By Chandrashekar LSP

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern business, customer relationship management (CRM) systems have become indispensable tools for companies. Traditionally seen as the purview of large businesses — CRMs seem to have been generally overlooked by SMEs. So, are Canadian businesses fully embracing the power of CRM solutions? In this article, we explore the role of CRMs in the marketing efforts and why they should be considered a crucial asset, even for those who have not yet adopted them.

The Current Landscape

Before delving into the world of CRM systems in Canada, let’s take a moment to reflect on the global perspective. Zoho’s 2023 State of Customer Operations for U.S. Small Businesses survey, in collaboration with the SMB Group, analyzed data from 1,500 U.S.-based small businesses with under 100 employees. The research revealed that the adoption of CRM systems among small businesses remains inconsistent.

Remarkably, 56 percent of the respondents admitted to not using a CRM solution for managing customer relationships. Instead, they continue to rely on traditional methods of data management. Among these non-CRM users, 39 percent rely on a combination of spreadsheets, email, and personal productivity tools, nine percent use various siloed applications, and eight percent still stick to manual methods involving pen and paper.

However, the above stats do not mean that small business owners do not see the value and potential of CRMs for their businesses, including marketing. In fact, even those small businesses abstaining from CRM usage acknowledge their potential benefits. More than two-thirds of respondents without CRMs express a belief that their businesses would gain significant advantages from implementing one.

How Businesses Can Leverage CRMs For Their Marketing

Business owners may be wondering how exactly they can use their CRMs to power their marketing efforts. Often, small businesses do not have in-house marketing professionals to help them take advantage of the full suite of CRM features. Here are some ways that business marketers — or owners — can take advantage of their CRM’s extensive capabilities.

  • Customer Segmentation: Use your CRM to segment your customer database based on various criteria such as demographics, purchase history, and behavior. This segmentation allows you to tailor your marketing messages to specific customer groups, making your campaigns more relevant and effective.
  • Personalized Email Marketing: With CRM data, you can do personalized email marketing campaigns. You can use customer information to address recipients by name, recommend products based on their purchase history, and send targeted offers. This personalization can significantly improve email open and conversion rates.
  • Lead Nurturing: CRM systems help you track leads through the entire sales funnel. You can automate lead nurturing workflows, sending relevant content and messages to leads at various stages of the buying process. This keeps potential customers engaged and increases the likelihood of conversion.
  • Social Media Integration: Integrate your CRM with social media platforms to track customer interactions and collect data. This allows you to monitor customer sentiment, respond to inquiries, and gain insights for more effective social media marketing.
  • Customer Feedback Management: Use CRM to collect and manage customer feedback. Feedback can be used to improve products or services and identify areas for marketing campaigns. Responding to feedback promptly can also enhance customer satisfaction.

Dispelling Common Misconceptions

In addition to concerns about cost, several common misconceptions often deter small businesses from adopting CRM systems. Such hesitation, however, puts them at risk of becoming uncompetitive.

Here are some common misconceptions that are keeping owners and teams from fully leveraging the benefits of CRMs, according to the survey’s respondents:

1. “Our company was too small to need one” – 48 percent of surveyed users

It is essential to recognize that CRMs have evolved over the years and now offer features tailored to businesses of all sizes. Even solopreneurs can benefit from a CRM customized to their needs. These one-person outfits, in particular, often juggle numerous responsibilities and may lack the budget to hire additional staff.

CRMs can help automate tasks such as invoicing and updating customer records, thereby freeing up valuable time to focus on core business concerns. Additionally, CRMs provide a structured filing system that reduces time spent searching for information and facilitates more efficient decision-making. Thanks to low-code technology, even those with minimal coding experience can adapt and refine CRM processes as their businesses grow.

Small businesses can rarely predict their exact evolution, but a CRM can prove invaluable in maintaining seamless internal communication, which is critical for retaining and attracting customers. With a well-implemented CRM, all team members gain visibility into each other’s actions, fostering a collaborative and communicative team culture that lays the foundation for future growth.

2. “We were satisfied with how we do things today” – 35 percent of surveyed users

While some businesses may find their existing methods convenient, these makeshift solutions can be risky. Relying on multiple applications from various vendors or even using traditional pen-and-paper approaches lacks the sustainability and security provided by a centralized CRM. These scattered methods may require minimal upfront costs and setup, but they are susceptible to disruption should one of the applications fail or introduce problematic updates. Training employees on multiple platforms can also increase the risk of errors.

In contrast, a CRM centralizes operations and monitors individual apps from a remote server via cloud computing. Suspicious activity within the system, regardless of the affected app, triggers a consistent and timely response. Furthermore, software updates can be seamlessly distributed across all connected programs, reducing the risk of security breaches. The cost of implementing a CRM pales in comparison to the potential financial and reputational costs of a data breach.

3. “People were too resistant to learning how to use new software” (17 percent of surveyed users) and “It would take too long for people to learn how to use” (17 percent of surveyed users)

Adopting new software can be met with resistance, as some employees may lack technical expertise. However, modern CRMs often include automation as a standard feature, allowing employees to delegate monotonous tasks to the system. This not only saves time but also reduces the need for extensive upskilling. Employees can customize their CRM experience by selecting fields and applying labels, making it user-friendly even for those initially hesitant.

Moreover, CRM integration into existing workflows can be seamless, allowing businesses to initiate automations immediately. This ensures that even during unforeseen circumstances, such as an employee being absent, tasks can be assigned and monitored efficiently.

The Bottom Line for Businesses

In conclusion, scalable and intuitive CRM systems have proven their worth to companies of all sizes, including small businesses. For those aiming to compete and market their organizations and stand their ground against larger industry players, adopting a CRM is not a luxury but a necessity.

The reluctance to embrace CRM systems should not deter businesses from reaping the benefits of these tools. After all, no one wants to risk falling behind competitors and having to catch-up, even at the best of times.


Chandrashekar LSP is the managing director of Zoho Canada and is committed to creating and spreading awareness about the value of CRM for even small businesses. He cut his teeth in the software domain with the WebNMS division of Zoho and has journeyed with the company at its crucial pivot points. LSP is based out of Zoho Canada’s Cornwall, Ontario head office and holds a masters degree in information systems and applications.

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