It’s a nice problem to have, but it doesn’t take long for a small business to get completely overwhelmed in the customer data it collects.

At just 500 customers, keeping track of phone numbers and email addresses can get a little hairy. And if you want to turn that data into something as simple as an email campaign, you could easily spend hours when working out of a spreadsheet.

If you have any kind of consumer-facing business — it could be an apartment rental agency, an online store, or a law firm — you need a B2C CRM to handle your customer data because it will save you time and uncover important insights about your customers’ behaviors.

Now, when you begin to look for a CRM for your own small business, you’ll find an overwhelming amount of information that most likely won’t apply all that much to you. Typically, most CRM companies specialize in enterprise-level software platforms — something that can connect departments and businesses processes in companies with 1,000-plus employees.

Small businesses, however, need a more streamlined tool that can work nimbly at the individual level of each customer. That CRM needs to be able to

  • handle hundreds (or even thousands) of customer profiles,
  • help segment for targeted outreach campaigns,
  • and align with specific parts of your sales, service and marketing processes so you can sell more effectively and grow your business intentionally.

Here is what small business owners who sell directly to consumers need to know about a CRM software.


There are two key features of a CRM B2C business owners should look for


Each CRM will have a variety of features. Let your own business’ goals dictate which of those features matter most to you.

That said, any reliable CRM will include these two features.

The platform should let you respond to leads quickly.

Whether it’s someone walking into your shop, calling you on the phone, or reaching out on Twitter, you probably have dozens of leads coming your way each week. Your CRM needs to be able to recognize a lead, capture that person’s information, and give you the intel you need to react quickly to that potential customer’s needs.

Timing is everything with leads. As Jim Plunkett notes on the Salesforce blog, you’re 10 times more likely to convert a lead into a customer if you respond to his or her query within an hour. In the past, that was simply a matter of being easily reachable by phone.

Today, however, social media play a much bigger role (and provides a much richer source of data about your customers, which we will get to in a moment). According to CMO, the majority of B2C businesses generate leads and measurable revenue from their social media presences.

CRM analytics should uncover customer insights easily.

The digital paper trail your leads and customers leave allows you to build a much more robust, bird’s-eye view of who buys from you and why.

At the simplest level, your CRM can elevate customer needs, concerns, and feedback — all of which they’re already sharing on social media. And with customer email address, you can reach out to them en masse to survey their opinions and get additional, targeted feedback.

Further, your CRM will give you a glimpse into your customers’ habits via their social presences, website or in-store visits, demographic data, blog comments, and responses to outreach or promotional offers.

Finally, it will give you an idea of how engaged your leads are. Cold leads are difficult no matter your industry, but the data a smart CRM can analyze will help you get a better idea of which leads are warmer, and why some leads have gone cool.


How to implement a CRM strategy


CRM software is not a one-size-fits-all tool, so small business owners need to have a clear idea of their needs and their business goals before investing in one.

  • Define the business goals for your CRM. If you are specifically interested in growing your content, email, and social marketing efforts, sketch out a process first before looking into CRMs. Likewise, if you want to analyze customer behavior to develop a bigger pipeline of leads, you might need a different set of features.
  • Evaluate your relationships and internal capabilities. Each company has its own relative strengths and its own unique network of customer relationships. When transitioning to a CRM platform, it will be crucial to understand how these drive your company’s growth.
  • Start small. You might not need a huge selection of features and capabilities — at least not at this point. But if your goal is significant business growth, also make sure your CRM can scale with your business needs.


Should you hire a CRM consultant?


Evaluating your business’ goals and strengths, implementing the platform, then onboarding your staff is no small task — especially for business owners who already are pressed for time. When difficulties arise in the transition to a CRM, they can have a multiplying effect.

Larger organizations often hire a CRM consultant to guide employees through these processes. And while that is an OK solution at enterprise scale, consultants are not usually a good fit for small businesses, who prefer software that is fast, easy, and intuitive.

If your business uses Gmail or Microsoft Exchange to handle emails, it makes much more sense to go with a CRM that can work with those programs, not one that needs to be customized to replace them.


A smart CRM can help you sell more effectively


Still, a CRM when thoughtfully considered and properly implemented creates so many data-driven sales opportunities for consumer-facing businesses.

If you would like to know more about how a B2C CRM can find real sales insights from your customer data, have a look at our e-book Smarter Selling for Small Business.