within and across teams
With all your data in one place, any interaction with a client or a lead can be managed in real time, so that users who need that information can use it immediately. This also allows separate teams to build up a complex picture of their leads from the beginning of the interaction.
Beyond these features, choosing the right solution is a case of using your common sense and doing your homework. Go for CRM providers with good feedback and ratings and if in doubt check their customer service yourself with a free CRM trial!
Avoid products that require manual updates, ones that haven’t been updated for a long time and options where accessing your data is a hassle. Untidy interfaces and clunky pages make for a terrible experience.
The features offered by great cloud CRM solutions should make your organization’s life a lot easier, freeing up time and reducing spend on lower priority tasks and ensuring coherency across the sales process.
With the addition of third-party integrations, a CRM can be tailored to fit your exact business needs, providing an even more streamlined and effective service.
Other examples of cloud-based sales software
Third-party integrations can help to boost productivity, but knowing the vast array of apps available to you can be overwhelming at first. The following apps make a good starting point for any business:
These tools are designed to help your organization identify the hottest leads as and when they appear. Leadfeeder allows you to see which companies are accessing your website and the pages they’re viewing, automatically updating your cloud CRM. The lead generation tool can also be customized to send alerts when these leads arise.
Bots and Messengers
Sending out messages with key information and identifying your lead’s key needs are important but time-consuming tasks. Fortunately, there are app extensions to help you easily automate these processes and improve customer support. Pipedrive’s Dealbot for Slack integration automatically lets your colleagues know the progress of deals by updating key information in Slack, removing the need for extra meetings and repetitive emails.
There’s a plethora of great email marketing and email automation solutions available, such as Mailigen. Mailigen enables marketers to take advantage of marketing automation. They can send out automated campaigns with branching options for different levels of lead response, with dynamic content targeting high-value contacts, while still appealing to your leads with the right level of human interaction.
Apps such as ActiveDEMAND and Outfunnel create highly customizable automated campaigns based on CRM information and feed the response levels back into your CRM contact data, while some apps like Autopilot can send campaigns over various different media, feeding back interest data into your CRM.
If you’re looking to find bottlenecks in your sales pipeline or see where you could be performing better, then analytic apps are an excellent way to pinpoint your weaknesses and convert them into strengths. QuarterOne lets you measure the success of your sales force and predict the growth of your sales pipeline, ensuring your management and finance teams are as happy with your cloud CRM as your sales team. Plecto offers a different angle by displaying key data and KPIs in real time, as well as gamification features to ensure your teams stay engaged and competitive.
Find out about some of the tools that integrate with Pipedrive in our Marketplace.
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Why Choose Pipedrive as your cloud-based CRM?
One huge benefit of Pipedrive’s cloud CRM is that it integrates with many of the other web-based services you use, letting you streamline your working process and become super-efficient. Pipedrive was developed by salespeople for salespeople, built to bridge the gaps in your sales workflow by combining all the necessary tools into one package:
Manual data entry can be a thing of the past with Pipedrive and you can spend less time data handling and more time to selling
Pipedrive’s sales management software provides an easy one-stop-shop for all your sales tracking needs, pooling information from across your sales data sources
Having a single, streamlined view of your sales process is essential. Pipedrive’s clean interface ensures clarity, keeping your team on the same page
Flexible sales management systems that are a valuable tool when molding the perfect sales process for your business. Pipedrive’s extensive yet simple customization makes forecasting and changing things easy and the impact immediate
Mobile access is crucial when you’re actively selling. Pipedrive’s CRM app makes it easy to sell and manage sales on the move, so you’re less likely to miss an opportunity
Pipedrive takes all the tedious upkeep and admin associated with running the backend of a CRM out of your hands and it’s constantly being developed to keep up with the pace of modern sales reps
Adopting a cloud-based CRM can have a significant, positive impact on an organization and its bottom line. With information centralized and repetitive tasks automated, you can ensure your team focuses on the important things: better team collaboration, building relationships with clients and leads, improving customer engagement and selling your product.
Having cloud CRM software means having access to information at all times, regardless of location, laid out in clear dashboards and an easy-to-understand representation of your sales pipeline.
It gives you the ability to quickly analyze your metrics and compare them to your KPIs. Your data is kept secure and the pricing options mean that as you grow, Pipedrive grows with you.
Cloud CRMs do away with the inherent problems of in-house software at a price that’s affordable to businesses of all sizes. If you’re ready to make the move to cloud-based sales software, then here are some tips on how to find the best CRM for you.