In the early stages of a company’s growth, your contacts book is one of your most valuable assets. There are prospects out there to be found and converted to customers, alongside existing customers who can give you an essential steady stream of repeat business.
At the very beginning, a startup might have little more than a list of prospects that they hope to turn into customers. These prospects may be stored on a handful of business cards or in a list of names and phone numbers on a spreadsheet or document.
The next step is a contact management application. This does the basics: it stores names and other personal details, along with notes about previous and future contact dates and times, what was said, and what needs to be done.
But a CRM platform takes this further and enables true customer management. It doesn’t just make it easy for you to stay in contact with your customers; it actually helps you do business with them, supporting your business and delivering the speed and scalability that a fast-growing enterprise needs.
A CRM system is like a map and compass for your small business. It helps you understand exactly where you are with your customers, what direction you need to take to keep them happy, and what obstacles you'll need to navigate around to close the deals with them.
As your organisation grows, your IT requirements grow too: you'll need to share your CRM data with colleagues, collaborate on sales initiatives, and access the latest information while you're on the move from a tablet, smartphone or other mobile device.
Running software systems in-house that can achieve all this is challenging for a large organisation with a dedicated IT department. For a small business? It doesn't bear thinking about.
But with a platform that helps you to develop mobile apps for your business as well as your customers, you can take advantage of ‘micro-moments’ of productivity throughout the day. By building employee smartphone apps targeted at specific tasks, companies worldwide are seeing huge efficiency savings – replacing a paper-based vehicle condition check with an app, for example, or approving a customer quote on a smartphone.
At some point in the growth story of almost every startup business, keeping up with customer service becomes an issue. Thanks to the power of the cloud, you can connect your CRM to other cloud-based services. For example, with today’s social CRM systems even a startup can gain a thorough and comprehensive overview of customer and prospect activity on networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
As well as responding directly on these platforms, you can use these insights to predict future trends and patterns – anticipating questions and finding solutions before they become a cause for complaint. When problems do arise, modern CRM allows you to deliver customer service directly via social media, making for a far smoother, more agreeable experience for all involved.
Desk.com, the out of the box customer support app from Salesforce, is used by leading startups and small businesses to help customers, increase satisfaction and grow fast.
As your company grows, the CRM platform you use needs to grow too. Think about how important that is. Naturally, many startups use 'small business tools', but as they outgrow them they're forced to change software systems, alter their business processes and retrain their staff to use the new setup – with all the disruption and risk that this entails.
That's why it’s important that your CRM platform is scalable and extensible, with extra apps and features you can bolt on to provide the extra tools you need as you grow. The good news is that CRM runs best in the cloud.
That means it can be accessed easily from anywhere, and everyone in your business has the most up-to-date information about customers and deals at their fingertips. Best of all, no-one has to worry about installing, managing and updating software, because there is no software to worry about.
Salesforce Sales Cloud gives you multiple ways to build a platform for your company’s growth. The Salesforce AppExchange contains thousands of free and paid-for apps you can easily add to your CRM, providing extra capabilities such as invoicing, document signing and integration with popular applications such as Outlook. You can also create your own custom apps on the Salesforce Platform.
This is an exciting time in the history of CRM, with ever more sophisticated systems now affordable for startups.
What's needed is a way of managing and distributing this information to those that need it so that data can be turned into action –– fast.
Understanding your customers better drives sales and therefore business growth, which in turn drives up the frequency and importance of your interactions with customers. The way you handle those interactions – in other words, the quality of your customer service – will become an important part of your business’s identity.
To manage this change you need a serious CRM system. One that’s based in the cloud and that brings together contact management, collaboration tools and social media integration to put your customers at the heart of your business.