By Jamie Domenici of Salesforce
Put yourself in the shoes of a small business owner. One of your greatest advantages is your ability to communicate with customers in a way that large corporations can’t. But all too often, your time is tied up in repetitive, menial actions that get in the way of staying close and connected to your customers. (Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Today’s small business owners cumulatively lose more than 4 billion hours each year on such tasks.) But having time to maintain strong relationships is crucial for growing businesses, because losing even one customer can have a big impact on your bottom line. How can you stay focused on what really matters — keeping customers happy — and take your relationships to the next level?
The answer: implementing a CRM, or customer relationship management, solution. A recent survey found that while small businesses recognize the importance of customer relationships, 31 percent listed word-processing or spreadsheets as their only way of managing them. And another 25 percent reported having no system at all.
Many of these companies worry that CRM systems are too complex to set up and difficult to maintain. This couldn’t be further from the truth. With cloud-based solutions, it’s easier than ever before to get a CRM up and running. Once implemented, the difference is staggering. Instead of wasting time relying on email, spreadsheets, and paper documentation you can use a CRM solution to quickly find customer contact information, lead and opportunity status, and much more.
And it’s not just tracking customer relationships that make CRM so valuable. A good CRM solution can propel your business forward in other ways. Here are three things you can do with a CRM solution to help your business grow:
Get insights and work smarter. While Excel spreadsheets can be useful for capturing large amounts of static data, that’s about it. When you enter data into a CRM solution, what you get back helps you get smarter about your customers. With real-time, actionable insights, you can understand patterns in your sales and accurately track the best methods for reaching your customers, so you know what marketing and sales tactics are working, and what areas need improvement. You can also adjust your product roadmap, so you are sure to offer the products and services that customers really want.
Offer Personalized Customer Service. Selling your product is only half the battle. Providing ongoing, personalized and excellent service is the real challenge. In the words of customer service expert Shep Hyken, “If your customers are made to feel as if they are outsiders, they will eventually find a competitor who makes them feel better about doing business with them.” As a small business, you have a unique ability to provide a highly customized and personalized experience for your customers, before, during and after the sale. Beyond a face-to-face relationship, a CRM solution lets you input very specific information—like customer preferences and unique behaviors—into customer profiles, so that you can shape your sales and service strategy for each.
Grow and future-proof your business. Many small businesses don’t stay small for long. A CRM solution doesn’t just help track relationships with customers — it can also provide the foundation for future innovations, anything from managing marketing campaigns, to launching new products, or tracking Internet-enabled “things.” If you invest in technology that makes it easy to integrate with other solutions, you can ensure that your data is always shareable, and that your business can grow without hitting a bump in the road. With the right solution, you can quickly adapt your business as customer needs change.
Whether your ultimate goal as a small business owner is maintaining customers, increasing growth or simply improved organization, the benefits of implementing a CRM solution are endless. The effort required at its start will save you valuable time and money down the road. Think of it as an investment in your business’s future to ensure you are building the strongest possible relationships with your customers, both today and tomorrow.
Jamie Domenici is the vice president of product and small-and-medium business marketing at Salesforce. In this role, she is responsible for driving product marketing and go-to-market strategy for Salesforce’s small- and medium-sized business organization. Jamie has worked at Salesforce for five years as a senior leader in product and campaign marketing and previously led operations at Ingres Corp., an open-source database company, and OSIsoft, Inc., a real-time performance management software manufacturer.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.