27 Oct 2020

Customer Relationship Management Software: What's holding you back?

Digital Growth Programme consultant Martin Broadhurst is our CRM and Automation expert and had shared some interesting findings on why some SMEs are not using CRM systems and ways to overcome some of the barriers businesses have faced when trying to adopt new technology.


A 2019 survey conducted by Capterra, a software review website, found only 31% of UK SMEs have a Customer Relationship Management system in place.

This result, while not surprising, did leave me wondering what is preventing small and medium-sized businesses in the UK from adopting CRM technology. After all, CRM systems make the process of managing sales and retaining customers simpler and more effective. So what’s holding businesses back?

Alternatives to CRM?

The same study asked business owners about how they manage and track customer data. The most popular response was spreadsheets (32% of respondents) with CRM (24%) coming second and email clients, such as Outlook or G Suite, coming third (20%), Surprisingly, 15% of respondents still use pen and paper to track this information.

311 Lady using spreadsheets

While all of these methods can work, and evidently do work, for many businesses, they simply aren’t effective for helping a business grow. Some of the methods, such as paper and pen as well as Outlook or G Suite, are restricted to one person; only the person in possession of the paper or with access to the Outlook address book, can see the customer data.

This presents a challenge for ensuring data accuracy and visibility throughout the business. For any growing business, with a need to retain customer accounts and bring onboard new customers, the complexity soon outgrows the capability of paper and pen or Outlook address books. Even spreadsheets will struggle to keep you on-track of sales and account management at a certain point.

Benefits of CRM

Every new employee in your business and every new customer that you service, adds to the level of complexity in your business. Trying to understand your customers becomes increasingly difficult.

311 Getting Started with CRM

This is where CRM can help. By providing a single-view-of-the-customer, which details all of the companies, contacts and deals that your business is currently engaged with, CRM software provides full visibility of the information that matter to all your employees. In fact, the Capterra study found that 79% of respondents said their CRM system helped them to better understand their customers well or extremely well.

Barriers to adoption 

311 Whats stopping you image

What has stopped businesses adopting CRM? A common issue is that of cost. CRM has historically been perceived as an expensive piece of software designed for enterprise organisations and is a “nice to have” for SMEs. When asked how much they would be prepared to pay, many respondents said they would only consider free software (24%) or they would pay up to £10 per user per month (33%).

While I would agree that CRM was once the preserve of enterprise organisations, there has been a shift in recent years towards low-cost, or even free, CRM systems that can greatly improve sales and marketing performance.

For example, there are a raft of free CRM systems that provide all of the basic functionality a growing business needs. Options such as HubSpot, Zoho, or Bitrix24 all have free cloud-based CRM options that scale as your business requires. If you’re interested in which free CRM is best suited for your business, read this blog from Zapier.

In 2021, there really is no reason not to have a CRM system in place. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or a sales director overseeing a team of sales professionals, CRM is an essential product to help your business thrive in the years ahead.

To hear more from Martin join our next webinar on CRM or Marketing Automation. To see our latest webinar dates visit our events page

And if your business is looking to invest in a CRM system and need digital advice, you may be eligible for one of our Technology grants and digital business advice from our expert advisers. For more information visit our grant funding webpage or get in touch with our Events and Engagement officers.  


The Digital Growth Programme is managed by East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire). It is a programme part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the Chamber and Leicestershire County Council designed to help SMEs located in Leicester and Leicestershire embrace new digital technology to improve productivity to aid growth.