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The complete guide to CRM in 2021

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    Around 80% of today’s potential customers say personalized experiences are a deciding factor in whether they’ll do business with a company.

    A marketing email addressing customers by name used to do the trick, but that’s not the case anymore. Now, your company needs to know everything it possibly can about every customer.

    How can one company accomplish all of this?

    There’s actually a pretty simple answer: customer relationship management (CRM).

    This is a complete guide to CRM, so we’ll take you through what is the definition of CRM, as well as everything you need to know about CRM software, strategy, and so much more!

    What is CRM?

    CRM stands for customer relationship management. It refers to all of the software, tools, and strategies your business uses to record and track information about interactions with your client base.

    Although CRMs are closely associated with sales teams, almost any department in an organization can leverage their power.

    So, what is CRM software?

    CRM is an umbrella term for everything that helps you cultivate and manage customer relationships, but CRM software is the platform that makes cultivating those relationships possible.

    A good CRM solution functions as a single source of truth for everyone in your organization. It gives every team a way to track the customer data that’s important to them.

    The right CRM software will also integrate with any other tools and data sources you need—your email provider, accounting software, you name it. It will help you manage contacts and sales pipelines, automate your workflows, and keep an eye on your whole customer journey through customizable dashboards.

    In this template, you can see how sales reps track the status of each lead and make note of other information like priority, deal size, and progress toward closing. sales pipeline template

    The benefits of CRM software

    A CRM system brings every aspect of customer relationship management together. It’s often synonymous with CRM software or even just CRM, but it’s the most robust version of these tools and strategies.

    Let’s take a closer look at what CRM tools like can do that a simple spreadsheet just can’t:

    • Consolidate your data: instead of one platform for marketing data, another for the sales team, and then a 3rd tool for customer service, a CRM connects it all in one spot. Data updates in real-time, and you can keep an eye on it with a customizable dashboard.

    • Build and manage your sales pipeline: a good CRM solution makes your sales process more efficient by helping you define stages for your sales pipeline or customer journey so every team — not just sales — can stay on the same page. And since a CRM acts as a single source of truth, any team member can jump in to assist customers in exactly the way they need, exactly when they need it.

    • Automate your workflows: CRM software canboost efficiency even further by automating parts of the sales process. Move prospects to new stages, trigger follow up emails, and more to close more sales and keep customers happy.

    • Sync with other tools: bring together everything your sales process needs by syncing other tools. On, you can integrate your CRM with everything from Mailchimp to Shopify to your old CRM like Salesforce or Pipedrive.

    • Manage your contacts: use a CRM system to create a centralized database for every customer or business contact your company interacts with. Sales, marketing, support, and more can update contact information right in the card, eliminating inaccurate information or endless back-and-forth. contact cards

    And this is just the tip of the iceberg, CRM software offers so much in terms of capabilities!

    Of course, offering the best possible customer experience will have a big impact on your overall business. But let’s take this one step at a time and look at precisely how a CRM helps you create a better experience for your prospects:

    • You’ll know a lot more about your customers: since your CRM tracks every interaction with your customers, you’ll have that data at your fingertips. And it’s not just about knowing their preferred name — you can access their history with customer support, demographic information, and so much more to personalize every single customer experience.

    • You’ll be able to anticipate their needs: all that customer data means you can know what a customer needs before they even ask for it. That knowledge allows you to create content to answer common questions, craft future campaigns to address problems before they begin, and best of all, proactively reach out to customers — something 95% of people say they want from brands.

    • You’ll retain more customers: 77% of consumers say good customer service makes them more loyal, so your CRM isn’t just winning one-time customers — it’s building lifetime loyalty.

    • You’ll offer a seamless experience: with a centralized CRM tracking all of this information, customers can move smoothly from the hands of the sales or marketing teams over to support and back. Since anyone who interacts with the customer can see their entire history with the company, you’ll speed up the time to resolve issues since your team is always up-to-date.

    What does a CRM system do?

    A CRM system can do so much that it can be hard to know where to begin.

    Let’s look at how sales, marketing, and support teams most often use a CRM:

    Sales CRM

    Sales is ultimately the primary purpose of a CRM. Although marketing and support teams increasingly rely on CRMs to do their work well, everything leads to getting more sales.

    Here are just some of the ways your sales team can use a CRM view like this one:

    Build and manage sales pipelines

    Dividing your sales process into distinct stages helps every sales rep know exactly what each lead needs before they close the deal. You can adjust the pipeline as needed to accommodate changing customer needs, and the entire team can react instantly.

    Track and manage contacts and leads

    Keep a record of every customer interaction and everything you know about them. Every bit of information helps sales reps build rapport with their clients before asking for the sale.

    Cross-sell or upsell

    Customer tracking helps sales teams identify opportunities for offering an additional product or an upgrade, depending on the customer’s needs and pain points. When these are offered out of an interest in helping the customer — and not just selling for the sake of selling — customers feel known and appreciated, leading to higher-value sales.

