How’s Your CRM?

Customer Relationship Management is a powerful tool in the hands of a savvy entrepreneur and it will help you grow your return on investment many times over.  CRM enables you to maximize your upsell, downsell, and resell opportunities.  Effective CRM will help you scale your business upward in the shortest time possible.  But, what are the pieces that are necessary to plan and execute your CRM strategy?

The objective of customer relationship management is building great customer relations.  Easy, right?  If it were, so many companies wouldn’t fail at this most basic task.  Every connection that you make with your customers can be a stepping stone to repeat sales, upsales, and downsales.  Or it can signal to them that future engagement with you isn’t worth their time, effort, and financial investment.  How can you use CRM to build your business?

The backbone of your CRM strategy is data collection.  Create a way to capture information about customers and leads, and you’re well on your way to growing your ROI.  What kind of information is most helpful?  Customer history, preferences, and their social media presence are all helpful data points.  Also, your past interactions with them in the sales process.

If you’re at the beginning stages of your business, you can do this on a spreadsheet.  As your business grows, you may want to invest in CRM software.  What is essential is that every point of contact with potential customers and your existing customer base be positive and valuable.  Help Scout gives an example of the kind of interaction you don’t want to have with your customers and potential customers:

“You risk ruining your first impression when you treat your customers like Comcast treats people calling in: “Can we have your personal information, account information, blood sample, and deepest fear?”

Before creating your CRM strategy, start with your vision.  What is it that you want to accomplish with your business?  What is the why and how of your business?  Why are you in business (and a good answer is not to make money).  How does your business help others?

Now, the strategy question – how will you achieve your vision?  This is where CRM can be invaluable.  You may plan to compete on price, through an extensive product line, and excellent customer service.  Whatever your competitive advantage is, how will you communicate this to your customers and potential customers?

Next, what are the metrics that you will use to measure how you’re doing?  These are your key performance indicators, and they can help you determine what steps you need to take to achieve your business goals.  Three of the most basic metrics are sales revenue, net profit margin, gross margin, and monthly recurring revenue.  MRR is particularly relevant if you are offering a training program that clients enroll into and continue month to month.

Other important metrics are sales growth year to date, cost of customer acquisition, customer loyalty and retention, and customer satisfaction.  Tracking your leads per month, your lead to customer conversion rate, and monthly website traffic are all helpful as you monitor your CRM.

8 Quick Tips For Great CRM

  1. Follow up sales with a thank you – a personal one, not just something that you’ve written and placed in your autoresponder.  That’s the kind of personal touch that build relationships with customers and demonstrates that you care about them.  Make your customers feel special and you’re well on your way to differentiating yourself and your business from at least most of your competition.
  2. Stay positive.  The Help Scout post mentioned above gives a good example of how rephrasing information can improve your customer’s experience with you.  Instead of saying that a product isn’t available like this: “I can’t get you that product until next month. It is back-ordered and unavailable at this time,”  how about presenting the same information like this: “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!”  In the positive statement, the focus is not on the problem, but on the best possible solution.
  3. Make timely responses.  In this nanosecond world, people do not like to be kept waiting.  Response time is critical to building good relationships.  At the very least, respond in 24 hours.  Quicker response times mean happier customers.
  4. Be personable.  You are not a faceless corporation; you are a real, breathing, helpful person.  Let your customers know that.
  5. Develop a strong relationship with your customers through consistent and helpful communication.  Your email list is a great way to do this.  Ask for feedback, give great support, do everything you can to make your customer a happy customer.  Happy customers become repeat customers, and when that happens, you don’t have to be sweating new lead acquisition (at least, not sweat it as much).
  6. In everything you do, exceed the expectations of your customers.  Meet their concerns with understanding and address their concerns with the very best that you can offer.  If there are any requests, criticisms, or complaints, address them quickly and effectively. Do everything in your power to resolve issues and make things right for your customers.
  7. Use social media to build your relationship with your customers as you’re using it to widen your audience.  Social media is a great place to show more of your personality.  Engage with those who comment, start conversations, interact with those who are engaged.
  8. Communicate clearly.  Stay away from business jargon, insider language, and trite cliches.  Good communication is clear communication that is concise, easily understandable, and free of words and phrases that cause your hearers to roll their eyes and take you less seriously.  Here’s a good example of what not to say, and what to say from Erika Napoletano of American Express.  With jargon: “To get you the engagement you want on your company blog, we need to move the needle. Shake things up.”Without jargon: “To increase engagement on your company blog, we need to give your readers a reason to stay on the page. Engage them on a deeper level. That’s why we’re proposing your fantastic solution.”

What would you add to the tips?  I invite your comments and questions, and your likes and shares.

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