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CRM for small businesses, please take baby steps

Customer Relationship Management – CRM for small businesses – why you need to take baby steps

I often start working with small businesses in the context of them wanting some sort of marketing promotion.  For example, a flyer or a direct email campaign.

Rarely do they come asking for a CRM system, but often that is eventually where we end up. Because, to really get the most out of any marketing campaign, you need a system that can effectively manage and measure its success and more importantly help you to make future decisions. Never think it is too early for a CRM system.

If there are any start-ups reading this and you have not yet planned and implemented your CRM strategy, then please do so – right now! It is much easier to get CRM right from the start than have to unpick, refine and integrate clunky systems and processes that have grown up around you ‘by accident’ – often in Excel spreadsheets on people’s desktops – I am speaking from experience!

CRM should not be scary or complicated, but we seem get our knickers in a twist when those three little letters are thrown out there. Why? Well often because it seems overwhelming, expensive and you just don’t know where to start. But really, it’s only as complicated as you want to make it.

One of the big mistakes companies make is making the CRM system too complicated for employees to use.

So take it back to basics. Break it down into manageable baby steps. At a basic level the first things to set up in your CRM system are:

  • prospective customer information
  • when and what was talked about last
  • follow up date/reminder/action
  • who it is assigned to
  • £ value of the opportunity.

Of course you will have other business processes that you would like CRM to handle. Prioritise your processes and start with the most critical ones  – i.e. what has to happen for your business to function on a day-to-day basis. List all your business processes from the most to the least important and set a timeline for the implementation.

Take time to understand each process before you try to map it to your CRM system.

Write it down. Think DETAIL.

  • What is it?
  • Who does it?
  • How do they do it?
  • When do they do it?
  • Where do they do it?
  • What resources are needed?

Always look for improvements in effectiveness and efficiency in your processes – better to optimise them before putting them in CRM to avoid any messy unpicking. The same applies to your data – make sure it’s as clean as it can be in Excel before importing it to CRM. It’s very hard to get it back out again.

All this analysis will help you to decide on the best CRM system for your small business, as you will know exactly how you would like the system to perform. Don’t rush to buy a CRM system before you understand exactly what you need it to do now and in the future – so that it can grow with you.

I have implemented cloud-based ZoHo and NetsuiteCRM for several SMEs, as they offered a more flexible, cost-effective solution for these smaller companies. However, there are many others out there, such as Microsoft Dynamics and SalesForce that can also work for smaller companies, especially if there is ambitious growth planned.

So take it one step at a time, take time to understand the processes involved and set yourself a realistic time frame . Try to take all the steps at once and you will  fall over.

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