Affordable Small Business CRM Options

A CRM system doesn’t have to break the bank for small businesses.

Small businesses often ask me whether CRM systems are only for bigger companies as the common misconception is that they are very expensive.

The good news is that there are many inexpensive options available for small businesses starting from $0!  These are usually “cloud” or web based solutions which only require a web browser to use.  There is no need to invest in any expensive hardware.  You pay a monthly amount to use it and there are even “mobile” versions you can use on the go with your tablet or smartphone.

One example is Zoho CRM which is free for up to 3 users and does a good job of managing contacts and interactions with your customers.  The professional edition is only $12 per user per month.

Here is an interesting case study for a small business CRM implementation.

Your Life Your Body

Your Life Your Body (YLYB) is a sole trader company owned by Jodie Hopkins. Jodie is an exercise physiologist who creates personal programs consisting of corrective exercises for clients.  Jodie is one of the attendees for the DEP workshops and was selected for the program for her keen interest in implementing a CRM system for her business.

YLYB required a CRM system to manage clients, activities and invoicing more effectively.

The main requirements that the CRM needed to fulfil were:

  • To have a central database for all clients
  • To facilitate contacting clients and scheduling appointments
  • To facilitate client profiling
  • To allow for client documents to be uploaded into the system attached to client
  • To assist automation of sending marketing material to clients
  • To have the ability to create invoices in the CRM and track status until paid.
  • To have mobile access to the CRM from  iPhone and iPad
  • To link a web form to the CRM from the website for leads generation

Outcome

Since Jodie has started using  Zoho CRM she’s found real benefits in running her business more effectively  including:

  • Manage appointments online
  • Mobile device access to CRM data – even when no internet connection
  • Synced to iPhone, iPad and laptop
  • Having a central online repository for client contracts, documents and templates.
  • Automating invoice creation and tracking until paid
  • Automatic generation of reports.
  • Automatically capture leads from website when e-book is downloaded

So as you can see, it won’t cost you an arm or a leg to start managing your customer database, interactions and automating your business through a CRM solution.  So what are you waiting for?  Get started today!

Author: Dr Vish Ramakonar, http://www.crmconsulting.net.au
photo credit: Tax Credits via photopin cc

CRM in Hollywood!

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The Walt Disney Studios job board has a new listing – Supervising VP of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). According to the listing, the key job responsibility of the VP will be to best leverage marketing campaigns and materials to engage consumers, drive increased global theatrical box office and long-term consumer loyalty to the Disney brand. The VP is also tasked with designing and executing an integrated social media/CRM strategy.

How important is customer relationship management to the movies? If a feature film doesn’t open big on its first weekend, it usually doesn’t get a second push. Theaters don’t hold over a film that performs poorly its first week, so movies, to survive, have to create a relationship with their customers quickly. Accordingly, just before every major feature film release, studios saturate the market with ads, spending often as much as half of what the film cost to produce.

It’s All about the Hype

These ads are aimed at creating and increasing brand awareness of the studio involved but, more so and primarily, for the specific film, because moviegoers are loyal, not to the studios, but to their favorite stars, directors and multi-film franchises like the Harry Potter series. Ads are targeted at creating an engagement with fans powerful enough to drive ticket sales that first critical weekend.

To help build the “buzz” for a movie opening, every major film is preceded by a web site designed to engage moviegoers early and pull them into a relationship with the film by focusing on the cast, behind the scenes of the production and even providing interactive elements for the fans. Over the last few years, studios have also added “social” to their CRM to help sell tickets by enhancing the personal and social experience around the film. Film companies are partnering with social media venues like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr to broaden their appeal . How influential these social efforts are, is still to be determined.

Does Social Drive Ticket Sales?

A survey by Ipsos MediaCT’s Motion Picture Group indicates that 42% of moviegoers under 35 check with social media to see what friends thought of a movie before going. Conversely, a recent article in the Los Angeles Times reported that, “films are considering cutting their spending on Facebook ads, just as carmaker General Motors Company did last year, when it dropped an annual $10-million Facebook campaign, deciding the ads didn’t help sell cars.” The studios’ love affair with Facebook may have become less passionate when Facebook changed the algorithms that determine what users see in their news feed, making it less likely that fans would see messages from the films they “liked.” Even so, you won’t see a movie released without its Facebook page.

So, does social involvement sell tickets? A survey of social network users ages 13 to 49 from The Hollywood Reporter and Penn Schoen Berland reported that more than half of the respondents believe “social media sites are important tastemakers in determining what to watch.”

Whatever the power of tools like Facebook or Pinterest to drive ticket sales opening day, they can’t sustain a growing box office. No volume of “likes” can make an audience like a film. Social media can extend the conversation around a movie, but the nature of the conversation will always depend on how good the film is. Just like a great cast, a great CRM can’t overcome a bad script, but it is essential to marketing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

By Leslie McCreath – Inside CRM
photo credit: Disney ABC Television Group via photopin cc

Forbes Says That Social CRM Means Business in 2012

CRM Solutions
Social CRM will take off in 2012

By Adam Sarner

Gartner, Inc.

Social CRM Goes Beyond the Hype

With spending on social applications to help sales, marketing and customer service processes expected to surpass $1billion worldwide this year, the loudest hype around social CRM is over, and organizations are rolling up their sleeves and getting down to business. While adoption has been highest among business-to-consumer (B2C) type organizations, business to business companies are now aggressively investing in social. By year-end 2013, B2B organizations using social CRM applications will represent 25 percent of all projects worldwide, which is an increase from fewer than 10 percent in 2011.

