Guide to Getting Started With a CRM

If you have customers you need a way to manage your relationship digitally.

Digital or It Didn’t Happen

Customers (or clients or patrons or whatever) are the lifeblood of your business. They create the “why” behind what you create and infuse energy into your organization. If you’re doing it right, your business should be growing and that means more of those awesome customers.

A lot of customers means a lot of relationships. Good problem to have, right? Only if you have the means of managing those relationships to bring superior service and connectivity to those customers.

What is a CRM?

Customer Relationship Management software is also known as a CRM system or just “CRM.” It’s basically an application that helps you manage your customer relationships. It keeps living records of all interactions with all your customers, including:

  • How the customer became involved with your company.
  • What products and services the customer uses.
  • How much they spend.
  • Contracts, service-level agreements, etc.
  • Contact information.
  • A record of all phone calls, emails, and in-person meetings.
  • Any and all customer support queries.
  • Loyalty/membership records.
  • Lots more stuff depending on how you use it.

Is a CRM for Sales or Marketing or more?

CRMs were traditionally pegged as sales tools. Businesses mainly used them to track sales-qualified leads. Those are leads that have already passed through the marketing phase and are ready for sales conversations.

CRM’s other customary utility is to track interactions with existing customers (like the ones we mentioned earlier).

In both contexts, the CRM helps sales make timely interventions with sales leads or with existing customers. For example, they might get a notification to follow up with a prospect’s procurement team. Or they might automatically notify you when an existing client’s contract is nearing an end.

Having said that, many CRMs are versatile enough to also manage marketing campaigns. HubSpot offers a free basic CRM and then treats its marketing functionality as an add-on. Full integration with fewer hiccups than using different platforms.

Is CRM Right for Your Business?

Definitely. It’s really the best way to manage customer relationships – B2B or B2C – with the intent of keeping your unique customer’s needs front of mind.

That’s hard to do methodically when you have a lot of customers – especially if they’re high-touch customers like in B2B services or long-consideration B2C markets like banking.

What Are Some Reputable CRMs?

Some well-rated, web-based CRMs include:

  • HubSpot (one of Black Raven’s favorites)
  • Salesforce
  • Zoho CRM
  • Insightly
  • Pipedrive
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365

You can learn more about some of these via PCMag. It also helps to hear what real users have to say on G2 about the top CRMs for various types of businesses.

How Do I Set Up a CRM?

That depends on the CRM and how best to start using it within your organization.

No matter what, the first thing you need to do is set a goal for what you want to accomplish by integrating a CRM. You need to identify all of the stakeholders within your business, and outline what each person/group needs from the system.

After that, you go to work. You’ll need to import all of your client contacts. Leading CRM providers typically make integration with popular email clients relatively painless, so if that’s where your contacts live, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Not to mention, email integration is something you’ll need to do sooner or later.

You’ll also need to set up filters for the types of activities you want alerts for and create sales/marketing campaign/deal stages. Website integration is also an option for some CRMs and can be helpful for sales and marketing automation purposes. Finally, you can get your team set up and start using the thing.

What’s Next?

Ultimately what you’re trying to do is fundamentally change the way you do business by creating a better way to take care of your customers. Not a small task, to say the least, but a very worthy pursuit. Saddle up for a lot of hard work ahead but be ready for the rewards for your customers and for your sales as you start gaining a better understanding of how you interact with those vital individuals you serve.

Photo by Gajus-Images

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