Customer Relationship Management for Small Businesses

As we have become more and more technology-oriented in recent years, one of the trends I’ve noticed is that small business owners seem to assume that any task needing to be done to run their business requires a software package to facilitate it. Customer Relationship Management is no different. The multitude of CRM software packages available today, such as ACT, Outlook Contact Manager, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, FreeCRM, SalesBoom.com and many others, have encouraged this trend. Unfortunately, what frequently occurs is that the programs are so complicated, or so work-intensive, that the already over-worked small business owners eventually stop using them; and then assume that they can’t proceed with a CRM program since they don’t have time to manage it with the software program.

I would like to propose that small business owners go back to the basics as listed below:

  • A database of your customers, in Excel, that can be sorted and updated and includes a comments section.
  • Follow-up steps, including “Thanks for your time/business” letters or e-mails.
  • An inexpensive e-mail vendor such as ConstantContact, SwiftPages or any other similar online service that can cost as little as $15 per month to manage up to 500 contacts.
  • A solid communication schedule, with a customer feedback loop that captures and logs in the customer contact history.
  • Buy-in from every employee in your company to execute the strategy.

The list of basic tasks above comes from an article that recently ran in Forbes.com that discussed CRM from a similar standpoint (the complete article can be found on our website), the premise being that CRM programs don’t need to be complicated to implement to be effective. Nor do they need to be costly or time-consuming. Make a plan, have a basic database to track your efforts, some simple tools, and you’re on your way to increasing business from the most cost-effective and profitable customers you can have – the ones who already know you and have done business with you. Try it and see if it doesn’t have positive impact on your business!

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The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts with over twenty years’ experience in working with small businesses. Linda can be contacted by email at strategicgrowthconcepts@earthlink.net. The company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com

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4 Responses to “Customer Relationship Management for Small Businesses”

  1. tboehm30 Says:

    A small business owner who claims that he doesn’t have the time to manage a CRM system has a lousy excuse. Doing what you said above should take just as much time as managing a simple CRM system. With a little time invested into learning and creating a simple process, users should be able to use their CRM system to facilitate your suggestions.

    Most CRM systems – especially the ones you listed – have a simple set of functions that can be used. They also have more complicated functions that can be optionally added to your process. Owners of simple CRM systems should create a process that will allow them to use the system without being overwhelmed by the functionality.

    The CRM system will give the owner so much better information, and organized in a real database fashion. A “comment” section in Excel would quickly become useless, whereas a CRM system would have the whole history of those comments.

    Sorry to disagree, but I think that if implemented correctly and with a simple documented process, CRM can be used by anyone – even that small business owner.

    (Just my 2 cents)

  2. Email Marketing Strategy » Blog Archive » Customer Relationship Management for Small Businesses « Strategic ... Says:

    […] LD placed an observative post today on Customer Relationship Management for Small Businesses « Strategic …Here’s a quick excerptAn inexpensive e-mail vendor such as ConstantContact, SwiftPages or any other similar online service that can cost as little as $15 per month to manage up to 500 contacts. A solid communication schedule, with a customer feedback loop … Buy-in from every employee in your company to execute the strategy. The list of basic tasks above comes from an article that recently ran in Forbes.com that discussed CRM from a similar standpoint (the complete article can be found on our … […]

  3. twieczorek Says:

    I’d have to agree with tboehm. Having a small business owner or salesrep follow your steps is unwieldy. Can Excel keep a history of interactions with a contact? What about reports? What about a sales pipeline? What about creating quotes from a Sales Opportunity. Any added time will be well-spent.

  4. traceydaviero Says:

    As a small business owner, it is worth considering working with a virtual assistant (VA) for things like CRM. Many VAs are specialists with systems such as those you have mentioned above. Set up of any system, even a spreadsheet, can take up time that could be spent running your business. You can find many qualified VAs at http://www.VAnetworking.com/


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