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How To Grow Your Business With An Effective CRM Strategy

How To Grow Your Business With An Effective CRM Strategy

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.

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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.

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.

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BoomTown!

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!.

bpm’online

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.

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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.

Featured photo credit: CWCS Managed Hosting via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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