Most likely, like some offices I’ve seen, employee Joe has contacts in Outlook, Marian has her contacts in a spreadsheet and the accounting guy has some contacts in another program.
Smart businesses have invested the time in a centralized contact management tools to ensure that all of their contacts are in one place and can be centrally input, searched, updated and retrieved. This is important, but only step one.
The second step, that smart and growing companies are moving to is TRUE CRM – Customer Relationship Management. While contact management is good for employees, partners and “contacts” (the copy repair guy), CRM is more focused on the customer.
Having customers entered into a contact management tool is a start, but in order to grow your business and maximize each sale, each customer contact must be converted into an action customer relationships record. This action starts from the moment they first touch your company – be it via the web, fax, email or phone call.
Your CRM tool should be designed to automatically and/or with your prompting reach out to prospects and convert them to sales. Reach out to customers and ensure they are buying every relevant item from you – and not the competition.
When they buy, do they get a thank you note? When they buy several times do you treat them special? When they buy in trends can you spot the trends and help them buy more or smarter? Do you genuinely help them save money if they are buying in a way that wastes money? There’s more to CRM than this, of course but this is a start.
One example of this evolution from just contact management to CRM is Sage. SAGE CRM Solutions is ensuring that its entire product line can go with a small business from one stage to the next.
Integrated Marketing writes In order to address some of these needs, part of Sage’s strategy is to create interoperability between its ACT! contact management system and its CRM product. “We find that some companies start with ACT! and at some point need to move to the CRM system because they’ve become more sophisticated or changed their priorities,” Larry Ritter, senior vice president of product management and marketing Sage CRM Solutions said. In other cases, one group within an organization wants to continue with ACT! while another group desires to use CRM, but both groups want to share data. Creating interoperability between the two products will make it easier for customers that started with ACT! to move to CRM, he said. “They don’t have to migrate any data — they can just start to use it.”
Check out my list of CRM vendors at http://www.smallbiztechnology.com/crm