CRM even at its most basic level enables a business to capture, track, manage and share vital customer information with the people and departments that need it to efficiently do their jobs. This is critical to the successful operation of every business. CRM is also extremely helpful in managing new sales opportunities and in streamlining marketing programs that generate new business. Once again this is core to growth and sustainability. So why are small businesses struggling to adopt what is as important to their business as their accounting software? Why do I refer to struggling? Well it’s because industry experts claim that less than 33 percent of small businesses use a CRM system. I believe the reason is twofold.
First, many small business owners and executives firmly believe that a CRM system will rob their staff of valuable time causing them to spend a good portion of their day entering information into the system, but this simply is not true. In many cases, management is unaware that their staff is spending hours of time entering data into an Excel spreadsheet which is hard to share and virtually impossible to maintain. CRM software has proven that having a single consolidated database of customer information, that is accessible to all authorized employees 24/7, significantly improves productivity. Business owners and executives who have deployed CRM have realized this benefit.
The second challenge impacting adoption is that small businesses are often resource constrained. CRM is not an appliance that you simply plug in the wall. It requires someone dedicated to managing and maintaining the quality of the data entered, and a commitment from management that the software will be used by the staff to improve business performance.
CRM software as discussed earlier is often used to automate and streamline marketing. In today’s competitive environment small businesses more than anyone need to take advantage of digital marketing programs, generate bulk e-mail mailers, and interact with social media sites to build brand recognition and generate more new business opportunities; but once again this requires having an experienced marketing professional on board. Most small businesses do not have this individual and cannot afford to hire them, making the adoption of CRM quite difficult.
The Winning Formula for Small Business CRM
So, what’s the answer here? How can small businesses become more successful in adopting CRM solutions? I recommend the following.
Step 1: Outline what you need the CRM system to do.
Step 2: Assign someone to manage the implementation of the software.
Step 3: Identify the resources and expertise you have on staff.
Step 4: Only evaluate CRM companies that have the professional sales, marketing and customer service expertise on board to fill any gaps you may have in these areas.
The successful deployment and utilization of CRM requires much more than simply selecting what you think is the best product for your business. CRM does not run your business, people do. If you do not have the expertise on board to realize the maximum value from the product, make sure you partner with a company that can provide this for you.