Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a must-have for modern businesses of any size. It’s a powerful tool that helps you generate and close new leads while navigating the complexities of growing a business for customers in the digital age.
It’s not enough to have a CRM or that you treat it as a quiet customer database. It’s a living digital warehouse that holds the keys to better sales, marketing, and customer service. You need to learn best practices and have a solid strategy in place to reap the benefits and make your CRM solution work for you.
In short, if having a CRM seems unnecessary or feels like something you have to “keep up with” and a drain on your limited time, then you’re either using the wrong tool, not sure how to use it correctly, or both.
What is Customer Relationship Management Software?
Customer relationship management software, more commonly known as a CRM, is a digital tool that keeps track of all your business contacts and conversations.
It helps you analyze and manage data at scale — giving you a big picture of all your interactions with leads and customers. It gives you access to a wealth of information and valuable insights that you can leverage to improve customer experience, retention, and satisfaction and ultimately drive sales growth.
When running a business, CRMs should empower you to work smarter, not harder. They should also make your life easier, saving you time while still expanding your book of business.
Why are CRMs Critical for Business Success?
Used wisely, a good CRM software empowers you to better understand who your customers are and what they need — so you can build stronger and long-lasting business relationships.
A CRM system can make or break your sales. That’s because analytics are everything — and today’s customers are demanding more seamless, personalized interactions. From simplifying client management to automating tasks, lead nurturing, monitoring trends and buying habits, a CRM lets you deliver a first-class customer experience that gives your business a competitive edge.
How are Small Business CRM Needs Different from Other Businesses?
Simplicity and ease of use — these are the key features that set small business CRMs apart from those built for enterprises.
Small business owners wear many hats and have to stay on top of a myriad of roles and tasks. As the owner-operator, you’re busy and can’t spend a lot of time and resources dealing with overly-complicated software. That’s why you should seek a simpler solution with a reasonable amount of features and add-ons.
Plus, small business CRMs are easier to install and are always ready to use. The system works “out of the box,” so to speak, and does not require developer assistance or lengthy onboarding.
CRMs Built for Enterprises
Enterprise CRMs — like Salesforce, Zoho, Oracle, Hubspot, etc. — are designed for larger companies with huge sales departments.
They offer a more comprehensive and robust customer relationship management solution with a lot of features and add-ons for many data points and sales pipelines. This type of CRM can be difficult to set up, but it comes with advanced reporting, forecasting, collaboration, and analytics capabilities.
- Capable of managing 10,000s to millions of marketing contacts, partners, affiliates, customers, and more
- Cloud hosting
- Hundreds of software integrations
- Hundreds of marketing, sales, and customer service automations
- Ideal for nationwide brands, international companies, and SaaS provider
- Steep learning curve
- Usually requires an expert to build functions, automation, views, reports, etc.
Digital Solutions for Small Business Owners
For small business owners, a good CRM is a user-friendly database that simplifies business functions. It must be accessible anytime, anywhere, and have all the essential features to automate everyday tasks. Plus, this CRM has little to no setup process and can be up and running as soon as it’s installed.
- Easier to use
- Better for on-the-go
- Supports a suite of light features, including review requests, online booking, one-click payments, messaging, and more
- Small learning curve (easy to figure out on your own)
- Ideal for owner-operators, local businesses, franchise owners, home service providers, and regional brands
- Not built for enterprise-level customizations
- Doesn’t offer enterprise-level reporting.
How to Know If You Have the Right CRM Solution for Your Business
An optimal CRM solution can have a profound impact on your customer conversions. With so many options to choose from, how do you find the right CRM software that meets your business needs and expectations? Here are some of the things you need to consider to invest in the right CRM system that will help your business succeed.
Tracking Your Customer’s Journey from First Touch to Final Sale
The right CRM solution will be useful to you at every stage and all touch points of the customer’s buying journey. It offers a complete picture of your sales process — so you can see where your leads or customers are in your sales funnel at a glance.
This tool’s reporting features will help you understand how well your business is performing in terms of engaging leads and customers. You’ll have access to accurate and updated data — from the initial contact to client history, marketing messages, purchases, and all interactions — right at your fingertips. This way, you can enhance business practices and provide personalized experiences that your customers expect.
Reducing the Amount of Manual Work You Do to Manage Your Business
“More than half of today’s employees believe they can save at least two hours per day through automation.” - Small Business Association
A good CRM software automates and streamlines tasks and workflows — allowing you to improve your productivity while reducing overhead costs and increasing profit margins.
“About 30% of employees say automation software saves their business money. And 44% disclose automation saves them time. Almost a third (33%) of workers admit that automation software enables them to accomplish more with fewer resources.” - Small Business Trends
The CRM system removes bottlenecks by automating necessary but repetitive, manual tasks — saving hours of work and reducing the number of human errors. That means you and your team won’t have to spend hours on data entry and verification. Instead, you can focus on core tasks that will make the business more profitable.
5 Tips for Keeping Your Small Business CRM Clean
1. Take the Time to Understand Your CRM and What It Can Do.
Your CRM is useless if your data is outdated or riddled with errors and inconsistencies. That’s why you must keep your database clean and updated. Otherwise, you will lose money from each bad record.
