Why CRM Software Doesn’t Work for Small Businesses

Clate Mask, President and CEO, Infusionsoft
Customer Relationship Management software has been around for a long time. It was born in the Fortune 500 world 15 or 20 years ago and has gradually come down stream to smaller businesses. But the average small business with 5 or 10 employees has been slow to adopt (let alone succeed) with CRM software.
Why?
Well, CRM software is fine for bigger businesses with big budgets, big staffs and big chunks of time on their hands to make it work for their business. But small businesses need something different than CRM software. They need automation of their marketing and sales processes. They need the software to do the work of many bodies. They need software that makes it possible to automatically build relationships with prospects, customers and partners. They need software that helps them market more effectively, sell more efficiently and serve customers more proactively. They need software that helps them GROW their businesses quickly and profitably.
The sad fact is, most flavors of today’s CRM software are static data warehouses that don’t DO much for the small business. These solutions require an individual to log into the software, search for and retrieve information. Heck, we can do that with file cabinets. Today’s small business doesn’t just need the information digitized, they need automation… and I’m not talking about just automatic report creation. I’m talking about software that will automatically take action on that digitized information. CRM software acts as a data repository so that the business owner or the employees can go fish in the repository and get the information they need to effectively serve their customers. In short, it centralizes and organizes customer information. That’s a very good start, but it’s not enough. My contention is that automation, specifically marketing automation, is what’s needed by small business owners today. They need more of themselves to go around. A data repository is nice, but a robot that executes a marketing plan based on information in the data repository… well, that’s killer.
In talking to tens of thousands of business owners, I’ve found that most entrepreneurs and business owners want to grow their companies without having to hire a bunch of people–they want fast, efficient growth. They’re constantly feeling over-worked and overwhelmed because there isn’t enough of themselves to go around. And they’re right–there isn’t enough of them to get everything done. So guess what suffers? The marketing.


Unfortunately, (in the truest sense of that word) most entrepreneurs and business owners neglect their marketing. They attend to it when business is slow because they have to (“Guess I better run some flyers, do a Val Pak drop or drum up some leads”), but then they let the marketing slide while they fulfill on the work that comes in the door. This doesn’t cut it if you want to really grow a business. You’re marketing has to be “always on.” Otherwise, your business putts along in fits and starts, never picking up any real steam.
So, if you’re a small business owner who wants to grow your business, you know you need to have your marketing always on. Problem is, there’s not enough of YOU to go around. So, where does the business owner turn to flip the switch on the marketing engine and keep it running day and night, rain or shine? To CRM software? No! You don’t need a digitized storehouse of information. You need something that will proactively drive your growth, on autopilot, so you can be free to attend to other areas of your business, or attend your child’s soccer game, or play golf or take a vacation, heaven forbid.
Let’s use a large company known for its sophisticated CRM capability – Amazon.com – as an example. Ask yourself why Amazon is so great. It’s because it not only captures all of my customer information over time, but it’s smart enough to tell me what else I want. It is a sales rep on autopilot, smart enough to act on my customer information (and others’ customer info) that’s stored in their massive data repository.
Yes, small business owners need automated growth. It’s my contention that CRM software was never architected to do that. And that is why entrepreneurs and business owners looking for fast, efficient growth should look to Marketing Automation software rather than CRM software.
The bottom line is that:
• CRM strategy is absolutely needed among small businesses
• CRM software on the market does not automate nearly enough stuff for small businesses
• Marketing automation is the most critical type of automation for small businesses that want to grow fast.
clate mask2.jpgClate Mask is the President and CEO of Infusionsoft, the leader in marketing automation software for small business. He loves to turn small businesses into big businesses. In addition to running the day-to-day operations of Infusionsoft, Clate also writes at the Infusion Blog about marketing and entrepreneurship topics.

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Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com . Editor and Founder, Smart Hustle Magazine Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com . Check him out on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook

5 thoughts on “Why CRM Software Doesn’t Work for Small Businesses

  1. Eric Weiss

    I have to disagree with the fundamental premise here. First, let me quote from Wikipedia:
    “Customer relationship management (CRM) is a multifaceted process, mediated by a set of information technologies, that focuses on creating two-way exchanges with customers so that firms have an intimate knowledge of their needs, wants, and buying patterns.”
    This pretty much describes the Amazon.com experience, which is the archetype for CRM. Mask’s assertion that CRM software doesn’t deliver this is open to question, since the failure may not be in the software, but in how it is used. Would an application under another name overcome such a failure?

  2. Antonia Teixeira

    It is my opinion that Clate Mask is correct that most CRM software does not work for the “small” business.
    While Eric asserts that it may not be a failure of software, it has been my experience that the majority of CRM software are designed for large companies and are often integrated in pieces which requires personnel to actually manage the various aspects of the software. Large companies typically have the personnel to integrate the various CRM components, while small businesses do not.
    I’ve researched many CRM options since starting my first business 12 years and have never found one, except InfusionSoft, that actually works for the “small business owner” or “entrepreneur.”

  3. Richard Walker

    I agree with the main premise of this posting, that small businesses don’t succeed with standard CRM solutions, but what are you suggesting is the solution? I understand that you represent a company that provides a solution (but that fact wasn’t obvious) and you did say the solution is Marketing Automation software, but which solutions exist and/or how can they help?
    We use SalesForce.com pretty well – we capture leads from the web, have automated responses, have visibility to our sales cycle and pipeline, and can share information adequately. For all that SalesForce.com does for us it is also lacking in a lot of areas, especially for a small team who doesn’t have time to enforce tight controls over the process.
    I’d like to see a CRM-like solution that specifically helps small companies establish and enforce good rules around their sales and marketing processes – reminders to team members to do things (e.g. update records after schedule meetings, email notices with a summary of items that are over-due, due today and due in a week, etc.), automation of tasks (e.g. workflow to move a prospect through a sales process that involves multiple team members), and more. Oh, and I’d like the solution to be under $50 per user per month. The issue tracking solution I use (FogBugz.com) does many of these things for software development for only $25 per month, so why can’t a CRM do the same?

  4. Peterson

    It is definitely time for any company, still using a spreadsheet for customer management, to move to a new CRM system. It is possible to find a solution that fits a company’s needs and budget, while greatly increasing productivity over that offered by a spreadsheet plan. http://www.avidian.com

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