What’s a CRM system and do I need one for my small business?

CRM crowd of peopleCRM stands for Contact Relationship Management. These days a CRM is likely to be a web application, or software you can install on your computer or server.

Do you need one? if you manage a small business or charity that wishes to build an ongoing relationship with your contacts (most businesses do because it take less effort to get repeat business than to get new business), then the answer is a resounding YES.

CRM systems these days are based on many years of best-practices, in fact they’ve been around since the 90’s, and even prior to that in form of more simple marketing database systems.
So over 20 years of accumulative knowledge and experience has fed into pretty much all the systems available in today’s market, and if you’re using Excel sheets and your email calendar to manage your contacts, you’ll get serious benefits from using a CRM.

The kind of benefits you can expect to gain from having a CRM are: increased efficiency and time saving, improved decision making based on real data, and better customer services = happier punters = repeat business.

What can a CRM system do?

  1. Share information automatically with other people in the business – all your staff’s contacts and communication is saved in one place so you know what’s going on.
  2. Automatically save Email messages and replies into the contact’s record, so you know what’s been the last communication – no need to search your emails
  3. All relevant info in one place including: name, contact info, demographics, when they last interacted with you, what they bought or donated, how much money they have spent with you
  4. Show your pipeline clearly and help you identify where to focus your efforts – how close are you to a sale, how much revenue are you likely to bring in next month? how does it compare with last year?
  5. Some systems even show you their social media profiles and their latest status updates (if those are publicly available, or if you are connected with them) – so you know if they’ve recently changed jobs, or got married etc.
  6. Connect between a CRM and email-marketing tool so that you know how many messages you’re sending, to whom, and who has responded (or didn’t respond).
  7. Easily manage newsletter subscriptions and unsubscribes
  8. Reports and dashboards, you can spot trends and gain insight into who your customers really are, and how they behave. Use this insight to adjust your service offering, improve customer services, and identify the best type of customers you have, so that you can try and reach more of them!
  9. Saves the whole history of your relationships with your contacts. You can communicate even with people who haven’t been in touch for a while, and relight the fire… you can see notes and recollect incidents if they ever come up again in conversation. You can tell who dealt with who, and what was agreed. This could come in handy!

How much does a CRM cost?

There are many option, and prices range from about £3 to £50 per month per user.
Most small business would only require basic functionality, and there’s no need to pay more than a tenner a month (per user).

Charities can get discounted prices, and one of the leading (if not The leading) CRM systems, SalesForce, even provides the whole platform for free.

So – it is affordable. And it is one of the most important assets a business has.

Which CRM should I get for my small business?

This question is frequently asked in online forums and professional groups, and all us CRM experts normally reply in a similar way: it depends on your needs.
Many factors go into it, from number of users, to IT infrastructure, other systems you may wish to connect to it (like email tools or finance systems), your sales funnel (the various stages in your sales process), etc.

You have two options: either spend time researching the different systems yourself (start by reading my review of some of them here), or you can get in touch with CRM consultant like myself(!), who will help you by asking your the right questions.

Out of the box, a CRM system is rather generic – it needs to be customised to your needs, something that a CRM expert can help you with. They’ll create the right set of fields for your type of contacts and contact attributes, your products and services, your offers and your internal processes. They can train you and your team, and help you spot interesting trends and insights about your contacts that will help you take fruitful actions.

Very few business can survive without a CRM these days, there’s just so much communication, it gets messy pretty quickly without it!

First published on January 23, 2014

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