Customer Management for the Rest of Us.
Getting to grips with your sales, customer information, closing deals, and why you aren’t doing it already.
If you were talking to an employee or an executive of a mid-to-large business about customer management, and how important it is for the well being of their company, no doubtedly a lot of them would tell you they only wish they have started with it sooner.
What is Customer
Well, it boils down to keeping track of who your customers are, basically. And it doesn’t end with your existing customers — the ones you have already successfully done business with— potential customers are perhaps even more important to your company’s health.
The practice of keeping these records is usually handled through a customer relationship management system. You will often find this abbreviated as CRM.
While keeping a record of your customers is a good idea in and of itself, CRM systems of today have evolved far beyond the point of being a glorified Rolodex.
There is a plethora of tools in the market today that help businesses not only keep track of their customers, but manage sales pipelines — also known as sales funnels— and track deals, analyze and optimize sales figures, etc.
Let’s face it, your ability to sell whatever you’re offering, whether it be a product or a service, will eventually make or break your company.
Customer relationship management is a standard practice in business, and all of the big guys are doing it. So why aren’t the rest of us?
It’s a bit strange, isn’t it? The ones that could use the most help with sales, aren’t doing anything about it. Freelancers and small business owners often have their plates full, having one more thing to manage and update isn’t really something to look forward to at the end of a long day in the office.
Even when you look at the tools that the market is offering, they are all geared towards the Big Co. customers, and enterprises. The rest of us are left to struggle with spreadsheets, physical notebooks, or even worse: our own ability to not forget things. That last one sends the shivers down the spine.
The thing about keeping it all in your head is that once you are no longer a part of the company, or simply a part of a sales process, you might as well just start over. If the key person in charge of dealing with customers leaves, there’s nothing to fall back to, and that’s a dangerous situation to be in.
It is absolutely quintessential for a company to have records of its sales activities, and customer profiles available and at disposal.
Not Just the CEO.
Freelancers and executives of small business tend to think they don’t need to bother with CRMs, as the savings in time and effort seem to overweigh the benefits of implementing and keeping up the process. They are usually personally invested in the company and its success is often related to their personal achievement and activities. It’s easy to mix up personal connections and social engagements with company-related ones, when you’re small.
But imagine what would happen if that key person left the company. Would it survive? Would the deals keep flowing? Hard to guess, but it would be a hell of a lot easier if the next person were able to have some kind of insight into the sales pipeline, and who the company is doing, and has been doing business with.
Benefits of a CRM. Even for the Little Guys, Like Us.
The benefits of keeping a record of your customers and sales activities are not always visible in the short term, but there are many and they can help your business grow tremendously.
There was once a small web design company called Buzz Interactive — a Full Service Digital Agency (disclosure: I run this company). The design and development industry is such that for agencies — small and large alike, the same goes for freelancers — it’s often either feast or famine, meaning there’s either too much work to be handled at once, or there’s not enough work to keep everyone busy. It’s something all of us in the industry have learned to cope with. Those who haven’t are not in business anymore.
It’s at these times when you’re low on work that you can use the CRM to your advantage.
Here are a few ideas how you can do this:
- go through the list of all the people you haven’t been able to provide services to, and ask them if they need your services now
- grab email addresses of all of your customers and send of an email blast with a promotion or a discount
- send followups on those deals that are going stale due to new mail in your inbox pushing the deal out of sight
There’s a good chance you wouldn’t be able to do these things if you simply used email, phone, or personal meetings in order to manage your sales funnel, and customer information.
Choosing the right tool for the job.
The entire customer relations process is more-less absent with freelancers and small business, which is a shame. We at Buzz Interactive were surprised when we weren’t able to find software that would suit a company of our size.
We’ve scoured the web for apps, tried out a bunch of them but none seemed to do what we needed it to. They either required a dedicated sales person/team to upkeep with a lot of manual entry required, or were half-assed solutions that we kind of could use for our company.
At the time, though we were left at our own disposal, so we decided to make an app that will help us handle our own web design inquiries, coming mostly from our own website.
Our requirements were few and simple:
- we need a contact form embedded into our website that people will use to contact us,
- we want the conversations about potential deals out of our busy inboxes, and within a special place dedicated to these deals,
- ability to send nicely formatted proposals via email,
- a simple sales funnel with just a couple of stages: new, in negotiation, proposal sent, and won/lost,
- contacts database,
- minimize manual input as much as possible.
This is how Funnel CRM was born.
Even though originally developed as a web application specifically for our own needs, we’ve took the time to adapt it into a SaaS (software as a service) model that allows anyone to use it.
Even though there are many more apps and services in the market today catering to the small business crowd in the CRM field, we feel that Funnel in the one that manages to respond to their specific needs perfectly as it minimizes manual data entry, thus saving you precious time.
Imagine having a sorted database of people who have already showed intent of working with you, along with communication records, notes, and profile information.
This is exactly what Funnel enables for you, and you don’t even have to do anything! All it takes is a contact form, and you’re good to go.
Here’s a list of main features of Funnel:
- Integrates with Gmail/Google Apps (but doesn’t have access to your inbox), so signup is a click away, and your Gmail account serves as an archive of all your contacts and conversations.
- All new users get a FREE 14 Days trial.
- Simple form builder if you’re not technical; copy and paste a couple of lines of code into your website and your form appears. If however you are familiar with front-end development and want to code your own form, we’ve got you covered as well.
- Compose proposals in rich text and in your own currency, and deliver them to your customers in nicely formatted email.
- Always know how much potential work there is for the future, as your cases (deals) are sorted through a simple sales funnel.
- Attach notes and files to contacts and cases.
- Have existing contacts? No problems, import them from a CSV, or your Gmail account.
- Simple pricing scheme starting from $10 per month (less than a good cup of coffee), suitable for casual website owners, and people who deal with a lot of forms, or websites they need contact forms for.
Using Funnel, Buzz Interactive has managed to increase the conversion rate of deals coming from our website by a substantial amount.
The ability to tweak your contact form without needing to bug the developers, and redeploy the website allowed us to optimize it for the highest conversion rates.
However, proposals are the absolute killer feature for us, as it makes our company look professional, and stand out among others who are competing for the same projects.
A couple of times a year, we send out an email blast to all the people who have inquired about working with us, and Funnel makes it really easy to export all that information, and import it into a separate email marketing app in order to send out the email, and keep our newsletter list up-to-date.
All these little efforts allowed us to develop better connections with customers, and reach out to the ones that we may never would have heard of again.