No business can survive with a dissatisfied customer base. To keep customers, it is now more important than ever for small businesses to have an effective customer relationship management (CRM) strategy and software which corresponds with the business’s goals. Thankfully, this is now easier than ever. CRM software has blossomed over the past few years. While CRM was once the exclusive domain of large businesses, small businesses can now get CRM software like Salesforce or Insightly for a fair price and use it to keep better track of their customers and how they can keep those customers engaged. However, no software can substitute for the human mind. There are too many businesses who think that their CRM strategy can just be left to whatever software they purchased. Every business needs to have a proper CRM strategy — of which the software is just one of many parts. Emphasizing personal communication over technology and placing power in the hands of subordinates are just a few key things which can be done to ensure that a CRM strategy keeps customers happy and a business prosperous
The benefits of a CRM strategy
The first thing that has to be done is to show why a CRM strategy is so important for small businesses. That can be explained by asking one simple question: what is any business’s most valuable asset? The answer is their customers — not property or technology or employees. All of those things are means to an end of getting more happy customers who will come back and spend money. Businesses which can get repeat customers will be better off than those which do not. A study shows that “in a recent 12-month period, businesses with a 40% level of repeat customers generated 47% more revenue than similar businesses with only a 10% level of repeat customers.” And because repeat customers are so important, businesses need to track their desires and purchases so that they can better accommodate them. While this can be done with Google Docs and spreadsheets, such an approach is inefficient and does not provided all the data needed to perform optimally. One of the key points of any CRM software is that it provides an avenue for workers to both understand the company’s approach towards repeat customers and also empowers them to provide information and thoughts which can contribute to that goal. Take a very simple tool which can turn an angry customer into a loyal one: the discount. Any business must be somewhat concerned about employees being too liberal with discounts to attract customers, but they should be a valuable tool which employees can use without contacting management. A CRM system which works both ways can ensure that an employee can hand out discounts to attract customers, while ensuring that management can make sure the discounts are not excessive.
The best CRM software
So what are some CRM programs which can help your company? There’s a wide variety of software out there, ranging from BoomTown! for a real estate businesses to bpm‘online. My personal favorite CRM software is Zoho.
While Zoho has a premium version, its free version comes with many features that are part of any CRM software. It can gather leads, conduct sales analytics, connect to social media, and store critical information which can help a business make sales. Zoho can be used both with a mobile phone and on the computer, ensuring that all employees are constantly connected to Zoho and communicating with one another. None of this is to suggest that Zoho is without its flaws. It’s ideally designed for a very small company with no more than ten employees. It also lacks customization, which may be a problem for a more tech-savvy business. But for a small business which wants to dip their toes into the water of CRM software before plunging right in, Zoho is the best choice to get in, test the capabilities of CRM software, and see how it can improve communications between management, employees, and workers alike.
BoomTown! is one of the few CRM tools out there aimed specifically at real estate brokers, though it has wider applications for other sectors. At its heart, it provides a sales automation and marketing solution that allows brokers to select and customize a lead generation website, monitor sales and team success, nurture and track leads, and much more. But it doesn’t come cheap. The software costs between $1325 and $1500 a month, and what’s more, BoomTown! continues to own the marketing site it is renting to you. That means that if you decide to cancel with them, you will lose it all. This includes any blog posts or community spaces you’ve set up or any content you’ve created. This last point might be a reason some users will stay away from using BoomTown!.
For a cheaper alternative, bpm’online offers a comprehensive CRM solution that has won many awards in recent years, including making it to ZDNet’s 2014 CRM watch list. It describes itself as a process-driven solution that allows you to coordinate your marketing, support service, and sales using its online platform. More importantly, it is aimed at both SME’s and large businesses, allowing to scale your CRM operations with ease. One of the drawbacks, however, is that the community of users for this software is still small, which means finding support is difficult and documentation is lacking. It is also not easy to connect to external services to add functionality to your CRM solution.
The importance of having a strategy
While these softwares can be incredibly useful, they are only tools, and a poor workman always blames his tools. More than any software, business owners have to lay out a strategy to keep their customers engaged. This strategy requires strong links between both workers and management, so that the workers can let management know the best strategies for satisfying their consumer base and management can make sure all the workers are on the same page for those strategies. In a sense, a sound CRM strategy is microcosm of the business itself. If a business has no real plan to attract customers, or a disjointed plan, it is doomed to fail. Only with constant effort and communication can a CRM strategy be formed — software or no software.
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