Experienced business leaders know that two pillars of a successful business are finding and retaining customers, and growing the business sustainably. The two go hand in hand. No matter what size your business is, you can’t afford to ignore the importance of having a customer relationship strategy. Have you ever lost important customer contact information? Have you missed a well-timed opportunity to connect with a customer? Or, have you ever found your Operations team scrambling to deliver a great client experience because they didn’t know Sales was closing a big win? If any of those ring a bell, here are seven simple reasons you might consider implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
What Is Customer Relationship Management or CRM?
At its most basic, a CRM is a collection of centralized information that helps you manage important data about your customer base, encourages a systematic method to building a long-term relationship with your customer, and might also begin to offer some opportunity to analyze patterns or trends within the information. It could be as simple as a contact information database, a spreadsheet with your customer contacts, or a sophisticated, tailor-made software system. Regardless of the platform you put in place, if you approach it effectively, a Customer Relationship Management system becomes a central source of truth to help create a consistent customer experience, boost sales, improve profit margins, inform proactive business decisions, and reduce your marketing expenses over time.
In the past, software platforms that help run a business were extremely complex and required lots of time, money and development expertise to design and customize. The cost and complexity put most software packages out of reach for the vast majority of small and medium-sized companies. Over the last two decades, the reach of the Internet, the utility of shared data center computing infrastructure (commonly called ‘the cloud’), smart phones, and the rise of Software as a Service (SaaS) business models, have created a tremendous wave of opportunity for smaller companies to focus on business performance like never before. What was once reserved for the large enterprise, is now readily available to the smallest of startups right in the palm of the entrepreneur’s hand. That means the greater obstacle now is simply the business owner’s mindset about whether cloud-based CRM systems are an important use of focused energy.
When we are asked about which technology might be right for a business, we encourage our clients to start by identifying the business issues that exist, the evidence the supports prioritizing and fixing them, and the potential impact of making a change – both positive and negative. The better you are at focusing on the real needs in the business, the easier it is to make effective changes with systems and processes. We also believe that checking all of it against the shared set of core beliefs and behaviors you’d like to facilitate (often described as ‘codifying your culture’) will help you stay on track with the very thing that creates a strong brand.
Does Your Business Need CRM?
The more opportunities that you provide potential customers to conduct business with your company the more successful your company will be. One of the best ways to facilitate more exposure is to open multiple contact channels in addition to traditional in-store or in-person field sales activities. You might consider adding web chat and social messaging, online inquiry forms, e-commerce, affiliate referrals, reseller agents, franchises, or other avenues for engagement. However, the more channels you open, the more important it is to set goals, stay on top of and manage the interaction you have with your customer base. A centralized platform can help you do that.
A CRM can also help your business gain insights into your customer’s behaviors and preference. Recognizing emerging patterns might encourage you to proactively modify your business operations to ensure your customers are being served with an intentional and consistent experience. In short, recognizing emerging trends and designing a delightful customer experience might be great reasons to implement a CRM. Whether you are a small, medium or large business, customer relationship management systems can help you track the details that are key to growing your business. Here are the top 7 reasons why your business might need to adopt a CRM:
1. Know Your Customers
A centralized system of customer records and reports can help you recognize your customer’s buying habits, preferences and opinions. By having access to their sales history you can identify buying trends and the best time to contact them with offers and incentives. With up-to-date contact information you’ll know when a customer has lapsed. Likewise, you may be able to reach out proactively to win them back. An effective CRM will allow you to analyze your customer base and identify your most valuable customers, then form strategies to keep growing those key relationships.
2. Connect the Dots with Accurate Information
A dedicated CRM system allows you to connect your sales and marketing data to other related records like lead sources, accounts, product inventory and stock on hand. You’ll know more about your customer’s recent interactions with your company – from order history and delivery experiences, to whether they consistently pay on time.
3. Measure Sales Activity & Forecasting
Are you worried about tracking every dollar of revenue? Stressed about lack of forecast visibility, unmerited sales discounts or miscalculated costs? Keeping track of your sales activities, current opportunity pipeline and booked revenue is another reason your company might need a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. Historical reporting and future-minded forecasting might also provide context to your bookkeeping and accounting strategy for your emerging growth business, including relevant cash-flow and resource planning.
4. Improve Your Marketing Strategy
A CRM system lets you target your sales efforts more efficiently and precisely. With a strategic approach, you can improve your sales conversion rate and increase the revenue-per-customer ratio. You’ll be able to analyze the success of different marketing initiatives, including that recent website redesign project, and adjust your efforts accordingly. By measuring and refining those initiatives, you can evaluate the way you operate for opportunities to improve your customer experience, marketing and communications efforts, and overall brand impression.
5. Elevate Your Customer Experience
Great customer service is the backbone of any successful company. Have you been struggling with customer retention? Your approach to customer service might be a serious issue. It could be a good time to get focused on asking questions, observing your team in action, and re-imagining an intentional customer experience with touch points that create surprise and delight. This could be another good reason your company would benefit from a CRM. You might need to help your employees respond to your customers’ questions quickly and effectively with a Customer Relationship Management platform’s capabilities. You might send surveys to solicit feedback and track complaints in order to determine where your company is or isn’t performing well, look for insight into customer purchase trends, or create automated notifications and workflows to help ensure that employees don’t drop the ball on future sales and service opportunities. Your customer’s experience will either happen by design or by default, it’s up to you.
6. Find New Customers
The data you have about your existing customers can serve as a road map to helping you identify and attract potential customers matching your existing client profiles. Creating ideal client personas and audience groups will enable you to target your marketing efforts and increase your top line revenue numbers. Tracking inquiries and nurturing them with useful information can also help you groom those interested parties into an active pipeline of leads and new prospects. A systematic approach to engaging with inquiries can open a relationship you can nurture into a loyal client over time.
7. Increase Efficiency and Reduce Cost
Successful businesses are efficient. You can reduce sales and marketing costs by improving your targeting and reducing wasted time, money and resources. Customer Relationship Management systems can also allow you to reduce duplicate data entry and streamline your communication processes, both internally and externally, which can save you time and money. Empowering your people to do more work in less time with software that provides accurate information not only makes immediate financial sense, it also keeps your team from repeated frustration and wasted energy. In the long term, productive employees are happy employees. Happy employees are less likely to leave your company, and that can save you a ton of time and money related to recruiting and training a new-hire.