CRM systems for SMEs

CRM systems for SMEs
CRM systems for SMEs

John Millis, IT Director, Cells4Life:

“We’ve been using a system from Sugar CRM since the beginning of 2012. By law we must keep records for 30 years after a client relationship ends and given that we’re currently managing more than 20,000 contracts that’s a lot of information! Taking into account compliance with government regulations, stringent European privacy laws, and the stewardship of potentially life-saving materials, we have a huge responsibility to handle an exponential amount of paperwork and data storage.

We needed a business platform that would automate processes, manage laboratory equipment and be a real asset to sales and marketing, and Sugar was the best option.

As a relatively small company, we need all the help we can get. We had to be certain that we were investing in an effective solution that would meet our needs as a business. Crucially, we needed a solution that was flexible and secure, so we spent a lot of time evaluating the CRM systems that might be suitable for the company. Providing the chosen system met the criteria and was affordable, we knew we’d be making a worthwhile investment.

The system has provided us and our staff with many benefits from recreating expensive laboratory management systems and automating marketing and sales processes to securely managing sensitive customer information. It is saving us a significant amount of time and money, and is helping us retain profitability in a growing and more competitive market. It has vastly improved the customer experience.

In terms of challenges I’d say initially retraining staff, particularly our office staff, to understand the concepts of a relational database versus the flat table system we had previously. They felt the new system required them to jump between more screens to get to the same sets of data. However, we are constantly improving our implementation to provide their needed data with fewer hops to other parts of the system.

As a private stem cell storage bank, we are trying to grow in a small, niche marketplace and expand that market and Sugar has the extensibility to enable us to do that.”

Nadia Finer, Micro Business Coach:

“I use a variety of CRMs and also encourage my clients to use them! If you only have 1 or 2 customers or leads then it’s okay not to have a CRM system but as you progress they are needed.

SME owners can find the systems confusing, complicated and daunting and don’t see the benefits but sometimes it is not just about a CRM – they can be built in to systems which manage all aspects of your business such as invoicing, billing and calendars.

CRMs help me keep all my clients records in one place and tracks leads and means I don’t have scraps of paper lying around or relying on spreadsheets with too much information. It helps you convert leads better.

As you grow your team it can also make it easier for you to share information with new staff and improve communications with clients. It can be embarrassing if a potential client receives two calls from two different people at a business because the relationship is not managed properly.

It is also about the time that you save. For example one CRM I use has an online group programme which can activate a workflow so it will ensure that my clients get a series of emails and I don’t have to organize each one. It saves you loads of money.

I find online scheduling is another plus where clients can set and reschedule appointments using the CRM. It acts as a receptionist so we don’t need to employ one!

My message is don’t be afraid – the systems are easy to use, have friendly interfaces and are either free or with negligible monthly subscriptions. One of the systems I use is £19 a month.”

Sally Newell, Founder, Simply Ice Cream:

“We’ve had a system called Highrise for three years now. Initially it was for existing customers to keep track of what they were ordering. It has now progressed to keeping records of all our telephone conversations, sales, who we have sent samples to and customer feedback.

Previously we just used paper documents, paper invoices and logging customer enquiries in a notepad. Things were getting missed.

Our main sales approach is to target farm shops or delis in a certain area, make a telephone call to enquire whether they sell ice cream and who their existing supplier is and if they want a sample. We capture all this on the CRM – the samples sent out, when received and then when we would make a follow up telephone call. We even put a dead lead file into the CRM and can analyse the information to see common threads which will help us going forward.

This is an ever evolving system and although we are not looking at tracking social media activity or mentions of our name it is something we are maybe looking at long-term.

I took a bit of persuading to get the CRM. I was worried if the computer went down because the broadband here is dreadful! It went down two days last week and you can’t do anything.

But it is better than backtracking through stacks of paper. The information is there at the hit of a button and saves so much time. Also if someone leaves the company they don’t take the information with them.

The more information you have the more knowledge you have.”

Chris Cooper and Cathy Smith – Business First Partnership

“We’ve been using the RSS system for a year. Previous to that we had a pretty restrictive database system.

One advantage of the system is that it’s suitable for multiple users and for use in remote locations. All the information is in front of our employees.

It also helps with our marketing campaigns analyzing data so we can find the best companies to target. We send out initial introductions and information on the company, organize conference calls and send PDFs to the clients. Before it was just lots of notes all over the place!

We also know that companies review their business travel requirements every 6 months, so with more information we can ensure we contact them only when it’s convenient and when the approach is timely. It’s better for them and for us.

We are also getting clients contacting us on Twitter. So we then send them a lead email and make a note on our CRM.”

In tomorrow’s instalment of our CRM series, find out what CRMs can do for your business…