You might be thinking, “CRM, what’s that?” CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, so whether you were aware of it or not up to this point, you are already using it. You might be relying on your brain to remember the conversations you had with some leads. Maybe you’re taking handwritten notes in your trusty notebook.
That system may work while you’re just getting started, but as your business grows, there’s just no way your poor brain can retain it on for total recall. It’s also taking a lot of hard work and time on your end, and it just can’t possibly collect all the information that automation can.
The question is how do you track your leads and your customers now? A lot of people tell me they use their email marketing platform as their CRM. The email platform often catches at least a person’s first name. You able to add notes and data in there. Yes, you can even segment and target people from there.
In fact, you can set up automated emails to take customers on a journey without ever actually interacting with them yourself. But an automated email is not a substitute for a personal relationship.
Remember, we’re talking small business here. The thing that is going to set you apart from other small businesses and larger businesses alike, is your customer’s journey. When your customers feel like they know your business, they trust your business, and you’ll build a loyal customer for a lifetime.
Can you think of a small business that you are a loyal supporter of? What was it that established that know, like, and trust? When small business owners make customers feel like they are part of the family or community, customers take note. They show their support in more than just continued patronage, they also tell everyone they know about “their shop” or “their gal”.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be using your email marketing platform. You need both! But each requires a different approach. Today we will be covering CRM options, but for more about getting started with email marketing, visit this post.
Small Business CRM Considerations
Now that we’ve established that you do need a tool for customer relationship management, let’s talk about some options. There are thousands of options when it comes to CRM software, and most offer a free trial so you can test out how it’s going to work for you. There are a few things you want to consider when selecting one.
As small business owners, we’re often told we need #allthethings. We end up paying for so many tools and subscriptions that our expenses seem insurmountable before we can even get started. As with everything I share, I always try to include some free options and low cost options that can help you learn what works for you and your business. You’ll find some recommendations below.
Of course the free tools aren’t going to include all the bells and whistles, so you’ll have to consider what you’re willing to pay for more automation and potentially less work on your part. Or to be more exact, less work spent in that area, so you can focus on other aspects of your business.
I highly encourage you to check out the monthly and yearly cost of any CRM you’re considering and make sure it does what you need it to do for that price before you set it up. There’s nothing worse than setting up a new software and learning the ropes, only to find that when your free trial expires, the cost is out of budget and you have to start all over again from scratch.
Integration with Your Email
It really doesn’t matter whether you use G-suite or Outlook, or who your email service provider is, most CRM tools will work with any option. Typically, the CRM will generate an email address for you that you will add to your BCC line in every email. You will end up BCCing (blind carbon copy emailing) the CRM and it will track each email you send, and attach it to the contact or contacts in the email.
For ease, I suggest adding the generated email as a contact, so you can easily pop it into the BCC line every time. (The generated emails usually contain a series of a bunch of random and aren’t not easy to remember.)
If you can find a CRM that integrates with your email provider of choice, though, you can often choose to have it automatically send and track emails, so you don’t have to remember to BCC yourself on every email. It also will allow the responses you get to be automatically tracked, which could save you from having to forward individual emails to the auto-generated account too.
Integration with Your Website
Starting out you may not have a website. Or, you may have hired someone else to make your website and you have no idea how to make changes on the backend. This doesn’t need to be your first consideration when looking for a website, but it’s something you may definitely need to progress into, so be sure when you’re choosing a CRM software that it will integrate with the platform your website is built on, whether that’s WordPress, Squarespace, or something else.
Integration with Your Email Marketing Platform
There will be overlap on your email list and your CRM contacts lists, but you will find yourself with contacts that end up with one list and not the other, for various reasons. It’s so much easier when you can manage all your information, customers, and leads in one place. For this reason, I suggest checking to see if you can integrate your email marketing platform (like MailerLite or MailChimp) with your CRM.
Even if you don’t start out integrating the two as you’re just getting started, you’ll want to know if you have the option to do so as your small business grows. Like I mentioned above, nothing is worse than getting set up and comfortable with a system only to have to start over with a new software because you’ve outgrown the features of your current one. You’re looking for a program that will grow with you.
Small Business CRM Options
- Capsule CRM offers a free plan that includes up to 2 users and 250 contacts. It has lot of amazing features, but also doesn’t overwhelm too many options that you won’t use. Getting set up doesn’t take long at all, and you can easily add an app to your phone or tablet, to keep your customers organized on the go. It also offers integration with some of the most commonly used providers.
If you’re feeling intimidated by CRM software, this one is a great starter tool. You’ll be able to learn the basics of what information you should be tracking, and start to implement a system that works for your small business.
- HubSpot is a more advanced CRM software, that can just about everything, which makes it both amazing and overwhelming at the same time. You can really customize your own plan, picking to pay for the specific services that you need, but the free plan is actually quite robust for the starter plan.
It offers direct integration for many of the commonly used platforms, and if it doesn’t integrate directly, you can use Zapier to get many more connected. My personal favorite is the WordPress plugin that makes connecting everything a breeze.
You can add pop-ups and forms to your website, a live chat option, set up an auto-responder for Facebook Messenger. When people fill out any form on your site. You’ll be notified by email and HubSpot will automatically create a new contact for new users or add the details to current users. You can manage it all right from the HubSpot website, or get the app for your phone or tablet. It’s a huge time-saver.
Are you currently using a CRM for your small business? Let me know what you’re using in the comments.