How to Implement a CRM in a Small Business

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) databases have been all the rage at large companies for years. So it’s no surprise that most of the marketing for CRMs is still targeted at medium to large companies. However, CRMs today are affordable for small businesses, and small businesses are increasingly adopting them. Why?

A CRM can help a small business do what you most need to do: find new customers and grow existing ones.

In practice, a CRM usually starts out as a glorified database: a high-tech group Rolodex. (Which is a valuable thing.) But a well-used CRM will put that information to work to help your business market, sell and support with more effectiveness and efficiency.

How can a small business get the most from a CRM?

1. Find out why you fail to win, keep or grow business. This isn’t a question that is easy to face, whether you’re falling short 5% or 50% of the time. But unless you know where your processes are breaking down (or don’t exist), you can’t get off the starting line. Where can you be better?

2. Make the CRM simple and easy to use. CRMs are complex, many-headed monsters, and can be overwhelming without focus. Ask two key questions:

How will this CRM quickly improve one or two specific issues in winning, keeping and growing business?
How will this CRM simplify the jobs of those who use it the most?

3. Find an experienced CRM partner that can tailor the CRM to your needs and is willing to get to know your business. Customizing isnt a terribly difficult or costly process, and a CRM is a waste of time and money if this isn’t done. Your partner should be willing to work with you over time to target new issues and keep the CRM evolving as your business, processes and market change.

4. Get buy-in early and often. Most CRMs failures are because management intends to use it to control sales staff: there’s nothing in it for the people who use it most! Get feedback early in the decision-making process from people in sales, marketing, support, operations, etc. You want to be able to encourage use, not force it. Consider routing critical paths through the CRM (i.e. proposal or quote generation) or tying compensation to its use.

5. Train, train, train. Money saved now by not training will be paid for later in time and energy enforcing use and correcting improper use. Budget and schedule with training in mind.

Once you’ve made the transition onto a CRM and solved a problem or two, you can identify and address additional issues with the CRM. But it all begins with a solid beginning that solves real problems and empowers people throughout your business.