Since most small businesses have had little exposure to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, owners often don't know the best pracitces to get the most from their CRM investment. In addition, new enhancements create new opportunities to extend the reach of CRM, improve marketing effectiveness and increase attentiveness toward customer intimacy.
Growth and Trends in CRM
A CRM solution improves customer loyalty. Customers who feel loyal buy from you more frequently, and with larger orders. Research shows that companies with a CRM system outperform those that don’t. In one study, revenue per employee was almost $80,000 higher in companies using a CRM system than for companies without one.
Here are CRM best practices – and obstacles – to consider as you learn more:
Use the system:
Users feel it is easier to keep using spreadsheets or manual systems than it is to learn to accomplish their tasks using the new system. Don’t allow them to use these crutches, or you will not get your expected return on investment. Do your part by providing the training they need to feel comfortable making the switch.
Begin tracking leads immediately:
Start putting leads into your new CRM system right away and the data builds quickly. The system will become more valuable as you add more information, so don’t allow anything to delay the start.
Even if an existing team manages all data and processes themselves, CRM will improve productivity and increase accuracy. In some cases, allowing customers to do their own entries sends productivity soaring. Not only does it remove the burden of maintaining data from your team but customers enjoy the control. Add data-capture forms to your website and your lead lists will grow.
Customer service training:
Technology alone can’t maintain a real relationship, so develop the skills your team needs to work with customers. Make sure your team knows the limits of their authority to resolve issues and how they should handle issues that exceed those limits. Resolving issues quickly, without having to transfer calls to a supervisor or calling back later, is an important part of maintaining good relations with customers.
Not all customers are created equal. Some are more profitable than others. Reserve your very best team and extra services for your top customers. A CRM solution helps segment customers by profitability as well as by region, industry or any other data you choose to track.
Better customer communications:
It's critical to consistently stay in touch with customers to avoid losing out on opportunities. Targeted e-mail campaigns are valuable for this. CRM systems include marketing automation capabilities that enable a company to develop and automate these email campaigns. Companies can announce new products or promotions, special events, or even relevant industry innovations. The important point is to ensure customers feel like you are trying to help them and they are your top priority.
Marketing automation ensures all customers get news and announcements at the same time and with consistent branding, wording, and messages. Providing consistency in these areas from rep to rep and across all regions is difficult but important to relay the right message about your company.
Growing customer engagement through social media
Traditional CRM best practices help improve customer relationships, raise brand awareness, and increase sales, but being able to seamlessly weave in new threads is always necessary. For example, social media is a great place to monitor customer sentiment or to introduce new product ideas, but you need to find ways to stand out from the crowd.
Social media and CRM complete each other, because they are both designed to manage relationships. CRM systems have the ability to connect with top social media sites to target groups and then capture tracked information from customers and prospects.
Since social media may be new for some SMB owners, a few practical tips to get started go a long way.
Social collaboration tips
There are far too many social media platforms for a small business to have a quality presence on each one. Your CRM system helps you understand who your customers are, and that will help you to decide which social media platforms will be the most productive. As an example, LinkedIn has nearly 2 million active groups that likely include customers and potential customers.
If your customer base is primarily B2B, maintain your own LinkedIn group where your customers can learn more about your products and services. If your product is visually appealing, you should consider Pinterest as a primary social media platform. Twitter is an excellent way to attract attention to fast-moving news piece. Finally, a Facebook page can mirror much of the content on your website and provide an additional way to connect with customers.
Never make your social media interactions primarily about you, your products, or your services. Start slow by retweeting an interesting post or comment on someone else’s idea. That begins conversation. People like to talk and engage. After doing that for a short while, start introducing your own, informative content. That’s the basis for content marketing.
How will you use a CRM?
When you decide the time is right to invest in a CRM solution, take the time to think through how you want to use it as your business grows. To shape these plans and goals, work with an experienced consultant from your CRM software provider. A few hours or days up-front to map out how you to use the system will pay off in better insight. Infusionsoft has a well-earned reputation for helping customers get off on the right foot.
Organization: Processing Leads
Most CRM systems accept leads from a variety of sources. Many systems take information entered in a lead capture form from your website, Facebook page and many other sources. If this data has been entered into a spreadsheet, start by uploading that into your CRM.
Once you have a lead, take action while the lead is still fresh. Develop a lead scoring system that classifies leads to follow up with immediately or those that need nurturing for a while before they are ready to buy. Your CRM system’s marketing automation capability helps create and manage multiple nurture campaigns for customer or audience segments.
Segmenting customers and prospects in meaningful ways improves the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. As you add new leads to your CRM system, it fills out all the data you have about the lead. Not only does it help with scoring the lead and initiating the sales process, but it also helps develop ongoing relationships with customers by showing them you know their interests and history with you. It will eliminate their answering the same questions over and over.
Customer lifecycle value
As your CRM system accumulates more information about your customers’ buying habits, you can analyze which customers are most profitable. There is an option to drop low-margin customers that simply drain resources rather than add to profitability. It sounds harsh, but having too many customers like that spells trouble. Prepare to be surprised by the results of the analysis since it’s not always customers with the highest sales who are the most profitable.
Any major project that requires changing ingrained habits requires management involvement to ensure it stays on course. Your CRM investment is a prime example of this concept. Your company will adopt its new processes more quickly if they know it is something company leadership and managers care deeply about. Don’t undermine your own efforts by holding on to your spreadsheet of customer names and contact data. Use the system you pay for and your employees will adopt it more willingly.
The right content that covers topics of shared interest cements your connections with customers. What you write or record should be designed to head off common service issues, to introduce new product ideas, or to comment on industry issues. The ways to use content, social media and CRM as tools to improve customer relationships are limitless.