CRM refers to customer relationship management. It’s a type of software that allows you to develop a database of all your customers or clients, and keep track of information about how and when they interact with your company. While many companies operate without a CRM in place, actively avoiding using one can be harmful in a number of ways.
You Can’t Remember Everything
Running a business means lots of details to keep up with. And even if you write everything down or otherwise document it somehow, there’s a lot of potential for information to slip through the cracks – especially if it must go through multiple hands, or several people have to contribute to the document. It’s easy to keep up with things when you only have a handful of clients to keep track of, but as you expand, that won’t be the case anymore.
A CRM lets you keep track of what’s going on with each customer, giving them statuses so your sales team can see at a glance who’s ready for follow up, and who needs a bit more nurturing. This makes the entire process more efficient for sales and marketing.
Some CRMs even include project management and task management features, so you can keep track of nearly everything to run your business. What’s even better is you can attach tasks and events to the customers, leads, companies, or deals that they are associated with. This way you can track the history of your relationships with everyone your business has ever come into contact with.
Email Threads Can Get Ridiculously Long
If it’s been emailed, there’s a record of it, right? So there’s no need to worry about documenting it anywhere else…That line of thought works to a certain degree. But when you’ve exchanged 57 emails in single thread to keep up with everything, or worse yet, changed subjects as required and now have 6 threads with nearly 10 email exchanges in them – not to mention the number of people that must be CC’d or BCC’d on each message – or have the messages forwarded to them – it gets too hectic. And like point number one – you can’t possibly remember everything.
CRM makes it easy to keep track of history with each customer/client, and even interdepartmental conversions – because when each person makes notes in the file about the conversations that have taken place, or the actions taken on the account, the next person who needs the information can easily see it and add to it. And with integrations, it’s possible to attach emails to records, so you have verifiable proof of what happened – without having to keep up with each email, cluttering your inbox.
Customer Service Will Suffer
Having a high quality standard for customer service is an essential component of customer retention. Considering customer retention is more cost effective than customer acquisition, and that 44% of customers will leave a business as a result of a negative customer service experience, you want to do everything you can to keep them happy.
Using a CRM helps your customer service team see when the last time someone called or emailed about an issue was – and what was done to resolve the issue before. This way, they can give a more personalized experience to the customer, and save time since the customer doesn’t have to explain the entire scenario over again.
You can use the information in the file to provide a personalized greeting to each customer, based on information you have on file about them. For instance, if Debbie calls you, you can greet her with, “Hi Debbie, thank you for being a valued customer since XXX. I see the last purchase you made was a X. Is this what you’re calling in regards to today?”
Data-Driven Decisions Matter
Your CRM is a great source of data about what your customers are doing, and can even give you insight into what they need. If you notice there are a lot of calls regarding a particular product, maybe that means you need to add more information about it on your website. Maybe you need a clearer product manual. If you notice that there seem to be a lot of people buying one product, but not many buying another – it may be time to either adjust your marketing strategy, or to cut that product from your offerings. If you notice there are a lot of customer service complaints that all tie back to a single agent, then it could signal it is time to replace that agent.
Think about it. Can you easily determine how many successful projects you’ve had over the past month? The past quarter? Do you know your conversion rate, with certainty? Do you know the best way to reach your customers? Yeah, you could probably figure it out with some complex Excel spreadsheet with formulas and calculations, but who has time for that? Ditch the spreadsheet and let the CRM do the heavy lifting for you.
Looking at the data from your CRM and other sources can help you make decisions that will help your business grow. This way, you’re not playing a guessing game, trying random approaches to see what works for your business. That data can also help you predict your future, so you know when you need to scale up your operations to keep up with demand, among other things.
Organization Can Make or Break You
Keeping everything in your business organized is paramount to your success. A CRM can play a major role in ensuring everything remains organized. I’m sure you think that email, calendars, and other task management systems are keeping you organized enough, but those systems will only work in the short term. The reality is those workflows are not scalable as you grow – and you want something that can easily grow with you. The more organized you are from the start, the better off you’ll be. You’ll never see a business fail because it was highly organized.
