CRM Programs – Smart Investment

One of the smartest investments to manage your business is a CRM (customer relationship management) program either as a purchased program or cloud system. A CRM program provides a business with the ability to create, assign and manage your customer’s requests and sales prospects. The overall goal is to find, attract and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has and entice former clients to return thus reducing the costs of marketing and client service.

Your CRM program is more than an address book and contact history. The majority of systems will integrate with other systems in your business from newsletters to accounting and your website. It should be an important part of the sales pipeline.

Many CRM vendors offer web based tools (cloud computing) and software as a service (SaaS), which are accessed via secure internet connection and displayed in a web browser. These applications are sold as subscriptions with customers not needing to invest in purchasing and maintaining IT hardware plus subscription fees may be cheaper than the cost of purchasing software outright. Through the subscription, the updates and maintenance of your program is included.

Without full training on all aspects of the CRM program, it can be underutilised and therefore a full commitment from all levels of your business is required as nearly all your team will be accessing some or the entire program in the daily schedule.

One of the largest challenges that CRM systems face is poor usability. With a difficult interface for a user to navigate, implementation can be fragmented or not entirely complete. So the ease of service is paramount for developing a system that is totally usable and avoid any financial disaster.

At the foremost of planning the right CRM program for your business is the security and privacy of the data collected. Close attention should be paid to relevant laws and regulations. Often this creates a challenge for the developers to strike a balance between ease of use and suitable security measures. Other considerations are the costs, data storage capacity, file storage and features. Will your CRM program be able to grow with your business?

Your CRM program can also be used to identify and reward loyal customers which in turn will help customer retention. Relevant analytics are often interwoven into applications for sales, marketing and service. These features can be complemented and augmented with links to separate, purpose built applications for business intelligence.

Many websites now have these embedded into the back end of the website with numerous programs integrated into your CRM program. Often your CRM is integrated with your accounting system enabling automation of invoicing or marketing communication including client’s history, job progress, feedback and sales performance. It can also be integrated with your social media however some analysts believe that business-to-business marketers should proceed cautiously when weaving social media into their business processes and should be a stand-alone process through other programs like Hoot Suite.

Whilst it may take several weeks (or more) to fully implement a CRM program that works for your business, investing the time to plan, set up, train and start utilising your CRM program will have profound benefits in the long run of growing your business. Take advantage of all the technical and user support on offer. Avoid making the program too complex that will discourage full usage or perhaps non-usage.

There are numerous CRM programs already available on the market if you wish to use a readymade system. Most of them are now cloud based with support and easily integrated with other programs.

Here is just a few –
Capsule – Integrates with Xero, FreshBooks and Mail Chimp with a free version. Approx $12/mth
Sage ACT – Ideal small/mid sized business from $69/mth
Maximer – Cloud based used by Oxford Uni, Seimens, Cash Converters from $39/mth
Salesforce – from $5/mth for up to 5 users. Facebook and email integration. Australian support.
Zoho CRM – Australian support integrating with email
Free CRM – cloud based from US. Used by Coca Cola, Red Balloon and Avis.
Goldmine – often used by call centres, integrates with social media from $139/mth
Microsoft Dynamics – claims a 243% ROI for a payback of 4 mths, can be tailored for any industry.
V-tiger – from $12/mth. Indian/US based.
Top Producer – easy to use, real estate focused from US. From $39/mth with min 1 yr subscription.
Net Suite – Australian cloud based

So how do you really achieve top results with your CRM program? Make it part of the business process by incorporating it within your company Policy and Procedures to follow up tasks, generate mail lists, track the sales process and create reports to track your business. Each and every customer should be tasked for the next contact so they are never forgotten. Your documents are all templates through your CRM program and auto-responses where possible. When worked efficiently, it will be your smartest investment.