As small business owners and solopreneurs, we may not have the budget for sales and marketing teams or dedicated team members to engage potential customers. But we need to develop appropriate workflows to win new sales, manage our current customer interactions, and address our organizational needs.
If you don’t know the difference between CRM and CM platforms, don’t worry — you’re in good hands. We’ll explain the difference between how CM and CRM solutions can best help you, differences in the types of software, and their strengths and weaknesses so you can choose the platform that works best for your business.
Crash course in CRMs versus CMs
Ready to learn the differences between customer relationship management (CRM) and contact management (CM)? Let’s dive in.
What are CRMs?
At the simplest level, all types of CRMs are basically digital phone books with the ability to record client interactions and log notes about each customer. CRMs collect and store clients’ names, email addresses, phone numbers,any important details we need to remember, and interactions with our businesses, like any phone calls and support requests.
With this collected (and organized) data, we can keep track of our clients throughout the sales process. We can sort tasks into categories, like sales and marketing, to efficiently run email campaigns and follow up on customer contact points. CRMs have amazing features; some even offer marketing automation and document, product catalog, and lead management capabilities.
CRMs in action
CRMs handle our businesses' relationships with clients and leads. CRM software optimizes these relationships to help our businesses grow by streamlining communication and improving client relationships to increase profits.
Generally, CRMs help with everything from productivity to sales and contact management. CRMs improve interactions across the marketing, sales, e-commerce, and customer service departments. This software solution benefits both clients and team members and streamlines communications with colleagues, suppliers, and service users. CRM software is great for:
- Tracking a detailed history of customer interactions
- Setting up marketing campaigns
- Automating customer relations processes
However, CRM solutions have some limitations. Some CRMs better meet the needs of businesses and their goals than others, so when choosing a CRM, consider if platforms:
- Lack collaborative working features
- Only offer certain features behind paywalls
- Have functionality tradeoffs
What are CMs?
CMs track and store customer data and information about potential leads. Instead of inputting all of our contact information manually, we can use CM systems to improve automation. By organizing this information, we can diversify and grow our client base.
If we run online businesses, keeping digital records of customer data helps with the sales process and gives us options to automate processes such as customer support, email marketing, and lead management. Most importantly, it keeps all of our customer information in one place for easy access across our sales team.
CMs in action
CM systems are user-friendly, lightweight versions of CRMs. CM solutions manage contacts by logging cross-channel communications in a centralized contact list. CM software excels at:
- Storing client contact information
- Grouping contacts by particular characteristics
But compared to more robust CRM software, they struggle with:
- Following up with contacts
- Tracking progress along a funnel
- Functionality beyond capturing data and notes
CRM and CM platforms are helpful for solopreneurs looking to manage contacts and customer information. By streamlining customer data and interactions with CRMs and CMs, we can easily follow up on potential leads with minimal effort.
Differences between the platforms
To determine which type of solution would work best for our business, let’s focus on their differences.
The key difference between CRM and CMS platforms lies in the “C.” The “C” in CRM stands for the “customer,” as they track every aspect of customer-business relationships, from first interactions to loyal customers.
On the other hand, the “C” in CMs refers to contacts, as in a database or phone book. This type of software stores and manages contact information to provide a unified overview for us. But CRM systems provide a more complete view of customer relationships. CRMs help us manage our scheduling needs, funnel analysis, and client communication.
Another type of software to be aware of is enterprise resources planning (ERP). ERP systems join together multiple business processes and allow data to move between them. They’re responsible for activities from accounting and project and risk management to supply chain operations and compliance. In the CM versus CRM versus ERP discussion, ERPs are large-scale software solutions that tend to be more business-focused rather than managing clients and contacts.
What are the best CRM and CM systems?
With all the available options for both CRM systems and CMs on the market, it’s difficult to choose. As coaches, we’ll need a CRM or CM solution, but we’ll also cover some of the best ERPs. We’ve compiled a list of the most popular and widely used platforms to consider:
- Oracle Cloud ERP ranks highest for its payroll management feature. It’s popular for its inventory management and product lifecycle management functionality. This heavyweight enterprise resource planning system provides a connected approach to running large businesses.
- Monday.com primarily caters to solopreneurs, small teams, and freelancers looking to organize projects and leads. This tool focuses on task management, team collaboration, and workflow automation functionality and is highly customizable.
- ActiveCampaign focuses on email and sales marketing and marketing automation for small businesses. They also have highly rated lead management and reporting and analytics features.
- Freshdesk is a customer service-focused software solution with highly ranked ticket creation and submission. It has email support functionality and is a great option for businesses looking to balance customer service with automation.
- HubSpot CRM allows for workflow management in a collaborative team setting, where different departments can all access the contact information database. It features seamless integration with email clients like Outlook and Gmail.
- Practice is, in our biased opinion, the best CRM for coaches. Because it’s custom designed for a coaching business. We offer communication and messaging with clients (email, chat and voice memos), scheduling for 1:1 and groups, file storage, and everything coaches need to succeed. Our all-in-one platform lets coaches streamline their administrative tasks so they can focus on their clients.
CRMs and CMs come in all shapes, sizes, and specialties. We can begin our search for the perfect tool for our business by aligning our priorities and needs with different CRMs and CMs’ features.
When should you use CRMs versus CMs?
CMs are much simpler and easier to use and help solopreneurs like coaches manage contact information and sourcing. CRMs are more-extensive versions of CMs. While general CM solutions can benefit most coaches, specific business needs will differ.
To decide whether a CRM or CM will work, we should consider whether our businesses need:
- Collaboration between a large employee pool
- Service for a large number of customers
- Management for lengthy, complex sales
- Access to real-time data
- Sales across a wide geographical location
Choosing the right tool for the job will help us maximize our productivity and profits. Ultimately we need to decide what is best for our businesses and clients.
Practice: The best CRM for coaches
As coaches and solopreneurs, we’re often responsible for learning new coaching techniques and improving our business skills and professional communication. At Practice, we have the best CRM tools for coaches. We designed our entire platform for you! Try Practice today.