John Russell, the President of Harley Davidson, once said, “The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” But when you have random sheets of paper, Excel spreadsheets, and Rolodexes of customer info to contend with, this wasn’t always a realistic goal for some businesses.
Luckily these days, customer relationship management (CRM) tools have made engagement with and data collection from customers a reality for businesses of all sizes.
This idea behind CRM tools is simple:
- There’s much be learned from the interactions you have with your customers.
- These interactions are no longer relegated to a phone call or an in-person meeting. You now also have to keep track of visits to your website, social media engagements, live chat portals, emails, and more.
- CRM software can help bring organization to the relationship you have with your customers, both new and old.
Regardless of what sort of business you run, your main goal is to retain current customers, increase sales, and provide outstanding service to anyone you come in contact with. There is no better way to achieve all these things at once than with a CRM.
The CRM Low-Down
According to Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2015 report, unsuccessful sales teams are twice as likely to rely on Excel, Outlook, or a physical paper trail to track customers as well as potential lead information. The failure, in this case, isn’t necessarily because of poor salesmanship; rather, the issue lies with the quality of tools used. Without the ability to quickly and accurately track all information, and without a centralized location where the entire team can have access to it, these teams are failing due to insufficient resources.
The Purpose of CRM
The name “customer relationship management” says it all: it is a tool by which you—and all members of your team that have access to it—can effectively manage the relationships you have with customers and prospects. CRM tools are not just a place to store your customers’ contact information. They serve a much more comprehensive business purpose than that.
Collection & Centralization
One of the problems with the way customer information was previously aggregated was that it mostly existed in the hands of just one person—in a Rolodex, in a spreadsheet, printed out on sheets of paper and stuffed into a file cabinet, etc. CRM solves this issue by providing centralized storage and global company access to client and account information.
While the account or sales manager may be the main point-of-contact for your customers, your business is ultimately responsible for supporting and growing that relationship. Without access to the details, you cannot accomplish that.
Access to the full picture of your business is essential if you want to understand what’s making it run and then use that information to grow from. So while on the one hand CRM tools are extremely useful for keeping tabs on current customers, they’re equally as useful for keeping track of potential leads:
- What platform did they engage with you on?
- Do they fit the audience you thought you were targeting?
- Why do you think they’d be interested in your business?
- What can you do to best cater to their needs now and in the future?
The more information you can gather on your audience, the better prepared you’ll be to identify, acquire, and convert more leads.
What happens when one of your sales representatives, account managers, or marketing admins goes on vacation, calls out sick, or leaves their position permanently? Without a centralized system for keeping track of their work, their communications, their relationships with customers, there is bound to be part of your company’s historical record that goes missing along with them.
Keeping your customers’ experience top-of-mind, think about how easy it would be to provide coverage for a team member or to bring in a replacement if you had the entire history of an account all in one place. Your customers may need to get used to interacting with a new contact, but all of the previous conversations and transactions wouldn’t need to be repeated, saving you time and saving your customers the frustration and inconvenience of having to repeat themselves.
Running a business can be difficult enough, but when you have to oversee the activity and manage the goals from a number of different departments, it can become downright tedious. One of the departments that may require extra monitoring is the sales team. With so many people contacting customers and prospects every day and bringing in varying amounts of revenue, it’s especially important to have a way to track their activity as well as to establish goals.
CRM tools can help you keep tabs on all of that at the most granular level—tracked by customer, by sales rep, by transaction, by timeline, by date, and more.
The activity from marketing efforts are so closely tied to those of sales that it would seem silly not to have a way to integrate marketing into the same tool. Tools that do offer marketing integration usually do so around the purposes of email marketing campaigns, though there are others that connect social media, website landing pages, and other marketing efforts to the CRM. The main purpose being that it’s more effective to gather all leads and communicate with customers from one source rather than several.
Perhaps the most important purpose of CRM tools is their ability to help businesses keep track of all data and analyze it more easily, more quickly, and more efficiently than ever before. Big data no longer has to be a big problem for businesses that have a tool that automatically gathers and processes information on their behalf.
