Running a business effectively requires investing in a list of softwares that will facilitate each job role. You’re aware of this. So are your business partners. But while there are certain applications that are obvious — such as needing project secure email, project management, and payroll — you may be having a harder time getting buy-in for other types of platforms.
This can be the case with customer relationship management (CRM). While keeping track of everyone is crucial to reach out and follow up to the right people, the additional benefits of this type of software may not be as well known to the general public. But if you want to maximize your ROI, it behooves you to take a closer look at how the right CRM can transform the way you conduct your business.
What Is a CRM?
A CRM is a platform where you store contacts data. But it’s a lot more than a digital address book. You can set it up to gather data from each person who interacts with your business to create a complete prospect and customer profile.
For example, a CRM can tell you the geographical location of a website visitor, how often they visit your page, which pages they spend the most time on. A CRM will also store data about previous communications (email, phone, social media, live chat), preferences, pain points, and prior purchases.
Having all this data sets the stage for your business to provide more personalized experiences. This is crucial, since not everyone who interacts with you is at the same stage in their buyer’s journey. A first-time website visitor doesn’t need to receive the same marketing emails as a repeat customer and vice versa.
An effective CRM will enable you to develop more customer-centric marketing and sales strategies; and thus drive business growth.
Benefits of Using CRM Software
The advantages of using a CRM are many. Among the most popular ones that are beneficial to all businesses across the board include:
Organizing your contacts based on categories makes it a lot easier to communicate with them within context. For example, a CRM allows you to segment them according to whether they’re prospects, existing customers, demographics, job roles, and preferences, to name a few. Some platforms even enable you to create custom objects that may be relevant exclusively to your type of industry.
Once your contacts are segmented into the appropriate categories, a CRM enables you to nurture those leads by sending them marketing emails that align with their stage on their buyer’s journey. You water the plant. Court each individual person. Make them feel like you’re providing them with valuable information, even if they’re not ready to buy.
Since a CRM gathers data that’s individual to each contact, it gives you the information you need to personalize your communications. In addition to simply addressing people by name, you can send them email reminders regarding their accounts, restock notifications of products or services they’ve used in the past, or anything else that would be helpful specifically to them.
You can set up a CRM to deploy certain communications based on specific user behavior. For example, an abandoned cart email, a Your Download Is Ready page when they download content from your website, or certain types of marketing emails depending on where they are in the sales funnel.
Better Customer Experience
Since all of a customer’s data is located within the same location, their interactions with your business at every touchpoint will be optimized — relevant marketing materials, personalized communications, helpful educational content, and your service representatives being able to see their entire history with your company without the customer having to expend time gathering proof of anything and retelling their story.
7 Common Challenges of Using CRM Software
While customer relationship management software is certainly a game changer — in the best sense of the phrase — it can also come with certain challenges. Being aware of them allows you to address them before they become an issue. The most common ones include:
CRM Challenge #1: Underutilized Features
A CRM requires a monthly investment. To maximize that ROI, you should be familiar with all its features — and especially adept at using the ones that are most beneficial to achieve your business goals. In fact, knowing which tools are best for you is also important to recognize when it’s time to update to a higher tier. Failing to know all of this information means that you're wasting time and money.
Look for a vendor or partner agency that offers onboarding and strategizing services. Then have an initial meeting to discuss what you want to do in the short and long terms. This way, you’ll have someone who knows specifically what are your company’s best interests and the features you need to help you achieve them. In the alternative, you can also take CRM training courses that will walk your team through each tool and how to maximize their usage.
CRM Challenge #2: Siloed Departments
Your sales, marketing, and customer service teams need to be aligned. Think of the times you’ve called a company and you’re transferred from department to department, placed on hold for an eternity, and having to repeat your story ad infinitum. It’s exhausting and likely has caused you to switch service providers because of it. In fact, 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor when deciding whether to do business with a company. Get everybody on the same page. Not doing so means you're sending business to your competitors.
