Launching your own business is exciting, but long-term success requires more than just an entrepreneurial spirit and a big dream.
You also have to juggle all the moving parts of a business. Handling disciplines such as marketing and sales may not come naturally. Streamlining these processes by choosing the right CRM can save both time and money, yet many small business owners don’t even know where to start.
If that’s you, don’t worry. Understanding the terminology and acronyms is half the battle; the rest is about finding the best way to manage those moving parts so you can focus on more pressing matters like growing your business.
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a type of software that helps businesses of all sizes efficiently track and communicate with prospective and current customers. A CRM lets you systematize traditional sales and marketing processes, saving time and money, among other benefits.
The right CRM can give small business owners access to real-time data they normally wouldn’t get with traditional business tools (such as Excel spreadsheets, Google Docs, or even the low-tech Rolodex).
Instead of manually updating spreadsheets, businesses can automatically collect customer and prospect data, eliminating pesky data entry and reducing errors. Data can be as simple as a name and email address or as important as account status or purchase history. In addition, a small business CRM can automatically manage and track leads through each step of the sales funnel, assuring no opportunity slips through the cracks.
An all-in-one CRM and marketing automation tool streamlines that process even more by integrating email marketing with the lead information you capture. This allows you to segment prospects and customers and create customized communications, making it easy to reach out to customers when they’re ready to buy.
Information such as who is opening what emails and what products your customers are most interested in can help drive the appropriate communication at just the right time, driving sales and boosting conversion rates.
Many small business owners assume that the use of CRM automation will make a business seem robotic and impersonal. The truth is that it’s exactly the opposite. Small business owners see a multitude of benefits from using a CRM because it allows them to be much more personal and responsive to their leads and customers.
A small business CRM allows you to track your website visitors’ activity. Over time, if you use the right CRM for your small business, you can easily convert those online visits into friendly sales conversations through the use of lead magnets, like forms and gated content.
As your CRM collects new leads and offers real-time data on leads’ activity and interests, you can nurture leads into customers with the help of automated marketing campaigns. You can’t get that from an Excel spreadsheet. It’s much easier to streamline your sales pipeline by capturing, tracking, and managing leads and customers in one place.
Before deciding whether a CRM is right for your business, or which system to choose, ask yourself four important questions:
Identify your sales and marketing goals before you start researching CRM platforms. The goal is to invest in a system that meets your specific business needs, not the one with the most bells and whistles. Start by determining your business goals, devise strategies for reaching those goals, and, finally, map out the steps you’ll take to get there.
For example, let’s say one of your goals is to start selling your products online. Your strategy for achieving that goal might be to introduce your products to a nationwide customer base. Now, how are you going to do that? What actions, both short- and long-term, do you need to take to reach customers around the country? If one of the logical actions is to automate your marketing process to save your business time (and it probably is), a CRM makes perfect sense.
Next, decide what your budget for a CRM will be. Don’t be fooled by free and cheap solutions on the market. Although they’re free initially, you may have to purchase extra support or invest in a third-party consultant to actually get the solution up and running. And most don’t offer email marketing or marketing automation capabilities, which you’ll most likely need immediately or in the near future.
We see this a lot: Customers give up on free solutions and seek our help because they offered no support or training to help them sync their CRM with their business processes.
While pricing varies greatly, you can expect to pay a monthly subscription fee of $10 to $100 per user, depending on the level of support and features you need in a CRM. Some vendors may charge a flat fee instead of a monthly fee, but they’ll probably ask you to buy a larger package or pay extra to add more users.
Before investing in a CRM, check out review sites like G2 Crowd, Software Advice, Capterra, and GetApp to see what others are saying about the CRMs you’re considering.
Note not only their feedback, but also their roles and how they’re using the software. Compare apples to apples by reading reviews from other small business owners in your particular space. While a Fortune 500 CMO may love her CRM product, her business doesn’t have the same needs as yours, especially if you’re running sales and marketing all by yourself.
Even if you’re running a very small business, chances are you have someone else on your team who will be in the CRM every day. Whether that person is a sales leader, customer service rep, or marketing assistant, you aren’t going to get the kind of return you seek if your team isn’t as invested in your CRM as you are.
If you can’t get your salespeople to enter new deals or track notes into the CRM because they think it’s too difficult to use, for instance, how can you measure and track success?
To encourage a colleague or team to adopt and embrace a new CRM, involve them in the selection process. That way, you can resolve their objections head-on. For example, if a salesperson is reluctant to use a CRM system because he feels like he will have to add extra workarounds to track his progress every day, it might be a sign the system you’re looking at is too complex or doesn’t fit your process.
Another good way to avoid ruffling feathers and successfully manage the change is to start by educating teammates on the benefits. When they can see exactly how and why you expect this new system to boost your sales and marketing efforts, they’ll be eager to learn more and to play a bigger part in that evolution.
While starting and running a small business is no walk in the park, your sales and marketing processes don’t have to be tedious and time-consuming. Now that you know what a CRM can do for you and the questions to ask to determine the right solution, ditch the spreadsheets for all-in-one sales and marketing software that will help you grow your business.
Jonathan Herrick is co-founder, chief sales officer, chief marketing officer, and chief high-fiver of Hatchbuck, an all-in-one sales and marketing platform. His extensive experience in digital marketing and sales strategies has been a driving factor in growing Hatchbuck’s sales by over 2,000 percent. Prior to Hatchbuck, Jonathan developed inbound marketing strategies and leveraged marketing automation to grow market share and reach record user growth for SaaS recruiting platform Sendouts. A purpose-driven leader in all aspects, Jonathan has a passion for cultivating his team’s culture, spending time with his family, and working to make a difference in the St. Louis community. You can get acquainted with Jonathan’s thought leadership on the Hatchbuck blog and in leading publications including Forbes, Inc., Mashable, and the Huffington Post.