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CRM Database 101 Guide (with real examples)

Successful businesses are built on strong relationships. And that means really understanding your customers and prospects. 

What problems do they have? Where are they in the customer journey? What products are they most likely to purchase?

Answering those questions requires data.

More data than a spreadsheet or series of emails can handle. 

What you need to streamline your sales and marketing processes and build better customer relationships is a CRM database. 

This article will discuss CRM databases, why you need one, and how to get started using it. 

What is a CRM database?

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are technology solutions for managing and enhancing interactions with customers and potential customers throughout the sales cycle. 

CRMs are used by 65% of sales professionals, making them one of the most popular software tools for business. They’re also popular with marketing and customer support teams — the whole organization can benefit from a CRM.


crm popularity
CRM Popularity

A CRM database is the collection of information about your contacts that are stored inside your CRM. 

The database might include things like the customer’s name, job title, location, contact information, contact history, lead scoring, order history, social profile, interests, or any other data you collect. 

What’s the difference between a CRM and a CRM database?

“CRM” and “CRM database” are often used interchangeably, but the terms have different meanings. The CRM database is just one component of your CRM system — an essential one.

The database interacts with the CRM’s other features. For example, when you send marketing emails from your CRM, the information in the CRM database can be used to personalize the content. Or, if an existing customer reaches out to the support team, the CRM database’s log of past interactions will help you help the customer. 

The benefits of a CRM database for your business 

Most sales teams use a CRM database. But is it really necessary?

Businesses, especially small businesses, sometimes feel that they can manage customer relationships effectively without investing in a CRM tool. But customer relationship management databases have big benefits for businesses of all sizes. 

Benefits of a CRM database
Benefits of CRM

Centralize your data

56% of B2B buyers are more likely to make a purchase if the sales rep understands the needs of the buyer’s business. 51% are more likely to consider the brand if the sales rep understands the buyer’s role. And 47% say they’re more likely to buy if they receive personalized communication from you. 

What do these preferences have in common?

Customers expect you to know a lot about them, and they want your interactions to reflect that. 

Having a centralized CRM database allows you to quickly access information on anyone who has interacted with your business. There are no more data siloes — the sales team knows if a customer has ever opened a support ticket or clicked a marketing email CTA. 

Never lose track of a deal

Without an organized system, some contacts can fall out of the funnel before they make it to the qualified lead stage. 

Keeping all of your deal information in a CRM database makes it easy to monitor your deals and pipeline, score leads, track tasks, and automate contact management

It’s also scalable. Your business might grow out of a deal tracking spreadsheet, but it won’t grow out of your CRM software.  

Make better predictions

All of the information and historical data stored in your CRM database can help you make better predictions. That helps your team prioritize the deals they can win

Say your goal is cross-selling more. You can use your CRM to identify which existing customers in the database are most likely to buy a second product. Then you can automatically add them to a targeted email list and assign members of your team to reach out. 

Communicate with remote and hybrid teams

If your business is one of the 90% that will continue to have remote workers after the pandemic, a CRM database can help team members in different locations stay connected. 

A cloud-based CRM solution ensures that everyone can access the same information, no matter where they are. 

Many companies already realize this. Remote workers are eight percentage points more likely to use a CRM than people who work mostly from the office. People who don’t work from home are also more likely to use spreadsheets or pencil and paper to track sales. 

Automate sales processes

A CRM platform automates mundane tasks, like managing your contact lists or assigning tasks to team members. Automating those workflows leaves you time to concentrate on what really matters — building customer relationships. 

How to set up a CRM database (CRM best practices)

It’s clear you need a CRM database. But which CRM you choose and how you implement and maintain it makes a difference. 

Your CRM is backing up your sales team in all of their activities, and they need to be able to trust that the data is accurate, up-to-date, and easily accessible. 

53% of top-performing salespeople are very confident in their CRM data. Of the non-top performers, only 32% are confident in the numbers.

Help your team be part of the high-performing group by following these steps. 

CRM Data Confidence | ActiveCampaign
CRM Data Confidence

Step 1. Choose your CRM

Your CRM will be the backbone of your business — make sure you choose wisely. Your ideal CRM database solution will depend on the unique needs of your organization, but there are a few important features that we think everyone should look for:

  • Automated workflows
  • Customizable pipelines
  • Easy visualization of the sales pipeline
  • Contact and lead scoring
  • Sales forecasts and win probability predictions
  • Real-time reports and dashboards
  • Integrations with the applications you’re already using (more on that below)

Step 2. Define your custom sales pipeline

A sales pipeline refers to the steps your team takes to turn a lead into a loyal customer. Pipelines vary between businesses depending on factors like industry, target market, and type of customer. 

Having a well-defined sales pipeline is an important part of setting up and maintaining your CRM. A CRM helps you track and visualize which stage each of your deals is on. Depending on your CRM software, you may be able to create multiple custom pipelines for different products or different types of customers. 

