How often have you returned from a networking event with lots of new contacts, but have done nothing with them? Or consider how often you or your team come up with great ideas to engage your customers and increase your pipeline of opportunities, but can’t quite get to the point of turning that idea into action. You may need to consider a CRM system.
‘Growing the business while keeping the lights on’, ‘Increasing productivity’, ‘Balancing innovation and execution’, ‘Running effective campaigns’, ‘Creating personalised customer experiences’.
These are just some of the challenges small businesses bring to me on a daily basis. They’re challenges that are not going away either. One thing is clear though: maintaining personal customer connections is a pivotal part of juggling the day-to-day while trying to scale and grow.
And it’s one area in which technology can help make a significant change.
While it’s not new, Customer Relationship Management, CRM system, or CRM, is a tool that many smaller businesses still aren’t taking advantage of. It’s still incredibly common to see even more mature SMEs still relying on Excel or Word documents to manage their communications with their customers and prospects.
Many of the business owners I talk to know that this approach isn’t terribly efficient, but worry that it will be costly and require downtime as they migrate to a cloud-based solution. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because the apps are cloud-based, they really are affordable to businesses of any size, and are so easy to deploy and learn that teams can start reaping the benefits right away.
But it’s not just tracking customer relationships that make CRM so valuable. A good CRM solution can propel your business forward in other ways too, and it can turn into the ‘secret sauce’ to propel your business growth.
Here are three ways you can use a CRM system to help you grow in a sustainable way:
Get real insights that translate into sales
Spreadsheets like Excel are great at capturing large amounts of static data, but they aren’t dynamic like both your customers and your business are. A CRM solution ensures all your customer data is captured and automatically stored in one central place. This means that the data only gets richer over time, and can be quickly and easily analysed – I’m talking a couple of clicks here –to get real-time actionable insights. For example, you can instantly see which marketing and sales tactics are working, and where you might need to course-correct. You can also make changes to your product roadmap to ensure your offering matches exactly what your customers want.
Offer unbeatable customer service
Selling your product is just the first step. It’s providing ongoing, personalised and excellent service that forges deep customer relationships and loyalty. According to recent research from Salesforce, 72 per cent of consumers and 89 per cent of business buyers agree that they expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
In fact one of the biggest reasons customers choose small businesses over bigger rivals is because they’re looking for a personal experience, so it’s vital to get this right. A good CRM system empowers people across an organisation – whether it’s marketing, sales or the service team – with timely, relevant insights that make every customer feel like a VIP.
Make sure you’re building a foundation for the future
If you have growth ambitions, it’s so important to ensure your organisation is being built on a foundation that will allow you to be nimble and easily scale. Adopting a CRM solution, and generally embracing cloud-based solutions, during your early days will give you a huge leg up. First, it ensures you’re able to avoid creating the information silos that are practically inevitable when you’re relying on on-premise technology. You’re able to support a mobile, on-the-go workforce and it can provide the foundation for future innovations like tracking internet-enabled things, too. It means you’re also able to scale much more easily to match increasing customer demands, or to support planned expansion. Many small businesses don’t stay small for long. Ultimately a good CRM system will underpin your growth.
For small business owners and leaders I know that each day can feel like it’s putting out fires and sprinting just to keep up. But implementing the right technology backbone is not something to delay – it’s something to embrace.
Of all the tweaks SMEs can make to drive their business forward, implementing a CRM system is truly one of the smartest investments you can make in term of your customer relationships and your people and one of the best ways to ensure the long-term success of your business.
Sanj Bhayro is senior vice president, EMEA at Salesforce.