Customers, past, present or future, are the heart of any business and are its most valuable asset. So, of course, every business ought to be storing and managing any information available and using this to nurture and build strong relationships. Otherwise, all your efforts on Facebook will amount to nothing more than fleeting moments, forgotten as soon as the next funny cat video comes along.
There are at least 5 touchpoints of contact where prospects get to know you, like you and trust you before they respond to even the most seductive of campaigns. Managing this is time-consuming, hence the popularity and necessity of the CRM - Customer Relationship Management Systems to your business. You can run very successful social media campaigns without having a website but running campaigns without some means of capturing the names and email addresses of those who have indicated interest is simply a whole lot of lost opportunities.
Where Social Media brings people to your website, CRM's take over the task of communicating deeper allowing you to build your relationships further.
So what is a CRM?
Customer Relationship Management is software that tracks interactions with prospects turning them into customers.
1. CRM's are a centralized place for storing & managing data and information about your customers.
How you store and categorize your customers ought to be based on your business structure allowing you to segment and target accordingly.
2. CRM's improve communication thus helping to build relationships with your customers
CRM's allow you to custom design communication strategies and automate key touchpoint sequences depending on what stage your customer is at on their journey.
3. CRM's are a sustainable, scalable tool for growth.
Relying solely on Facebook or your website you are risking losing many opportunities to gather new connections. Adding forms on your website which are integrated with your CRM provides opportunities to attract new prospects and provides information to design campaigns which resonate and persuade, turning these prospects into customers.
How do I choose the right CRM for my business?
Is this the right investment, is it scalable, will we outgrow it or is it just overkill?
Common questions, all of which are not at all simple to answer as there are so many to choose from. You can sift your way through each website comparing features and price or if you search you will find some quite thorough blogs which offer unbiased comparisons. But anyone with experience of CRM's will tell you that you can't really tell until you get to test it in your own business environment.
1. Start with your priorities:
Your priorities may just be communications, or it may be lead generation and sales, or it might be integration with E-commerce , or any combination of these.
2. Consider the investment both time and money - cost varies from free to substantial monthly subscription fee.
To give you an idea, on the more expensive end of the market there is Hubspot, which is the Rolls Royce of CRMs and also one of the most expensive and time consuming, starting at $270 per month which covers the basics.
Whereas on the cheaper end of the market there are many but two popular ones are Activecampaign and Mailchimp. Activecampaign is emerging as a strong contender to meet the CRM requirements of any small business. It features a super easy email campaign interface, great Lead Generation, customer management features and the integrated forms function to website is just fantastic. This comes in at around $50 per month.
MailChimp offers a great free newsletter creation application for up to 2000 subscribers. After that you pay. The free version of MailChimp also offers a level of free automation and personalization whereas in the paid version you get more customisable automation and targeting, e-commerce integration, and better reporting. Packages start at US$20 per month.
3. Strengths v's Weaknesses
When comparing solutions for any new system, CRM's are no different in that they all do one or two things really well but fall down in other areas. For instance, MailChimp offers a lot for free but lacks the same amazing drag and drop interface that makes Activecampaign great. And Activecampaign is fantastic for its drag and drop interface which truly makes creating campaigns, automation and integrating forms a fun and creative experience it does not have a free version like Mailchimp to get you started.
4. How can this help my business?
- In its simplest form CRM's allows you to create and target periodic newsletter and news blasts to your list of contacts. It helps you to keep your followers interested in your products and what you are doing, how to find you or inform them of any offers or interesting projects you are up to.
- CRMs also allow you to become more engaged with your contacts by segmenting and designing more personalized newsletter campaigns for specific events or projects. For instance at Arts Mid North Coast we can segment our list and target one group living in a particular LGA about a specific event or opportunity. A typical campaign sequence of events could look like:
1: Identify group to be targetted and segment list;
2: Design newsletter;
3: Design reminder newsletter to be sent out two weeks later;
4: Design a 2nd reminder two days before the closing date;
5: Set a reminder email for staff on the date of close;
6: Might decide to design and schedule follow-up email to inform what happens next.
All of these events are planned and scheduled at the start of the campaign which starts with the initial newsletter.
- CRM's allow you to add integrated customised forms on your website to capture information from people who are interested in finding out more. As described above, each form can be set up with its own automated and personalized sequence of events.
- For many businesses, CRM's real purpose is in Lead Generation which means the sequences of predefined events with the objective of turning inquiries into actual paying customers. Some of the more sophisticated CRM's can also fully integrate with e-Commerce.
When looking at CRM it can become a trade-off between your priorities, how much you want to spend right now, where you are starting from and scalability for future growth.
Making the decision to invest your time and money into a CRM, and the subsequent decision as to which one, takes a lot of research and consideration but one thing is for certain if you are serious about growing your business utilizing digital technology, you will get left behind without one.