CRMs top the rankings because fulfilling this priority would tie together the roles cited by those SMBs surveyed in the report as most key to their success, namely sales and customer service.
SMBs have much to consider when deciding how exactly to allocate their typically tight technology budgets. This is a truth felt particularly among smaller firms and startups, where the repercussions of spending are felt most powerfully. One wrong move can be a catastrophic blow to their chances of survival.
Small & Medium Business Trends Report
Insights from 2,000+ business owners and leaders worldwide
In this way, technology often takes a back-seat for small firms, initially at least. This is because technology can be expensive, and represents a low-yield investment compared to the immediate returns of sales and customer service. This is clearly demonstrated in the report, with IT taking only a 5% slice of the crucial-role pie, compared to sales and customer service's one-fifth share.
However, paradoxically IT can be the key to serving these two roles.
CRM systems by definition place customers at the heart of the business, providing a sales management solution that gives teams clear visibility to existing customers, leads, and prospects, which are all accessible in one location. Existing customers will be retained, all while garnering new leads. CRMs are also scalable, able to increase or decrease size and services depending on the needs of the organisation.
To elevate themselves from their saturated marketplaces, SMBs focused on growth are planning for the future by accruing business-scaling technology - with CRM systems taking priority over financial software and hardware. The earlier SMBs construct customer-focused and scalable infrastructure, the better able they will be to create growth opportunities that they are subsequently ready to capitalise on.
In contrast, stagnant SMBs are more likely to channel their IT resources into hardware. Consequently, instead of providing the scalability and flexibility necessary in a fluid marketplace, firms are merely anchored to an outdated model, perhaps constricting the possibilities of future growth.
It's worth noting, however, that the top priorities for technology budgets do vary with company size. More established businesses within the SMB bracket are more likely to invest more into technology generally and into a CRM system specifically, than smaller businesses who typically prioritise the technological building blocks with a view to integrating a CRM system further down the line. In short, for the smallest of businesses CRM systems are an aspiration; for small-medium sized businesses, they are a necessity for growth.
In this way, the figures of the report don't tell the entire story. As long as an SMB considers investment into a CRM system as a desirable goal for the future, even if they do not currently prioritise such investment, then they are likely to fulfil the two key success roles of sales and customer service and experience growth.
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