Striking the balance between acquiring new customers and holding on to the ones you have is a perennial challenge for most small businesses. And while it’s easy to tempt new recruits with special offers and the promise of continued special treatment, if you fail to deliver your new customer could soon be an ex-customer.
It actually costs much more – up to twenty times as much – to sign up a new customer as it does to keep hold of an existing one. So it makes sense to funnel some resources into managing the relationships you already have.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is one tool businesses can use to improve their customer interface, but which to choose and how do you get the most out of your investment?
What’s the score?
In essence, a CRM application is a database that stores client contacts and has the capacity to maintain a record of customer interactions, including any complaints. It’s more than a glorified contact list, though. The software can also be used to track the results of marketing campaigns, identify cross-selling opportunities and create special offers to increase customer retention.
Which is the right one?
CRM software represents a fairly mature market and there are new developments emerging all the time. Consider which CRM package may be most suitable for your business. If yours is a relatively small operation, you may not need all the bells and whistles of a comprehensive package – and you could make life more complicated than is strictly necessary. On the other hand, you’ll need a scalable solution that’s well supported by the manufacturer. Check out industry forums to see what other similar businesses are using and what – if any – problems they’re having.
Is it a good fit?
You’ll get better value if you are able to integrate your CRM software with your other business applications. If you are able to connect with your email client and your accounting software, you’ll be able to track customer habits, schedule communications and interrogate data to discover which types of sale generate the best profits. You’ll also have the opportunity to cross-sell your other products and services. If you make sure that everything is operating in the cloud, you’ll also benefit from off-site access to your data.
Get the most out of it
Naturally, you’ll still have to perform the same housekeeping tasks as you would with any database. Your system won’t operate effectively if it’s not updated regularly and if your records don’t contain the most up-to-date information. Train staff to amend details every time a client is contacted and to make sure all correspondence is logged. Get your money’s worth by utilising your CRM system’s features – you can generate helpful reports on sales activity and problem-solving issues and even set up automated alerts to help streamline business operations such as contact reminders and lead tracking.
It’s important to remember that CRM is a tool to help you run your business more effectively – not a cure-all for poor business practices. You’ll still have to do all the right things to attract and keep customers but the right system will help to keep you on the straight and narrow.