Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

What is CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. Originally, the term was used to describe an approach to sales and marketing that focused on getting the most out of a relationship with a customer, throughout the lifetime of the relationship. This was opposed to the then prevailing traditional “transactional marketing” approach, characterised by the focus on making a sale – for each sale individually, without too much consideration being given to customer’s life-time potential, cross-selling opportunities, their long-term satisfaction, or their loyalty.

Microsoft Dynamics for Sales

The ultimate solution – so familiar, so very powerful

Fully integrated with your favourite tools
Latest technology and trends
Rich functionality
Add other business modules as needed

SuiteCRM

The freedom of open source

No compromise on available functionality
Implement at your own pace
Try everything and experiment

CRM today

Today, CRM is the prevailing approach to marketing and sales in any successful business, and the term “CRM” mostly refers to “CRM systems”. CRM systems are primarily

  • A large database of all customer information (such as their name, address, history of purchases and contacts, links to others) and
  • A suite of applications capable of
    automating procedures of acquiring and servicing customers, and of
    – analysing the information to gain insight into customer’s behaviour, profitability, opportunities.

We believe it is still a good idea to remember that the point of acquiring a CRM system is not “to have a CRM”, but to make the most of your market opportunities, your marketing and sales efforts, and of any relationships with customers or other stakeholders that you have already managed to build.

The point of CRM

The CRM system should add to your bottom line, by both letting you generate more sales at the same level of effort and investment, as well as by lowering your cost per sale. A CRM system can help you achieve:

  • Better customer profitability
  • Lower cost per sale
  • Lower business risk
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Higher customer retention

by

  • Automating processes in sales and marketing
  • Appearing professional towards your customers
  • Gaining insights into customer behaviour
  • Recognising cross-selling opportunities
  • Identifying the most profitable segments

Start-ups

  • Adopt an organised approach to dealing with customers from start.
  • Appear professional in spite of being small.
  • Keep the precious early customers and be prepared for many more, today.
  • Address the data protection and other legal compliance issues early.

Small Businesses

  • Adopt best practices early.
  • Deepen understanding of your customers and their profitability, and drive your innovation and growth into the right direction.
  • Increase efficiency, productivity and effectiveness of your processes, make room for lean and profitable expansion.
  • Manage market experiments efficiently.

Corporates

  • Keep the numbers under control. Measure and improve profitability of your customers, customer segments, and market campaigns.
  • Automate processes, increase productivity, increase reliability and quality, and reduce risks.
  • Gain new insights from the big data gathered, experiment and innovate.

How to choose the right CRM system?

Try it out, at the operative level

Try for yourself how typical everyday processes will work in reality. Prepare a couple of typical and less typical scenarios, and see, for example, whether it really is easy to add an email to a contact’s history, and whether it really is easy to access a consolidated view of communications with all the contacts within an organisational customer.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time testing the basics. If it does take a  long time – then you’d better try another one.

You can’t give up your unique advantages (however, you may upgrade them)

On the other hand, away from the typical and everyday, if there is anything specific and important to your business, inquire whether the solution is able to support that.

Another kind of relationships – contact & account data relationships

And absolutely essential, even though it may sound boring and technical if you are choosing a CRM for the very first time in your life. Check that you are happy with how the solution’s contact data is structured, especially if you are in a B2B sector with complex intra- and inter-organisational relationships.

Some solutions may not allow the same contact (a person) be a member of two different companies. Some may not allow the same e-mail appear under two different companies or under two different contacts. Some solutions may not offer a consolidated overview of all communication with a company (with any person within).

If you deal with complex relationships, it is very likely that you will have to comprimise on this issue and make difficult trade-offs. It will make you think about the more complex communication issues, and in the end you will actually be happy that you have thought that over and have made a decision.

Be realistic and stay in the driving seat

Manage your expectations and accept that there will be some adaptation needed on both sides – the CRM system will need to be set up and tweaked to fit your specific needs, and you will also need to change the way you work (otherwise, what is the point of investing in the system?).

On the other hand, also don’t let over-analysis paralyse you. In the end, your final decision will still have to be a gut-feeling one. There is no amount of analysis that can objectively pove which CRM system is the best for you, for today and tomorrow. The system will change, the wider environment will change, and your business and strategies will also change. You will have to consider external strategic issues such as CRM system provider’s long-term viability and their product roadmap.

Your decision will be much better informed, if you go beyond the demonstration videos and actually test the system yourself. Even if for just 30 minutes (and if you don’t get anywhere in the 30 minutes, that will still be a useful input – it will be less of a waste than spending hours on presentation meetings or watching demos, or – at worst – buying that system).

Open source CRM systems

One of the dilemmas that you may face is whether you should consider open source solutions or not.

We recommend taking a dynamic perspective on that question. You don’t really have to choose a single solution for each and every point in your space-time.

For example, if you are not sure what to expect from CRM, you may want to start experimenting with an open source solution to get familiar with CRM and the basic issues that will pop up along the way. After you gain some experience, you can make a much better informed decision about a longer-term investment of your time and money into a system that will be able to grow with you.

Or, you could try out different systems at different locations / divisions / businesses that do not need to work with the same customer base.

When to consider an open source CRM?

  • You have strong technical resource in-house.
  • You want to explore the possibilities and the issues. It could be a way of figuring out what features of a CRM software you really need.
  • You need the full range of functionality, but can’t afford it.
  • If you need a truly bespoke solution as opposed to a standard or a customised one (either for the whole business or for a special unit).

Our select CRM systems offering

We have been implementing the customer relationship management approach (yes, we are that old) and implementing, customising, replacing, and  using a variety of CRM systems for almost two decades now.

Many good CRM systems and providers have appeared, completely restructured, and disappeared during that time. We have chosen just two solutions, one from the proprietary and one from the open source space, that we believe are top of the class today, and that we believe will remain to gain momentum in the future due to their business models and strategies.

We have also carefully chosen our CRM implementation partners. A bad implementation partner can easily turn even the best CRM system into an expensive nightmare, while a good one can make wonders for your sales using just the rudimentary CRM tools and their expertise in process engineering and structuring of sales and marketing. And when the best CRM system meets the best implementor, you can bet the result will be a long-term competitive advantage. Your competitors will have to match both your infrastructure (which you might think they could buy, but will struggle to replicate all the smart settings, tweaks and customisations that work for you, but might not work for them) as well as your less obvious way of doing things.

Microsoft Dynamics for Sales

The ultimate solution – so familiar, so very powerful

SuiteCRM

The freedom of open source

  • Fully integrated with your favourite tools
     MS Outlook, MS Excel, Power BI, MS Flow, …
  • Keep up with the latest trends and technology
     Mobile first, Artificial intelligence (AI), …
  • Rich functionality
  • Add other business modules as needed
     MS Dynamics for Financials, …
  • No compromise on available functionality
     Full functionality at zero licensing fees.
  • Implement at your own pace
     Without the pressure of high fixed monthly costs.
  • Try everything and experiment
     Try and use whatever and whenever you like, for as long as you like.
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