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"social crm" (CC BY 2.0) by Sean MacEntee

Running a small local business has many advantages and can be a very rewarding way to earn a living. However, to make it a success it’s important that it’s well-run and as efficient as possible.

One of the ways of achieving this is by having an effective Customer Relationship Management (CMR) system. While many small business owners believe that they cannot justify the expense and complication of investing in such a system, often it’s more a question of whether they can afford not to invest in one.

A CRM does exactly what it sounds like. It manages the relationships between a business and its customers and ensures that communications are timely, relevant, and accurate. When there may be so many other things to take into consideration when you’re launching or building a new business, a CRM might seem to be low on a list of priorities. But, as we shall see, the opposite should be true.

The benefits of CRM

Before we list the various benefits of using a CRM system for a small local business, it’s important to state that it’s an expense that will pay back handsomely. Intelligence from Nucleus Research  has found that its return on investment can be as high as $8.71 for every dollar spent. Put this together with these five benefits, and the wisdom of using a CRM is undeniable.

1. It develops better relationships

One of the big advantages that smaller, local businesses have over their larger competitors is that they can be closer to their customers. This, in turn, builds loyalty. By having a set framework for communications, which can be slightly altered and tailored to particular customer preferences, the business owner can be confident that they are reinforcing this loyalty.

2. It saves time

Anyone running a small business will know that time is a precious commodity. With a limited number of staff available, and multitasking the order of the day, anything that can free up time to concentrate on other areas of the business has to be a good idea. The automated nature of the best CRM programs means that this balance is easy to achieve.

3. It ensures consistency of approach

When dealing with customers is done using something of an ad hoc approach, there is the very real risk that different customers will be receiving very different kinds of communication and treatment. But, as any successful business owner will tell you, consistency is key if you want to build a brand.

4. It allows integration with other programs

By using a CRM to handle customer communications it can link to a whole range of other programs and services. These can range from your calendar system to ensure that appointments are made to others which can verify the correct details for clients or prospects. For example, by using the Lusha for LinkedIn Extension , you can pull in new contact information from LinkedIn, confirm that these are the right, up-to-date details and add them to your mailing list. By syncing all this information, it creates an approach that is truly joined-up.

5. It prepares you for growth

By having a good CRM in place, a business is in a good position to grow and expand the system as it is needed. This is far easier to introduce now, at a relatively early stage, rather than later on when customer numbers are larger, and communications may become more complex. It will also mean that the business owner, and staff, will already be familiar with using the system and ready to scale up the activity.

What to look for in a CRM

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and invest in a CRM system, you’ll find the choice can be bewildering – so here are three criteria to help you choose.

  • Cost: you can expect a system to cost you anything between around $20 to $100 per month. But it’s best to budget somewhere between these two figures.
  • Simplicity: as in most things, simple is best. So, look for a system that is easy and intuitive to use.
  • Mobile-friendly: the best CRM systems can be used on mobile devices, which can be vital when you’re out and about.

Takeaways

A CRM system isn’t just important for a small local business, it can be vital. It saves time and enhances communications with customers. But it’s important to choose carefully if you want to get one that meets all your needs.