What Is a CRM Application?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. To put it shortly, it's an application that helps you manage your current and potential customer base. You can use it to manage your marketing efforts, your relationships, your conversion data, your contact information, and even your internal team and how they distribute work.
Why Should I Use One?
CRM applications are typically used by sales teams in established businesses and organizations to work their pipeline, maintain connections with prospects, and track conversions. They also use them to report out data as needed.
But I believe a sole proprietor or small business needs the same level of efficiency and organization if they want to be successful. The great part about a CRM tool is that you don't have to purchase all the parts you don't need. And it doesn't have to be expensive.
I have had great success with Salesforce.com, so I'll be touting that one in particular here. For only $5/month I get functionality that lets me manage all of my new and prospective clients, make notes on marketing efforts, schedule follow-up activities, document projects, and run reports. And it's all stored on the cloud. So if my computer dies, my contacts (and the lifeblood of my business) live on.
A Day in the Life of a CRM'd Sole Proprietor
So how do I put my CRM application to use? For every new person I interact with that is either providing me business or could provide it in the future, I create an account that links that contact with any others related to it. I enter their job title, email, phone, cell phone, address, website, you name it. I then create a note about our interaction, and copy any relevant email text into the record that I might want to remember.
Once that's done, I set tasks for myself. And I do this everyday for both new and existing contacts depending on what happens in my business.
- Did I tell them I would check back with them in a month? I set a task to alert me in a month that links to the contact and tells me what I'm supposed to do.
- Did I send them a completed draft that I will need to invoice for in a week? I set a task to tell me to check in on day 6 and remind them of edits due. When that task comes due, I mark it complete and set another task to remind myself to invoice on day 7.
- Did I sent out a project quote that I'm awaiting a response on? I set a task to check in 4 days later on the quote if I haven't heard back.
The beauty is that when when I log in everyday, all of my tasks are conveniently listed for me by date without me having to think about anything. Everything I need to do for that day is right there, and I can click on it to view more details and review the history on the account. It's like an instant refresher, and it allows me to follow up in a more personal way.
Where to Get a CRM
I highly recommend Salesforce.com. For contact management for up to 5 users it's only $5/month. Plus it's web-based, easy to use, and has just enough functionality to help you manage your clients. If you want a little more functionality you can go up to the $25/month package. It goes up from there depending on your needs and how many people you want to be able to use it.
Sound good? It works well for me. Click here to view Salesforce.com's pricing information, and welcome to the world of CRMs!