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How CRM will benefit your business in just three words

SMB Tech Tips by Gene Marks: Gene Marks is a small business owner, technology expert, author and columnist. He writes regularly for leading US media outlets such as The New York Times, Forbes, Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur. He has authored five books on business management and appears regularly on Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC and CNBC. Gene runs a ten-person CRM and technology consulting firm outside of Philadelphia. Learn more at genemarks.com.

Back in the day, when I talked to small business owners like myself, no one knew what CRM (Customer Relationship Management) was. Now, everyone seems pretty familiar with the concept, and the more well-known applications like Salesforce.com, SugarCRM and Batchbook. But the sad fact is that even though many know what CRM is, most still aren’t using CRM systems very well. In fact, of the 600 clients my company serves using various CRM systems, I’d say only 20 percent of them are really doing the right things. And what are the right things? It’s all about three words.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Integrate. A CRM system should not be on its own island. It should be talking to other systems — which means that your CRM software should be exchanging data with your accounting system, website and other databases. So when you choose a CRM application, make sure it has links into these other systems. When you view a customer’s record, you not only want to see their activities, notes, emails, pipeline and other CRM data but you also want to know their order history and whether or not there are any outstanding invoices.If you’re a Xero user, then check out the many CRM systems that partner and integrate with Xero. Also, Xero just introduced a new CRM-like feature called Smart Lists that let’s you search your customer data to create highly targeted lists that you can export to a CSV file to use via your email system or export to Constant Contact for targeted email marketing campaigns. The main point here is to centralize your customer data. Don’t be stuck doing duplicate entry. Don’t fall victim to bad data. Integrate.

2. Report. In the end, your CRM software is really nothing more than a big fat database. Forget the bells, whistles and fireworks. The companies I know who are most successful using CRM systems are getting good, relevant and timely data out of their systems and using that data to run their organizations. You need a pipeline report, showing you potential opportunities and where they stand. You need an activities report, which lists what your sales and service people have scheduled, who they’ve spoken to, who they’re planning to visit. And you need an issues report, where you can be aware of any problems, cases, tickets, calls that need addressing, who’s working on it, how long it’s been a problem and when it will be fixed. These reports should be delivered to you automatically and frequently. You should be relying on them. If you are, then you’re using your CRM well. If you’re not getting good reports from your CRM software, then you’re really not using it at all.

3. Automate. When someone issues a quote, are you getting reminded before it goes overdue and falls through the cracks?If someone signs up for a newsletter, requests a brochure or registers for one of your company’s events — are you getting notified? Are you aware of those customers that haven’t received a single phone call from any sales rep in the past six months? Did you know that, after spending all that money on that trade show in Chicago no leads were distributed and no follow-ups were done with the people that visited your booth? All good CRM software has a little bit of automation. And the great ones have a lot. The CRM companies that partner with Xero all have automation capabilities so that you can make sure that nothing is falling through the cracks and no process is being circumvented. Usually, no programming is involved. The real challenge is figuring out the process. But once you do, that process can be automated in your CRM software so that things run faster, quicker and more productivity. Is your CRM system running like it should? Probably not. Want more ideas? Stay tuned, because I’ve got a few more words…

To learn more,  join Gene for a free, 30-minute webinar on Tuesday, July 22 from 1:00 to 1:30 PM PST/4:00 to 4:30 PM ESTSign up via Xero’s events section here.

 

Read more about Business, CRM, Small Business, Tips

 

13 comments

1957Goldtop
10 July 2014 #

What are your thoughts on Nimble?

When I started win Xero at the beginning of the year I was excited about the prospect of integrating with a CRM solution. I would also be starting with a CRM solution from scratch as well so it was a perfect time to make sure everything was properly integrated and working together.

Sadly, I really did not like any of the CRM solutions that integrated with Xero. I tried all of them… Literally. I also gave Nimble a try, begrudgingly since it didn’t integrate with Xero. And much to my dismay, I found it far far better than any of the CRM products that integrated with Xero.

There are two apps I use daily no matter what; Xero and Nimble. Hopefully Xero and Nimble will get their acts together and partner… But I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Michael Mori
11 July 2014 #
1957Goldtop
11 July 2014 #

I tired both of those but they don’t really do much and don’t really work very well.

Stony Grunow
11 July 2014 #

We’ve just released a Xero to Salesforce integration that we’re really excited about. There are other integrations out there, but they focus on moving data from Salesforce into Xero. We’re the only app that gets your Invoices from Xero and replicates that information in Salesforce. So your staff who live in Salesforce can see Invoice and Account level information in seconds. More information is on our website, at http://breadwinnerhq.com/

Gene – feel free to reach out – we’d love to show you what we do!

