Most small businesses don’t need this level of detail – it would be overkill and a budget breaker. But do you need something? Oh yes. Right now for me – as an independent consultant – it’s mostly something I track using emails sorted into folders…and yes, it’s sort of driving me crazy so I don’t recommend it and I’m in the process of changing how I manage my customer relations so I definitely have some current thoughts on the issue.
CRM by definition
To establish sort of a baseline definition of what we’re talking about in terms of CRM, let’s look at what Wikipedia has to say about it. Wikipedia defines CRM as this:
“CRM is a widely implemented model for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients, and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes - principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients; nurture and retain those the company already has; entice former clients back into the fold; and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.”
Critical CRM info and needs
Some critical fields you need in a CRM for your small business are these:
- parent company
- primary contact
- secondary contact
- email addresses
- contact dates
Some critical functionality that will be helpful to your business as you use your CRM to track your current and potential clients and customers:
- dashboard reporting view
- customizable fields
- ability to add fields
- standard reporting out of the box
- ability to create custom reports
- ability to initiate contact with clients from within the CRM (will initiate emails and skype contact from within the CRM software)
You can start with a product or you can do as I am doing and start by building what you think you need into something like an Excel spreadsheet or an Access database. If you want to proceed with a product, then I suggest that we once again refer to Wikipedia as a first place to search. As it often does with other similar software solutions like project management software and task management software – Wikipedia as included a nice comparison chart of several leading CRM systems. It is located here. This list is far from all-inclusive, but it will get you started in the search for the right match for your needs. Most offer a free 30-day trial and some are even free, so give it a try and see if one works for you.
The bottom line is you could search and search forever and never find an exact match to what you want. I suggest you do as I did…begin by writing down the key information you would like a CRM system to capture for you and possibly even begin to build what you think you need into a spreadsheet. But do something because if you wait till you know for sure what you need 100%, you may have already missed some key opportunities with some potential clients that you’ll never get back. You could wait forever for perfection and never get there…so do something now.