    Analyze sales data

    Because everything about your customers is tracked, it can also be analyzed. Monitor sales quota attainment, conversion rate, and other KPIs to optimize your sales process and become even more efficient.

    You can track these at a company level, as shown below, or drill down to show team-level data, so you can make data-driven decisions every time. dashboard template

    All of these functions make your sales team more productive and more efficient, helping you reap the CRM benefits we talked about earlier.

    Marketing CRM

    CRM for marketing is all about turning customer data into effective personalized experiences.

    To do that, the marketing team needs to join forces with the sales and support teams to aggregate customer data in the CRM and get aligned on the stages of the sales pipeline.

    Here’s how a marketing CRM helps you do just that:

    Harness data about your customers

    Like the sales team, you can turn tons of customer information into data. And with a CRM that connects to all your other tools and data sources, you can create detailed data visualizations to give you brand-new insights about your target audience.

    Coordinate and execute personalized campaigns

    Leverage customer data from sales and support teams to create a new marketing campaign targeting specific customer pain points. Work with the sales team to provide the right content to the right leads at the right time for the most personalized customer experience possible.

    A marketing CRM board like this one gives a quick visualization of each campaign status. It can be customized even further to target specific audience segments or coordinate information with the sales team for even greater marketing success.

    Automate marketing tasks

    Personalized marketing is much more resource-intensive than a generalized marketing campaign, but marketing automation makes it much easier.

    You can create email drip campaigns to nurture leads, schedule social media posts, move prospects to the next stage of the sales pipeline, and assign tasks between teams quickly and easily.

    Customer Support CRM

    Support CRM has a different goal than sales or marketing. Support isn’t trying to win new customers — they’re trying to retain the current ones.

    With that aim in mind, these are some of the support tasks a CRM can help you do:

    Track support tickets in multiple channels

    If you offer customer service via phone, email, and chat, you need to track all of your tickets in one place — your CRM.

    This support CRM template from shows both the status of each request and the channel where it originated.

    It can show you every way a customer has tried to contact you in a single dashboard, even if they tried several channels. And that kind of knowledge is the foundation of solid customer service that retains customers.

    Create FAQs based on customer data

    The support team is critical in anticipating customer needs. Through customer interactions and data collection, your support team can identify the most common problems and preemptively address them through FAQ content, marketing campaigns, and even sales pitches.

    Optimize workflows with data and automation

    Like the other teams that can use your CRM, the support team can gather and leverage tons of data to improve the customer experience.

    Consider tracking average response times, first call resolution rate, and customer satisfaction scores. Then, you can see where and how your team can optimize your process through automation or other strategies.

    Solve issues and complaints quickly

    All of these uses for a support CRM contribute to helping customers resolve problems as quickly and fully as possible.

    While the support CRM might sound very different from the sales and marketing CRM, the 3 teams really do need to be in close alignment.

    Each team can leverage data that the other teams collect to improve and personalize the experience of every customer at every stage — even if they’ve been a loyal customer for years.

    What are examples of CRM?

    As we touched on earlier, B2B and B2C businesses have different sales processes, which means they need different CRM features. Not totally different—every small business will still need all the capabilities we’ve already covered—but the best CRMs are customized to exactly what each company needs.

    So let’s dive into how you can customize a CRM for both a B2B and B2C business.


    The B2B sales pipeline is typically long, complex, and involves selling to multiple stakeholders — not just a single customer.

    In fact, it’s estimated that complex B2B purchasing decisions require between 6 and 10 decision-makers.

    A CRM provides robust contact management that helps your sales team build relationships with all decision-makers, not just 1 or 2.

    For instance, with’s lead management template, you can group multiple contacts together by organization. Any time a sales rep contacts one of an organization’s decision-makers, it’s recorded in the CRM.

    This helps you track lead interactions on an individual and organizational level, cultivating trust with every decision-maker. contact tracker template

    This kind of contact management consolidates your sales team’s efforts. You won’t waste time sending repeat messages to decision-makers at the same organization, because the CRM gives every sales rep visibility into every customer interaction that’s in progress.

    Since the B2B sales cycle can be so complex, a CRM is also crucial for creating and tracking your sales pipeline.

    With clear sales pipeline stages and well-defined criteria for moving leads forward, you’ll be able to track even a months-long sales process with precision.


    Compared to B2B sales, B2C organizations have a simpler, faster sales cycle with a high volume of lower value sales. That means B2C teams don’t need the same kind of contact or sales pipeline management — although those can still be helpful.

    Here’s one way that could play out:

    The marketing team gathers customer data like name, product considerations, and when they last visited the online store. This data is aggregated with records from the support team, showing which customers asked questions signaling they’re ready to make a purchase.

    Next, the marketing team sends those bottom-of-funnel customers a personalized coupon code for their desired product.

    Marketing teams can track their sent emails with a template like this one. email marketing campaign template

    You can even pull in data from the sales team CRM views to know exactly when to hit send.

    Likewise, the sales team can link in to marketing data so they instantly know when a marketing lead becomes a sales lead.

