CRM stands for customer relationship management, so CRM software helps you capture and store information about your customers and keep track of where you are in your relationship with them. It could also help you automate some of the jobs you need to do to improve your customer relationships.

Knowing when to invest in a CRM solution is complex for many business owners. Has someone told you that a CRM is what you need? Or you are just getting frustrated with manually handling all your customer details, and you are sure there is something better out there. Once you start looking, the giant world of CRM can be overwhelming.

There are many types of CRM software that I usually group into four types: Marketing, Sales, Service and Online Commerce. CRM software is often most effective in one area, although many CRM solutions cover more than one area. Some integrated CRM solutions cover all capabilities. I’ll include a short description of each type of CRM software below if you are interested, but before I give you all that detail, I want to help you think about how this might fit into your business.

If you only have a small number of customers and few people dealing with them, you might not need to use CRM software. Some small teams can keep track of their customers on a spreadsheet or even a whiteboard. Or they might have enough customer information in their project or accounting software to keep on top of what is happening. For a small, stable organisation, this might be OK, but if you are already bigger than this or trying to grow, this approach can quickly become unsustainable and even hold you back.

Some companies can get enough customer relationship management capability within their operational software. For example, course creators using Kajabi can use its built-in CRM functions; a small manufacturing company might have enough customer and order information in their manufacturing management software to suit their needs. Often, these functions are limited, so before relying on them, consider what you want at the next level for all the different types of CRM solutions and ensure you set your organisation up for growth.

Using basic capability (or free software) can be a lifesaver for small organisations with limited money, time and attention. If you do go that way, plan for your future growth – can you export your customer information, ready to load into a new system when the time comes? That can be time-consuming and difficult, but it might be a necessary transition when the time comes for you to level up.

If you are interested in the types of CRM, as promised, here is a brief description of each type.

Marketing CRM

Marketing CRM software helps you link up with big groups of customers in a highly automated way. Capabilities can include simply sending emails to groups of customers to sophisticated capabilities that automate multi-step campaigns over various communication channels. Think about an automated process that goes all the way from a customer visiting your website, joining your email list, registering for a webinar, receiving SMS or social DM reminders, watching the webinar and receiving follow-up sales emails, all without you having to do a single thing – and repeating that hundreds or even thousands of times!

Sales CRM

Sales CRM solutions help you manage individual customer relationships and the sales teams and processes that drive these relationships in your organisation. Capabilities often include keeping track of your sales process for each product or service you want to sell to a customer. For example, if your sales process starts with an introductory call, then a product demonstration, giving the customer a quote, and finally, a follow-up to confirm whether the quote is accepted. A sales CRM can also help you forecast how many sales are coming through in future months by consistently tracking all these deals.

Service CRM

Service CRM solutions help you manage customer services, from simple customer enquiries to complex post-sales service. They can be as simple as capturing inbound email enquiries and ensuring you know if a customer response is complete and what needs follow-up. Service CRMs can also provide online customer portals, self-help and chatbots, and complex multi-channel support services – helping to route issues coming from multiple channels (email, phone, social media, etc.) to the right place in your organisation, provide automated (or at least templated) workflows and solutions, and escalate outstanding cases to your expected service levels.

Online Commerce CRM

These CRM solutions are tightly linked to an online sales environment. When you are selling online, particularly in high volumes, it is difficult enough to keep track of who has bought what. But are you linking that back into your online environment to provide the best additional offers to your best customers while browsing your website and in follow-up emails? To do this, you must not only keep track of customers and their online behaviour and purchases but also use that information to understand what the next best step might be for each customer based on the behaviour of previous customers. Software working behind the scenes can make this happen in real-time, behind the scenes.

I look forward to giving you more information about CRM solutions in future articles – in two weeks, I’ll cover how to choose the best solution for you. Subscribe to my newsletter if you would like to get these updates.

In the meantime, if you would like some help with your CRM challenges, please book at call with me