You need a CRM that enables collaboration — such as tagging team members, providing feedback, and keeps all data in one centralized location. Also, make it a business practice to have your sales and marketing teams meet regularly to discuss quarterly goals, so that marketing can use CRM tools to be more focused on the qualified leads the sales team needs.
CRM Challenge #3: Insufficient Functionalities
It’s a good thing to be cautious about your budget. It’s another thing to shoot yourself in the foot because you’re pinching pennies. Some CRM platforms (such as our absolute favorite, HubSpot) offer a free basic tier. This is extremely helpful for startups, sole proprietors, and businesses who are living on a prayer. But larger companies, ones that are scaling, and those that do have the resources to level up need to look at whether their decision to remain at a basic tier is practical — or even profitable.
When first meeting with a vendor, have an extensive discussion about your specific business goals. This is crucial to make a list of all the tools you’ll need to reach them. Once you have a comprehensive menu, you can then choose the platform or the tier that will accelerate your efforts. This can be via drip email marketing campaigns, advanced insights, or lead scoring, to name a few.
CRM Challenge #4: Employee Learning Curve
Even the most user-friendly platforms come with a learning curve. And not knowing what you don’t know may result in underutilizing resources, or not optimizing the use of the features you are aware of. And while it may seem like offering extensive training may cause delays in your regular business operations, setting time aside to learn about the CRM features will pay off in the long run.
When choosing a CRM, look for one that offers thorough onboarding and training, self-service sources such as a knowledge base, and a good customer service experience. And be patient. It's one thing to learn thing in theory. It takes plenty of time and putting things into action to get them right in practice. If you don't have the time to do this, consider outsourcing the CRM management.
CRM Challenge #5: Outdated Data
For a CRM to be as effective as possible, you want to ensure you have updated information at all times. At the end of the day, your marketing will only be effective if it reaches your target audience — and they actually engage with it. Common reasons that data becomes outdated include closed email accounts, subscribers, and contacts who’ve changed their phone number or are no longer in their job roles.
You can ensure this by scrubbing your email list regularly to get rid of inactive accounts, as well as those who don’t engage with your marketing communications. As a result, this will provide you with more accurate KPIs, such as open, click through, and conversion rates. Before you do this, however, look for ways to re-engage cold contacts. Once you’ve separated the wheat from the chaff, proceed with your contacts data cleansing.
CRM Challenge #6: Managing Integrations
Working in silos is inefficient and results in a lot of wasted time. If a CRM platform can’t connect or communicate with another one of your applications, you’ll then have incomplete customer data, or necessitate duplicate efforts to enter everything in multiple locations.
When researching CRM platforms, make sure you are looking at whether they integrate with the third-party applications you’re already using as part of your tech stack. This may include Gmail, Google Calendar, Salesforce, Slack, Shopify, MailChimp, WordPress and anything else you use to run your business.
CRM Challenge #7: Lack of Support
Even if a CRM offers all the tools you need, it’s likely that at some point, someone on your team will need some assistance. If they don't get the answers they need, it’ll result in frustration for your employees, delays on getting the work done, and a poor customer experience.
Different people have different preferences when reaching out for customer support. This may be via email, discussion boards, live chat, knowledge bases, social media, or phone call. Whichever your team prefers needs to be an option offered by your CRM vendor. Sometimes, they’ll offer several options to all their customers, while others provide one or two options to their basic tiers, and more alternatives as you upgrade.
No matter your industry, you would benefit from having a CRM platform that aligns with your business goals — and you can expedite the sales cycle if you’re B2B. As a result, you’ll increase the likelihood of customer retention and referrals. It’s a win-win.
Alejandra Zilak is a content writer, ghostwriter, blogger, and editor. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and a Juris Doctor. She's licensed to practice law in four jurisdictions and worked as an attorney for almost a decade before switching careers to write full time. She loves being part of the Bluleadz team and implementing SEO best practices with her content. When not working, she loves to read, write fiction, and long distance running.