You’ll find a variety of functions and features associated with different CRM tools, so make sure to do your research carefully beforehand. When looking into a CRM solution for your business, consider which of the following features are going to be the most important to have access to:
Collection & Centralization
- Account tracking and allocation
- Customer contact information and notes
- Internal communications around notes
- Transaction/revenue recording
- Prospective lead contact information and notes
- Follow-up activity tracking
- Historical record of all activity with customers, prospects, and other contacts
- Calendar for appointments, follow-ups, internal meetings, and customer milestones
- Task management lists
- Call tracking log
- Note tracking for each customer and prospect interaction
- Personal and company goal tracking
- Email marketing campaign integration
- Social media campaign integration
- Website communication integration
- Other marketing campaign efforts integrated
- Sales pipeline tracking
- Marketing and sales expense tracking
- Lead collection and generation tracking
- Identification of trends for forecasting
- Report preparation and export options
- Data backup
Once you’ve identified what your business needs in the way of customer relationship (and engagement) management, it’s time to start looking at your options.
CRM Software Tools
CRM tools can come in many forms. For those of you looking at a software solution, it’s important to understand the difference between the two major types you’ll find:
- On-premise software: This is software that you’ll need to purchase and install on-site and on the machine of everyone who needs access to your platform.
- Cloud-based software: This is software that is hosted by a third-party provider. No installation or upkeep is necessary. You’ll simply need the Internet to access it.
According to research conducted by Capterra, 27% of businesses surveyed currently use on-premise software while 73% use web-based software. There are pros and cons to either option, though the advances in cloud-based solutions (greater security, dedicated support, less reliance on hardware, etc.) are making hosted CRM tools more attractive with each passing year.
Whichever route you choose to go, your main goal needs to be in finding the CRM tool that best fits your needs, includes the features you require, and is within your price range. Some of these tools can become very expensive if not used as intended, so make sure your team is onboard and ready for the transition before making any major investments.
Most Popular CRM Software Providers
Some of these names you may already recognize (especially if they provide tools that cover other parts of your operations). Take your time in researching all options—software and otherwise—to ensure they fit with your overall business plan as well as with the other tools you use (like WordPress).
Here is our list of the CRM software providers worth looking into in 2016:
The Pros of CRM WordPress Tools
Similar to what we saw with the CRM software solutions, CRM WordPress tools serve to improve the customer relationship management process. With most of these tools, however, the benefits aren’t as comprehensive since each plugin serves a smaller piece of the puzzle. When looking at these tools as a whole though, the following benefits are clear:
- One Platform: So long as you’re not subscribing to a separate CRM software, these plugins will help you keep everything within WordPress.
- Cost: If you’re seeking out these plugins, you’re either looking for a plugin to complement your software or for a more affordable solution. Either way, these WordPress plugins will fit the bill.
- Less Data Entry: Writing down customer information by hand and then typing it into your system can be tedious. So can copying and pasting the information from one system to another. If you’re using a WordPress plugin, the information will be gathered where you need it.
- Greater Insight: With CRM software, you get greater insights into your customers. However, with CRM plugin tools, you get greater insights into your WordPress website customers: how they found you on the web, what they did on your website, etc. This info is not only valuable in managing your relationship with them, but it’s also valuable for your marketing efforts and the upkeep of your website.
- Real-Time Access: With WordPress plugins, you’re going to have instant access to what visitors are doing on your website. Some of these plugins even help you communicate in real-time with them.
The Cons of CRM WordPress Tools
Many of the cons associated with CRM software do not apply here (which is why you’re probably turning to these in the first place). However, there are a few points worth noting:
- Tech Support: If a plugin doesn’t work as expected or malfunctions and you lose out on opportunities due to a lack of data importing, there often isn’t a dedicated technical support team to assist.
- Limited Purpose: For the most part, these plugins are fairly limited in what they do. Some offer contact management while others are focused on lead generation. If you’re looking to plugins to substitute a software solution, you may need to sign on with a number of them (which won’t likely integrate with one another).
- Security: If you’re not using an encrypted plugin or don’t have another way of backing up the information you collected, you may be putting your company’s information at risk.
Regardless of whether you decide to go the route of a full CRM software, a partial but more focused tool, or one of the many WordPress plugins and integrations, your business is sure to reap the benefits. In the Capterra CRM user research study, they found that various parts of business were positively affected by the use of a software solution:
- 47% respondents indicated a change in customer retention
- 47% respondents indicated a change in customer satisfaction
- 45% respondents indicated a change in sales revenue
- 39% respondents indicated a change in upselling
That said, make sure to do your research before investing in any one tool. The ramp-up time, cost, features, and available support are all important considerations in the decision-making process—especially for a tool that won’t produce much ROI if not used in full and in the way it was intended.
Remember: Information is power. The more you can learn about your audience and your company’s history, the better you’ll be able to serve your customers, reach new ones, and increase the growth of your organization.
View @ WPMU DEV