According to Gartner, the market for Customer Relationship Management grew 12 percent in 2012. This surge in demand has prompted vendors such as, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM to offer new features and functions. So with all the available options, how do you choose the optimal software for your business?

Customer Relationship Management involves at least three tasks: segmenting customers, customizing services and offers based on those segments, and coordinating interactions with customers.

In order to carry out these tasks, CRM software should have at least have statistics reports, sales and marketing automation, contact management tools, and data integration. Other features, such as daily schedules or to-do lists, can be helpful as well. That being said, do not get lured in to buying software with a slew of unnecessary features. Even if these features sound promising, keep in mind that any business has three restrictions when it comes to CRM:

1. Budget: What can you afford?
The United States Small Business Association recommends dedicating 2-8% of your sales revenue to paying for marketing expenses. And only a portion of this budget goes to CRM software. The cost of CRM software can vary from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars a year. Yes, more expensive software usually has more features, but if you are a small or start-up business, the cost of expensive software isn’t worth it.

2. Staff: Do you have the manpower to use this software?
While CRM software makes your marketing process run a lot smoother, it will not generate content for you. At the end of the day, a real person will still have to review the segments of customers and decide how to correspond with them. If you do not have enough people to write massive amounts of content, you do not need CRM software that will export that much content.

3. Technical ability: What can you do yourself?
Does your marketing staff have strong IT knowledge? If so, look for software that gives more control over the functions. If your staff is not technically trained, try for a CRM software that can manage itself, and simply required input.

4. Marketing Campaign Emphasis: How do you want to use your software?
If you know that you want to concentrate your customer interactions in a certain platform—such as email, twitter, etc.—look for software that has strong capabilities in that platform. This applies to other capabilities as well, such as how far you want to segment customers or how you want to organize lead information.

In conclusion, buy what you will use. Rankings and consumer reports cannot tell you what CRM software is best for your company specifically; the world of CRM is as diverse as the businesses that use it.