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Customer Relationship Managment

Updated on March 3, 2016

What is a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System?

In days gone by business owners used a Rolodex or a Customer Directory to locate their clients basic information and in days gone by that was adequate.

As time went by, business owners realised the importance of treating customers in a more personal way; remembering the name of a partner, children, birthdays etc. Making notes on the Rolodex was OK but soon computers made the job a bit easier.

The first systems were crude but adequate, eventually software houses realised that this was a lucrative area of business and fully integrated systems started to appear.

The first one I ever used was Goldmine 4.0 back in 2000, it had some really great features even as we entered the noughties

In more recent years; and personally for the last six years I have been using online Open Source systems like vTiger and SugarCRM. Great for businesses with several users who need to keep all their client related documents in one place as well.

Rolodex

Getting Started

Selecting a CRM system depends on many things, often the available budget becomes a factor that controls the outcome. As a matter of principle this article won't look at anything that will have to purchase, that's not to say there won't be some sort of running cost, just that you can get it for free.

That is not to say that we won't look at a range of features.

Data Management & Control

For our purposes

For this article I'm going to focus on the CRM systems that I have been using over the last 5 years; vTiger an Open Source hosted solution, that is to say it runs ideally on a web server, of course you can run a web server on your own PC if you need to do so. Likewise SugarCRM is also a hosted solution.

Don't worry about these systems being hosted, if you already have a website then you can ask your web host or your web developer to set these up for you.

Reflect is an interesting system in that although it is PC based, you can get mobile access to your data thanks to its inbuilt option to open up a port for remote access through your router.

Features

Feature/CRM
vTiger
SugarCRM
Reflect
Web Hosted
Yes
Yes
No
Max Customers
Unlimited
Unlimited
Unlimited
Store related documents
Yes
Yes
No
Notes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Lead Tracking
Yes
Yes
Yes
Multi-User
Yes
Yes
Yes

Why Bother?

Apart from the convenience of having your client data in one place why would you want to bother with a CRM?

As your business grows and develops you will come to realise that your marketing is key to success, but monitoring the results of your marketing becomes more challenging as your business grows.

It is important to identify where each new customer comes from, by recording this information in a CRM you are able react and as a result reduce the amount of money spent on low return marketing.

You can also track jobs that result in lower returns, you may start to notice a pattern over time, I certainly did. Over a couple of years I noticed that some jobs were consistently producing lower profits, what was more, I noticed that these jobs were of ten for the same client(s). Over time I was able to focus on the more profitable jobs and reduce the number of more costly clients.

Tracking clients by referral source, industry and profitability is one of the main reasons I use a CRM system.

What do you use?

You may already use a CRM but what you use is likely to be impacted upon by the size of your business.

Reflect is ideal for Small and Medium business owners, it is simple to install and operate, it also allows multiple users on the local network as well as remote access to your data.

SugarCRM and vTiger are better suited to Medium and Large businesses, that's not to say a small business owner should discount it, but the features and functionality are key to bigger business types.

About your business.

Business Size

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Other CRM Benefits

A CRM can also help you identify and track new client leads, in fact they are designed for it.

By entering a client lead or leads you can track the process and results of your marketing. Adding tasks to your CRM for marketing, contact updates and new events can help you track the success of your marketing leads into converted customers.

This may sound like boring sales stuff, but after 10 years in business I really can't emphasize enough the importance of doing this sort of work as soon as you can in your business.

Let us know your experience with CRM systems, what do you use? Free or paid for solutions? Happy or unhappy? What do you need help with?

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