What is CRM (Customer Relationship Management) & Why Should I Care?

CRM, database on screenWomen Owners Summit 2016 Round Session Table Leaders shared advice about their expertise, subject and topic. Here are some expert tips and suggestions on CRM!

 

1. At it’s core, CRM software is a robust contact management system. When implemented and used properly, a Customer Relationship Management solutions can help you manage customer data from a sales and marketing perspective, and can help you to better understand, support and retain existing customers.

For growing small businesses, spreadsheets, traditional email, mobile and other address books likely won’t be enough, for the long term. If you’re looking for a better way to store and manage customer information, CRM software is the best solution for your business. It acts as an entire database for all types of insights on customers, including contact information, purchase histories, how customers browse your website, ways and times they’ve interacted with your company (and reasons why), demographics, interests, personal preferences and more. You can then use this information to segment customers for marketing purposes or to easily search for customers who fit specific criteria.

2. No solution is a “one size fits all”. Do not pick a CRM solution too quickly. Define your business and technical requirements in advance and do your research! Include how you do business now and how you would like to improve on what you are doing. Be sure to consider your future growth plans. Are you going to expand your offerings or your staff? Look at least 1 to 5 years into the future, but be realistic.

3. Understand the difference between Lead Management, Sales Force Automation (SFA), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). At a very basic level, Lead Management helps you manage sales leads. SFA does that to, but additionally helps manage sales teams and sales processes. CRM helps businesses manage and maintain data for all types of customers, along with customer interactions, support, projects and more.

4. The key to a successful CRM evaluation and implementation is truly understanding all of your customer data. Where is it stored…electronically or in your personal memory banks? How is it gathered? How is it updated? Who has access? What are your customer touch points? Do you store any confidential customer data? Is there customer data that you are not saving?

5. How much are you willing to pay? You should determine your initial implementation budget, as well as your monthly budget. There are a number of CRM software vendors who provide low-cost options based on the number of users, contacts and/or storage. The best approach is to define your needs and your budget and find the best fit solution.

6. Keep it simple! A really long feature list might seem appealing, but focus on how easy it is to use the features that are most important to your business. Be careful not to overpay for a solution with unnecessary functionality.

7. You do not need to have a heavy focus on leads and sales in order to benefit from a CRM solution. A business that is primarily focused on repeat business, and customer referrals is an especially good candidate for CRM. A CRM implementation that focuses on customer project management and customer retention, can prevent you from missing follow-up business and can help you stay in touch with those customers and remind them of how important they are to you.

8. Any CRM solution is only going to be as good as the data that is entered. If you implement a CRM solution and then do not make sure that the customer data and interaction information is being input then the system will not be beneficial. Your implementation plan should include training and verification for all users.

9. Before choosing a CRM solution, make note of all third-party software that you are currently using. You will want to make sure that the CRM software you choose is compatible with the apps that you already use, such as your accounting software or your email marketing software. CRM software works with all types of third-party solutions so that all your data is streamlined throughout different areas of your business.

10. Scalability can be extremely important when choosing your CRM solution. If you have a strong and solid growth plan for your small business, you will definitely want to choose a solution that will scale up easily in terms of size and cost. You do not want to have to choose and implement an entirely new CRM solution a year or two down the road.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Question 1
What is CRM, and what can it do for my Business?
Answer 1
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It is all aspects of interactions that a company has with its customers, whether it is sales or service-related. CRM solutions give organizations business data to help provide services or products that your customers want, offer better customer service, help sales teams to cross-sell and up-sell more effectively, close deals, retain current customers and to better understand exactly who your customers are. Your CRM requirements and benefits may differ from those of your peers. How you operate your business, and especially how you interact with potential and existing customers are key factors in determining the benefits for your business.

Question 2
Is CRM software the same as Contact Management or Sale Force Automation software?
Answer 2
CRM software is basically a Contact Management solution AND much much more! CRM doesn’t just keep your contacts organized, it can help you deliver the best customer support possible. Each customer account includes key customer information, like purchase histories, past interactions, order information, preferences, personal data and more. Having all of this information in one place makes it easier for sales and customer service representatives to answer customer questions and resolve issues because they’ll have a readily available point of reference. For businesses with a team of sales people, you can choose a CRM solution that includes Sales Force management and tracking capabilities.

Question 3
I know that CRM solutions can help me with sales and marketing, but can it help me with my customer communications after I have closed a deal with my customer?
Answer 3
Yes, for services type businesses especially, some of the CRM solutions do offer powerful project management capabilities, geared for small and growing businesses, as well as departments or divisions in the enterprise. These capabilities can help you to customize your workflow for a particular customer and help you to stay on top of your customer commitments. CRM solutions can also help to remind you when to follow-up with your customers, and stay connected.

Question 4
Can a small business really afford the cost of a CRM software solution?
Answer 4
The cost of CRM software varies greatly. Vendors typically use a subscription-based pricing model, which can depend on a variety of factors, such as the number of users and features available. For the most part, you can expect to pay on a per-user, per-month basis. Pricing can range from $10 per user per month to hundreds of dollars per month, depending on your business’s unique needs. Optionally you can try a free trial offered by many vendors. There are even free versions of popular CMR software, some are full-featured but limit the number of users or records, while others offer only the bare-minimum capabilities.

Question 5
I currently store my customer information in spreadsheets or contact management software. Can that data be easily and effectively moved to my new CRM solution?
Answer 5
Yes, most CRM software solutions have the capability to import your existing customer data. Many solution providers will offer that service as part of the new CRM implementation. Typically some additional work may need to be done to verify and categorize the data once it is imported into your new CRM solution.

Question 6
I spend many work days on the road or away from my office, can I get a CRM solution that will work on my mobile devices?
Answer 6
Yes, many CRM software providers these days offer mobile capabilities. This requirement should be defined in your requirements documentation. You would then want to evaluate the CRM software options that have their own mobile apps or can at least be accessed and easily viewed using your mobile Web browser. If you need access to your CRM data anytime, anywhere from any device with an Internet connection you may want to choose a cloud-based CRM software. Keep in mind that there may be additional costs associated.

Question 7
I do a lot of marketing and customer interaction via social media. Are there solutions that integrate will with Social Media?
Answer 7
Yes, more and more companies are connecting, marketing and even doing customer service interaction via social media. Social CRM builds upon CRM by leveraging a social element that enables a business to connect customer conversations from social networking sites in the CRM process. If this is a key part of your business, you will definitely want to evaluate CRM software that easily and effectively integrates with the social media site that you utilize the most.

Lorie Campbell is a Solutions Consultant and owner of LAC Solutions.
She has over 30 years IT Software & Services experience, with deep expertise in software selection and database management.

LAC Solutions specializes in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and IT Solutions for Small Businesses.

Author: Connected Women Of Influence

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