Article

A guide to CRM software for small businesses

Published August 27, 2021
Last updated August 27, 2021

As a start-up or a small business, you’ll be starting to build up your customer base and interact with prospective new clients. Customer relation management software can help you keep on top of your contact details and customer interactions - a must for new businesses, where staying organised is one of the biggest avenues to success.

What is a customer relations management system?

As a start-up, you might not have heard of any CRM platforms, or know what this type of tool does. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools are a way of helping companies to develop successful customer relationships by storing all information and data about customers in one, easily accessible (and even easier to use) place. 

CRM solutions do several different things. They offer easier contact management, ensuring all data held about your customers (including basic information like their name and address as well as transaction and demographic data) is safely stored in one tool. 

This allows you to improve customer service, increase retention rates, improve your sales process and offer better collaboration between sales, marketing and customer support teams - but we’ll look at how a CRM allows you to do all that (and more) later in this article.

What does a CRM do?

A CRM will, in short, make it easier to keep on top of your customer data. But it offers far more than that.

Contact management

A CRM will capture and organise customer data - and that of potential customers - for you. This covers everything from potential leads to repeat customers and includes all relevant data from contact information to demographic data and transaction history. 

Sales pipeline management

This feature is particularly important for small businesses and start-ups looking to grow and develop their offering by gathering more leads. A CRM will help your sales teams to stay on top of the process, with features including:

  • Automated prospecting and lead generation
  • Lead scoring tools to make the lead identification process easier
  • Easy tracking of successes and failures so your sales reps can learn what works and what doesn’t for the future
  • The ability to create personalised quotes based on customer data

In-depth reporting

A CRM collects lots of data about your customers - but there’s no point in data for data’s sake. The real value in data collection comes with powerful in-depth reporting. This sort of reporting is valuable for small businesses, as it can help you to guide decisions going forward, on everything from what landing pages you need on your site to what your next email marketing campaign should be.

There are a huge number of CRM reports that you can benefit from, including:

  • Pipeline reports
  • Sales funnel reports
  • Call outcomes reports
  • Lead status reports

An easy-to-use dashboard

Any good CRM product will have a dashboard that makes life simple for all of your teams. Sales, marketing and customer support teams will all use your CRM, so it’s essential that it’s organised in a way that’s simple to use. It should display customer messages, important sales data, appointments, and any other metrics that are important for you as a growing business - if you choose a CRM with a customisable dashboard, you’ll be able to tailor it to your needs.

Cloud-based operations 

As a start-up - and particularly in the current climate, with many businesses either becoming online-first or switching to a hybrid model of working - you may not have a fixed office location. Or you might spend a lot of time on the go, meeting new clients and suppliers. 

Either way, one of the main features to look out for in any CRM is that it’s cloud-based and offers a mobile app. This way, you can manage your customer information, check in on data reports, or update your marketing activities from anywhere at any time.

What are the benefits of a CRM for start ups?

Start-up life is busy, trying to keep on top of sales leads whilst you’re sending emails to promote your products, reply to responses from customers, and even trying to gain funding. A CRM makes it simple for you, offering lots of benefits for growing businesses.

Find out who your customers are

When you’re just starting out, you have customer profiles but these aren’t necessarily set in stone. Until you start trading, you don’t actually know who your customers are. A CRM can help you to work it out. As you collect data on your customers, you can do real time analysis to understand which demographics and locations provide the best opportunities for you, and you can segment the data to target specific sections of your new customer base.

Improve customer satisfaction

You don’t want to gain a reputation for poor customer service from the get-go. A CRM will help you to stay on top of customer service as you’ll be able to see all customer enquiries in one place and prioritise responses.

As your business grows, you’ll also be able to use a CRM to improve customer retention. You’ll be able to identify common pain points for customers, meaning you can quickly and easily create knowledge base content that addresses their queries.

You’ll also be able to keep your customers satisfied by offering a personalised experience, whether that’s through a loyalty program or simply sending personalised marketing emails based on previous purchases.

CRM marketing automation

If you are creating marketing content for customers, you don’t have to worry about painstakingly crafting emails to send to your customers. CRM automation allows you to save time on those boring but essential tasks - leaving your sales team to focus on chasing leads, building relationships and closing deals. It’s even been found that companies with automated sales processes have conversion rates that are 53% higher than those that don’t, as well as 3.1% higher annual growth.

Craft winning email marketing campaigns

Email marketing is a great, cost-effective way for new businesses to connect with their audience - and a CRM helps you to reach more people with less effort. It’s a low-effort, high-reward marketing tactic that new businesses shouldn’t ignore - email marketing can bring 4400% ROI, driving $44 of revenue for every $1 spend. With a CRM, you can:

  • Segment email addresses to create targeted lists
  • Send personalised emails to multiple people at once
  • Create custom email templates
  • Measure the performance of email campaigns
  • Use reporting data to understand what works and what doesn’t so you can refine your future campaigns

How to use CRM data

A CRM offers a huge amount of data at your fingertips - and that can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a small business. There are many ways to use CRM data to your benefit, though.

Resolve customer issues

A CRM isn’t just a tool for your sales team. It’s also vital for building customer relationships - and an important part of that is resolving queries and complaints. Not only does the data allow you to see what customers have got in touch, but you can prioritise customer support tickets to ensure the most important issues are answered first.

Customers are looking for a seamless cross-channel experience in 2021, and a CRM will help you to achieve this. Whether a customer reaches out on Twitter or live chat initially, they might then move to an email or phone conversation - and it’s important that you create a good customer experience by seamlessly managing this transition. If you can achieve a high level of customer satisfaction when you’re just starting out in business, it’ll stand you in good stead for many years to come.

Target unique personas

As already mentioned, a CRM makes the entire sales process easier - and one of the ways it does this is by allowing you to create unique personas, so you can better target leads, as well as develop more accurate personas for ongoing marketing efforts. A CRM will track behavioural patterns and you can use this data to really get to know your customer and build out personas for distinct types of customers that can be used in your activities going forward.

Engage dormant customers

Even as a new business, you’ll quickly learn that a huge number of people who have signed up for your email lists have never interacted with your brand on social media or made a purchase on your website. With a CRM, you can harness this data to turn a lurking customer into an active one. Don’t give up on these leads - instead, create engaging, personalised emails with relevant marketing material or offers.

Improve your sales process

As your CRM tracks every touchpoint on your sales process, you’ll start to build up a bank of data that can be used to understand what works and what doesn’t. What lead generation tactics proved to be most successful for you and which ones didn’t land? Scrutinise the reports generated by your CRM and use the learnings to optimise your sales process.

Improve your margins

Harness all the customer data collected in your CRM to improve your revenue through cross- and upselling. You’ll have a record of every item your customers have previously purchased, and you can use this data to increase their lifetime customer value through upselling. Look at previous purchases to understand what they’re likely to buy and design promotions based on this. Your CRM will also notify you when a subscription is about to end, so you can devise the perfect offer to retain your customer.