Look at you! You’re about to automate and scale using CRM. That’s a great idea! CRM is known to deliver real benefits around analytics, automation, and collaboration, which is probably why 91% of companies with 10+ employees are already using it.

If you’ve never purchased a CRM before, or if you’ve been hobbling along with an extremely outdated system, you may be wondering: How much should I budget for a CRM? Well, there are a couple of factors to consider. In this post, we’ll break down what to think about as you plan your CRM budget.

Budgeting for the CRM Itself

Before we get into how much CRM solutions charge and how they charge, a quick word of advice: Aside from considering costs, there are two other factors that are crucial to selecting a CRM:

  1. Compatibility with existing software
  2. Aligning the solution to your use cases

Finding the right CRM (and enjoying long-term success with it) requires you to reflect on aspects beyond budget. You may find 10 CRM solutions that fit your budget, but not all of those will meet your business needs.

It’s important to do a strategic evaluation of your current processes and future plans before you invest in a new CRM. What do you need this system to do for you? How should it support your changing business?

A CRM consultant can help answer those questions and translate your goals into use cases. Use cases help you define specific scenarios for who will use the CRM features and how.

This knowledge allows you to focus only on the CRM solutions whose features match those use cases, instead of getting distracted by shiny objects.

At the end of the day, you’ll end up with the best-fitting solution for how you work instead of something that has neat bells and whistles but falls short on substance.

In addition, the CRM should be compatible with your other business apps. Do you use an ERP or accounting software? Marketing automation solution? Analytics platform? You may not be thinking about integration now, but somewhere down the road connecting one or all of these solutions to your CRM could make sense for analytics and reporting. Don’t box yourself in by choosing a CRM that won’t jive with your other apps.

Ok, so back to costs.

Most CRMs these days charge on a per-user-per-month basis. For example, no code CRM Creatio charges $30 per user/month for its basic tier of Sales Creatio. HubSpot’s Sales Hub CRM starts at $45/user/month.

So, one of the questions you must have the answer to when determining CRM budget is how many team members you plan to have using the system.

You’ll also need to factor in setup costs and renewal fees. Some CRM providers charge a setup fee that can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Product renewals happen once per year and are usually the same as your initial software purchase cost. Make sure you ask about these when investigating your options.

steps to choose CRM software
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Budgeting for the Must-Haves and Nice-to-Haves of CRM Ownership

Investment in a CRM solution is multi-faceted. You must budget for the initial cost of the CRM licenses and fees, plus some other “bigger picture” pieces that come along with CRM ownership. Some of these items are must-haves, some are nice-to-haves, but all of them are worth considering when it comes to your CRM budget.

Must-Have CRM Budget Consideration: Training

A new software is unfamiliar. Teams must be trained on how to use it for two reasons: 1.) so they can use its features as effectively as possible for their jobs, and 2.) so there is less likelihood of them feeling overwhelmed and deciding it’s easier not to use it at all. The #1 reason CRM implementations fail is because of poor user adoption. If people don’t see the benefit of using the CRM or don’t understand how it makes their lives easier, then you can wave goodbye to ROI on your investment.

The cost of training depends on the size of your team.

If you’re onboarding 100+ team members, your training partner will often group those training sessions based on the type of user – administrative, sales, marketing, etc. Training rates vary by provider.

Technology Advisors, for example, charges $225/hour for courses that are a minimum of four hours. Most of our clients end up needing more than four hours, but that is something we strategize on a case-by-case basis for their particular needs. Training can tack on anywhere from $10K to $20K to your CRM cost, so budget accordingly based on your team size.

Must-Have CRM Budget Consideration: Support

At minimum, most CRM providers will offer basic support in the way of emails or ticketing portals. However, if your budget allows, it may be more advantageous to partner with a consultant who can offer more personalized and responsive support.

Over time, you can expect to spend 10-20% of your original implementation costs on support resources, but it’ll be well worth it.

If the system goes down or users run into a major issue, you won’t want to be hanging around for days waiting for a resolution. Your business depends on that CRM data, so quality support is a crucial budgeting consideration.

Nice-to-Have CRM Budget Consideration: Data Integration

As we mentioned earlier in this post, integration is an important consideration to CRM total cost of ownership. Ever heard of siloed data? It’s when you keep data in your business systems separate; and it can have negative consequences for your operational efficiencies and growth. Many businesses work to avoid data silos by integrating their CRM with solutions like marketing automation and ERP.

When budgeting for your CRM, the question you must ask yourself is whether you want to make those connections now or work them in later. If you’re looking to integrate the CRM with another app, you should calculate that into the budget.

A good consultant will help you roll out the CRM first and then work on your integration after the CRM implementation is successful, so you won’t be shelling out all the integration costs upfront. However, you can typically budget anywhere from $5K to $20K. The cost will depend on the integration solution you choose, whether your integration requires any special customizations, and whether the solution you’re integrating with is a legacy application or a newer cloud application.  

Nice-to-Have CRM Budget Consideration: Customizations & Add-Ons

If you do CRM selection right, you’ll walk away with a solution that fits nearly all of your use cases. However, most businesses like to personalize their CRM with a little extra pizazz. This is where customizations and add-ons come in.

Even CRM solutions tailored to specific industries come with a set of “out-of-the-box” features. These are features that the providers assume most customers will want and need.

To tailor the system beyond those features, you must add your own custom fields and functions. If you want the ability to track a certain piece of data let’s say, you’d want to add a custom field to store that data. The more complex the customization, the more costly it will be to add. In general, budget about $500 per custom function and $50 per custom field.

Add-ons are applications provided by an outside party to enhance the capabilities of a CRM. For example, if your CRM doesn’t come with eSignature, you may be able to purchase a Docusign add-on that would enable that. CRM providers often offer marketplaces to find compatible add-ons. The cost for those options will depend on the type of add-on and how many of them you’re looking to use.

Ideally, you won’t NEED a bunch of add-ons, because as we said earlier, if you do it right, you’ll choose the CRM that fits all your major business needs from the get-go.

So, an add-on here or there will be a fun little extra, but not a make-or-break necessity for your success with the product.

Budgeting for your CRM purchase is one step that will help you effectively narrow your options from the 1000+ CRM solutions on the market today. In addition to a budget for the CRM itself and other costs of ownership, the keys to CRM success lie in your ability to look beyond the present and into the future of your business.

Whichever CRM you can afford should also be the CRM with the features and scalability you need to evolve and make the most out of your ever-changing business data. Start with a strategic software selection process to guide you to the best outcome.

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