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This guest post was written by Mike Spalding. Mike works for Advantage.co.uk who specialize in business management solutions using CRM software; click here for more information. 

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Ok, first of all, CRM stands for customer relationship management and let’s face it, it sounds like something big businesses would enjoy talking about – which is why so few small businesses know about it or use it.

That’s a shame because CRM software can be helpful for businesses of any size…

This post is a quick introduction to what CRM does and how you can use it. Your exact usage will depend a lot on your business’s needs; many CRM packages are very powerful and just figuring out what you can do with them can be a challenge. So let’s get started shall we?

What Are The Options?

There are loads of CRM options floating around and in fact the market is growing as more and more small businesses are starting to see the benefits. Here are a few you might have heard of though:

• Microsoft Dynamics

• Sugar CRM

• Salesforce

• Infusion Soft

The first step though is to figure out what you want to actually use it for!

Manage Marketing Channels

For any online business, marketing is a huge portion of what you do (well, it should be anyway) and understanding your marketing is vital if you want to stay in business. But there are so many marketing channels that it is difficult to keep on top of it all.

Many CRM packages will allow you to track each marketing channel separately as well as grouping marketing channels and even creating marketing campaigns.

For instance:

If you run a particular sale in the spring but only advertise it on Twitter and Facebook you could track that as a “Christmas Social” campaign – and track its success for the next 6 months, as well as separately tracking each of those marketing channels overall.

One potential upside to this is that you might find that social media does not provide a positive return normally, but that it is an effective medium for advertising promotions. Who knows…

Manage Leads & Customers

This is what CRM is all about really. If you get it properly integrated you can use your package to track all communications with each customer, whether that communication be through a telephone call, email or even social.

For Example:

So if you see for instance that a customer has emailed you, you can quickly look up whether they have communicated with you in the past. You could email them and in your response reference a problem they expressed on Twitter 2 months ago! That’s a sure way to impress. Of course not all businesses communicate that frequently with their customers, but you can still use your CRM to track sales and even tie those in to your marketing campaigns – this is a great way to see exactly how much revenue each channel generates.

When you add the ability to assign repeat custom to the channel that originally brought you that customer you have a powerful way to optimize your marketing!

Plug In To Your Finance Software

Certain packages, like MS Dynamics can plug into finance software (which should be an essential for even the smallest business). This can give you the opportunity to track your cost of sales and other operating costs and compare them to your revenue.

It’s all about finding new ways to understand how your business makes its profit!

Manage Your Customer Service

We’ve covered a lot of possibilities here already, and there are plenty more too, but one final thought is that you can analyze your customer satisfaction by looking at things like how long it takes for an order to be fulfilled.

What if you found one of the following?

• Customers are 40% less likely to complain if they receive their order in 3 days or less

• Complaints are less likely to result in a return/refund if handled via phone vs email

• Social media driven purchases have a higher returns rate than PPC driven purchases

These are all potential pieces of information that are immediately actionable and could save your business money. The point is; you don’t know what you could improve upon until you have the data available!

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