We’re happy that your business has taken off and your client base is starting to grow substantially. Oh wow, here comes a client!
But how do you manage your growing contact list?
There area few ways to go about it. Individually. These days, many sole traders and salespeople just make use of the address book on their smartphones. Others do it the old-school way of collecting business cards in cardholders or (even more old school) Rolodexes. Some make use of tech by scanning or taking a photo of the cards and storing them in EverNote or Google Keep.
These are all quick, easy, and convenient options. However, they do not go beyond simply listing names, addresses, and other pertinent contact information. You have to be able to leverage personal information into sales and marketing activities order to make your business successful. A card-box full of names just won’t hack it.
This is where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software comes into play. More than a contact list, a CRM is kind of like a personal digital assistant for sales and marketing tool. Not only does it keep a record of your clients’ personal and professional contact information, but it also stores details of each and every interaction you have with your customer, whether by phone or by other electronic correspondence. Ideally, a CRM will also guide you through the selling process, ensuring that no opportunities are missed.
Sure, your employees can keep a document or a spreadsheet that contains all data, but they would all have to rely on memory to recall little details that make for an excellent customer service experience. These “little details” such as remembering a loyal customer’s loyalty card renewal date, or sending a client a loyalty gift card on his/her birthday are the “little things” that make customer experience unforgettable. Sometimes, business owners also miss the opportunity to upsell or offer an upgrade because, the spreadsheet method failed to note that previous conversation where you have to listen carefully for a subtle hint to learn that a current client will greatly benefit from an upgrade. That conversation could’ve gotten lost in the spreadsheet because it was a general inquiry.
With the right CRM, you can target new markets and identify new prospective clients, follow up on existing deals/projects, cross-sell, inform existing customers of new products/services, or even keep invoice trackers. You don’t have to keep juggling balls in the air and hope that none of them drop.
The key is to choose the right software for the way your business works. You don’t want to see employees trying to wrap their heads around new software instead of keeping the customers happy. They must be able to work with the software, not around it.
When considering a CRM for a small business, you do not need the most expensive, feature-rich, or latest CRM. What you need is a software solution that meets your needs. Start by looking at the following three broad requirements:
Price is a huge factor when choosing a CRM. But there is more to a CRM than the upfront purchasing cost. You have to dig deeper and analyse what is included in the price. Evaluate what is included in the package. Think about:
- How much will it cost to integrate your chosen CRM into existing resources?
- Will this entail additional equipment?
- Are there hosting fees?
- How much would the training cost?
- What are the costs of upgrades?
- Does the vendor offer free support or will that be an added cost?
- Are there peripherals that need to be bought with the CRM, perhaps smartphones for the whole team?
Also, consider the costs of moving your current customer (and possibly sales) information into the new CRM. This can cost as much, if not more, than the first year’s software licensing costs. Consider how much of that customer information migration you can do yourself, and how much will need to be done by a specialist.
FIT FOR PURPOSE
There is a temptation to purchase a CRM that promises to grow your business by offering a myriad of advanced sales automation and marketing features. On paper, these CRMs look wonderful. However, it is important to avoid getting a system that does things your business does not need… or that your staff are simply not ready to adopt. It is much better to start small, with a limited set of features that match your immediate business needs. In software terms, we call this ‘fit for purpose.’ Ask yourself:
- Do you need a CRM that is more integrated into existing hardware, such as your phone systems?
- Do you need a CRM that is more social media-centric?
- What do your employees need?
- What are some of your important business processes that integrate well with the CRM?
Do not be mislead by a hundred features that you don’t understand, let alone use. Choose a CRM that understands your business requirements and appropriately captures your needs. Choose a CRM that helps you make the informed choices and allows for excellent customer follow up. And more importantly, choose one that you and your team can easily work with.
Never forget security. After all, customers trust you with their precious personal information whether they are aware of that or not. A secure CRM would let you know when a team member makes changes, especially on important details such as passwords. It should let you define access controls to documents and other information for each user. Customers should be able to trust that their information and their buying preferences are not just out there on the world wide web for everyone to have access to. Privacy is important not just for you and your customers but for maintaining solid and reliable business relationships.
Armed with these three principles, you can begin reviewing CRM solutions for your business. In our next article, I will provide more details on the specific features available in popular small business CRMs, and compare costs.