What is a CRM system and how can you use it?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and it’s a vital concept for business owners.

A customer relationship management system is any system that stores information about your clients, allowing you to keep track of your customers and make it easy to look them up individually to see their past interactions with your business and brand. The best CRM systems go well beyond simply recording basic information and will also help you manage your relationships with suppliers and other contacts.

Here’s a little more on what a CRM is; the different types of CRM systems; and how you can best leverage CRM systems for your business.

What is CRM software?

CRM, or customer relationship management, is a term that encompasses all forms of gathering client information, storing it and leveraging it as a business. Your CRM software stores all of the information gathered from interactions with your clients, from the initial purchase or sign-up, through to product returns, queries, some browsing information (such as how long they viewed certain products on your website) and more.

For example, instead of housing bookings info in one system, customers’ personal details in another and payment information somewhere else, an effective CRM system includes all of this in one place. This makes it much easier to keep track of, and stay up-to-date, with your customer interactions, delivering a better, smarter experience for both you and your customers.

What are the benefits of a CRM software?

Not only does a good CRM system help to keep your customer details up to date, it can also be used to improve your relationship with clients in the future, ensuring further purchases and spending down the road. You can see which of your products they have purchased in the past and which website pages they spend time exploring, so you can tailor your messaging and approach to their individual needs.

You can also improve collaboration between those within your business with CRM. By opening a client’s file, staff can quickly assess the current business relationship with that client, allowing salespeople to step in for one another when one is out sick, or allowing account executives to view the overall situation without needing to check in with multiple departments.

On a grand scale, your CRM system can help you to discover trends in your client data. How many conversions do you receive per customer? When are customers most likely to purchase? Which salespeople are the most effective? When customers purchase product X, how many are likely to purchase product Y?

This is all vital information that can help you to improve your processes, training and products.

CRM is essentially client data on a grand scale. No longer defined by manual reports or updates just from human workers, a CRM system can automatically add, update and analyse key data points about your clients and help you get ahead.

RELATED: Customer loyalty: How can your small business keep them coming back?

What types of CRM are there?

There are three main types of CRM systems, and it will depend on your business, customers and goals as to which is best for your needs. The three types include:

Analytical CRM exists to analyse information and discover ways to improve customer service. Marketers can use it to improve campaigns, management can use it to improve decision making, and sales executives can use it to improve sales techniques.

Operational CRM includes sales automation, marketing automation and service automation. Overall, it’s a system that exists to generate leads and organises information in a way that supports discovering leads, determining the best way to reach out to customers and retaining existing customers.

Collaborative CRM sometimes also goes by the name of Strategic CRM and exists to make it easy for many teams to quickly and easily access customer data. For example, product development, sales, client liaison and management can all easily view current customer information without having to speak to multiple other employees.

Of course, any CRM system will help you to better understand customers’ needs and behaviours so you can continue to improve relationships, but outside of that main goal, these three types of systems can offer varying benefits depending on your exact goals.

Key features to consider in a CRM platform.

As well as keeping all your customer info together, many modern CRM platforms have additional tools to help businesses connect with customers, reduce the need for manual admin and track performance over time. Keep an eye out for the following features:

Marketing automation – These are features designed to automate marketing efforts. For example, a new prospect being entered into the database might trigger an automatic welcome email or other marketing materials.

Customer self-service – CRM platforms with self-service capabilities allow customers to schedule appointments, make payments, register for events, etc.

Location-based services – Some CRM platforms include technology that can create geographic marketing campaigns based on customers’ physical locations, sometimes integrating with popular location-based GPS apps.

Lead management – Prospective customers can be tracked through CRM platforms, enabling your sales teams to input, track and analyse data for leads in one place.

Workflow automation – CRM platforms can help businesses reduce manual admin by automating repetitive tasks, such as appointment reminders or billing, enabling employees to focus on more high-level needs.

Analytics – Analytics and reporting tools in CRM platforms provide insights based on customer and campaign data. This drives better customer satisfaction rates and more effective marketing efforts.

How do you use a customer relationship management system?

A customer relationship management system is usually a large and complex piece of software that takes time, skill and dedication to do it well. Yet it has been proven that doing it well is a sound business investment.

In one oft-cited study, Nucleus Research found that for every dollar spent, the average return  on CRM system investment is $8.71.

There are numerous ways to make the most of your CRM system:

  • Load all information in the database from the outset
  • Keep all information updated
  • Train employees to properly use the system
  • Ensure employees enter new information as they receive it
  • Customise your CRM settings and dashboard to your business needs and goals
  • Make the most of CRM tools (either built-in or apps) that can help you to automate
  • Enable reporting

What is the best CRM for small business?

There are dozens of CRM software options available, so it can be challenging to determine the best one for your business.

The key features to look for are ease of use, good reporting, the ability to automate or add tools that let you automate, and the ability to customise the CRM to your business needs. Fortunately, many CRM systems allow you to take trial runs to see how you find the user experience, and all systems offer support and advice with their plans.

Questions to ask before choosing CRM software.

When you’re in the midst of researching CRM systems, ask yourself the following:

  • Is my business ready for a CRM?
  • What are my goals for my new CRM system?
  • What are my must-have features?
  • Can I import my existing customer data into this CRM?
  • What integrations do I need?
  • Is ongoing support available from this provider?
  • Will this system meet my needs now and in the future?
  • What reporting and analytics capabilities are available?
  • How will I measure ROI?

Remember that taking the plunge without a well thought-out plan could lead to paying for a system that just isn’t right for your business – so it pays to do your homework ahead of time!

Organise your customers and your business.

With all of your customer information in one place, it makes sense to keep all of your business in one place too.

Thryv is one of the best marketing automation platforms available right now, with everything from CRM tools to social media, review, and scheduling tools to bring everything together under one simple and straight-forward umbrella.

Get your demo to give Thryv a whirl and make running your business that much easier.

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