Small businesses have been modernizing their sales efforts by adopting customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation (MA) more and more over the past decade, saving time and powering their growth. But in the race to add on technology, there’s sometimes an unintended consequence: overcomplicating it all. The reality is that most small businesses can get by (and actually thrive) with minimal tech, so long as you choose your system(s) wisely. To help you reevaluate your technology needs, and get more from less, here’s a look at the functionality that you truly need.
Make Sure it’s a Match
Not every solution is right for small businesses, and this matters more than you might think. A solution geared toward midsize B2B businesses, for example, will confuse and fail a small service-based business (while also costing way too much). So, look for a CRM that fits your business size and your industry. Take a look at what other customers have said about a particular platform, especially those of your size who are also in your space. Testimonials can reveal a lot about what functionality businesses like yours are actually using vs. what the software provider advertises.
You should also make sure that the system you’re considering caters to your workflow. Take time to write down everything you and your team members do in a given day, along with the tasks you’d like to do with new technology. You might find you only really need your CRM and MA to manage contacts, send communications, create landing pages, invoice and receive payments. In such a case, you don’t need to go looking for tools that also offer website creation and domains, because that functionality isn’t necessary for your purposes.
Functions Across the Funnel
Many solutions geared toward small businesses are priced low, but their functionality is just as low. Instead of going for the cheapest option, consider what it covers first. Your best bet is to choose a system that supports both sales and marketing automation, rather than limited marketing automation functions. Otherwise, the benefits you gain in one area may lead to losses in productivity in another.
For example, many vendors offer email marketing. But how many also give you the ability to create customer quotes that can be customized, shared and reused? Looking for sales-specific features like this will quickly help you differentiate solutions that will serve you across the funnel.
Focus on Relationship-Building Features
While sales and marketing automation systems are intended to save you time and help you drive more business, they should also achieve one important goal: strengthening the relationship between you and your customers. After all, this is how you boost customer satisfaction and increase retention and revenue.
So, review potential CRM and MA solutions through this lens. Look not only for email marketing capabilities, but also additional communication tools like SMS and voice. Considering that text messages have an open rate of 94% (significantly higher than email’s open rate of around 21%), this is a useful approach to tap into. Some solutions offer not only one-to-one texting but also one-to-many, which can add even more value. For example, when an existing client cancels an appointment, you can have your software automatically send out a text to prospects alerting them that you have an opening on your calendar and provide a scheduling link.
Additionally, being able to make calls from directly within your CRM closes the loop on customer communications. You should be able to quickly view inbound and outbound call history and even play back audio messages, all within one centralized platform. This way, all of your sales and marketing team members know what’s going on with a customer at any point. All of these different communication channels allow you to speak to customers where they want to be spoken to, be more responsive, get better results and build a stronger bond.
Ease of Use & Support
Finally, two of the most important aspects of any software you’re thinking of purchasing are: 1) How easily and quickly you can start using it, and 2) How much ongoing support you’ll get. Some solution providers promise an intuitive platform, but then leave you high and dry once you’re a paying customer and need some help troubleshooting.
The best way to ensure a solution doesn’t come with an extensive learning curve is to check customer reviews and sign up for a demo. This will help you actually see how the system works, how to handle certain tasks and what the interface looks like before making it your own. Then, as you speak with the vendor’s representatives, ask them about support. If they don’t offer robust support across multiple channels (e.g. phone, chat and email), consider that a huge red flag. Everyone needs support, and you’re going to want it with your sales and marketing automation, either now or in the future.
Ultimately, there are a lot of potential CRM and MA technology solutions to choose from, but you don’t need to overcomplicate your search. Try to find a single, intuitive system that will accomplish as many of your objectives as possible, that has functionality across the funnel, offers numerous relationship-building features and comes with a variety of support options. When you do, you can start experiencing the transformative results of tailored sales and marketing automation that serves your needs.
By Clate Mask, CEO and Co-Founder of Keap
Overcomplicated technology stock image by fizkes/Shutterstock