Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’re probably finding it really hard to keep track of your customers. Maybe you’ve got them all written down somewhere, in a little exercise book. Or perhaps you’re a little more techno-savvy and you’ve got a spreadsheet, or a Microsoft Access database nicely setup which keeps track of them.
Over time, you then realize that your system in place for keeping track of your customers is too unwieldy because you’ve got so many of them.
If you’re lucky, you’ve probably had a conversation with “someone in the know” who’s told you about CRM, and that it would make your life easier. You tried asking about exactly what that would entail, but you got lost in the jargon of it all. Well, this post will hopefully make your life a little easier.
So what is CRM?
CRM is a piece of software which manages your customers or donors, hence the name. For the sake of this argument here, I’ll use ‘customer’ and ‘donor’ interchangeably here. Provided that it’s implemented appropriately, it keeps a track of all your customers, and keeps tabs on all conversations that have been made with them. It creates a nice little picture for each customer; whereby you can see all kinds of useful information such as:
- what you’ve sent that customer in the past
- what marketing campaigns you’ve bombarded them with (if any)
- how often they’ve purchased goods/services from you (if any at all)
- how often they’ve donated
- how likely they are to purchase from you/donate to you in future
- when was the last time you spoke with them, and what the outcome was
This is all well and good, but these so-called CRM systems cost a bit of money to set up. What exactly are the benefits? Ok, on to the next section:
What are the benefits here for my small business/charity?
- For starters, it’s an elegant place to keep track of all your customers and their history, all in one place.
- Your administrative work would be shortened, yet more effective.
- You could use the information to better ‘predict’ when would be a good time to communicate with a customer/donor to increase the likelihood of a purchase/donation.
- You then have the ability to make your communications to your customers more personalized/tailored for them.
- If you want to get extra savvy, you could use the information that’s kept in the CRM system to communicate with other software/systems you might have. These could be a marketing activity (i.e. sending automatic emails after a user has contacted the company about something specific); a stock fulfilment system (if there’s a potential rise in purchases predicted at a particular point in time), an HR system (if there are lots of communications and there’s a need for more staff to manage the workload).
- There are plenty of benefits here, the list goes on.
So what are the options?
There are plenty of different software options, which vary widely in their price and feature ranges. Below are some of the more known contenders:
The market leader, salesforce.com was one of the first companies that revolutionized how business is done online – by running their software product purely off a website. Once upon a time, software was something you bought and the installed on your computer or servers that you rented/purchased outright. Salesforce introduced to the world the idea of “working in the cloud”, or basically using software that someone else is hosting online. SalesForce.com is a very scalable solution and has a version tailored for non-profits as well as small businesses.
SugarCRM is completely open-source. By this, I mean that the source code that powers the software is freely available to anyone who wants to use it, under various flexible licensing restrictions. It’s a very comprehensive product that gets updated very frequently. They have some great resources available on their website, in terms of a CRM intro, product demos, white papers, even educational videos.
Ok, so this option is purely for charities, but it really needs to be mentioned here. It’s free, it’s popular, and the product is constantly evolving.
So now that I know my options, what should be my next step?
You’ve then got a few options. It’s worth either assigning the task of vendor selection to someone on your team, or speaking to a consultant about which would be best serving your company’s/charity’s interests.
When investigating and discussing with potential partners, you should be looking out for things like:
- Features – All CRM products have nice features. It’s worth choosing a product that has features that you’ll find useful.
- SAAS option – Personally, I’d go for a ‘Software as a Service‘ option, as the costs of server hosting and management often far outweigh the benefits.
- Scalability – Does the CRM product scale down/up to your list of requirements?
- Price – think about the budget your willing to use, to get the benefits of the CRM product.
Hopefully, this will make the CRM world a little clearer for you.