However, while market growth is assured during the next two years, the ultimate success of social CRM will depend on how well companies and social CRM technology providers can accelerate through the inevitable social expectation bust and make social projects more than just “engagement” objectives and actually tie social activities to clear and measurable business objectives.

Social CRM applications are used by sales, marketing and customer service organizations to encourage the capture and sharing of data among users, ceding levels of decision control to a community. Users include customers, as well as sales, marketing and service organizations, to create brand awareness, gather information, build trust, evaluate decisions, sell and aid post purchase activities. Social CRM applications can have both internal and external company users, and they can be public or private, outsourced or hosted, and make connections to external communities.

Although the traditional CRM software market continues in double-digit growth, numerous challenges will be faced. “Social CRM” in a sense is just “CRM” as it was intended to be by academics and analysts during the past decade. CRM is a business strategy and an approach, not a technology. But despite the education around transforming a business around the wants and needs of customers in a profitable way, many organizations approached CRM from an operational or technology perspective. The emphasis was on the “M” for management rather than the “R” for relationship. Technology didn’t help either, with many CRM systems designed to do things to the customer (sell to, market to, etc) rather than with them. The rise of social is forcing organizations and technology to readdress this balance with mutual engagement.

The bottom line is that social CRM works only if users want to participate in communities, and they will do so only if they perceive value from it. At the same time, companies need to realize measurable benefits; otherwise, it makes no business sense to expend resources on social. Social CRM applications therefore need to be far more customer-centric than traditional CRM applications.

To be successful with social CRM, organizations need to be much less focused on how an organization can manage the customer, and much more focused on how the customer can manage the relationship. Without any benefit for the customer to participate, communities and social networks die resulting in no benefits to the organization using the social CRM applications.

It is essential that organizations audit all social CRM projects against mutual benefits – what’s in it for the company and what’s in it for the customer or community. If clear benefits cannot be identified for both parties, or if those benefits are unbalanced, then the project is doomed to failure.

Social CRM strategy must also be refined on an ongoing basis. Social media is constantly evolving and new uses are frequently being discovered. For that reason, it’s vital to regularly revisit how much “relationship” control you are ceding, how you will staff the effort, who will be involved within the company and the community, and which goals will take priority.

Adam Sarner is a research director at Gartner, covering the global CRM industry.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gartnergroup/2012/02/16/social-crm-means-business-in-2012/

Five CRM Strategies That Cost Little to Nothing, but Will Generate Positive Results

Gartner highlights five CRM strategies that cost little to nothing , but will generate positive results

Companies that fail to invest in CRM strategies because of the tough economic climate will delay perceived benefits by at least 12 months once the economy recovers, giving rivals an advantage in the market, according to Gartner Inc.

Gartner analysts said that lesson learned from previous downturns indicate that 40 percent of companies will use the current economic slump as an opportunity to generate post-recovery growth via effective use of CRM strategies.

“Just because times are tough and budgets are being cut, companies should not think that means no CRM investment,” said Scott Nelson, managing vice president at Gartner. “Companies need to think in terms of spending smarter, not spending less. There are zero, or low-cost strategies that can be implemented now that can make all the difference, generate competitive differentiation and not draw the attention of the CFO.”

Mr. Nelson said in reality there is no such thing as true “zero cost strategy” — as money has often already been spent on CRM systems and there are ongoing care and maintenance expenses — CRM success can be secured without spending more money on technology. Many organizations have large investments in call centers, Web sites, marketing systems and sales force automation. With these pieces in place, companies can wrap effective strategies around these tools and generate real success from a customer standpoint.

“CRM is a journey, not just a one-time and done strategy,” said Mr. Nelson. “If the right strategies are employed now, then companies will get a ‘sling shot’ effect going into the eventual recovery, putting them well ahead of the rivals who chose to wait and who equate CRM success with spending more money on technology.”

Gartner has identified five strategies that companies can undertake now that cost very little or nothing, but which will generate positive results from a CRM strategy point of view.

Customer Communities
Gartner predicts that CRM of the future will be about creating online communities of customers via emerging social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and similar Web sites. The economic downturn provides a great opportunity to begin experimenting in this area, and Gartner advises companies to set up accounts on the various Web sites and learn what they do and don’t do, and how users interact.

Analytics
Once bought and installed, analytic tools can be put to good use during economic downturns. Many companies have more information than they know what to do with, and now they have the opportunity to put this to good use studying attrition models, looking at the next most likely to buy models, and figuring out channel usage patterns. While doing so, companies should bear in mind that customer behavior may change when the economy improves.

Segmentation
Many segmentation schemes are based on psycho-demographics, profitability or account attributes. However, a down economy provides companies with the opportunity to review their segmentation strategy and see if it really is the very best one that they could have.

Process Redesign
Process is often an overlooked part of CRM and in many cases all that CRM technologies have done is taken out old, broken processes and made them run more efficiently. Now is an excellent time to study customer processes with a view to redesigning them and creating a win/win situation for both the company — which gets greater efficiency — and the customer — who gets a “partner” that interacts with them in a meaningful way.

Organizational Redesign
Organizational change is one of the most difficult areas of CRM strategy, but many companies need to make the move from product-centric to customer-centric. In a down economy, with fewer distractions, many companies will find that this is the perfect time to start to address some of the organizational issues that get in the way of serving the customer.

“At the end of the day, CRM is all about change. Changing from product to customers, changing age-old processes, changing enterprise mindsets, and changing how companies relate to customers,” said Mr. Nelson. “All of this can be done without new systems, and the challenging economic environment may give companies just the chance they have been waiting for.”

Source: http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=992012