August 26, 2011
You’re already practicing the discipline of customer relationship management (CRM) if you run a medium-sized or small business. You build and cultivate customer relationships face-to-face every day. But you won’t be small forever, and as your small business grows, you’ll gather a lot of customer data. And at some point, you’ll require a technology solution to manage it.
Post-it notes and Excel spreadsheets can only take you so far. When you need to share customer data across departmental boundaries and integrate it with other business systems, the time is right for a CRM solution.
With CRM supporting your business, you can:
1. Grow Without Losing Customer Intimacy
You don’t want to lose that one-on-one feeling with customers as your business grows. You want to treat all your customers well–old and new. And you want to know who your best customers are and manage them accordingly.
CRM allows you to identify your customers’ most important traits, match them to a history of interactions with your business, and use that information to craft a personalized approach to loyalty, marketing, and sales over the entire customer lifecycle.
2. Scale Your Workforce More Slowly Than Your Customer Base
As you acquire more customers, it becomes harder to keep track of all the important details that impact your ability to build effective relationships. And that’s especially true for infrequent customers.
But CRM can automate many of the basic tasks of customer data management. So, rather than adding people to your business to maintain face time with customers, you can move some of that customer interaction to online channels.
Plus, CRM can make the employees you have more effective by providing them with rapid access to customer information.
They can start every customer conversation armed with a complete history of that customer’s experience.
3. Market To Customers With The Same Effectiveness As A Large Company
You can’t afford to hire dozens of people to staff marketing–but you don’t need to. CRM allows medium-sized and small businesses to run effective marketing campaigns and precisely analyze their results by automating many activities and organizing the data needed for others. With CRM technology, your small business can market to customers with the same level of sophistication and effectiveness as a large company.
4. Keep Your Business Information From Becoming Siloed
Many companies that adopt CRM at a later stage in their development realize that point solutions adopted to solve specific problems have created information silos: separate collections of data that can’t work together. Moreover, integrating these information silos can be difficult and expensive.
But when your business adopts CRM early on, you can avoid this. By using one system to handle all of your customer data, it becomes much easier to integrate this information with manufacturing, financial, and other back-office systems. And, the same set of data will be accessible across your entire business, making everyone more productive.
Finding The Right CRM Solution For You
To choose the right CRM solution for your business, you need to know two things: your business needs and how those needs map to what the CRM market has to offer. Don’t take shortcuts with this process. If you need help, work with an outside consultant, integrator or reseller. These professionals have had experience with CRM implementations and they can help you select the right CRM product for your needs and your budget, deploy your system, and train the people in your business who use it. Though not inexpensive, these services can help you avoid selecting the wrong CRM product, which in the long run will be more expensive and counter productive for your business.
Chris Bucholtz is a recognized influencer in customer relationship management. He’s Editor in Chief of CRM Outsiders, and a founding editor of both Forecasting Clouds and InsideCRM. To find out more about how to build your business and empower your employees with CRM Software Solutions please visit http://www.sugarcrm.com