How to choose the right CRM
6 practical tips for choosing the right CRM and email marketing solution for your small business

[Video] 6 practical tips for choosing the right CRM and email marketing solution for your small business

August 25, 2021

This post features a systemisation video training on 'CRM and email marketing for small business' including measures of customer success, the crusade you face for your prospect's attention, and a buyer's checklist.

Connectably partners with small and large businesses that make a positive difference to the lives of small business owners. One such business is Working Knowledge, who led by Founder, James Lott and a committed and experienced team, run a Digital Marketing Academy offering government-subsidised training to train marketing apprentices and managers. I regularly assist the marketing apprentices coming through the programmes and was asked to run a webinar on CRM and email marketing for small business.

The webinar was run as a live training, addressing some of the common strategic mistakes and giving simple pointers on where and how to get started.

CRM and email marketing for small business: webinar timestamps

  1. Gareth's background / intro [0:00]
  2. 3 measures of customer success [4:28]
  3. Processes vs. systems [5:40]
  4. Simpler Method: the 3 systems and 7 processes of sales and marketing in service-based businesses [7:16]
  5. The crusade for attention [13:56]
  6. CRM & email marketing checklist: must-haves and differentiators [17:00]
  7. How do you time the email marketing follow-up stages? [20:44]
  8. Fibonacci Sequencing [24:34]
  9. Zapier guide to CRMs with marketing automation features [27:05]
  10. Connectably comparison of Xero CRM providers blog post [28:17]
  11. Q&A with small business marketers [29:42]

Training session detail

The training session was split into eleven sections, summarised below.

Introduction / Gareth's background

Starts at [0:00]

Gareth is a marketing automation consultant, business systemiser & CRM software founder. He helps business users who aren't always natural "software people" to systemise their processes, understand marketing technology, improve client experiences, launch new services, get paid their true worth, and increase the value of their business.

What are the ways to measure customer success?

There are three simple ways to measure customer success. If you hit one or more of these three outcomes with each customer, things are working in terms of sales and marketing in your business and you'll be achieving customer success. They don't need complex calculations or customer feedback metrics:

  1. They buy again

    A second purchase might be more of the same thing they bought first time round, or an upsell into a higher tier of product or service.

  2. They give you a testimonial

    Testimonials in the form of a case study or an online review.

  3. They refer you

    They tell others like them about you and your service and how you helped them.

By contrast, if you're not regularly achieving one or more of the above with your customers, then it's time to look at where there are expectation and delivery gaps.

The Simpler Method, below addresses these challenge.

Processes vs. systems

Starts at [5:40]

Let’s clear something up first. Multinational software companies have spent billions of dollars on marketing and PR to convince you that ‘system' equals [their piece of software]. But it’s not, and it’s misleading. Despite what the software industry would have you believe ?, a ‘system’ is not a piece of ‘software’. The difference is explained below.

What is a process?

A process is a series of steps for anything in your business that needs to be repeated more than once. If a task needs repeating, you need a process for it. Your business exists and is paid to solve problems for your customers so you need to have processes in place that provide the steps necessary to solve those problems repeatedly.

An example of one such process is how you book meetings with potential clients:

Do you send an email first including a call-to-action for prospects to go to a calendar link and book a time for the meeting? If so, do you then follow up with an email confirmation and the calendar placeholder? Do you send prep materials? Or a reminder on the meeting day?

What is a system?

Systems are a level above processes. Systems combine multiple processes together with people, technologies, and customer contact points to create a core function in your business.

Here’s a handy, tongue-in-cheek definition of how a ‘system’ benefits you:

‘Saves Yourself Stress, Time, Energy, and Money’

Your service-based small business is reliant on three core customer systems, see below.

Simpler Method®: the 3 systems and 7 processes of sales and marketing in service-based businesses

Starts at [7:16]

The Simpler Method® by Connectably is our small business sales and marketing methodology that neatly summarises the three sales and marketing systems in a small service-based business, and seven processes that form them:

Simpler Method by Connectably: the 3 systems and 7 processes your small business needs

What are the customer systems in your business?

