How do you keep track of your business contacts....excel, paper files, a word document, your email or smart phone’s contact list or perhaps a good old-fashioned rolodex? These all serve a purpose, but if you’re not using a dedicated CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, you’re missing out on a world of benefits designed to create stronger business relationships. A well managed CRM system allows you to retain important details about your contacts, providing more accurate, current and personal business communications.
Of course in today’s internet marketing environment, it’s a necessity to distribute blanket promotions such as blog posts, tweets, email promotions and Facebook posts. These are all valuable forms of communication that keep your business in front of your audience, and hopefully produce some engagement. But that’s not enough. The real source of your business success will come with personalized interactions enhanced by a good CRM system.
Here are some tips on how to get started:
CHOOSE A CRM SYSTEM - Each system serves a slightly different purpose. Decide which is right for you by determining your business, networking and follow-up needs. Then get started by checking out some these popular CRM systems:
- Highrise - designate multiple tags for grouping by contact type, set email reminders, link email correspondence, merge Linkedin profiles, create specific notes, integrates with Mailchimp, free and paid versions. www.highrisehq.com
- Gist - provides continuously updated social media information and content such as blog posts, LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter posts, search engine results and more for each contact, free & paid versions. (I love the weekly digest that lands in my inbox listing the most prominent posts of my main social media business contacts.) www.gist.com
- Zoho - marketing automation, email integration, autoresponders, inventory management, calendar, free & paid versions. www.zoho.com/crm
- Sugarcrm - Calendar, email integration, project management, reporting. www.sugarcrm.com
- ACT - integrates with outlook providing an automatic history of email correspondence, reminders, calendar, lead tracking www.act.com
- SalesForce - SalesForce is one of the most popular CRMs. It was created with sales in mind, and works well in conjunction with many other applications as components of its overall system options. www.salesforce.com
Resource: Top 20 Customer Relationship Management Software Links
USE TAGS TO GROUP CONTACTS BY TYPE - Review your contact list and determine specific categories, such as prospective client, client, media, business referral, local, target industry, etc. Use the terms that make sense to you, then begin to assign one or more tags to each contact as you enter them into your CRM database.
MANAGE INDIVIDUAL DETAILS - Use your CRM to track details about your contacts and correspondence such as previous conversations & correspondence, favorite blog posts, birthdays and special events, previous meetings, etc.
SET REMINDERS & TASKS - Follow-up is the key to building business relationships. Use this feature to enter future activities. Stay organized and never forget another appointment or opportunity.
Imagine instantly being able to pull up a list of your top prospective clients and craft a letter or email just for them. If you choose, you can then use the details in your CRM to further personalize each making your outreach efforts much more effective! Then when one of them replies and invites you to a meeting next month with her local networking group, you can add that new information to their specific record (to remember she’s a member of XYZ Club) with a reminder to follow up to confirm. You’ll never lose track of those important little details again.
Although they can be extremely effective, CRM systems are only as useful as the data you put into them. Be diligent. Entering contacts and details should become part of your daily routine as new information arises. There is an initial investment of time and effort in setting up a good system, however within the first few weeks you will begin to reap the benefits and soon you will wonder how you ever managed your business without it!