The value of a CRM system for small businesses - what is it and what can it be used for? The value of a CRM system for small businesses

Here, Simon Joyce, director of Anchor Vans, explains how small businesses can get real value from a CRM system.

 The value of a CRM system for small businesses

A term first coined in the 1990s, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) simply and unsurprisingly refers to the methods a company uses to manage its relationship with its customers.

More commonly today, the term CRM generally applies to the IT systems used within businesses to keep track of customer information.

The CRM system market is extensive, from straightforward databases perfect for small businesses, right up to fully integrated tailored solutions for large corporates. Housed on-site, or now more popular cloud-based subscription services, CRMs range in price from the low cost (or sometimes even free) basic options to comprehensive services reaching far into the £100,000s.

As a small business you might not rate the idea of spending the time, or the money, to introduce a CRM into your working practices, however I’ve no doubt you already keep track of your customer contacts, at the least on your phone or perhaps in an Excel spreadsheet. This would be your CRM at the very base level.

From storing customer data to up-selling and marketing, ultimately a CRM can dramatically improve your competitive edge and productivity. If you are sitting on the fence about whether to step up your CRM game, here are some very good reasons why you should leap off and enlist the help of one of these powerful tools.

Increased customer revenue

Customer data is key for increasing revenue. A better understanding of customers opens up the opportunity to up-sell and cross sell and your marketing campaigns can be better targeted.

Using the CRM to flag regular follow ups with clients is essential for nurturing customer relationships and developing business.

Forecasting and pipeline management

Not only a record of historical transactions, the data in the CRM will help a company work more proactively going forward.

Crucially for any business, a CRM facilitates pipeline management. The pipeline is typically the lifecycle from enquiry to delivery, for some businesses this may be relatively short for others it may be months or even years and here pipeline management is even more useful.

The data in the CRM will allow for a view of the pipeline at any given time, advising where in the sales process each client stands, providing the number and size of all deals currently in the process.

This data can be utilised to forecast revenue, trends, marketing opportunities and pick up on potential weaknesses or plan for possible changes such as future growths or slumps.

Marketing opportunities

Customer data is powerful stuff when it comes to marketing. Take full advantage of the CRM tools available and record everything you can.

By understanding your customer you will be better placed to market products or services of interest, at the right time, to the right people.

Data from previous marketing campaigns can be looked at to monitor the effectiveness of such campaigns.

Efficiency

When utilised correctly a CRM allows access to a wealth of data very quickly. The CRM can help automate everyday tasks and incorporate best practice methods, you may be able to create templates for sales processes and even cut down on unnecessary tasks and paperwork.

Leads can be prioritised so that more time is spent on those that are more likely to become sales. Communication becomes easier and faster as all customer details and order information is immediately at hand.

Team management

The CRM system is an important tool for management to keep track of client data and staff performance. Even in a small business with a small sales department, a CRM system will help the sales manager view the sales processes for each individual sales person: customer calling activity, sales conversion rates etc.

This is useful to ensure all leads are handling in good time and also for staff changes. Client and transaction data will be available to new employees making for a smoother handover. It also reduces the opportunity for staff to leave with a raft of customer data that only they have access to.

Customer happiness

Yes really. Keeping track of customer interactions means they can be managed systematically, without any ‘slipping through the net’. Whether it be enquiry, order or dare I say, complaint, a CRM system will help to ensure each is handled within a specific timeframe.

With a record of every client interaction accessible by all members of staff, it means that any issues or further enquiries can be dealt with swiftly, and by all staff, reducing waiting time or chance of miscommunication.

Furthermore, by retaining client information, you will have a greater understanding of your customers and be able to provide an individual service with a personal touch going forward, thus improving those all-important client retention rates.

It is important to understand that a CRM is not a magic fix-all, it simply stores a reservoir of data all in one place, it is what you do with the data that really counts.

Time must be invested by staff to input data routinely (and accurately) in order for the CRM’s benefits to be realised – ideally in real-time. A good understanding of the CRM and its abilities is critical to ensure that the system is used to its maximum potential.

There are a whole host of cloud based CRM systems available to small businesses, each with their own set of features. When choosing a system for your business it is worth taking the time to research the market to find the right one to suit your company and its demands. There are many unbiased reviews online, which will help give an insight into the CRM capabilities before you dive in.

With a CRM system you can really start putting your clients at the heart of your business.

Simon Joyce is director of Anchor Vans

Further reading on using a CRM system

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