A lot of small business owners have heard of CRM, but never used one. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and many people think of it as a computer system. It works better when you think of it as being about managing your business’s relationships with individual customers.
People like to use the idea of a sales and marketing funnel when they think about people becoming customers. It’s helpful in that not all people become customers ! To generate new potential customers or leads, we need to promote the business and make sure that every lead is nurtured. Lead Nurturing means providing them information, answering questions, building trust until the lead is ‘qualified’ or ready to buy. This stage is called marketing. ‘Disqualified’ leads are those who indicate that they are not going to buy; most are in between for a while.
On entering the sales stage, qualified leads are then engaged by the ‘closer’ or salesperson. Once a sale is agreed, the order must be fulfilled. Finally, the lead enters the post sales or Service stage when, in most cases, some service will be provided. During this stage, a wise business will look for further sales, testimonials and referrals.
Your CRM approach consists of the people, the business process (procedures, if you like) and the technology you use.
Some people use CRM to refer to the technology element, but even then, there is some room for disagreement. The CRM technology keeps sales, marketing and customer information in one place, records all actions and events, reminds your team of tasks, keeps all the deals moving and helps management to fine tune the order winning part of the business.
When CRM started, the systems usually started in one of three areas of business:
- Marketing – lead generation and nurturing
- Sales –deal pipelines and closing orders
- Service – supporting customer after sale
In the big business world, this is what they usually mean by CRM; many small businesses often include the autoresponder (a system for sending email to your customers either as a broadcast or as a pre-planned sequence)
- Appointment booking apps – online appointment booking can make a huge difference to hair and beauty salons, dentists, restaurants and other appointment driven businesses
- Event Management – people who run conferences, seminars, exhibitions, tradeshows, fairs are increasingly using dedicated apps to engage customers
- Chatbots – Customers love these tools – they automatically engage website or social media page visitors in conversation. They are revolutionising lead nurturing and customer service and are very affordable for a small business.
So, CRM is about how a business engages with its customers at all stages of the sale whether it’s marketing, sales or service. “A CRM” is the technology element of CRM. Definitions vary, but now you know how!