When I start looking at clients’ customer management actions, CRM is a big topic—and it’s not just new businesses asking me “what is a CRM?”.  Even many established ones feel perfectly fine using some scary methods to track their customers and leads:  spreadsheets, yellow pads, white boards, Trello cards and yes—scarily—Contacts in gmail or yahoo.

As the conversation unfolds, many assure me they use a CRM, but the one they name is actually an email service provider: e.g., Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or ConvertKit.

If you see yourself in these examples, there’s NO shame in it—but I have to break it to you: it’s likely to be holding your business back. Let’s start by defining a CRM:

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and in particular the software or app used to track all the details about your company’s interactions with leads and customers.

In a nutshell, it’s a steroid-enhanced database that allows you and your team to view at a glance, and maintain over time—often with plenty of automation involved—a complete history of interactions your lead or customer has with your company, from when they first hit your radar, to as long out as you choose to keep them in your sights.  Click and a profile is at your fingertips.

Some industries—real estate, hospitality, healthcare, financial services and other regulated businesses come to mind—have specialized needs, and specific CRM tools to serve them. For everyone else, there are loads of options. (My favorite is HubSpot, but I’ll be doing a shortlist review in the coming weeks.)

Why should you care?

SAVE TIME. Respond faster; reduce repetitive steps.

  • Stop clicking around to find the information you need, double- and triple-entering details, flipping through old files and records, hitting up team members to remind you of past conversations and status updates.
  • With a CRM, you and your team can enter notes about client interactions right into their file.
  • And amazing automagical integrations are available that link your billing/bookkeeping, social media platforms, email marketing tools and even permit calls right from the app.  

RUN MORE PROFITABLY.  Many CRMs can help you run your business smarter.

  • Set it up to sort and score leads, and help you manage sales efforts so you choose the most effective allocation of your resources—from high value in-person contacts, to surprise-and-delight lead or customer nurturing, to spotting opportunities for new products and services.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re a solopreneur or a midsize business with 100 employees, if these are activities that are not running in a planned, smooth way, implementing a well-structured CRM program can help you find money.

INCREASE BUSINESS VALUE & PROTECTION. Be prepared for what (may) come.  

  • At some point, you may want to merge or sell your business. So when you ask what is a CRM, I can assure you it’s one of the key systems likely to have a major influence on what will be on the table.
  • Even if that’s not on your horizon today, one of your responsibilities as a leader is to prepare for the unplanned; getting your Customer Relationship Management system in place will make it possible for someone else to step in (temporarily or permanently) if anything happens to key sales and service players in your business.

If you’re pretty comfortable in the digital space, and generally a system-oriented soul, the prospect of such a tool is like seeing a mirage twinkling before your eyes: Could that idyllic future be mine? Others among you are thinking: there is NO WAY I have time for that.

A CRM is no magic bullet, but the benefits of getting one in place are significant.  Yes, there will be a learning curve. But getting a CRM is definitely worth your time and effort. And if you need help making it happen or choosing the right one for your needs, let me know; we can help. Get in action! Momentum can start, today.