Do you still rely on only a spreadsheet or basic database to track who your customers are and what and when they buy from you? As your business grows, are your data management tools growing with you?
The process of manually researching, maintaining and interpreting these kinds of customer records can be overwhelming. If you have a large and/or growing customer base, then a customer relationship management tool (CRM) is one of the best investments that your business can make to increase sales and boost customer loyalty. Best of all, it needn’t break the bank. Small-business-friendly CRM tools can cost as little as $15 per month, per user (thanks to an increase in cloud-based online tools).
Here are six benefits that CRM software can provide your growing small business:
Can’t keep track of sales appointments, lead follow-up or post-sales actions? CRM software will automate many of these easily overlooked tasks. By centralizing information, users can access and edit shared data about every customer touch point, phone call or email marketing blast your business makes—whether you are in the office or on the road. With CRM software, everything you need to ensure effective follow-up and task management is automatically facilitated. You can even automate post-sale surveys, customer appointment scheduling, upsell marketing messages (“you bought X—why not take a look at Y”) and update customer profiles with order status information.
Typically, sales organizations use CRM to track pipeline or bid-to-win ratios, but it can do so much more. CRM can help you understand who has bought what, how much they spent, and help inform demand for future product or market expansion.
This data is essential when it comes to launching a marketing campaign or promotion and hitting the right potential buyers. Think about it: without CRM, how would you do this? You’d have to go back over old invoices or purchase records to manually track who bought what, when, and then hit up a separate database to find out their email addresses. With CRM, you can segment your customer list by profile, purchase history, and so on (in minutes), helping you better refine your marketing messages to target audiences.
Need to see how customer revenue or buying patterns are tracking year-in-year-out? CRM gives you speedy access to key business performance indicators.
Want to give your warehouse or suppliers a heads-up about a spike in volume coming down the pike? With CRM, you and your team can centrally track pipeline, sales probabilities and the impact marketing campaigns may have on the supply-side of the house. Your entire team can add notes, mark actions and act on potential problems—all in one place. CRM ensures everyone is in the loop and your business is seamlessly service-oriented.
Many CRM systems let you integrate your email and even social media activity, so you can manage, prioritize and respond to customer email and social media notifications in one place. The side benefit, of course, is that you also have with instant access to customer profile data, so you know who you’re dealing with, their purchase history, billing information and so on.
Of course, a CRM tool is what you make it and how you use it, and while it may at first seem like an unwieldy solution, the trick is to keep it simple and evolve your use of CRM as your business becomes more familiar with it. You can add dozens of features and options that may just end up confusing those who have access to it. A good way to gauge how your CRM is working for you is to gain feedback as you go, such as “are some features redundant?” or, “could you do with more insight into a certain area?”
There are many small business CRM solutions on the market and businesses are adopting these systems at a rapid pace. Popular examples include InfusionSoft, desk.com, Base and Microsoft.