If you run a B2B business, you’re likely aware of the benefits of investing in customer relationship management (CRM) software. Even if you don't have one yet, the fact that you’re reading this blog means that at least you’ve started doing some research.
These types of platforms streamline processes in multiple departments — marketing, sales, and customer service. It elevates the customer experience you provide. It even fosters customer retention, which is crucial in a day and age where keeping existing customers is more cost-effective than getting new ones.
But, what, exactly, is a CRM? How does it achieve so many benefits? What else should you know about them? And once you get the right one for your business, what are some of the best practices to keep in mind?
Regardless of whether you’re a sole proprietor or work in a Fortune 500 company, a CRM will bring many advantages to the way you conduct your business.
Even if you work in a niche industry and are confident that your customer base is narrowed down, not everyone who comes into contact with your business is in the same stage in their buyer’s journey. Some people are coming to your website for the first time. Others are qualified leads. Then there are those who have already made a purchase from you.
In order to optimize your communications with each group, you should have them categorized according to their specific circumstances. This way, they know that whenever they receive a marketing email from you, it’ll be something that’s relevant and useful to them. This makes them more likely to engage with you and reduces the likelihood of unsubscribers.
A CRM enables you to organize them in any way that makes sense to your business. Demographics, job titles, visitors for each product page, people who’ve downloaded a lead magnet, repeat customers, etc…
Not everyone is ready to buy from the moment they first lay eyes on you, and that’s ok. Maybe they’re just doing preliminary research. Maybe they’ve narrowed down their choices and you’re one of the vendors they’re evaluating. Or maybe they found one of your blogs and kept browsing through your website just to learn more about what you do. Regardless of their circumstances, you want to build relationships with them and nurture those leads until they’re ready to make a purchase.
A CRM helps you do this by connecting with your email, so that you can create drip marketing campaigns. This is when you send them communications over a period of time, including helpful tips for issues they may be experiencing, infographics, video tutorials, or even promotional materials relating to goods or services they would find useful.
This helps create brand awareness, foster engagement with your emails, and helps establish you as an industry expert. It also means that you’ll be top of mind when they’re ready to buy.
You know those lead nurturing emails I just mentioned? You don’t need to have someone send them manually any time a lead touches base with you. A CRM lets you schedule them to deploy at certain intervals. In the alternative, you can set them up to be sent based on certain user behaviors, such as downloading an eBook, enrolling in a webinar, or leaving items in an abandoned virtual cart.
The beauty of this is that you can set it and keep on going about your day, focusing on other tasks. This keeps your team productive and prevents customers from falling through the cracks.
A CRM gathers data from every contact. In addition to their full names and email addresses, it collects information regarding contacts’ geographical location, website pages they frequent the most, preferences, previous purchases, interests, and anything else that may be relevant to your business.
In turn, you can then use this information to personalize your interactions with them. This can include addressing them by name, sending them birthday emails, celebrating milestones, product suggestions, reminders to stock up or resubscribe, etc… This lets contacts see that you’re not treating them with a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach. You’re actually taking the time to tailor your offerings to their needs.
The departments at your business don’t work in silos. If this were to happen, operations would be inefficient. Sales and marketing need to know what each other is doing — and that it all aligns with specific business goals. The customer service department needs to know a contact’s interactions with either department in order to increase the likelihood of customer satisfaction.
A CRM lets team members collaborate better with features such as the ability to tag each other on tasks, as well as provide feedback (e.g. “the leads we’re getting are not ready to buy yet; please write more marketing emails for bottom of the funnel prospects.”)
Improved Customer Experience
Another benefit of having a good CRM is that all of a contact’s information is stored in one centralized location. This includes all previous communications, ever, with any department. No need to shuffle them around as you transfer them from team member to team member. No need for them to repeat their story.
In addition, you can use their data to send them communications regarding products they’ve expressed an interest in before, notify them of upgrades on items they already like/need, or even predict what they will need further down the road and deliver on that. In short, it gets all your ducks in a row to exceed their expectations.