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    Common questions about CRMs

    There’s a lot about CRM we haven’t even touched on yet — that’s how powerful and robust these systems are. We’ve rounded up some CRM FAQs to get you up to speed on even more you need to know about CRM.

    What are the different types of CRM software?

    CRM software can usually be categorized as one of 3 types:

    • An operational CRM focuses on managing your business and streamlining sales and marketing. It helps your business generate, nurture, and convert leads easily.

    • An analytical CRM offers robust data visualization tools. It helps you analyze and utilize the customer information you collect for more impactful campaigns.

    • A collaborative CRM prioritizes connections between business departments and vendors. It helps different teams — such as sales, marketing, and support — work together more productively to create positive experiences for its customers.

    How do I create a successful CRM strategy?

    A CRM strategy helps you use your CRM system for maximum effectiveness. There are dozens of ways to approach a CRM strategy — and you can find some ideas in our CRM strategy guide — but here are a few ways to get started:

    • Determine your CRM goals to help you shape the direction of your strategy
    • Map out your customer journey so you can understand your entire sales process from start to finish
    • Create a CRM dashboard to monitor your sales data and make adjustments to your strategy as needed
    • Use automation to eliminate tedious manual tasks and spend more time connecting directly with customers

    What are the differences between CRM, CDP, and DMP?

    CRMs are a common way to track and use customer data, but there are other data platforms you should know about too. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the most common ones:

    • A CRM tracks customer data and activities originating from the sales team, although they’re increasingly critical for marketing and support teams as well. CRMs keep a record of every interaction between customer and company, but they don’t track anonymous data or look beyond existing prospects or clients.

    • CDP stands for customer data platform. This tool gathers tons of customer information primarily used for marketing activities. It’s very similar to a CRM, but gathers more kinds of information from more sources. Many CDPs also track anonymous customer data for use once a prospect identifies themself.

    • A DMP is a data management platform, and has just one very specific purpose: to gather marketing data that helps segment your target audience. DMPs can track a ton of information to help marketers understand their audience more deeply.

    Can I use the same CRM software for B2C and B2B?

    Many CRM products make a distinction between CRMs for B2C and B2B companies. That’s because B2C sales typically involve more leads and a faster, simpler sales cycle than B2B companies, so they need different features to be most impactful.

    But some CRM solutions can support both B2C and B2B companies. A platform like empowers you to build precisely the CRM functionality you need, whether it’s for B2B, B2C, or something in-between.

    How to revolutionize your customer relationship management with

    As you might have noticed throughout this guide, is packed with features that make it a flexible, easy-to-use CRM platform.

    It’s not a cookie-cutter CRM solution with one package for B2B sales, another for B2C, and a 3rd for enterprises. Instead, everyone from the smallest startup to the largest corporation can build exactly the CRM they need on’s Work OS.

    Top CRM features we bring to the table

    We touched on some of’s CRM functionality earlier in this guide, but let’s look a little closer at the exact features provides:

    • Contact management: contact cards aggregate all of your information about a single lead and store them in a shared board where everyone can access them. You can add notes about your most recent interaction or update contact information as it changes to make sure you’re always reaching out to the right person at the right time.

    • Workflow automations: help deals close faster by eliminating manual, repetitive tasks. You can push notifications to your integrated tools to stay on top of deals or other tasks, and even automatically create new lead entries based on emails that land in your inbox.

    • Pipeline management: see exactly where each deal stands with clearly defined pipeline stages and easy visualizations of your progress. You can drag and drop elements to make adjustments to your sales pipeline and automate parts of the process too.

    • Marketing visibility: incorporate all your marketing operations into your CRM through marketing automation, integrations, and collaboration tools. You can even manage email or social media campaigns directly from

    • Customizable dashboards: bring everything together with reporting dashboards that highlight your most important KPIs at all times. You’ll have a better handle on how your teams are performing and what you can do to optimize your results.

    With the CRM template, you can begin building your custom CRM solution in just a few minutes.

    The CRM template shown here comes with leads divided up by month, and lists their pipeline stage, last and next contact dates, deal size, and more. CRM Template

    To get started, sign up for your account from the template linked above. Then you can edit this template however you like.

    Add or remove columns, create new lead categories, and integrate the tools you use to start funneling the right information into your CRM. is more than a CRM

    What really makes different is that you can build so much more than a CRM. Use it for project management, product development, IT sprints, and, well, pretty much anything your business needs to do.

    Here are just a few other ways you can use

    • Manage projects and portfolios with Gantt charts and other visualizations
    • Monitor resource capacity of your team or organization at any time
    • Improve collaboration and productivity with remote teams
    • Onboard new employees quickly and easily with an onboarding pipeline
    • Plan and execute software development sprints with Agile or Scrum methodologies

    Ready to get started?

    It’s clear that a CRM is like a little bit of business magic. When you choose the right CRM solution, you’re choosing something that can help literally every facet of your business.

    So if you’re looking for a CRM system that’s flexible, powerful, and simple to use, then is waiting for you.

    Try it out today, no credit card required!

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