There are three customer systems in your business:

  1. Acquisition

    How you find prospects, nurture them and agree what you’ll deliver

  2. Onboarding

    How you sign off work to be delivered, then deliver it to new customers

  3. Delight

    How you get one or more of: (1) more paid work; (2) a glowing testimonial, or; (3) referrals to others like your delighted customer.

What sales and marketing processes are in your business?

There are seven core sales and marketing processes in any small service business. At Connectably, we call this The Simpler Method®:

  1. Sign-up

    Getting web visitors to become leads, or recording leads you met on social media or offline.

  2. Inspire

    Using planned follow-ups (email / letters) to nurture prospects to take a next action with you.

  3. Meet

    How interested leads schedule appointments with you, your communications leading to the meeting, and managing the meeting to gain verbal agreement for what will be delivered.

  4. Propose

    How you document and send a professional looking PDF-format quote that summarises what you agreed to deliver in the sales meeting. This is the first part of successful onboarding. Your customer feels fully in control of the process without having spent money with you.

  5. Launch

    How you onboard new clients, manage expectations and deliver the work.

  6. Expand

    How you manage an upsell or cross-sell process to turn first-time clients into repeat ones.

  7. Refer

    A systematic process for clients to endorse you with testimonials and/or refer warm leads.

The crusade for attention

Starts at [13:56]

Your marketing message is competing with thousands of other distractions, from:

  • Social media: on average, people spend 2h 25m per day, including 6,000-10,000 adverts;
  • Emails: 147 emails per day;
  • Physical mail: we receive just 2 letters per day on average;
  • Calls / meetings: on average, we are involved in 5 meetings or calls per day.

Our attention is scarce, so quality time you can get where your prospect is focused and in consideration mode is vitally important to your business. Don't overlook the value of direct mail for nurturing and of the opportunity to provide content of value and that makes a difference to your prospect in one-to-one enquiry or discovery calls. By contrast to social media and even their email inbox, video or physical meetings and direct, physical mail are far more likely to get your prospect's quality focus time.

CRM & email marketing checklist: must-haves and differentiators

Starts at [17:00]

When it comes to selecting a CRM, there are crucial 'must-have' core requirements that need to be in place for an effective piece of software to manage the systems and processes in your business. Additional benefits can be classed as 'differentiators'.

CRM must-haves:

There are three software pillars to systemising your business: your website and online social profiles, your accounting software (it’s Xero, right?), and your CRM.

When you look at CRM, it should answer these four 'must haves'. Not doing so will see you managing an expensive mess of software services stuck together with digital sticky tape.

  1. Does it let me see my business' workflows?
  2. Can I manage my entire relationship with leads and contacts in the CRM?
  3. Is there a complete two-way integration with my accounting software (e.g. Xero, Quickbooks)?
  4. How do I implement it? How is support given?

CRM differentiators:

Whilst the four "Must-Haves" are critical to avoiding software chaos, some or all of these four "Differentiators" are ways to give a boost to your business success:

  • engaging and warming-up the interest of prospects and clients;
  • managing your own time better;
  • making a professional impression to get paid what you're worth, and;
  • getting paid in a timely manner to improve cash flow and profits
  1. Does it do marketing automation follow-ups?
  2. Can I get appointments booked in my diary?
  3. Can I send proposals that show us as organised and professional?
  4. How does it help me get paid quickly and securely?
Connectably CRM and Email Marketing for Small Business Checklist (1 of 2)
Connectably CRM and Email Marketing for Small Business Checklist (2 of 2)

How do you time email marketing follow-up steps?

Starts at [20:44]

Following-up with your prospects and clients is often over-thought or under-considered. Over-thought, and over-engineered it can lead to sending too many emails that have little meaning and build even less connection with your prospect. This can lead to a feeling of ambivalence or even negativity towards your emails. Neither emotion is likely to lead to positive commitment towards working with you. At the opposite end of the spectrum, not considering the purpose, content or momentum of your follow-up email marketing can make you appear disinterested to your prospect. That doesn't leave them feeling positive about making the decision to work with you either.

