Eighteen months ago, Chris Wigglesworth installed a CRM (customer relationship management) system at his company, Coursecheck.
The catalyst, he says, was moving from being a one-man band to getting someone else involved in the firm. “For the first year, I put all of my management information on a spreadsheet, but with two people, we either had to share it or get something more sophisticated.”
Mr Wigglesworth describes his business as “the TripAdvisor of training courses” and with a CRM system, staff have the most up-to-date information on prospects and clients at their fingertips. They monitor customer data through a contact management feature, making their everyday work easier and transforming the company’s marketing. “We’ve just done a personalised email mailshot to 1,000 contacts in 45 minutes, which would have been impossible using my old spreadsheet system,” says the founder.
Even the smallest enterprise has valuable information about its customers, suppliers, leads and many other vital bits of business knowledge, but these tend to be scattered around databases, spreadsheets and even scraps of paper. A CRM system pulls all of this together, enabling you to track the organisations that you deal with, manage your contacts, log information and market to them more effectively.
CRM is particularly relevant for retailers, explains Dan Conboy, managing director of e-commerce agency, Statement. “For the business to run efficiently, you must have a single system that enables stock information to be synchronised to avoid overselling, which also captures shopper data to help you make better decisions,” he says.
“The old till system works, but every time that you fail to capture data about how your customer is interacting with your business, you’re missing out on opportunities to grow.”
Where to start
People, not technology, are the starting point of planning a CRM system, thinks Oliver Haywood, director of digital at KPMG. “The first step is understanding your customer base, not just in terms of marketing, but for the whole operation,” he explains. “And beware of the boffins who may install it as a technical implementation – make sure that it’s designed for the users within the organisation.”
He also warns against trying to sort everything at once. “Do it gradually,” he says. “The start-point for CRMs is as a marketing engine or a sales pipeline management system that you can broaden over time into a full relationship manager.”
He adds that cloud-based platforms are also a good place to start, as they enable firms to start small and scale easily.