One of the best ways to ensure data integrity for your CRM is knowing how your CRM works from the inside out. Make it a habit to analyze the quality of your contact information and understand all the nitty gritty details about the leads you have, when they were created, where they’re coming from, etc. Regularly reviewing your data will improve your database.
The more comfortable you get with your customer information, you’ll be able to set up rules and automations that make these updates for you without you having to do them yourself. That ensures that you only have to do in-depth data cleaning once and then monitor the CRM features keeping your information clean in real-time.
2. Customize Your Tags, Groups, and Properties to Align With Your Sales Process.
Creating tags, groups, and properties in your CRM helps you streamline your sales process. For one, it allows you to segment your contacts. It also improves your data accuracy because all information is properly labeled and organized in your CRM system.
You’ll also be able to filter information about your leads and customers and obtain insightful statistics that you can use to boost your marketing efforts. By classifying your leads and adding contextual details on each record, you can define your sales strategy and create more personalized and segmented campaigns to sell your products and services.
3. Use Automation to Keep Contacts Updated Throughout the Customer Journey.
Check your CRM’s automation capabilities and consider setting up automated reminders to make sure that data is constantly organized and updated.
A good CRM will update field values as new details come in, enriching your contact data over time as your customer’s information changes. This tool can also check for any inactive accounts.
You can use the insights to craft a strategy for winning back customers, turning your best customers into brand advocates, retaining more customers, and identifying what your ideal customer looks like.
4. Train Your Staff.
Investing time into training your staff to keep CRM data clean and consistent pays off in the long run. Get the right people on board and give them the support they need to use the CRM easily.
Encourage your staff to be proactive about maintaining your contacts, groups, and tags. Make them understand how optimized data sets will help your business reach its conversion targets. Some small business owners even attach bonuses to improved performance numbers reported within the CRM.
Your staff will value your CRM software if they know its functionality and understand how the tool fits within their day-to-day business processes. Determine best practices and lead training for better results.
5. Set Aside Time 2-4 Times a Year to Clean Your CRM Data.
Establishing a fixed and regular schedule for data cleaning in the CRM is key to keeping your data accurate moving forward. Assign a point person who will stay on top of checking your CRM data for accuracy. Try to clean up bad records or check for missing data every month. If this is not possible, it’s best to check on the quality of your data at least two to four times every year.
5 Ways to Leverage Your CRM for Max ROI
1. Consolidate Your Messenger Tools Into One Dashboard.
An amplified and consistent experience across all of your customer's preferred channels will help you communicate better. And when you communicate better, you are more likely to capture and convert leads. That’s why it’s crucial to have a CRM that can support a communications strategy with cross-channel customer interactions.
Source: GoSite Messenger
Integrating your CRM with your messenger tools provides you with a single powerful platform to communicate with your leads and customers. This enables you to respond to conversations, send one-to-one private messages or bulk messages to your contacts, and send customized appointment reminders, discount offers, marketing information, and more — all from one dashboard.
2. Use CRM Information for Smarter Upselling.
Many studies have shown that it’s cheaper to retain customers than to generate new ones. The right CRM will help you determine upselling opportunities that will keep your recurring customers coming back for more.
Your CRM is a primary source of accurate and useful information that allows you to better understand your customers and their purchasing behavior. It gives you a deeper look into your customers’ buyer personas — their challenges, pain points, goals, and needs.
The tool also lets you get a bigger picture of your customers’ preferred products and services and sales communication channels. By following your customer’s journey, you can easily figure out the right time to upsell for higher customer value.
3. Identify Your Best Customers and Turn Them Into Referral Sources or Ambassadors.
You can look through your CRM data to identify which of your customers are profitable and which are not. Your most profitable customers may include those who have paid the most and those who have been with you the longest.
Source: Sprout Social and Marketing Charts
From there, you can use the information to take your relationship with your best customers to the next level. Leverage opportunities to engage your best customers and ask them for referrals. Better yet, you can encourage them to act as ambassadors for your brand and enjoy exciting perks.
4. Set Up Automatic Review Requests for Happy Customers.
Nearly 90% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. The right CRM lets you maximize the power of digital word of mouth to drive awareness and engagement for your business.
Many CRMs let you send automated review requests to your customers. With more positive ratings and feedback, your business will rank higher in search results and stand out online.
5. Identify Groups of Customers and Personalize Your Marketing to Each Group.
“According to a study from Campaign Monitor, 74% of marketers say personalization increased customer engagement, and they see an average increase of 20% in sales from using personalized experiences.” - NSACom.com
A top-notch CRM is a data goldmine that you can use to inform your long-term marketing and customer service strategy. The advanced insights on your customer interactions can help you understand their profiles, styles, preferences, buying habits, and needs.
You can even segment your contact list to create better marketing campaigns. This enables you to send personalized offers, ads, content, and promos that interest and satisfy your customers.
Optimizing your CRM system — and improving the quality of your CRM data — is a surefire way to capture leads and customers. These best practices will help you effectively manage your CRM so you can build better customer relationships and grow your business.