You Could Be Losing Money
Because a CRM helps make your workflow more efficient, you’re saving time – which we all know is money. Your team can spend less time on paperwork, save paper (and the environment) by printing fewer pages, which makes them more productive because they can spend more time on closing deals. Plus, every time you lose track of a contact from the old way of doing things, you could be losing out on a huge deal.
Choosing the Right CRM for Your Business
There are an overwhelming number of CRM options available on the market today. When the wrong system is selected, or the program isn’t implemented correctly with your other systems, it can spell disaster. That’s why you should take plenty of time to research the choices out there before committing to one for your business.
Some questions to ask when evaluating a CRM for use in your business:
- Is it easy to use? You’ll have to train everyone on how to use it, so if it takes too long to get everyone used to using it, it can defeat the purpose. Look for something that’s simple, yet still has all the features you need.
- How quickly can we get it up and running? You want something that’s easy to deploy, so that you don’t have to invest in a lot of equipment, or hire an IT team to install and manage it for you. Cloud-based solutions are a good option because not only are they easy to get up and running, but it keeps the data accessible from anywhere there’s an internet connection. Many of them also include a mobile app, making it possible to access the data from your smartphone or tablet.
- Does it integrate with other applications the business is already using? Since part of the point of a CRM is to centralize as much data as possible – and streamline data entry – you don’t want to have to enter the same information in 15 places. As such, you should opt for a solution that integrates with other applications you’re already using such as Gmail, Mailchimp, and more. You don’t want have to change your entire workflow to accommodate the CRM – or you will be setting yourself and your team up for chaos.
An Overview of Popular CRMs
- Insightly: This cloud-based CRM offers a mobile app, social CRM, business reports, and integrations with many of the apps you’re already using, such as Dropbox, Google Apps, and more. There’s a free trial, as well as a free version for up to two users. Pricing starts at $12/month/user when billed annually.
- Freshsales: This is another cloud-based CRM that offers contact management, lead management, and interaction tracking. It lacks email marketing and marketing automation features you’ll find in Insightly, and doesn’t have a mobile app. However, their free plan accommodates up to 10 users. Their paid plans start at $12/month/user when billed annually.
- Marketing 360: Marketing 360 offers a basic CRM solution with both a free version, and a free trial of paid versions. You can track leads and customers, adding as many team members and custom fields as you need. It offers a cloud-based and mobile app version, so you can use it whenever you need. Pricing information is not released until you contact the company for more information.
- Zoho CRM: Zoho CRM offers a cloud-based solution that can be accessed from the web or via their mobile apps. There’s a free version, and a 15-day free trial of paid versions. Pricing starts at $12/month/user. It integrates with email, social media, and telephone to make it easy to track what your customers are doing and see sales signals.
- HubSpot: HubSpot is known for their marketing software, and the CRM is a relatively new feature. Pricing starts at $55/month/user, so it is one of the more expensive solutions out there. But, it can automate everything from end-to-end, and includes the ability to create custom workflows so you can set it up in the way that works best for your business.
- Infusionsoft: Infusionsoft is well known for their email marketing platform. Their CRM offers four editions at varying pricing, with pricing starting at $299/month. You can run it from the cloud and on the web. At this time, there are no mobile apps. It is an all-in-one sales and marketing automation solution.
When’s the Right Time to Implement a CRM?
Waiting too long to find and implement a CRM solution means you’ll waste time and lose productivity. Each day you’re not using one is another day where you risk not properly serving a customer, or spending hours tracking down critical information for someone on your team. It’s best to implement a CRM before you start to experience a lot of growing pains. This way, you have workflows in place for collaboration and communication so you can more effectively scale your growth.
Does your company use CRM? Why or why not? If so, how well does your company leverage it? How has it helped you? Share your thoughts in the comments.