Stony Grunow

Ryan
11 July 2014 #

Over the last three years, I’ve tried at least a dozen CRMs, and researched at least twice that many. Just discovered Pipedrive a couple weeks ago, and my search is over. So relieved and excited.

Gene Marks
11 July 2014 #

Great comments everyone.

Integrating Xero with CRMs is critical to get the most out of your data and eliminate data entry duplication. Highly recommend.
I haven’t used Pipedrive but will add it to my list of ones to check out.

Steve Rees
12 July 2014 #

Have you tried InTouch CRM? We have been having some great success with this package. Intergrates email, surveys, reporting etc

Graeme Leo
12 July 2014 #

All three points are on the money.
Of the three, for a micro to small business owner, getting organised through automation is a quick and big benefit. Its basic to CRM and it doesn’t need additional add-ons, it just requires your attention and understanding of CRM process.It at least reduces the jobs and meetings slipping through the cracks.
The next important; reports or basic dashboard (KPIs). Fortunately CRM systems are getting better at user-friendly displays of crucial KPI data for the sales process.
Thirdly integration with other data sources and integration with accounting would be top of the list to avoid data duplication and give visibility to sales people of the customers account status and buying behaviour.
For small business it is key to take CRM adoption one step at a time to lock in early wins giving encouragement to go to the next step.

Wytze Hoekstra
12 July 2014 #

After trying numerous CRM packages, we discovered CapsuleCRM and haven’t looked back. Powerful features, easy to operate, great support and, like Xero, in the cloud so no more syncing problems.

Graeme Leo
14 July 2014 #

#Wytze
There is a common misconception that applications that aren’t in the cloud cannot integrate seamlessly to cloud applications such as Xero. It is irrelevant. Our own integration of desktop CRM software with Xero is live, there is no synchronisation or export/import process for instance to display or create invoices from desktop CRM live (no sync process) to Xero.
Unfortunately the early ‘chanting’ from Xero marketing dept. was that cloud was the only way to go, throw away your server and join with the cool set in the cloud. That in part promoted the fable that a Windows world can’t integrate seamlessly with cloud.

David Heron
15 July 2014 #

We use Xero integrated with Solve 360 CRM. It’s excellent. Have a look at:

http://norada.com/

Michael Mulligan
21 July 2014 #

I completely agree with the points made by Gene.

A CRM should integrate with data from your other business software, it should then report on data from multiple sources, and that data should then be used to automate common processes as much as possible.

To get the most benefit from a CRM, it should strive to be part of an integrated suite of applications that accurately consolidates data and reduces duplication… like what you would get from an ERP solution!

We are about to release our new ERP SaaS (with CRM) that integrates with Xero for Payroll and Accounting, it’s called BMS (http://www.bmserp.com/).

Our point of difference with other ERP providers is that customers can continue to use their familiar cloud accounting software, as we will integrate it into a full ERP suite.

BMS is an ERP solution for growing businesses looking to upgrade from using just cloud accounting software. The next step might currently be a CRM, or possibly Inventory software, but increasingly businesses are implementing cloud-based software that isolates business components and separates their lists of customers, products and suppliers.

We believe that BMS makes for a better ‘next step’ by adding all the extra functionality they were lacking, without having to deal with costly migrations and retraining for new accounting software.

It’s also a good option for accountants looking to recommend an ERP solution, as clients can continue using the cloud accounting software in which the accountant is a partner.

Pricing is alot more affordable than most ERP solutions, as the licenses include access to all applications (CRM, Sales, Billing, Stock, Service) for no additional cost.

Andrew
30 July 2014 #

Integrate, report & Automate…Words to live by!
I love the cloud because of these three words. When it comes to integration I love it when there are built in connections. But when these are not present I use zapier. This is an amazing little tool that will connect most cloud based softwares. I current use zapier to connect infusionsoft, zendesk and xero . I using zen desk to handle all inbound and one off communication and I use infusionsoft to automate process and mass communications. i started off using podia which is geat for its price (Free) but left out a lot of the automation I needed. Then moved to salesforce which was better. Unfortunately it had a step learning curve and was not cheap. In addition if I wanted to really take advantage of salesfoce i needed a third party integration (Pardot). The I heard about infusionsoft. While the reporting could be a bit better it is the best solution I have used yet. It is super easy to set up and even included some training and setup. I was literally able to set up a tax reminder campaign(automation) that goes out , based on the clients preference, either by email, sms, or automated phone call in less than 1 hour. To me that was a game changer. Being able to automate tasks quickly and easily has given me the ability to grow an scale my business using less of my time!

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