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A Buzzword That Makes Sense For Small Business

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There is one rule of building a business that every small business owner and entrepreneur must learn early in the game of starting and growing a venture. The rule is that keeping customers is as important as getting them. In fact, for most market segments, the cost of maintaining a customer is far cheaper than acquiring.

Today, the existence of the Internet and social media makes it both easier and more important to keep an active, collaborative conversation going with your prospects and customers. Dissatisfaction or praise spreads rapidly, having a major impact on your business.

There is a term that many people use today; not always understanding exactly what it means. Customer Relationship Management is a marketing solution for managing a company's interactions with both current and prospective customers. There are a number of powerful CRM software applications on the market that range in price from free to over $10,000. While each product takes a different approach to the CRM application, they have a commonality in some basic applications. These include:

- Sales and lead tracking
- Marketing activity tracking
- Customer service and support management
- Reporting options
- Email generation and tracking
- Calendars for multiple users
- Project Management (sometimes rudimentary)

For a small business that is considering moving to a CRM capability, the primary considerations are going to start with cost, ease-of-use, and product capabilities. Here are 3 of the packages ranging from simple to powerful, with a brief look at each:

1. Outlook with Business Contact Manager. The primary pro of this selection is that most people are already familiar with Outlook and its contacts database. There is enough integration with email and Word that a small company can maintain a reasonable number of contacts with the system. The primary con is that there the limited expansion of the capabilities. Plus, have you tried to call Microsoft about a product?

2. ZOHO. This is a robust product that has been around a while and has a strong user base. Its big advantage is that aside from its range of applications, it is totally scalable. You can start for free with a few customers and add as you grow. In fact, the modularity is somewhat confusing and the biggest negative.

3. Infusionsoft. This is a quality application that handles CRM and more. Its main advantage is its broad range of applications. The only real negative comes down to costs, at least $3,500 for the first year in installation and fees.

CRM can greatly aid your efforts to grow your business. Spending some time evaluating your options will pay big dividends for you and your customers.

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A Buzzword That Makes Sense For Small Business