What is a CRM database?
...and how do I make the most of it?
A CRM database is:
All of the data you collect about your customers to use with your customer relationship management system, or CRM. A CRM customer database can include all kinds of information:
- A contact's name, title and email address or Skype handle
- The date when you last talked and what you discussed
- Sources of leads and their lead scores
- Orders a customer has made and how much they spent
- Their recent website visits or other brand engagements
- The names of a customer's kids or cocker spaniel, their favorite hobby, or any other personal data you need to keep the relationship friendly
With this data, your CRM can attract customers, execute marketing campaigns and generate sales. You might say that a CRM is the engine for sales, marketing, and customer service, and the CRM database is the fuel that makes it run.
Here are a few starter guidelines to help your company get started creating its own customer database.
Pick the features you need
Most businesses start using a CRM because they want to improve their marketing efficiency. The old-fashioned manual approach to tracking often ends up with leads and customers slipping through the cracks, lost on a spreadsheet tab or just not given the timely attention they need. That kind of inefficiency is a big drag on your bottom line. It's why building a database is one of the best investments your company can make.
For instance, most CRMs will help you know when your potential leads are ready to buy. You can tell this based on their behaviors, demographics, and your interactions with them (this is called “lead scoring”). The more information you include in your CRM database, the better the CRM can work.
Each company should shape its database to its needs. If your business includes ecommerce, for instance, your customer database may include fields like the date of the last purchase, average value per purchase, and so on. If you're a furnace repair business, the date of a customer's last regular maintenance checkup might be a key piece of data.
So as you begin to work with your CRM database software, it's important to identify and understand your company goals and how you plan to reach them―and then use that knowledge to determine the details you'll track in your database.
Ease of use
The best CRM database for a small business should be both powerful and easy to use. If it's too complicated or hard to access, you and your team won't keep the database up-to-date, or won't turn to your data as often as needed.
In our mobile age, CRM software should be accessible anywhere. Data can change fast, especially for potential customers who are nearing purchase. You need the latest information, whether you're in your office, in the field, at a trade show or working from home. If you're working with others, the importance of that accessibility multiplies.
It's also important that your CRM database software includes elevated support that you can reach any time. You should expect 24/7 telephone support, online chat, email ticket support and very quick turnaround times so you can keep using your database whenever you need it.
Integrated analytics and lead generation tracking
The information you collect using a CRM database allows your organization to tackle the needs of your customers, and gives you more time to do it right.
Do you want to offer a special promotion to a long-time customer? Have you noticed a customer who browses the site consistently without making a purchase? Having that information in hand allows you to know your customers better, helping you convert leads quickly and confidently.
As you track lead generation, you can boost the productivity of your sales team, and help them attract more live leads. With follow-up tracking, you can set alerts for a particular customer or group of customers and take advantage of opportunities that might have been missed in the past.
Campaign and list management
Good data can help you initiate, stage and execute all kinds of campaigns, from internal processes to external marketing. Campaigns typically include a series of actions and steps taken to meet a specific goal, like taking a lead from first contact to closing a sale. Tracking the data will help you manage the workflow from initial campaign concept through building, testing, deployment, and measurement.
List management is one of the most sought-after results of any good customer database. Lists can include everything from leads to organizational information. But with a good database, a CRM can do much more than make lists: it can segment all contacts and lists to customized and pre-set groups. That becomes the foundation for building new campaigns, real-time responses and updates, and contacts management.
Integration with other systems
When you create your new CRM database, the goal is to have a seamless transition from whatever you do now. If you use spreadsheets, sticky notes or random note cards, it should be easy to enter them into your new CRM database software.
Your new database should also integrate well with any other systems and platforms you may be using. If you have one system for contacts, Outlook for mail and calendar appointments, Big Commerce for your ecommerce activity and QuickBooks for accounting, a quality CRM should be able to merge them all without skipping a beat. This kind of integration can also show holes in your current data that need to be addressed in order for you to keep growing.
And don't forget social media! A good CRM database can help you connect on social media and keep the conversation going with your customers and other small businesses.
Your database of the future
As your customer database grows, continue to keep an eye on the CRM features that work and don't work for your organization. You may find that you can forget about tracking some data, or you may need to track more detail in other areas. These kinds of tweaks will help you get the most out of your investment in your CRM and your database.
The right CRM database software can help you build great relationships with customers and stay organized as you grow your business. As you add to your database, you'll be filling up the tank with fuel for that growth.