What software do you need to use in your business?
Excluding any trade specific applications I’m pretty sure the top three answers would be:
- Accounts and
- MS Office (or equivalent).
But where does Customer Relationship Management (CRM) come in that list? I’m not sure, but I hope to show you in this article that you should put it up alongside the top three.
Have you had CRM nightmares?
If, like me, you’ve had jobs in the past which required you to use a CRM system you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “not in a month of Sundays!”
Maybe you had to use a heavy duty, complex programme or your employer had a custom made system, whichever it is you probably hated using it, found it hard to navigate, unintuative, too complex and a chore to use. (I know I did).
All these ‘old style’ systems were developed with larger businesses in mind and became feature rich, over complex monsters with a monster price tag attached.
However these days there are a new breed of ‘cloud based’ CRM systems developed with the micro business in mind. They give you all the benefits without the frustrations or costs of the old.
Quality data is invaluable
Ok let’s get back to basics with a little exercise.
Think about how many customers, potential customers and business contacts you’ve interacted with this week.
Now think about how many different types of interactions and how many topics were covered.
A lot huh?
Well now think of a year’s worth of data!
To use all this information to it’s fullest extent you need something which will help you collate and interrogate it easily and accurately. In other words a CRM system.
You might ask why would you need to know all this information. The answer simple. It’s because information these days is almost as valuable as cash in the bank. In fact maybe even more so. If you can interrogate data you own in the right way you can gain a real commercial advantage.
But more importantly you can make sure you never lose a sale or lose a customer because you’ve been slow to follow up a sales lead or respond to a complaint.
Quick overview – 5 things a CRM can do for your micro business
- Track sales opportunities and customer complaints.
- Store all your customer records in one place
- Track your customers use of social media.
- Help you keep a record all emails, meetings and phone calls.
- Ensure you never miss a deadline again.
CRM that grows with you
CRM becomes even more important once you move beyond just you being in the business.
Imagine you want to take a week off. How do you communicate all the different issues, possible sales, quote requests, project deadlines etc to your colleagues? Do you spend half a day writing copious notes? Leave your PC screen and desk covered in little post-its? Or worse still, end up fielding calls from work whilst lying by the pool!
In addition, maybe one day you’ll want to sell the business. You’ll make it 100 times harder to do if you hold all the important knowledge about the business in your head. This isn’t just technical knowledge, processes and procedures but also customer relationships.
Micro business friendly CRMs
It’s very important to remember a CRM system is only as good as the information it contains. If it’s hard to use or is a chore to keep up to date, when the business is busy, keeping it updated will fall by the wayside.
Built with the micro business in mind they are easy and intuitive to use whilst being flexible enough to fit around your business. This flexibility offered by having the CRM systems based ‘in the cloud’ extends to being accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. It means your micro business can be run from home, garden shed, shared workspaces, client premises and my personal favourite any pub or wine bar with free wifi!
Finally they can be integrated with other cloud based systems such as Google Apps, Kashflow, Xero and many others which will then seamlessly share information with each other.
Today’s Micro Action
As with the exercise above think about how many customers, potential customers and business contacts you’ve interacted with this week. Then think about how many different types of interactions and how many topics were covered. Jot all these down on a piece of paper and see how many opportunities and customer issues you can remember.