Best CRM for new Graphic-Arts Businesses and those Managing Remote Teams

 approx 9 minute read

Entrepreneurs should be applauded. Starting and building a business from scratch is hard. It takes many cogs to power even the smallest business and to keep it running smoothly. Everyone knows the old saying,  ‘work smarter not harder’. It captures the very essence of newborn companies – time is money and cashflow is king when it comes to building a new venture. In order to be profitable and successful, a business must run efficiently.

According to an article published in The Telegraph in 2019, “660,000 new companies are registered in the UK every year. That’s equal to 70 new businesses being formed every hour”. During the same year, the National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses recorded 5.8 million small businesses, an increase of 3.5% in 2018. It seems that the UK is a hub for entrepreneurs. Perhaps in a time where services and products are more ‘instant and on-demand’ than ever before, professionals are preferring to be their own bosses. To choose their own working hours. To focus on something they feel passionate about. 

Despite the events of the last few months, this entrepreneurial trend is far from over. In fact, for some budding business owners, it became the catalyst they needed to get started. In Guernsey alone, over 70 new companies were formed during lockdown. 

But what does it take to make these new enterprises successful? 

In this article, we’ll be focusing on the importance of having the best CRM system for new businesses within the graphic-arts sector and for managing teams from afar. 

According to an article published by Business Strategy Hub in April 2020, online marketing businesses “profit the most from the recession period as many companies around the world tier down on their traditional marketing campaigns and budgets”. So we’ll look at how these businesses can use top CRM processes to grow by successfully managing their teams and thus enhancing their client’s experience. 

What is CRM and why is it important?

So, what is CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. 

Salesforce defines CRM as “helping users focus on their organization’s relationships with individual people including customers, service users, colleagues, or suppliers”. This could be through either;

  • CRM as a piece of software, normally referred to as a system or a solution that stores, identifies and analyses information and interactions between seller and customer. E.g. What CRM do you use?
  • CRM as a business ideal or mantra – how an individual company uses their own beliefs and approach to manage customer relationships. E.g. What’s your business CRM strategy for retaining customers?
  • CRM as a business blueprint – how a business uses a specific CRM system to cultivate customer relationships. E.g. What’s your CRM process for keeping in touch with clients?

We’ll be looking at a mix of all three ‘types’ of CRM as they all have their part to play in effectively managing teams within a new business. For example;

  • How does good CRM software help to keep all team members, even if working remotely, up to date on individual client projects?
  • The best CRM ideology within a business and how it helps to minimise touch points and unnecessary noise between team members when communicating with clients.
  • What’s an effective CRM process within a system that helps team members to identify potential problems with client accounts?

What makes a top CRM?

Before we look at the above from a graphic-arts perspective, it’s important to understand what makes a top CRM system. It’s all fine and well to ‘have CRM’ or to think that you adopt effective CRM processes. But what’s the point if they don’t improve communication and streamline efficiency within a team?

There are many different CRM ‘products’ out there in the market for a new business to choose from. But the end goal of implementing CRM, especially when starting a business from scratch, should be improving and enhancing project management. Be that within teams and consequently the end client experience. From one place. A value-adding CRM will let business owners manage their staff to bring about a higher level of efficiency. Greater transparency across all projects. An easy centralisation of knowledge and improved analytics. From one log-in. With more teams working remotely, it’s also important to consider implementing a cloud-based CRM solution, rather than an on-site product.

That said, let’s hone in on the graphics-art sector.

Two friends decide to set-up a business together. One comes from a sales background, the other is a graphic designer. They want to form a local agency and service their clients with print, website design, branding, marketing and possibly even SEO. 

As one is the seller and the other the creative, it’s very likely they will work on different aspects of each project. The sales lead will manage the prospecting, enquiry and project management aspects of the communication. Creating and processing quotes, order confirmations, payments, invoicing and probably act as the account manager, dealing with questions and queries that arise. The graphic designer is in charge of interpreting artwork briefs either from their colleague or client, receiving existing branding and assets and producing the aesthetic elements to the specification suitable for their intended use. This generates many new channels of communication, each linked to the same project. Regardless of whether the pair are working remotely or are sitting together in we-work, in order to bring about a higher level of efficiency, increase  transparency across all projects, share knowledge and client information, the duo must use some kind of CRM.

Let’s break it down further. 

