The age of the one size fits all approach to CRM is slowly joining the ranks of the fax machine and the cash register, especially for small businesses. The rapid technological advancement of the everyday consumer has put pressure on small businesses to engage their customers in more and more sophisticated ways.
In this highly competitive environment, response times are critical, content delivery is paramount and being able to map the customer’s journey across all your touchpoints has become more important than ever. The broad based CRM’s of yesteryear weren’t conceived to address all of the specialized industry needs of every vertical. For example, while they all fall into the category of a businesses, a florist, a REALTOR, orthodontist and marijuana entrepreneur all have very different requirements for managing and scaling a successful business in their respective markets. Today’s successful small businesses are moving away from traditional CRMs in favor of highly specialized CRM’s, tailored to the needs of one industry at a time.
As Kate Leggett, Forrester principal analyst explains in her blog, “CRM purchasing is undergoing a sea change. I see that companies are no longer [purchasing] heavyweight, end-to-end CRM solutions that have had the reputation of being complex, expensive and hard to implement—even if they have great industry specific capabilities. They tend to impede user productivity with a bloated set of capabilities that many users can’t leverage.”
Companies like Microsoft and Facebook are also catching on to the fact that it’s not just enterprise organizations that benefit from CRM. It’s great to see efficiency tools being integrated into small business operations, but the recent options are just the first step in changing the way SMBs do business.
So, what would be the best next step? The way I see it, tools for small business don’t need to check all the boxes. Part of choosing the right CRM, is choosing a company that understands your niche and has built their solution with your exact challenges in mind. When you are small, there’s no room for error, and no need for extraneous features that won’t improve your everyday tasks.
Finding the Right CRM
The goal of a good CRM is to keep the customer experience front and center while providing you granular control over the life blood of your business. Start by asking yourself the following questions when selecting a CRM for your small business:
- Are all your customer interactions and information (Web visits, content consumed, emails, and phone calls) stored in one convenient location and accessible to everyone in your company?
- Can you verify that all leads in the sales pipeline are being followed up on in a timely manner?
- Are you able to initiate marketing campaigns and follow up activities along with the sales team?
- Can you create a forecast of your pipeline without your accountant?
- Can you view all the sales activity and results by day, week, month and year?
- Is your sales team able to access customer information and respond to customers when they are out of the office?
- Do you know how many customer service issues each customer had and why?
- Can you get help setting up your CRM?
- Is there customer support via a knowledgeable representative?
- Are there free resources and training provided to get your team up to speed?
Horizontal solutions from today’s tech giants aren’t the only option, and often aren’t the best choice for an emerging business. CRM for small business is a tricky trade, which is why it’s taken so long for targeted solutions to come to market. It’s easy to assume that the one-size-fits-all approach is a reliable choice for your business, but if you’re looking to gain a competitive advantage, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the following:
- Specific focus. The way different companies interact with their customers will vary dramatically, depending on their vertical. Just like your small business, your CRM doesn’t need to tackle every challenge facing consumers today. Your business challenges are unique, and the most efficient use of your time and money will be finding a CRM that meets those needs, and nothing else.
- Small Data Driven. Having access to tons of data sounds great, but won’t always be as valuable as you may think. When you have a niche target audiences, understanding the needs of that unique set of people is what’s valuable, even if this data set is only a fraction of what larger CRMs will offer.
- Ease of Use.Tools with the highest adoption rates are ones that just make sense. They show you what you want, when you want it, with an intuitive design that fits with your everyday business operations. When your CRM platform is as easy to use as Facebook, that’s when it will get the most use, and make the biggest impact on your business.
- On the Go. In many different industries, doing your job well means you’re not sitting at your desk. In real estate for instance, agents who are closing the most deals are the one’s out in the field, meeting with clients in and out of homes on the market. That’s where mobile CRM comes in. Being able to engage with clients and have access to customer data on the go are capabilities that’ll elevate small business to a level of efficiency rarely found in traditional industries.
We shouldn’t expect a CRM to be a one-size-fits-all solution for the local grocery store owner, the construction company founder, and the retail store manager. The way companies across industries interact with their customers is inherently different, but they all have a few things in common: the desire to reach a unique target audience and build long lasting customer relationships—all at a low cost and without the added roadblock of mastering highly complicated new software.
That’s why small business CRM should fit in the palm of your hand. It should provide support both at the desk and away from it, improve your everyday tasks and be as intuitive as Facebook or Twitter. Broad and all-encompassing CRM systems won’t always be the best fit, so it’s time we start thinking a bit smaller when it comes to CRM and give SMBs a fair shot at the digital transformation happening in enterprises around the globe.
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Seth is a brand and marketing strategist with 20 years of digital marketing experience. He’s the VP of Industry Relations at Placester, author of the upcoming book Road to Recognition and host of The Craft of Marketing and Marketing Genius podcasts. As a speaker, writer, and marketing workshop leader, Seth brings levity, mentorship, and a dose of reality to the businesses and entrepreneurs he coaches.
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