I get asked all the time why people should upgrade from an address book like Outlook contacts to a business database (Customer Relationship Manager – CRM) like BatchBook. There are many great reasons to consider the upgrade, but you do have to decide if it indeed right for your company.
First, lets talk about the different levels. On the bottom, would be separate address books, typically in written form or Rolodexes. They’re not linked in any way and not even digitized, so it’s the way that business has been done for a long time without any benefits from modern technology. Then, there might be a digital address book like Outlook contacts or the contact manager on your phone. Once contacts are digital, they’re easy to email, to maintain and to backup. The real magic happens when they are synchronized or accessible across multiple devices and people. Most of the time, this isn’t possible or setup right. The next level might be a full-blown database like you can build with MS Access, FileMaker Pro, MySQL, etc. These are complicated and expensive to setup and maintain the right way. Most small businesses do not need this level of customization. It’s like buying the all the parts to build your new car, instead of going to a dealer and buying the car and driving it off the lot. Finally, there is a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) which is a type of database that is pre-built for small businesses or sales teams with the information and tools they need to succeed. Some of the popular ones are SalesForce, ACT!, BatchBook, Zoho CRM and Sugar CRM. With so many, how do you choose the right one?
Choosing the right CRM means finding the one that matches the features and pricing for your needs. A word of caution, the more expensive and the free ones often share the same fault of having way too many features and options. They can become daunting, overwhelming and unmanageable. The mid-range ones are typically best suited for small business because they have the right selection of features for small teams. Ok, what are some of those features. Right now, many people care about info being “in the cloud” meaning that it’s accessible on various computers, smartphones and tablets. That way, you can enter it one time and access it anywhere. Another feature of a CRM versus lesser tools, is the ability to track tasks and activity. All CRMs have a calendar component to help manage the actual workflow of actual projects (or deals) as they move from leads, to prospects to happy customers. Whether you are a one-man biz or a well-oiled team, being able to list and track tasks in a CRM is a great way to manage future actions, monitor workflow and get status reports. Many of the modern web-based (also known as Software as a Service – SaaS) CRMs also integrate with other tools. ”Integration” is another hot item. For example, BatchBook integrates well with MailChimp (an email blast company) so that you can store your contacts in one place and use them in both activities. A steadfast feature of CRMS is the ability to generate reports. With all the data your’s storing (from to static contact info to weekly activity logs) you should be able to create some great status reports that allow you to visualize your work and help you keep your business on the right path. In summary, a good CRM links contact information, activity logs, tasks, emails, events and more all in one location for you to access on any device to help you do your job.
Setup and maintenance are often overlooked, yet they are amazingly important. Too many companies buy a CRM and then throw it at their team to use without setting it up, like hanging up an un-opened paint-by-numbers book in you lobby. Setting up a CRM involves looking at the information you currently have in your data and analyzing your business (for today and tomorrow) to see what information you may want to add based on forecasted needs and your actual work process. From there, you can add the fields, menues and features to tailor the CRM to work with your team and your style. A CRM has two main fail-points: bad data in and bad data out. You have to build the CRM to work with your current team and be realistic about what information they will and will not input. They you need to train them on how to use the software so that they actually look forward to opening it every day. On the other side, what’s the point of storing tons of data if you never use it? Creating these reports and viewing them regularly are a great way to improve your accountability and sales revenue. Maintenance is the other overlooked issue with CRMs. With so much data being stored and so many people accessing it, you’re bound to have corruption, duplication or worse. Put someone in charge of checking (and backing up) your database regularly.
When a business upgrades from old-fashioned address books to a modern, connected CRM, they can count on a slew of improvements in their business. A CRM allows you to store all your data in one central location that the team can access from computers and mobile devices, allowing them to get the info they need to do their job and provide better customer service. With a good setup and great reports, managers and entrepreneurs can track activities and hold teams more accountable. Finally, with modern integration with 3rd party systems, a great CRM can make work easier by getting rid of wasted activities duplicating data, managing multiple lists, etc. When it’s all setup right, a CRM can help your business sing!