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How to Make Your CRM Your Company's Most Flexible Tool

H. John Oechsle
H. John Oechsle
CEO and President at Swiftpage

When buying a CRM solution for your small business, look for one that helps you do these seven things.

The world is filled with opportunity – especially for small businesses looking to take market share from larger players in their space. Unlike corporate giants, small companies are rarely tied down by the slow-moving and bureaucratic decision-making process, and can adapt to market changes at an unparalleled pace.

And when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) strategy and technology – and the flexibility a good CRM tool can create – small businesses can really shine.

Large corporations can often require significant time and capital investment to extract and transfer vital information currently housed in disparate sales, marketing, and customer service tools siloed across numerous departments. Small and midsize businesses don't have this problem; they are generally able to integrate new tech on the fly that helps them share information more easily, giving them a competitive edge when it comes to successfully engaging with customers and establishing relationships that lead to sales.

These are the key benefits a properly implemented CRM can offer small businesses:

  • Predictive analytics
  • Improved marketing capabilities
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Mobility
  • Third-party integrations
  • Retention and acquisition benefits

Here's how a small company can accomplish its CRM goals and, consequently, enjoy higher sales volume and greater customer satisfaction.

1. Take advantage of powerful predictive analytics.

You don't need a crystal ball when you have the right CRM tool. Today's best small business-focused CRMs can support sales through predictive analytics technology, which can provide invaluable insight into who to contact, when, where and how to maximize each interaction to drive transactions.

Without the right tools, efforts to forecast the most effective next step to take with a lead can be both unreliable and frustrating. According to a recent report, a mere 28% of sales forecasts made by sales teams are accurate. A CRM can help bridge that gap by providing sophisticated and fact-based forecasts.

Predictive analytics can allow your small business to take a macro and micro view of every scenario, with technology that can provide the opportunity to maximize each interaction and an eye toward how that engagement can lead to an eventual sale.

2. Become a marketing master.

Marketing plays an indispensable role in ensuring the financial success of almost any company. The trouble is, small businesses don't normally have sizeable marketing budgets. According to a recent Statista study, the majority of U.S. small businesses spent less than $10,000 on marketing in 2017.

Your CRM can help stretch those dollars to support marketing objectives through supported integrations with marketing automation, email marketing technology and more. Better still, businesses can use a CRM to create targeted marketing campaigns, personalized content and other strategies that offer customers a more relevant shopping experience.


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3. Get an edge with adaptability.

Corporate giants can afford to employ entirely different tools to support their sales, marketing, customer service, and organizational management efforts, but small businesses need their CRMs to act as more of a jack-of-all-trades, and they're better served by this approach!

Small businesses must find a CRM solution that's adaptable enough to capture the information they need for their business, both now and as they grow. This will help strengthen customer engagement at every point of the company's development.

For example, a small business owner looking to bolster sales and buyer satisfaction should seek a CRM solution that can be built around their specific sales and customer service needs, given their business model and organizational goals. The CRM must always be customizable and capture data that's relevant to your requirements.

When used correctly, CRMs yield huge payoffs. According to an IBM report, a properly integrated system can produce a return on investment exceeding 245%. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the same report cites ease of use as the most in-demand CRM feature.

4. Flex your (CRM) muscles in your industry.

How prevalent is the specific CRM you're using (or considering) in your industry? Does it provide the specific functionality you need to be successful in your space?  The CRM you choose should be flexible enough to meet the needs of both your specific industry and your particular business.

Companies are increasingly recognizing the need for industry-specific business tools, and your CRM should accommodate the unique challenges and opportunities of your space. According to a recent study, the real estate market is seeing the biggest demand for an industry-specific CRM, followed by the manufacturing and consulting sectors.

Your CRM doesn't need to have your industry in their name or even be exclusive to your industry, but it should be able to demonstrate how it will help your business achieve growth in your space.