Things businesses within the graphic-arts sector, starting from scratch, need to consider are;

  • CRM for sales
  • CRM for marketing
  • CRM for design and project management
  • CRM for finance

CRM for Sales

Think about how clients ‘buy things’ in 2020. They need to have a plethora of options. Online and offline. And they need to be able to ‘buy’ things quickly. One channel of communication and one entry point to a sale. More and more businesses want their customers to be able to self-service. Whether that’s being able to make a payment online at 8pm or approve a proposal for a website on a Saturday. And these interactions need to be acknowledged and processed so that each team member is ready to push the button on the next step of the project in order for it to move forward seamlessly. And if the sales lead and the graphic designer aren’t in the same room come Monday morning, there needs to be a centralised way of understanding recent client interactions. 

This is an example of where the top CRM systems help to manage cross team collaboration. Having a helicopter view of all active customer communication makes it simpler for teams to pre-empt a client’s journey and any possible bumps in the road. This leads to an improved client experience without customers having to repeat their recent actions to each member of the team. 

This kind of streamlined interaction will be integral as the duo grow their business. With each new sales executive, account manager or designer they employ, the importance of a CRM system that will ensure clarity of communications across all roles will become more and more prominent.

CRM for Marketing

In order to survive, businesses need to attract and retain customers. Attracting customers means outreach. Sending offline and online collateral. On a regular basis. But remember, we now live in a world where GDPR exists. So team members need to know who to send things to, and who to leave out. And they need to know who received your marketing materials and when so it can be followed up in a timely manner to improve the probability of conversion. It’s no good if the sales guy puts in a call and tries to pitch a starter marketing pack to a client who never received the promotional e-shot. Because they unsubscribed the previous month after having a conversation with the graphic designer. 

Retaining customers means understanding client spend, trends and habits. Which means reporting. The graphic designer may have created a branding concept for a new client during expo season which led to the sale of printed collateral, some soft signage and a landing page. But if this sale isn’t documented and recorded in a shared system, how does the sales guy or girl know to reach out to the same client coming up to next year’s expo season?

The best CRM systems will enable reporting so that teams are better able to understand who has bought what, when and why. So they can capitalise on past expenditure. And what needs sending out, and to whom. Was that e-shot campaign effective? Yes? Then send another. 

CRM for Design & Project Management

Managing design projects means circumnavigating all sorts of touch points. File checking, sending proofs, accepting changes and making amends. All these things need communicating back to the client every step of the way to ensure expectations are managed. And this back and forth is time that the newly founded studio isn’t being paid for. It’s easy to build up unbillable hours on admin. And if the graphic designer takes a day of annual leave, how does the salesperson know  the progression of the project? No-one wants to take a call from an angry client on a Friday afternoon who is upset because they were expecting their flyers to arrive in time for their weekend event. And after some digging the sales guy realises that the files weren’t sent to print because the job hasn’t been paid for. An easy mistake to avoid. 

A good piece of CRM software will help all teams to automate touch points, i.e payments, and to reduce manual touches so that designers spend more time on billable creative and less time on admin.

CRM for Finance

Boring perhaps but an essential element to consider when starting a business from scratch. Admin can often prove to be a black hole of sunken time within a new business with unpolished processes. Salespeople are paid to sell, designers to design. Hours allocated to chasing payments, creating and sending invoices and balancing the books would be better spent on value-adding tasks that bring in revenue. 

It’s also important that each team member has complete visibility on credit and cash terms, who has paid for what, and when, as to prevent any awkward and embarrassing mix-ups. Oh, that £3k spot-uv folder order has been sent to print already? But the client never paid. And now wants to change the specification of the order.

Top CRM systems will sync and automate manual tasks like invoicing, reminders, statements and payment processing. 

In conclusion…

According to, the CRM market grew 15.6% in 2018 and CRM continues to be the fastest-growing software category out there. There’s no doubt that more and more businesses are looking to streamline their workflow and implement processes that will help to better manage their teams which leads to happier customers. And more profitable projects. Remember, cashflow is king, especially for businesses starting from scratch. CRM is a solid investment and good systems will grow with you.

Business start-ups also have an advantage here. Most will not be tied to existing, separate pieces of software that are hard to extract information from. And it’s easier to avoid bad habits when you’re brand new. Make sure to spend time looking for a system that feels right for your company. The best CRM systems will enable you to do everything you need to run your business, in one place.

If you do operate within the graphic-arts sector, take a look at Secrets & Chandeliers. The book, published last year by Nettl’s CEO, Peter Gunning, gives a detailed insight into the software that powers the largest network of print, signs, web and design studios, in the world. The software, W3p, helps new and existing businesses to improve the client’s user experience by enhancing communication between the seller and the client, and between internal studio teams.  

It seems appropriate to end on this quote from“it certainly seems like the future is going to be very CRM-y”.

If you’re in the graphics, signs and print industry and are looking to streamline your processes and access a CRM, built over 20 years experience, with you in mind, Nettl partners can help you begin your journey today. Take a read here to learn more or drop a message to our Nettl team.