As a business, few assets are as valuable as your relationships with your customers, clients and suppliers.
Customer relationship management software, or CRM software, is designed to make managing and strengthening your customer relationships as simple as possible. Even the most basic CRM systems allow you to build a detailed database of your customers and interactions.
If your business isn’t using a CRM, making the switch from managing all of your customer data manually to using a database is a large step that can have huge positive effects on productivity, performance and results.
Below, business expert Neil Debenham explains why databases are so important for customer relationship management and shares several tips for choosing a CRM that matches the needs of your business.
Why are CRM databases so valuable?
Ask a business owner to name their business’s most valuable asset and you’ll get a variety of answers.
Some will mention their technology, noting that it’s better than the competition’s. Others might bring up a certain aspect of their product, or a process their business manages better than all others in their space. Others might mention physical assets, such as business real estate.
While these are all valuable assets, the most valuable asset for any business isn’t the cash or other items on its balance sheet, but its customers. After all, it’s your customers that produce your revenue, allowing you to run, develop and improve your business over time.
CRM databases offer incredible value for several reasons, all of which revolve around a core benefit: they make it easier to register, track and maintain your business’s major relationships with customers.
For example, a CRM system makes it significantly easier to register leads, contacts and other opportunities. From prospects to inactive customers, your team can track every individual that plays a role in your business’s prospective sales success.
Second, the right CRM tool allows you to carefully monitor your interactions with customers in a centralised database, allowing all of your team members to stay in sync when it comes to major business relationships.
Third, modern CRM tools make it easy to keep track of relationships without depending on your staff personally. This means that if someone leaves your business, they won’t take their contact book with them.
Finally, a CRM database allows you to brainstorm new ideas for selling products and services to your existing audience. With your audience right in front of you, your sales team is in a stronger position to reach out and test new ideas, theories and strategies, explains Neil Debenham.
How to choose the right CRM system
Customer relationship management is a huge industry, with a diverse range of tools all vying for your business. There’s no “perfect” offering for every business, meaning you’ll generally need to make a few decisions when comparing CRM systems.
The first decision you’ll need to make is between a self-hosted, on-premise CRM system or one that runs in the cloud.
Choosing an on-premise system gives you more control over the system, as well as lower costs if your business requires a large database. However, it has disadvantages, namely that you will need a dedicated IT department to operate and maintain the system.
Cloud-based CRM systems offer their own unique benefits, namely that they operate remotely and won’t require any new hardware. They’re also inexpensive in the near term, with annual or monthly costs that are very reasonable for most small and mid-sized businesses.
However, by using a cloud-based solution you may end up spending slightly more over the long term, especially if your business grows significantly.
Another factor to consider is whether or not a CRM system integrates with the other applications your business uses. Make sure to check that the CRM has integrations for your main tools, such as e-commerce platforms accounting and billing software and other applications.
If you operate in a specific industry, you may want to consider contacting CRM system providers that specialise in your field. A large range of industry-specific CRM tools are available, including systems designed specifically for small and/or local businesses.
Finally, pay attention to things like usability and customer support. The right CRM is an essential part of your business and being able to easily find answers to common questions can make the process of using your CRM system significantly easier.
The right CRM system can add immense value to your business, helping you to track, manage and maintain customer relationships with ease. Choose strategically and you’ll arm your sales and support teams with a valuable tool that can strengthen relationships and drive sales.
Neil Debenham www.neildebenham.com