Eeek – I get it! So before you even read this you might be thinking… CRM? What’s that and do I reeeaaaalllly need one? If you’re an online business owner living in the 21st century, then the answer is absolutely YES!!
So for the novices and newbies out there — what is a CRM tool?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and it is a total techie term for software that can do a bunch of useful things to help you run your business smoothly and effectively. The perfect CRM can save you time, money, and effort by interacting with your clients on your behalf. You may think this sounds totally impersonal, but it doesn’t have to be if you set it up right!
Why do you need CRM software?
The right CRM allows you to work smarter, not harder! If you are in your early stages of your online biz, you may only be looking at some basic functions such as email automation for new client sign-ups or a way to easily send newsletters to email subscribers. A more developed company may benefit from automated Point of Sale (POS), Vendor Management, Accounting Functionality, Operational Data Analytic tools, and more. (Newbies – don’t let that stress you out – just think “wow – it’s a system that can basically do it all for me while I sleep!”)
A CRM can give you ALL the data… And as the CEO of your company, you need to be all about the data because the data tells the real story of how well (or not so well) things are working in your business. It may not sound nearly as exciting to you as it does to me, but imagine having at your fingertips easy to read reports that identify your customer demographics… or sales volume reports that give you a snapshot of what is working and what isn’t. Once you’ve integrated a CRM into your operations, you’ll wonder how you ever did things without it (pinky swear!).
What features and functions do you need for your business?
If your business is new and relatively small (i.e. you’re feeling like a solopreneur even though you’re totally not in this alone – because you have the amazing swHw community on your side!), you may only need a simple program that auto-responds to clients signing up to your email list. For a more seasoned business, you’ll definitely want a system that includes autoresponders, sales tracking, and a more robust package of services. Some of the features your business may benefit from could include:
- Email Automation
- Marketing tools
- Point of Sale (POS) Functionality
- Contact Management
- Lead-generation tools
- Sales reports
- Employee tracking
- Third party integration
- Customization options
- Mobile friendly
You’ll want to ask questions like “Is this system easy to learn, or will I need to have a full-time techie on my team/an outsourced team who can manage this?” Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A simple system won’t be nearly as robust, but hiring outside help can be costly!
Scalability and your business’s growth
One of the most important questions you can ask yourself today is “Where am I heading?” You might be totally obsessed with your current system, but will it still be amazing a year from now? Will the CRM software you invest in today have the ability to grow with you in the future?
Where do you see your business in 2 years, 5 years or 10 years?
Close your eyes and imagine that your customer base has grown to 10x the amount you have today (because that’s totally possible)! Would this change your CRM needs? Would the system you’re using now grow with you, or would you have to make a massive move in year 2 and learn a totally new system all over again?
What tools and support will you need to manage that and still provide amazing customer service? Switching to a new CRM can be time-consuming, expensive, and seriously disruptive, so I highly recommend picking a system that will grow with you!
Reliability and Consistency
When considering a CRM, one of the key features to look for is quality and reliability of the service. Do your homework and review the industry reputation of any CRM software or service that you are considering. What measures do they take to guarantee consistency and stability?
Your CRM will be an integral part of your daily operations, so you will want to be confident that it does what it says it will do. For email automation, you don’t want your outbound emails to stall or duplicate when sending. (We need our emails to reach our customers inbox, not their spam folder.) Reporting and accounting features need to be secure and accurate. It’s critical you select a CRM service that will keep your details (and those of your customer) private!
Price and value are not the same thing. Saving money in the short term could be quite costly in the long term. In the same way, just because something is expensive doesn’t guarantee a good return on investment (ROI). Pat Flynn (founder of Smart Passive Income) wrote an incredible blog a while back about his transition from AWeber to Infusionsoft to ConvertKit. Pat invested a lot of time, money, and energy testing these three systems and showed the massive differences each tool made for his business model.
The features that Pat needs for Smart Passive Income, may not be the same as your business’s needs, so it is important that you know what you need and what your budget is.
Where to start?
My personal recommendation for the new Entrepreneur is Active Campaign. Their Lite plan starts at just $9/month and they have robust reporting tools similar to bigger players like Infusionsoft and Ontraport.
To find out more about which tools are perfect for you and your biz (and get my CRM Comparison Chart), you can download my Biz Toolkit at rachelmcmichael.com/biztoolkit. View cloud based email services here.