Using a spreadsheet or index cards to manage your clients may make sense when you’re first starting out: there aren’t that many to keep track of, and the clients you do have don’t have a long history with your business.
However, as time goes on, your client list grows, your track record with existing clients becomes longer and more complex, and you need a better way to manage these relationships.
That’s where a client relationship management (CRM) tool comes in. CRMs are not just for big multinationals. There are tremendous benefits to the technology even for small local businesses. The tool is designed to make it easier for both your sales and marketing teams to work effectively and drive even more conversions. Read on, and I’ll take you through all the benefits of incorporating a CRM tool into your workflow.
A lot of small business owners are happy to manage their client information in a spreadsheet or word document. At the same time, business owners hope to see their companies succeed and grow. When you’re creating your own haphazard method for tracking your customers, you’re practically ensuring an information bottleneck as your business continues to expand.
CRM tools are designed to grow with your business. When you acquire new prospects, upsell existing customers, add new products and services, or begin a new outreach campaign, these tools are designed to meet you where you are and then keep pace as you broaden your horizons.
A spreadsheet doesn’t have the same flexibility; you’ll soon find yourself struggling to add new columns and tabs, and information will get lost in the shuffle. A spreadsheet also doesn’t integrate with your other marketing and sales tools or provide reports and analytics in the same way that a CRM tool can.
Customers today are won and lost based on the experience they have interacting with your business. There is a lot of competition out there, and with the digital landscape being what it is, it’s likely that your customer can find another business that does what you do. So it’s a highly personalized customer experience, with strong attention to detail, that will allow you to stand out from the pack and turn your prospects into return customers.
CRM tools allow you to track all interactions with a customer across platforms. When did they last make a purchase with you, and what was it? Did they submit a review of the product or service they bought? Did they reach out via phone, email, or online chat with a question about their recent purchase? Are they on the mailing list for your newsletter?
There are so many ways in which you interact with customers, and it’s near impossible for a human to track all of these touchpoints effectively and accurately. Having this information all in one place allows all members of your team to better serve customers.
Marketers can send targeted messaging to users who have expressed an interest in a particular good or service your provide. Salespeople can be more proactive about reaching out to customers that they haven’t heard from in a while, and can make a thoughtful reference to something they discussed in their last conversation when they reach out to reestablish contact. Your customer service team can see a history of issues a user has had with a given product and can meet them where they are, rather than making the customer rehash their issue each time they contact you with a question.
Knowing what your customer has done in the past allows you to be thoughtful about your interactions in the future. Adding a personal touch to your interactions is what distinguishes your brand. You increase trust—a key part of the customer relationship—when you show that you not only know what you’re doing, but that you care about the customer and their individual needs.
As I mentioned briefly above, one of the major benefits to marketers using a CRM tool is the ability to undertake customer segmentation based on past behavior.
Customer segmentation is what gives your marketing efforts that personalized touch. CRM tools allow you to group prospects and clients based on a variety of different attributes: where the lead came from, how they’ve engaged with you in the past, what they’ve purchased from you, or demographics like age or location.
You can then easily send relevant messages to those who meet certain criteria in a given group. All leads that came from attending an event you hosted last month can receive an invitation to your next event, complete with an early bird registration discount. All customers who purchased a given service in the past year can be sent a free copy of your latest white paper on a related topic. All of your customers in the Northwest can be notified when you’re speaking at a conference in Seattle.
Now, sending a message about your Seattle conference appearance to your clients in Pennsylvania might lead them to unsubscribe, since you’re clogging up their inbox with irrelevant messaging. But if that same client receives a personalized note from you, following up on their recent purchase and providing them with a training video about how to better use the item that they bought they’ll likely have a very different reaction. Email segmentation allows you to not only build trust, but also make sure that the right offers are getting in front of the right people, thereby increasing the likelihood of a conversion.
CRMs don’t just allow you to track the behaviors of existing customers, you can use them to manage your prospects, too. When you can see where all of your prospects are in the customer journey, you can better understand what changes you need to make to your approach to win over more new business.
CRM tools can allow you to see bottlenecks in your sales pipeline. Is there one particular area where conversions just don’t seem to be happening? Once you can see that issue, you can begin to address it. Maybe lots of prospects are eager to sign up for a free trial of your service, but then they’re not converting. That means you should focus on what’s happening with their free trial experience—are they underwhelmed with their experience, or are you not providing adequate follow-up after the trial in order to get them to commit to the paid version?
These tools will also allow you to parse your data based on factors like deal size, expected close date, and last point of contact so that you can direct your sales team to go after the most promising leads or those with the most pressing deadlines attached.
Finally, you can keep better track of the deals that you’ve lost. When you understand when and where you lost out on business, you can then begin to gather the information around the why. Did you drop the ball and wait too long to provide them with information? Did they find a similar product or service at a much lower price? This is the kind of information that allows you to improve your approach with future prospects and ensure your success next time around.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the many benefits to adding a CRM tool to your business. But now the question becomes, with the myriad of options, which one is best for you? The systems run the gamut in terms of capabilities, so the real key to finding the right one is selecting the tool that best aligns with your goals and needs.
Just because your friend uses and loves a given CRM for their business doesn’t mean it will serve you just as well. Find the CRM that allows you to collect the data that you most want to track and provides the marketing automation features that are most important to you. You’ll also want to consider your team’s level of tech-savvy and workload and select a CRM that lines up with their abilities and bandwidth.
A tool like Hubspot’s CRM is free to use and is very comprehensive. The downside here is that the tool is complex. There will be a learning curve when you implement any new tech, but some CRMs are more involved than others. No matter what program you settle on, you’ll want to be sure that you’re providing your team with the appropriate training and support to make sure that you get the most out of your new system.
A nice middle ground for small business owners is ActiveCampaign‘s CRM. The system allows for marketing automation alongside more traditional sales and CRM features. The platform is fairly intuitive and they offer a variety of pricing options based on your needs and budget.
Today’s business owners are able to collect a lot of information about their customers and prospects, and it comes from a lot of different sources. As a business continues to grow, it’s nearly impossible for a person to accurately track, manage, and analyze all of this data on their own. And when you’re not able to see it all in one place, you’re missing out on valuable conversion opportunities. Turning to a CRM tool to help you manage the information, streamline the way you interact with customers and prospects, and get specific about the way that you approach each individual can empower you to take your business to the next level.
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