Ok. Now that you know how your business can benefit from having a good CRM platform, let’s take a look at best practices to ensure you optimize your ROI:
1. Train Your Team
First things first. You can buy the most miraculous CRM software in the universe, but if your team doesn’t know how to use it, you’re not gonna reap its benefits. Even the most user-friendly alternatives come with a learning curve. So make sure to provide them with all the resources they need to succeed – such as certified onboarding specialists, knowledge bases, and training courses.
2. Scrub Your Contacts List
Make sure to periodically scrub your contacts list by getting rid of deactivated email addresses, uninterested contacts, and unsubscribers. But before you do, attempt to re-engage with those who have engaged with you in the past but who seem to have lost interest. This will keep your metrics — such as open rates, click through rates, and conversion rates — more accurate on your data dashboards.
3. Segment Contacts
Remember contact segmentation, as discussed above? This is definitely one of those features you don’t want to remain dormant. In fact, it’s one of your most important ones. It’ll enable you to provide more customer-centric communications and increase conversion rates.
And remember, the more information you have, the better you can segment your contacts; so think about incorporating interactive content on your website, like quizzes, assessments, and anything else that requires users to enter specific information.
4. Integrate With Tech Stack
A CRM will only be one of many technologies you use to run your business efficiently. When researching the right platform for you, check their app marketplace to ensure that it integrates with all of the software you’re currently using. Make an exhaustive list of all of them: Gmail, Salesforce, Slack, Shopify, Google Calendar, MailChimp, and whatever else that composes your tech stack.
5. Set Uniform Standards for Data Entry
Decide on how you want data to be entered (nomenclature, formats, etc…) and make it a company policy for all team members to do it the same way. This eliminates the risk of miscommunications or the frustrations that come from guessing games. In addition, this makes it infinitely easier to find information within the CRM.
6. Ensure Compliance With Data Privacy Regulations
Depending on where you conduct business, you may have to adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), and the United States, the CAN-SPAM Act. Most popular CRM software will comply with the major privacy regulations, but always double check that you’re covered in every jurisdiction where you conduct business.
7. Set Up Analytics Dashboards
The only way to know whether your CRM strategy and marketing efforts are working well is by tracking them. Therefore, figure out what are your specific business goals for each particular quarter, and set up customized dashboards to track your progress. These can include website traffic, page views, clicks, form submissions, email statistics, interactions on social media, etc…
8. Utilize CRM Support
Depending on your CRM vendor and the tier you purchase, you’ll have different options to receive support while using your software. This can include knowledge bases, discussion forums, live chat, email, or phone support. Some of them offer it 24/7. Another option is to receive CRM consulting services from a vendor’s partner agency. Whichever route you take, use all of your available resources — and let your team know about them as well.
9. Schedule Maintenance
Within a CRM context, maintenance refers to the process of auditing the data within your platform to identify potential issues. These may include whether all components are working well, whether you have duplicate data, when it’s time to conduct data cleansing, and to ensure that everything’s being stored following your established standards for data entry.
10. Consider Updates
Whether you need to update or upgrade your CRM depends on whether your existing software is working as efficiently as possible for you. Do you have enough storage? Has your business grown since you purchased the CRM? Does it provide mobile access? Does your team need this to perform their job roles effectively? How's the user experience for your teams? If they are opting not to use certain features because they’re too difficult to figure out, they may need additional training, or you may need to switch to a platform that’s easier to use.
Having organized customer data is what sets the stage for optimized processes: Targeted marketing, seamless sales process, and an extraordinary customer experience.
The more data you gather, the better organized they should be. And as your business grows, the more important it becomes to get this right. At the end of the day, customers will gladly switch companies if they’re not receiving the kind of customer service they expect.
So it’s not a matter of whether you need a CRM, but which kind is the best for your business needs. Prioritize this. In fact, put it at the top of your list. Show this blog to stakeholders. If they want you to make it rain, good CRM practices will make it happen.