It gives me great pleasure to share a Guest Article from Alison Mead at Silicon Bullet. Alison has been working with small to medium sized businesses recommending, installing, supporting and teaching best practices with CRM’s for more years than she would allow me to mention. To run effective marketing campaigns, first you must cultivate a contact list, all marketing activities will work best when they are targeted, but how do you keep track of who is who and what they like, have and might be interested in? An effective CRM Essential For Business Development a must for any business looking to grow!
How do you communicate with your prospects and customers? And when you have had a meeting, spoken to them on the phone, sent an email or a mailshot how do you record what has been said, and schedule future communications and meetings?
That is exactly what a Customer Relationship Manager or CRM is for. It’s a database of all your customers where you can record interactions, and schedule future contact, associating them with your customers. This is especially important as your business grows and you can’t keep everything in your head, or you need to share your data with a growing sales or accounts department. It’s important that all your staff know when a prospect was last contacted, and what they are interested in, or if a customer needs to pay their last bill before you do more work for them.
Many CRM systems will also integrate with the tools you use in your business every day already, such as Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel, to enable you to send emails at the click of a button, produce professional looking mailshots and e-shots and then record what was sent to who in your system. CRM systems only work if staff adopt them and record their day to day interactions with clients, a database with no data in will not help your business.
CRM systems can also be an excellent management tool for people managing a sales team so they can track appointments and calls, and conversion of opportunities into quotes. There are many reports available in most systems to be able to track the activity of individuals and manage a pipeline.
I use a system called ACT! for my CRM. As well as integrating with the systems already mentioned I can synch it with my outlook calendar to record appointments, and also use their Swiftpage E-marketing system to send out newsletters and mail shots, and the number of opens and which links have been clicked on is fed back into my ACT! database too. This data is fabulous for targeted follow up calls to help me convert opportunities into sales.
Using ACT! has meant that even though we are a small company I have been able to send and record professional looking communications out to my networking contacts, prospects and customers, and everyone in the office is aware of what we are doing.