The pipeline will affect what data you choose to collect and store in the CRM database. 

Step 3. Decide which customer data to include

Typical CRM data includes:

  • Contact and personal information, like phone number, address, and social media
  • Descriptive data, like job title, education level, and interests or lifestyle information
  • Interaction history, like purchases they’ve made or support tickets they’ve opened
  • Survey data, like customer satisfaction survey answers
What to include in a CRM | ActiveCampaign
Types of Customer Data

Gather input from your sales, support, and marketing teams to find out which data would make their jobs easier. Make essential fields mandatory to ensure that a lack of information never holds up your processes. 

But don’t go overboard. As much as you want to know everything about your potential customers, you shouldn’t make them fill out a three-page form to join your email list. 

Keep the sales pipeline in mind. For example, you may have a stage on your pipeline for marketing-qualified leads. To be considered a marketing-qualified lead, the person has to be in a certain demographic, and they have to download a gated asset from your website. 

That means that for your process to run smoothly, your CRM database has to have reliable, up-to-date information on demographics and website form fills. 

Step 4. Integrate your existing tech stack

Make sure you’re aware of all the possible integrations your CRM system offers. Connecting the CRM to your other tools will allow you to pull more information into the customer database and use the database more effectively. 

For example, if you have an e-commerce website, connect your CRM to your e-commerce platform. This helps you collect information on website behavior and shopper demographics. You could send abandoned cart emails to shoppers who don’t complete a purchase or follow up quickly with new customers who do. 

If the CRM integrates with Facebook or other social media platforms, you could increase the size of your email marketing list by adding a signup form to your business Facebook page or other profiles. 

And many CRMs integrate with tools like Google Analytics, allowing you to track conversions and other user behaviors after someone clicks a link in one of your campaigns. 

Step 5. Maintain your CRM database

Your teams need to be confident that your CRM data is accurate, organized, and up-to-date. If you don’t do regular maintenance checks, clutter is sure to develop. 

CRM database maintenance can involve any or all of the following steps:

  • Eliminate duplicate records 
  • Remove unengaged or outdated contacts
  • Fill in incomplete records where possible
  • Merge contact lists if they serve an identical purpose 
  • Check that data is formatted similarly across all records
  • Eliminate unused tags and merge similar tags

Step 6. Measure your success

It can be challenging to measure the success of your CRM database implementation because the CRM can do so many things. If your main objective is to grow your contact list or close more deals, you don’t need to worry about your support ticket resolution rate.  

So before you get started, narrow down your CRM goals and decide what metrics you’ll use to track your progress. For example, if you’re trying to eliminate inefficiencies in your sales processes, you could track the total length of the sales cycle. 

Some CRM metrics you could choose to track include: 

  • Close rate
  • Upsell and cross-sell rate
  • Net-new revenue
  • Length of each sales pipeline stage
  • Length of the sales cycle
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  • Email list growth rate
  • Net promoter score (NPS)
  • Churn rate
  • Average time to support ticket resolution
Analytics and reporting
CRM analytics

Real-life CRM database examples

CRM databases save time, improve accuracy and forecasting, and help businesses build better customer relationships. 

But you don’t have to take our word for it. Here are two examples of real organizations that have used CRM databases to transform the way they work. 

Cancer Wellness Support CRM Database Example

Cancer Wellness Support is a non-profit that provides cancer patients, their care providers, and families with therapies like yoga, art therapy, counseling, and more. 

The organization started small, but as it grew to over 600 members, keeping track of memberships became more difficult. What they needed was a CRM database that could keep track of member information and automatically notify customers when it was time to renew. 

Since implementing ActiveCampaign, Cancer Wellness Support has increased the accuracy of its data by over 70% and saved 300 person-hours per month. 

Laboratoire Hollis CRM Database Example

Laboratoire Hollis supports women’s health and wellness with organic nutritional supplements and personalized recommendations for each customer. 

With a team of just two, the challenge was to provide a highly-personalized customer experience without a lot of manual work. That’s where ActiveCampaign came in. 

Hollis now uses data collected in the CRM database across the entire customer lifecycle, including abandoned cart rates, customer support tickets, and email analytics, to reach the right people at the right time. 

Founder Mathilde puts it this way:

“I’m just one person, but ActiveCampaign lets me engage every single customer like I’m personally reaching out. With all my customer data in one place, I can use it to automate personalized content and recommendations that address each customer’s needs and inspire their loyalty.”

CRM Database Key Takeaways

A CRM database is an essential component of your customer relationship management system. Having organized, accessible data on every customer and prospect helps with lead nurturing, marketing, improving customer retention, and more. 

ActiveCampaign’s CRM Databases offer:

  • Customizable pipelines
  • Automated contact management
  • Lead scoring
  • List segmentation
  • Online behavior tracking
  • Email marketing
  • Reporting and dashboards

Try ActiveCampaign free for 14 days.

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