What is a CRM and What Does it Do?
For as long as there have been businesses, there have been Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, though they might not always have been called that. Basically, anything that facilitates a relationship between a business and its customers – sales, marketing, service, adverting – is a CRM or part of one. But let’s dive into the big questios, why a CRM?
In the old days, CRMs might have been something as simple as an address book or a card file. The arrival of the spreadsheet was a great leap forward, but even today, despite countless improvements, it has its limitations. A spreadsheet package like Excel is handy for standalone functions such as telephone lists, but quickly becomes cumbersome when you try to integrate one function with another. A user faced with dozens of spreadsheets may be baffled as to which one to turn to for a particular piece of data. Worse still, getting one spreadsheet to populate another with data can be a nightmare. These problems are compounded when you have multiple users updating spreadsheets and copies of spreadsheets without any central control.
CRM systems overcome the limitations of spreadsheets by keeping data in a central depository and ensuring it is used and updated in a controlled manner.
BusinessDictionary.com defines a Customer Relationship Management system as:
A computerized system for identifying, targeting, acquiring, and retaining the best mix of customers.
Amongst other things, a good CRM system will help a business do some or all of the following:
- store customer details (names, email addresses, phone numbers etc …)
- help retain existing customers and discover new ones
- provide services and products tailored to individual customers
- offer better customer service
- cross-sell products more effectively
- help sales staff close more deals
- track phone calls,
- log emails sent to and received from prospects
- keep track of prospects’ social media activity
- rotate leads to the most appropriate sales reps
- log interactions between customers and customer support teams.
How Companies Put CRMs to Use
At the heart of every CRM system lies a database containing information on customers and their interactions with the business. This information can be used by the business to tailor products and promotions according to the customers’ wants and needs. It can also offer insights into how to deal with each customer and what their worth to the business is and might be.
A Customer Relation Management System is not a Marketing Automation System
CRM is often confused with Marketing Automation. This is hardly surprising as the two systems have much in common and create a dynamic synergy when used in conjunction with each other.
Many CRM systems come with a so-called marketing module, however the functionality usually consists of little more than a bulk emailing tool. Marketing Automation software does a whole lot more. It enables businesses to market more effectively through online channels such as email, social media, blogs and websites and to automate repetitive tasks.
CRM systems and Marketing Automation systems both collect and manage customer data and use that data to trigger sales and marketing actions. The difference between the two is their approach. Whereas CRM is sales orientated, Marketing Automation puts the emphasis on online marketing.
Simplistically put, Marketing Automation is all about acquiring leads while CRM focuses on turning those leads into sales.
The Benefits of a CRM System
Without the use of CRM software, keeping track of customer dealings can be something of a nightmare.
Customer data comes to businesses from a plethora of sources such as telephone conversations, emails, social media and sales reports. This data does not always get to the marketers and salespeople who could use it to generate sales. Even if the right people do get their hands on it, they may not be able to make as much sense of it as they need to.
Salesmen are just that: salesmen. They’re not necessarily good administrators. They may have all sorts of valuable information on their laptops, in their Filofaxes or even written on scraps of paper.
All this leads to lost opportunities and disgruntled customers who feel they’re not getting the attention they deserve.
A good CRM system:
- Enables collaboration between different parts of the business such as marketing and sales, thus allowing them to collaborate effectively and share resources.
- Recommends the most effective and relevant content for specific selling scenarios.
- Saves on administration.
- Collects and centralises data from diverse sources (telephone, emails, social media etc…) and makes it accessible.
- Helps identify new leads and convert them to sales.
- Helps sales staff focus their attention on the right clients.
- Increases referrals from existing customers.
- Highlights cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
- Improves products and services.
OK. I’m Convinced I Need a CRM System. But Which One?
Although no two CRMs are the same, they are all designed to do the same thing: to help businesses understand their contacts better and act on that understanding. The trick is to find the one that best suits your business. When doing so, never lose sight of the fact that CRM is more than just software; it is part of your company culture. CRM software is no substitute for salesmanship and service.
There are, of course, any number of factors to take into account when choosing a CRM system. Which matters most to a particular business is down to that business’s priorities when it comes to dealing with customers. That said, there are five factors which should nearly always be considered:
As well as the up-front costs, you should think about indirect costs such as running costs, system integration, software customisation and any additional hardware needed to run the system.
How Well Does the Software Support your Processes?
It is essential to understand how your business currently deals with Customer Relations and how a CRM system could emulate and improve upon it. Paying for features that are never used is a waste of money. Discovering after it’s been bought and paid for that your CRM doesn’t cover all the bases you need it to will cost time and money to fix. In a worst case scenario, you may have to scrap the CRM system and start all over again.
Cloud Based orIn-House?
Going for a cloud-based CRM solution means you’re up and running in next to no time. It also cuts down on the amount of hardware you need to purchase. On the other hand, you may wish to keep the CRM in-house as this gives you greater scope to tailor the software to your needs.
The whole point of CRM software is to help you grow your business. It is therefore essential to have a system that will grow with it. You don’t want to find a few years down the line that your CRM system is no longer fit for purpose and you have to start all over again.
They say no-one ever got sacked for buying Microsoft. Can the same be said of whoever provides your CRM system? Before opting for a provider, check them and their software out on the Internet and in specialist magazines. You want to know that both provider and software are reliable. This really is a situation where Google is your friend.