5. Make sure mobility is an asset.

In today's on-the-go world, it's no surprise that the number of people working remotely is rising. About 43% of U.S. employees work away from the office at least part of the time, with one-third of those folks spending more than 80% of their time telecommuting.

These changing workplace dynamics have made mobility a critical component for small businesses. It allows them to meaningfully engage with customers in an environment where sales are made – and customer support is provided – outside office hours.

Be careful when choosing a mobile CRM strategy – a full-featured mobile version of a complex CRM solution can often lead to frustration and minimal use among small businesses. Instead, businesses should opt for a smaller-scale CRM that's adapted and optimized with the most relevant features a small business needs while working on the go.

A streamlined mobile CRM containing with the right features allows sales reps and other employees to remotely access necessary data quickly and efficiently, thus improving sales and customer satisfaction.

The growing popularity of mobile CRMs has boosted the performance of sales representatives, who can connect with clients at all hours as they work toward making a sale. One study shows that 65% of sales reps who adopted mobile CRM strategies achieved their sales quotas. Conversely, 22% of sales reps using nonmobile CRM reached the same targets.

6. Evaluate third-party integrations.

The world has become an information superhighway with data hitting us from a multitude of sources and directions. Adapting third-party integrations within your CRM can ensure your reps are up to speed as the latest customer data pours in.

All CRMs, no matter how sophisticated they might be, can benefit from incorporating outside applications. Whether you're linking your CRM to Twitter or a customer support system, third-party apps can strengthen your sales, organizational and communication efforts.

Aside from helping keep pace with the latest data, incorporating outside software can be a valuable way to manage schedules, enhance marketing, connect with customers and achieve other organizational objectives.

7. Keep an eye on both acquisition and retention.

It often requires a different approach to forge new friendships than it does to maintain old ones. The same holds true with customer relationships. By now, you may have a handle on your longtime customers' buying history, communication preferences and shopping habits. Conversely, there's a lot to learn about the new and prospective customers you're trying to woo.

Your CRM should be capable of supporting customer acquisition and retention efforts with equal aplomb. It should provide functionality for tracking new relationship through the sales funnel as well as established connections as you look to sell upgrades and add-ons as well as generally maintain the relationship.

The CRM industry has become among the largest software markets in the world, and the technology's popularity shows no signs of slowing. As the market grows, the best small business CRMs continue to expand upon and improve the features that benefit the small business community.

The best small business CRMs can capture complex and relevant data sets, help small businesses take sophisticated collections of information, and make them actionable to drive business growth through successful interactions with both new and existing customers alike.

There are a lot of CRM options out there. And many of them position themselves as offering additional business tools and features on top of core contact management functionality. But the key is to determine which CRM you'd need to conform your business to get the most out of it, and which CRM would be able to be adapted to you and the needs of your organization.

The possibility of the latter option is welcome news for small businesses, where evolving CRM technology is constantly improving and being used in innovative, strategic and game-changing ways. Take your time, do your due diligence and keep an eye out for the CRM that will flex to meet your needs. You'll be glad you did, and the odds are that you'll see improvements across multiple areas of the business.

Image Credit: Gajus/Getty Images
H. John Oechsle
H. John Oechsle
business.com Member
See H. John Oechsle's Profile
H. John Oechsle joined Swiftpage (www.act.com) in July 2012 and currently serves as president and chief executive officer. John came to Swiftpage with a 30 year track record of building highly profitable and sustainable revenue growth for emerging companies and established global leaders. John is an advocate for technology and education in Colorado and has been an active contributor to the Colorado Technology Association (CTA). John has received numerous recognitions, including the Technology Executive of the Year in 2006, the Titan of Technology in 2009, the Bob Newman Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community by the CTA in 2011 and the Nancy J. Sauer Philanthropy award in 2016. In 2015, John was appointed to the Business Experiential Learning Commission (BEL) by the Governor of Colorado and continues to serve on that commission today. In 2018, John joined the Rutgers CX Advisory Board for the Customer Experience Certificate Program at Rutgers.