Customer relationship management: 7 signs your business is ready

customer relationship managementGuest blog by Joe Manna
Senior Content Strategist at Infusionsoft

There are few words that sound like nails on the chalkboard to a small business owner such as “CRM" (customer relationship management).

At its core, a CRM tool is a database that contains customer and prospect (lead-generation) information. CRMs can range from basic contact managers, all the way up to a sophisticated tool for operating a business.

Yesterday’s CRMs were often installed and hosted “on-site,” and today’s CRM solutions are often hosted through a third-party. Salespeople are often the primary beneficiaries of a CRM, in addition to people who function in a marketing role for a company.

Though the name might be boring, I want to share several reasons why more entrepreneurs are using a CRM tool within their businesses to get organised and thrive.

1. CRM is for “closers.” Salespeople love to stay in touch with their leads. As technology has evolved and infiltrated nearly every industry, salespeople use a CRM tool to leave notes and help progress leads into customers.

No longer do leads have to be handed out by sales managers. When a person demonstrates an interest in a product, they can be automatically qualified and distributed to salespeople for follow-up.

The purpose of doing this is to only send warm leads to your salespeople — they want to close more – and CRM is one of the tools they need to sell more effectively.

2. CRM results in smarter marketing. Many small businesses tend to have a lot of information about customers, but they fail to do anything with it.

With a functional, data-filled CRM tool, the possibilities are endless for marketing segmentation and campaign management. Small business owners I know tend to care a lot about how their images are perceived to their prospects and customers, so having one database that holds their marketing, e-commerce and other customer events enables them to terminate one campaign and begin another flawlessly.

3. CRM helps you stay organised. Small businesses that start out scrappy are actually a good thing. It keeps them unrestricted and helps them discover what they need to operate successfully.

But once they get going, their own success robs them of valuable resources when they have their operations spread out across their merchant account, PayPal, Excel, Word documents, Outlook and printed invoices.

This is perfectly fine, but there comes a time when business owners realize they can get a lot more work done efficiently and effectively simply by consolidating their data into a CRM.

4. CRM helps you measure results and pivot. Small businesses often put analysis of their sales and marketing efforts low on their priority lists.

When customer and lead flows become thinner, there’s an inherent need to measure your past performance and make adjustments so you can continue to attract and retain the right customers.

Many CRM solutions offer deep reporting capabilities so you can do revenue, sales and marketing forecasting. Likewise, they offer informative dashboards, so at a glance, you can see how the business is performing.

5. CRM can help you consolidate multiple systems into one. The most common reason why people choose CRM software from my company, Infusionsoft, is to consolidate multiple systems. In addition to being organised and the other benefits I’ve mentioned, it helps them save some cash — really.

Many merchant accounts assess costly fees if your data provider is not PCI-DSS-compliant. If you add up the recurring costs for several systems (e-mail, e-commerce, content management systems, etc.), many can be consolidated into the monthly price of a CRM.

6. CRM helps you protect your customer data. Hacking, data compromises and even extortion is on the rise among the most vulnerable subjects, small business owners.

A recent study from Verizon Business indicates that social engineering (pretexting) for credit card data is the most frequent threat seen by small business owners. CRMs help you mitigate these threats by putting the responsibility on the service provider, helping you contain security compromises through a myriad of account permissions, and helping you track who has access to certain types of sensitive data.

As opposed to an “on-site” CRM, hosted CRM solutions have more security certifications and regulatory compliances to meet. Besides, who wouldn’t want to protect customer data and know that it’s safer than Fort Knox?

7. CRM is mobile wherever you are. Today’s CRM solutions can be accessed in a variety of web browsers and are perfectly functional for remote employees.

Small business owners who use a hosted CRM solution don’t need fancy VPNs or special Internet connectivity in order to function. Whether you’re meeting with a client, taking a break in an airport or even taking a well-deserved vacation, you can still see how business is running with a CRM.

Not all CRMs are created equal. When considering a small business CRM solution, you will want to inquire about if it can be capable of performing marketing automation, lead generation, e-commerce, billing/invoicing and e-mail marketing.

Be ready to play three-card monte when the monthly fee changes, and you need multiple third-party services to accomplish your goals.

I have the gift of knowing quite a bit about Infusionsoft, and it provides simple and straightforward billing designed for businesses with fewer than 25 employees. It’s not for everyone, but it would be a good solution if your business is growing rapidly, and you find it hard to keep up. Learn more, and sign up for a demo, at www.infusionsoft.com.

Joe Manna is the Senior Content Strategist at Infusionsoft. He oversees the company’s blog, blogger relations and web analytics. His previous experience includes managing communities and blogging on behalf of AOL. He’s highly experienced in e-mail marketing, social media and small business marketing. When he’s not blogging, you can find him on Twitter as @JoeManna.

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