Forget about your product. Well, not quite. But, still, today’s most successful enterprises obsess less over the stuff they make or the services they provide, and more over the customers who buy them.
Most entrepreneurs now recognize that “building deep customer relationships will lead to sustainable longterm growth,” says a report released by Forrester Research this past summer. But to do so effectively, you could use help from technology that allows for deeper customer understanding — namely, customer relationship management software. CRM software can help you centralize client data, automate customer service processes such as status reports or e-mail campaigns, and alert you to when you’re behind schedule — all of which improve relationships and ultimately boost sales.
In a recent report by Boston, Mass.-based Bain & Company on management tools and trends, 84% of the senior executives of global firms polled said their companies used CRM technology. More important, they’re highly satisfied with it.
But whereas CRM technology used to be the exclusive domain of mid-sized and large corporations due to its former complexity and expense, today, it’s cheaper and easier to use than ever before, making it an attractive investment for entrepreneurial businesses. In fact, two-thirds (66%) of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies use CRM software.
“We’ve had CRM from Day 1,” says Paul Kerr, CEO of Scalar Decisions, a fast-growing IT consultancy based in Toronto. “It’s one of the key tenets of how we run our business. It gives you instant access to key information, and it’s great for tracking key performance indicators of your business opportunities, and making sure you’re following customers closely.”
Kerr can’t imagine running his $20-million business without it. “I have salespeople across Ontario, and they all carry $4-million-a-year quotas,” says Kerr. “If I wanted a report on how they’re doing, I’d have to call each one, or request an email, and there’d be no consistency to those reports. Whereas CRM forces everyone into the same pattern, the same path.”
Another benefit Kerr points out: “You can go into the system at any time and see which deals in progress are the biggest. Then you’ll know which client you need to go and visit to [close the deal],” he says.
For those already using CRM, Kerr recommends taking it to the next level and using an integrated business platform (IBP) called NetSuite. It’s a broad application covering business functions including CRM but also ERP, e-commerce, customer support, accounting, inventory management and more. With thousands of clients worldwide, San Mateo, Calif.-based NetSuite is the leading IBP provider to SMEs, its sole market. Says Kerr: “I think of NetSuite as CRM 2.0.”