Whether you pronounce it “cram” or “crum” – or just use the initials CRM if you’re the literal type – there’s a lot to be gained by getting intimate with Customer Relationship Management strategies and tactics.
At its core, CRM is a technology by which a business manages its relationships across all levels of the customer experience, from fresh prospect to loyal client.
But beyond all the techie-talk about big data, cloud computing and social media leverage, CRM is basically a workhorse – “ a strategic business tool that helps companies streamline their business processes, especially with sales and marketing, and can increase revenue by attracting and retaining customers and shortening the time it takes to close a sales deal,” says PC. “If you're not interested in all of that, you're probably not that serious about your business.”
There’s no one single CRM system to choose; many, including Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, are mature and proven in the marketplace. Depending on your business, your audience and your budget you might invest in a sophisticated soup-to-nuts software system that puts your information into the clouds, or you might combine your software with more traditional hands-on contact and even the old-fashioned phone and Rolodex.
The point is that with any CRM you are staying in touch with what may well be an increasingly mobile and discriminating customer base, and you’re doing it in a way your target understands and appreciates.
CRM’s Big 3 Advantages
A Customer Relationship Management resource can deliver a more streamlined sales process and better collaboration among your staff members, and it can do so through many different applications.
Use CRM to boost efficiency in …
- Segmentation - A CRM database is a valuable B2B tool when it comes to identifying and segmenting your audience. Just as wouldn’t send the same birthday greetings to a stranger as you would to your best friend, neither would you try to “hard sell” a prospect before that person even knows what you offer. Within your database, your staff will be able to identify individuals by their geographic location, title, social media usage, purchase history or other data that helps determine what you say to them and when.
- Project Management - If you’ve ever tried to organize reams of printed email, reports, PowerPoint slides and other documentation into one platform, you likely have done so with a bottle of aspirin nearby. Your CRM provides project management support that lightens the busywork so your staff can concentrate on their core competencies. “You make a project and then add all documents, mails and activities to one project room,” explains SuperOffice. “You can even add project members. And if you book, for example, a weekly project meeting, you can add the project to the booking so that all the people concerned can go into the project and find the latest documentation and be prepared for the meeting.” How convenient is that?
- Lead Generation - “Customers, in general, start out as prospects,” says PC. A CRM system tells you who’s who in the funnel. “For instance, in Salesforce.com, users can enter prospects. As deals close, those prospects become customers via the workflow within Salesforce.” Then, you can better employ the great content from your inbound marketing campaign to tempt your target audience to visit your website’s landing page, where they may convert from visitor to lead, and from lead to customer. Your CRM system is with them every step of the way with automated email and other contact vehicles.
The “Terrible” Potential
In 2013, Forbes posted the must-click title, “11 Terrible CRM Systems for Your Company.” That header turned out to be a bit of a ruse, as the software packages that writer Gene Marks mentioned were all good ones that he actually recommended to his clients.
What was “terrible,” in Marks’ view, was the way even a great CRM system can be mismanaged. “They are terrible when they are not implemented the right way,” he wrote. “They are terrible when companies don’t appreciate that all of these magical applications are nothing but databases and don’t put the right processes in place to ensure that all interactions are entered into this database so that the data can be properly used for further sales, marketing and service interactions.”
Marks’ point: These systems don’t live in a vacuum. You and your team must put in the time to review, update and assess the information your CRM provides in order to gain the best outcomes. If you’re (ahem) “mature” enough to remember the old computer acronym GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out), then you understand why working closely with your CRM is so important.
Got the CRM Bug?
The choice and options among CRM systems can make choosing one a daunting effort. Your best bet is to consult with your inbound marketing partner to determine the level of technology right for your budget and your needs.