CRM. What is it? And, as a small business owner, why should you care? CRM stands for customer relationship management. When it comes to attracting, selling to, and retaining great relationships with your customer base, it is a tool of necessity.

A Small Business Resource

With many customer relationship management vendors offering cloud-based solutions aimed specifically at the small business community, these tools have the same powerful features and functions as the big enterprise offerings without the enormous price tag. In fact, there are vendors that offer plans that range from $0 per month to roughly $99 per month — and everything in between.

Think of a CRM as a hotline between you and your customers and between your front and back offices. In order to expand your business, you need to keep existing customers happy while identifying new prospects. With a CRM and an intelligent customer management strategy, you can better understand the decision makers and influencers within each organization you're targeting for sales. That information can then be used to address prospects' specific needs while building relationships that can help prevent client dissatisfaction and potential revenue loss.

Beyond Spreadsheets

Because a CRM is essentially a database, using one can also be viewed as the next logical step beyond the traditional spreadsheet method of maintaining information. CRMs provide consistency in the way information is captured and stored. Whenever someone calls a customer, sends out a marketing email, or receives a customer inquiry, that conversation or interaction is recorded in a standard template, providing a clear method for anyone in the future to both access and contextualize the interaction.

If, for instance, a manager wants insight into how her team is performing, both individually and at a group level, she can quickly pull together that data because it is all stored in a centralized place. Sales forecasting is also much easier when you can quantify your customer acquisitions, analyze performance, identify successful sales tactics and track progress. Adjustments can be made in real-time, and the results can be seen more quickly.

The secret to stellar CRM is excellent customer relationships. CRM software can automate and streamline the management part of the process so you and your employees can concentrate on what's really important. Having a CRM in place also provides a sense of security for personnel because everyone knows exactly what information has been communicated and exchanged with every customer. Having a reliable single source of information allows an entire organization — no matter how large or small — to be consistent in its external communications and messaging.

This article is part of a collaboration between Insightly and ADP. VisitInsightly's blog for more best practices.

Tags: Customer Relationships