Quality work, prompt and courteous service, and value at a competitive price are all important ingredients in both attracting and retaining customers. The challenge today, however, is that your competitors want to offer the same things.
So what else do you need to do to keep those customers coming back? Learn as much as you can about what they want, and how they interact with your small business. A valuable technology tool for gathering, managing, and analyzing that kind of data is customer relationship management, or CRM.
According to Ramon Ray, editor and technology evangelist for Smallbiztechnology.com,
“CRM is one of the most powerful tools a growing business needs to nurture prospective customers to a ‘yes’ and to nurture customers into being loyal, repeat customers who refer other customers.”
The advantage to CRM, says Ray, is that it provides a single view of each customer. “Only a true CRM system enables you to see the overall interaction of your customer across your web site, sales funnels, and beyond,” he explains. “Silos of customer information are no good.”
A CRM also helps small business owners keep in touch with customers, and given them individualized attention. “This enables your entire organization to treat each customer with the appropriate level of service,” Ray says.
Extra focus as needed can be directed on prospects that are ready to buy as well as those customers who are not yet ready. At the same time, a CRM reduces the risk that long-time customers will be taken for granted.
A wide range of CRM products are available, each with different features. Leading customer engagement provider Constant Contact (constantcontact.com) offers a platform to launch and monitor customer engagement campaigns across multiple channels, including email, social media and events. There’s also Microsoft Dynamics CRM; Campaigner CRM, Infusionsoft, and many others.
Ray cautions that while many CRM products sound similar, they are the same. “Carefully consider where your business is today, where it’s going ‘tomorrow’ and what you need to grow,” he says, adding that the best CRM tool for a particular small business is the one that facilitates better customer service, and better lead nurturing. Or as Ray puts it, “date your leads and marry your customers.”
Learn more about tools for managing customers and building repeat business, contact Raleigh SCORE. We provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. To schedule a free appointment with our experienced counselors, go to http://raleigh.score.org, or call us at 919-856-4739.