The balance is finding a rhythm and a level of content and assistance that you would value if you were in your prospect's shoes. Nobody enjoys the extremes of being ignored or over-communication. Carefully consider what kind of questions you would have in their shoes, or review questions you've been asked by other prospects at that stage in the buying process. Then write helpful emails that answer those questions, perhaps referring to blog posts or videos that provide longer explanations where needed.

For more on this, see our separate article 'Stop making these 5 costly email marketing mistakes'.

Fibonacci Sequencing

Starts at [24:34]

In terms of how long you should follow-up for, it's a matter for personal preference, but by erring on the side of caution and following up for longer, your prospect is more likely to buy from you if it's you that continues to provide value to them.

But how do you do so? Continuing to send emails at the same frequency - daily or weekly, or for longer follow-ups even monthly - might begin to feel like you're pestering.

Instead, consider a sequence based loosely on Fibonacci Sequencing, where the number calculated in the sequence is the number of days between emails, gradually increasing:

Fibonacci Sequencing

Each number in a Fibonacci sequence is the sum of the two numbers that precede it. So, the sequence goes: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on. Once you reach a natural gap between emails that would feel comfortable to you as the prospect receiving information from your business, then stop summing the numbers at that point and keep a consistent gap between mailings afterwards. This might be at month-long intervals, bi-monthly, or even quarterly.

We have clients who send valuable content every 90 days once a prospect has been on their list for a year or so. This might seem like a long period of time, but in the context of many services, especially those that aren't actively considered for purchase regularly, 90-days is a perfectly reasonable window and recipients value the content. You would measure this in engagement rates, for example click rates, or even purchases, and certainly by contrast to unsubscribes.

We also have clients who email much more regularly on an ongoing basis because their audience expects it and values it. Weekly or bi-weekly communications aren't out of the ordinary for business coaches, for example.

Find your happy medium between the two, and use a method like Fibonacci Sequencing to build to a natural time gap of follow-up nurture content.

To read more about Fibonacci Sequencing, see this page.

How to choose a CRM with nurture marketing functionality

There are hundreds of CRM and email marketing products on the market. Most cover one or the other of CRM or email marketing software. Some products cover both. So where to start?

Zapier's guide to CRMs with marketing automation features

Starts at [27:05]

Zapier, the online integration software that connects 1000s of online products, knows a thing or two about online software. They regularly author articles about different types of online services. One, in particular, is a guide to 10 CRMs with Awesome Marketing Automation Features.

Their criteria for selection is that the software:

  • Has unique features that make it worth considering
  • Is relatively easy to use
  • Works with Zapier, enabling it to integrate with the apps you already use.

The range of software pricing is ~£10/mo to many £100s.

Connectably's comparison of Xero CRM providers

Starts at [28:17]

We also know a thing or two about CRM, especially its connectedness with other business-critical apps. As a provider well-connected with Xero, we wrote an honest Xero CRM provider comparison post. In it, we compare four key CRM providers that connect with Xero by ten comparison criteria.

Q&A with small business marketers

Starts at [29:42]

The second half of the call was handed over to questions from trainee marketers. On the call, we had questions:

  • from a mattress retail / e-commerce company;
  • from a training company;
  • from a financial advisor;
  • about HubSpot becoming expensive to use with a few thousand contacts.

Resources mentioned in the training

The following links and resources are referenced in this online training webinar:

Arrange for Gareth to speak to your marketing group

Gareth works with a variety of different marketing training providers, helping to educate and inspire marketers to improve the way they systemise and market their businesses and raise the level of service they provide their clients. If you would like to arrange for Gareth to speak at your marketing group's event, then please get in contact via this form.


Gareth Everson

Gareth's the founder of Connectably. He's a business systemiser who helps small business owners who aren't always natural "software people" to systemise their processes, understand marketing technology, improve client experiences, launch new services, get paid their true worth, and increase the value of their business. Connectably is a self-funded software business (founded 2017) that serves other small businesses. You can follow Connectably here, and connect with Gareth here.
Author: Gareth Everson - Founder Connectably

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