Does Your Business Need CRM Software?

    March 18, 2004

When you started out in business, keeping track of customers, orders, and leads may not have been that difficult. After all, most companies do start out slowly. However, it won’t take long for you and your staff to become overwhelmed by the challenge of keeping all your clients happy while also following up on hot leads and managing enormous amounts of customer data. You don’t need to hire more people or stagnate your business’s growth to solve the problem. The solution is to invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

CRM technology allows for the culmination of information regarding all customer-related activities, including marketing, sales, accounting, support, and more. With the click of a button, you can find out which leads responded to a direct mail campaign or which customers need to be notified about outstanding bills. Everything is right where you need it to be.

This technology grew out of a real need of businesses in the 1990s to meet the changing demands of consumers. As buyers became busier in their day-to-day lives, they became less patient and less tolerant of inefficient customer service, limited support, and slow response times. As a result, businesses turned to technology to create a streamlined way of answering those needs.

CRM was, of course, the result. Companies which use CRM software can answer customer questions almost instantly and without forcing the consumers to come prepared with invoice numbers or account statements because all of that information is stored together in the CRM database.

CRM doesn’t just help customers, however. The collected customer data can be used to help you learn which types of people to target with your marketing or to keep track of their buying habits that could be vital information for future sales and marketing campaigns.

The applications can also be used to manage new leads and to track their progress from first contact to first purchase. CRM programs can even alert you when it is time to follow up with a lead or a current customer. For example, it may send you a message when you need to send the next email of the marketing campaign or notify you to mail a birthday card to one of your best customers so that it reaches their home in time.

While CRM does offer a wealth of valuable functions and useful features which would make it versatile in any business environment, these types of benefits don’t come cheap. Large corporations pay thousands of dollars for in-depth CRM programs, but you don’t have to go that far. ACT! 6.0 for 2004. is one example of scaled down CRM application that meets your small business needs.

Just like the big guys, the program includes a database, tracking capabilities, and report creation abilities. It also includes event notification, an email client, pop-up calendars, pre-formatted correspondence templates, sales forecasting tools, and more. The program costs almost $230 for a single user or $950 for up to five licenses. That is quite a large budget chunk for most small businesses, yet it is considerably less than what larger companies pay for similar software.

An article in Harvard Business Review stated that retaining just 5% more of your customers could increase your profits by 70%. Keeping those customers and continuing to win new ones means taking action, but whether that action involves purchasing CRM software is up to you.

The bottom line is that Microsoft Access or a similar database program (many office software suites come with them) could be all you really need to manage your customer relationships. However, if you do decide to take the CRM plunge, be sure to do your homework and look for reasonably priced programs such as ACT 6.0 and others that can offer the features you need at a price that won’t bankrupt your business.

Cavyl Stewart is the author of “135 Hot Tech Tips for Small
Business Owners.” To Download your free copy, just visit: