So, who knows what CRM stands for? I’ll let you off the hook… A CRM is a Customer Relationship Manager. A bit of a mouthful and you can see why these are referred to as CRM’s!

A CRM is essentially a glorified database that can be used to track your customers and your potential customers with a whole raft of additional data thrown into the mix.

So why do you need to use one? There are two main reasons:

Customer Service

Well, if you’ve got more than a handful of clients it can start to get difficult to keep track of who is who, what their requirements are, your meetings, notes and more. Businesses are having to become increasingly customer centric in order to thrive. Good customer service is a must and this is where the power of a CRM really comes to the fore. Imagine entering a customer’s name, email address, phone number and more into a CRM. It’s a good start to have this type of information at your fingertips. Now think about how useful it would be to start to record your interactions with this customer – a good CRM allows you to quickly and easily make notes, add details of a phone conversation, see the last email you sent them and monitor ongoing business dealings plus more besides. Information is power and having a great record of this type of information allows you to confidently deal with customer queries going forward making your business look great in the process.

A CRM is especially important when you have more than one member of staff dealing with customers. If one staff member takes a phone call from a customer they’re able to log details of this call – vital if the customer calls back with regards to the same issue and another member of staff takes the call. All they need to do is log into the CRM and quickly search for the customer’s records before being able to see exactly what has been done with regards to their query previously. Again your business comes out looking good!

Generating Sales

A more traditional use of a CRM is to handle potential leads for your business. We’ll be talking about a business sales pipeline in another article but for now let’s focus on using a CRM as a sales tool.

In much the same way that it’s clearly great practice to keep good track of your customer’s details, it equally makes good sense to keep track of future potential customers – your leads and prospects.

My religiously entering details of people who enquire about your services/products and leads that your sales team generates with outbound marketing you are able to track your sales progress. Very few customers will purchase a product or service at the first time of contact – my monitoring your businesses interaction with these customers you’re able to move towards a sale by proactively following up leads. A CRM allows you to do this much more easily than an Excel spreadsheet ever could!

CRM’s Available

The first CRM that will probably pop up on your screen if you search for one is Salesforce. Although this is clearly recognised as the industry standard it is VERY expensive at approx. £45/month per user for a base package with an annual commitment required.

For most small businesses this is too much money especially if you’re just starting out on your CRM journey. Fortunately there are several cheaper alternatives. We’ve tried a lot of them at Site Diesel and our favourite is Zoho CRM (www.zoho.com/crm) – they offer a good quality free version to get you started and paid versions start at $12/month. One of the reasons we like Zoho CRM is that it is feature rich and heavily customisable.

 

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Another CRM which is worth a look is Insightly (www.insightly.com ). This also offer a great free version and may appeal to businesses that want a slightly simpler interface and just the basic CRM functions.

 

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Whatever you end up using the key to getting the most out of a CRM is to USE IT! Most businesses that start with a CRM give up – a CRM needs to be used properly before you’ll start to reap the rewards but we think you’ll find it’s well worth the effort!