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Profit from customer information

How customer relationship management could boost your earnings

"Debbie, your ideas sound wonderful, but my problem is I don’t have a database to work from." The other 49 people shook their head in agreement.

Quote�It never occurred to me that some small businesses might not have access to their customer information.�End Quote

This simple statement, said innocently enough, shocked me to the core. It was made after 50 business owners at a conference had listened to me extol the benefits of email marketing in my keynote address.

I’m a small business owner myself. Maybe it’s the marketer’s blood in my veins, but it never occurred to me that some small businesses might not have access to their customer information. Or that they wouldn't be using it cleverly for marketing. Because that’s how you get more sales and referrals - and sales are the lifeblood of most businesses.

Big companies do it

Have you ever telephoned a company to find that the person on the other end of the line has all your account details, as well as correspondence, at their fingertips?

CRM – customer relationship management - isn’t only in the domain of the large rich corporations. And it’s not just about customer information. It’s also about knowing where your business is and what the future holds. Every small business should and could practice it easily.

What is Customer Relationship Management?

You’ll find 1001 answers on the internet, but simply it is the term for methodologies and software that help a company manage customer relationships in an organised way. For example, you might build a database about your customers that describes relationships in enough detail so that managers, sales and support staff and even customers can use it in a meaningful way.

Something for everyone

For the management
A company's management needs to see how things look now and how they will look in the future. CRM systems will automatically create reports and forecasts such as sales in the pipeline, estimates of future sales and the probability of large sales closing. A CRM system can also tell a business's management about sales staff productivity and sales success.

Quote�CRM systems can store the complete history of interaction between each customer and the company.�End Quote

For the marketing and sales teams
They need knowledge and information. To improve their success they need the ability to match the right products to the right customers at the right time. So they need to know what customers bought and when, along with detailed demographic information about each customer. CRM systems can store the complete history of interaction between each customer and the company.

For the support and customer service teams
To support the sales staff well and provide good customer service, staff must be able to view the communication history between client and company as well as purchases made, product information and pricing.

For the customers
The internet is a powerful tool for assisting customers to serve themselves. By placing your customer database and product information online, you give customers the power to take charge. They can update their information, make purchases, find answers to their problems and research your products and services.

Different information requirements

Quote�Good information gives you the ability to sell more.�End Quote

Every business has different information requirements. What remains the same is that good information gives you the ability to sell more, lower your marketing costs and make better plans. You don’t need to spend a fortune, or implement a tortuous computer system that your staff will never use. CRM can be as simple as:

Defining what information would help you run your business smarter. This could include sales forecasts or key client communication history.

Developing a customer knowledge base. The more detailed information you have about customers, the more you can use it to your advantage. It shouldn’t just be that customer X bought product Y. Look into them personally. What is their job? Their position? Their industry? When do they need to buy your product again?

Developing a clever communication strategy. Think not only about selling to them, but how you can add value and gain referrals. What information can you send to them to make them more successful?

Using software to bring everything together. With the right software, you can make customer relationship management a reality for you.

What next?

Order a free trial of Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003, a suite including Outlook 2003 with BCM.

Debbie Mayo-Smith is an international motivational business speaker and author. She specialises in simple, easy and practical ways to improve your personal productivity and business profitability. You can visit her website at http://www.debbiespeaks.co.nz, or subscribe to her Business Tip Newsletter.

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