CRM Best Practices
Learn how to grow your customer contacts.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can be a mystery to small business owners. They may not know much about CRM strategy, or about the CRM best practices needed to get the most from their investment.
Which is too bad, because they're missing a powerful tool that builds better customer relationships and more effective marketing. If you're thinking about how to create a CRM strategy, read on for help and ideas.
Growth and trends in CRM
The best CRM strategies improve customer loyalty―a lot. Research shows that companies with a CRM system outperform those that don’t, as happy customers buy more often and with larger orders. In one study, revenue per employee was almost $80,000 higher in companies using CRM systems.
Here are some CRM best practices (and obstacles) to consider as you bring on a new system.
Help users adopt your new system
It's a classic problem: some employees would rather keep using their old spreadsheets than learn a new system. That's only human, but it's a bad idea if you want to get the best return on your CRM investment. Just as a sports car can't run on three wheels, a CRM works best when everyone is rolling together. Do your part by providing the training and support your team needs to feel comfortable with the switch.
Begin tracking leads immediately
The sooner you start to put leads into your new CRM system, the faster you'll see the value of your data grow. Getting started like this is also the simplest way to show any lagging adopters how well the new CRM strategy works.
Let customers add their data
Your team can enter and manage all CRM data themselves and see a big boost in productivity. But you can also let customers enter their own information by adding data-capture forms to your website. Your lead lists will grow faster, and productivity will soar even higher as your staff spends time making sales instead of adding data.
Train your team for customer service
Technology alone can’t maintain relationships; people do that. So make sure your people know how much authority they have to resolve issues and how to handle any requests that might exceed those limits. Quick solutions, without callbacks or transfers up the chain to a supervisor, are an important way to maintain good relations with customers.
Not all customers are created equal: some are much more profitable than others. Customer relationship management best practices can help you match your best teams and services with your top customers. Start by segmenting customers by profitability, region, industry or by any other data point you choose, then give each group service that matches their value.
Want to learn more about how CRM helps you segment your list? Check out our ebook: Take your CRM Contact List to the Next Level with Segmentation.
Communicate more easily
Targeted email campaigns are a great way to stay in touch with customers and uncover new opportunities. The best CRM strategies typically use marketing automation to develop and execute these kinds of customer emails. It's the easiest way to announce new products, promote special events, or share relevant industry innovations.
Regular targeted emails can deliver useful information and let customers know they're your top priority. Marketing automation also makes sure that all customers get your news at the same time and with consistent brand messages. Staying consistent from rep to rep and across all regions relays the right message about your company.
Growing engagement with social media
CRM best practices lead to better customer relationships, more brand awareness, and higher sales. The best CRMs also help you weave in new threads and approaches seamlessly.
For example, did you know that 85% of U.S. consumers use social media? It's a great place to monitor customer sentiment and introduce new product ideas. That's where social media and CRM complete each other, because both are designed to manage relationships. CRM systems are designed to connect with top social media sites to target key groups, then capture tracked information from your customers and prospects.
Since social media may also be new for some small business owners, here are a few practical ideas for getting started.
Social collaboration tips
There are far too many social media platforms for any small business to keep up a quality presence on each one. The right CRM system shows you who your customers are, and that helps you see which social media platforms will be the most productive.
As an example, LinkedIn has nearly 2 million active groups, some of which are sure to include your current and potential customers. If your customer base is primarily B2B, you may want to maintain your own LinkedIn group where your customers can learn more about your products and services.
Is your product visually appealing? Consider photo-friendly Pinterest as a primary social media platform. Twitter is a terrific way to attract attention to fast-moving news pieces. A Facebook page can mirror content from your website and offer added ways to connect with customers. As you consider how to create a CRM strategy, make sure you spend time thinking about which social media platform is right for you.
Key point: Whichever you choose, don't start your customer interactions with the focus on your products or services. Instead, retweet an interesting post or add a comment on someone else’s idea. That begins a conversation. People like to talk and engage, and once you've genuinely engaged this way you can 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 system, take the time to think through customer relationship management best practices as your business grows. An experienced consultant from your CRM software provider can help you shape these plans and goals. (Infusionsoft, if we may say it, has a well-earned reputation for helping customers get off on the right foot.) Set aside a few hours up front to figure out how to create a CRM strategy, and it will pay off in better insights down the road.
First step: process your leads
Most CRM systems accept leads from all kinds of sources, from old spreadsheets to new lead capture forms on your website. If you have your previous data in a spreadsheet, start by uploading that into your CRM.
When a new lead arrives, take action while it's still fresh. Develop a lead scoring system that separates and classifies leads: which to follow up on immediately, and which may need nurturing for a while before they're ready to buy. Your CRM system can help you create, automate, and manage multiple nurture campaigns to fit various customer segments.
When you segment customers and prospects this way, you add muscle to your marketing. Your CRM system records essential phone numbers, email addresses and all the other data you have about your customers. They won't have to re-enter their data on your site (or repeat it on the phone). CRMs also help you track the ways your contacts have interacted with you―downloaded an ebook, chatted with your sales rep, and so on―so you can score how ready they are to buy from you.
Know your customer values
As your CRM system learns more about your customers’ buying habits, it will help you analyze which customers are most profitable. We mentioned earlier that you can give better service to your best customers, but another CRM best practice is to look for and drop low-margin customers who are draining your resources rather than earning you profits. (Sound harsh? It's not. Too many low-margin customers can drag down a business pretty fast.) Prepare to be surprised by your analysis results: it’s not always the customers with the highest sales who are the most profitable.
Get management involved
Any major project that changes ingrained habits needs active management to stay on course. Your new CRM strategy is a prime example of this concept. People will adopt anything faster when they know company leadership cares deeply about it. Don’t undermine your own efforts by holding on to your spreadsheet of customer names and contact data. Jump in and your team will follow!
Connect with customers―again and again
Create and share useful content that heads off common service issues, introduces new products and ideas, and comments on the industry issues your customers care most about. The right content, with topics of shared interest for you and your customers, will cement your personal connections. Then you'll be well on your way because the ways you can use your CRM and content to improve customer relationships are limitless.