Most businesses quickly realise that managing their customer information is an extremely time consuming activity. If customer data is managed on paper or in spreadsheets then managing this information if further made difficult when there is more than one person needing access to the data. Once multiple staff members need to simultaneously access client information there is a clear benefit in a single, central database that is shared with all staff.
Accounting systems and email systems just don’t cater very well for managing sales and marketing data and providing the functions to use communicate with those customers. Typically office tools such as email systems, spreadsheets and accounting systems are adapted to capture basic contact information and in some cases are used as a Sales and Marketing tool for the sales team. There is usually a substantial gap between what is needed by the marketing department and the tools being used. For example accounting systems may allow multiple contact names, and even historical notes, yet lack further depth in their ability to manage and retrieve Contact names for marketing purposes. As both email clients and accounting systems are designed for specific functions, their inherent capabilities rarely reach deeply enough for sales and marketing needs. Even simple requirements such as date and time stamped notes are often missing from those packages.
CRM database systems are designed to first centralise and share information. A CRM system can help capture, categorise and retrieve data easily, typically lists of names, then provide mechanisms to perform an action on those lists. A CRM database system has a core set of functions to enable staff members to retrieve information quickly, work knowledgeably with their clients, and easily contribute new information into the system; sales people to track and measure opportunities; sales and marketing staff to communicate directly with targeted groups of Contacts. Consequently, in the SME arena, it’s most often the case that at least three software packages must exist to cater for the day-to-day activities; an accounting system, an email client and a CRM database.
The immediate benefits of a CRM system are:
- One centralised database that can be shared between many staff
- List management (Gift list, Monthly Special, Catalogue list). Spreadsheets with lists of Contacts can now be eliminated
- A shared calendar for all staff. The Calendar can be viewed for any staff member by any staff member
- Historical and chronological calls and notes with each client can now be entered, viewed and shared
- Reminder system to help keep up-to-date with follow up calls
- If the CRM is capable, transfer email messages from Outlook into the CRM
- If the CRM is capable, synchronise Outlook Contacts and Calendar into the CRM (then from Outlook onto your smart phone)
- Ability to manage sales opportunities or sales projects (sales funnel)
- Automate marketing communications
- Track and manage products sold and to whom (eg. hardware, software, contracts, memberships) (not all CRM systems will offer this module)
- Improve sales forecasting using reports