CRM stands for Customer (or client) relationship management, a term coined by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers back in 1993. Credited with transforming the marketing industry from mass advertising to a one-to-one focus from business to individual prospect or client, the concept essentially reflects the way in which you would build and sustain relationships with all of your contacts and clients, if only you had the time.
In a small town a doctor would know all of her patients by name, the names of their family members and what each of them like. She would remember their birthdays and anniversaries with a special message. If she knew that one of them enjoyed long distance running she would cut out a newspaper article she saw about the New York marathon and save it for them. Her appreciative patients would refer their friends and she would remember to thank them. If she met someone new in town she would have a nice conversation to learn more about them and come out of her office to chat if she saw them pass by. She would stop to share some town news with them when she saw them out working in their garden. She would forge a relationship with them that would practically assure her of their business when they needed healthcare services.
CRM is essentially the process of taking your business down to a grass roots level, automating emails, letters, phone calls and follow ups to make it realistic for you to have that same level of relationship with each and every client and prospect. It automates what you would do naturally if only you could clone yourself.
Forrester defines marketing automation as, “tooling and process that help generate new business opportunities, improve potential buyers’ propensity to purchase, manage customer loyalty and increase alignment between marketing activity and revenue.”
Why is this relevant to the average small business owner?
- Savvy buyers do more research on their own and before engaging you or your sales force they are often quite well informed about their options. This requires business owners to provide automation that monitors which messages are likely to generate the greatest response and provide information at the time when the buyer is making an evaluation.
- Fewer people within your database are likely making active purchase decisions at any given time. You need to be responsive and capitalize upon every sales opportunity.
- Buying is more social. Buyers are influenced by peers and what they see online. Business owners need to be prepared by making it easy to connect and respond to inquiries and searches across channels.
Customer Value, or Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is a measure of the profitability of a client over their entire relationship with your business. It is an important measure because it helps us to make decisions about how much to spend on acquiring a new client (acquisition cost) and retaining an existing client (retention cost). In many businesses, it is far more profitable to nurture and grow current clients than to acquire new ones. Not to say we shouldn’t keep the top of our sales funnel full, but retention and lifetime value are crucial metrics to our business.
In some cases both sets of functionality are wrapped up in the same tool, but typically a CRM tool will include:
- a contact database (for prospects and clients)
- a built in newsletter function
- detailed reporting and segmentation
- varying degrees of workflow automation – industry specific CRM tools often come with out-of-the-box interfaces to common data sources
- sales funnel management
A Marketing Automation may include the above functionality, to one degree or another, plus:
- the ability to create custom automated email drip sequences as a follow up to prospect inquires via a website or landing page or manual entry such as a business card scan
- automated task management and escalation
- sophisticated reporting that will allow you to see the profitability of each of your marketing strategies
- custom landing pages
- sales funnel management (depends on the tool)
- shopping cart (depends on the tool)
- a variety of out-of-the-box integrations to data sources
There are so many CRM tools on the market that making a choice can be overwhelming. Since the tool will automate several areas of your business it is important to select something that you will be comfortable with and will serve you well. There are CRM tools that are generic across industries and may be customized, and there are CRM tools that are specific to an industry. Sometimes the industry-specific CRM tools can be fairly easy to implement but aren’t always as robust.
In the early days, CRM tools were huge pieces of software like Siebel that needed to be customized for each business as part of an enormous project with an army of consultants and technologists. Salesforce was the first cloud-based tool that brought CRM to the masses. As its name implies, it’s niche was salesforce automation and was well suited to sales funnel management for large sales teams. Implementation of Salesforce is still not the easiest project to take on, although you can look for partners who have already implemented a version specific to your industry.
The good news is that CRM and Marketing Automation have now reached a level of affordability for small business. A basic CRM tool can be purchased for less than $100/user/month and a more robust CRM/Marketing Automation tool for around $200/month.