Hooked on a Feeling

Stay ahead of the competition and build lasting customer relationships with CRM technology.

We have all heard about Customer Relationship Management (CRM), that remedy that can identify customers, tailor product and service offerings to their needs, anticipate their wants and increase efficiency in-house by reducing data overlap between departments. We have heard of it, its success stories and tales of failure, but for many the question remains: Is it something I can get on a disc or download, or is it a whole new approach to doing business?

The short answer is “yes” and “yes.” Yes, CRM is a software technology that you will install on your computer network; and yes, CRM is a new way of looking at your business that helps give it a new customer-oriented outlook. The key is that these two different halves must come together to create a functional whole. The technology alone won’t do it. It takes everyone within the organization buying into the philosophies, policies and strategies that will connect and coordinate the various players within your organization, as well as the technology itself, to make a CRM initiative work.

Types of CRM

If you are considering implementing a CRM plan for your business, you need to determine what kind of CRM is right for you. Choosing the right sort of CRM to utilize right from the start will save you time and energy later on. It will also save you expense since there is no single CRM software application that covers everything. The different kinds of CRM
applications available include:

Operational CRM. This supports front office business processes such as sales, marketing, and service; with each customer interaction usually added to that customer’s contact history. This kind of CRM is used to process customer data for a number of different purposes, including:

* Campaign management
* Enterprise marketing automation
* Sales automation

Analytical CRM. This makes heavy use of data mining and is used to analyze that data for purposes including:

* The design and execution of targeted marketing
* The design and execution of specific customer campaigns
* Customer behavior analysis
* Management decisions
* Customer defection probability predictions (also known as “churn analysis”)

Sales Intelligence CRM. Similar to Analytical CRM, this type is more of a direct sales tool that delivers “alerts” based on the analysis of:

* Sales opportunities
* Customer drift
* Sales performance
* Customer trends
* Customer margins

Collaborative CRM. This type provides an infrastructure for responsive and effective support to customer issues, questions and complaints by allowing the various departments within a firm to share the information they collect from various customer interactions. The ultimate goal is to use that information to improve the business’s overall quality of customer service.

Geographic CRM. This type of CRM is a combination of a geographic information system with traditional CRM. The data collected comes from route of movement, types of residence, ambient trading areas and other customer and marketing information matched with relevant road conditions, building formations, and population data in an effort to examine potential customers and manage existing customers within a given region.

Team Players

Your organization’s CRM team begins with you. If you, the owner, are not fully onboard and pushing to make this change happen, you may as well save your time and money. As a small business owner, you are the business, so it makes sense that a major shift in the company outlook must come from you. The rest of the team includes:

Customer-Facing Operations. This is the player that directly interacts with the public in various ways including face to face, phone, IM, chat, e-mail, Web and combinations of all media.

Internal Collaborative Functional Operations. These are the back office folks who support those in customer facing positions. They include IT, billing, invoicing, maintenance, planning, marketing, advertising, finance, planning and manufacturing.

External Collaboration Functions. These would be your suppliers/vendors, retail outlets/distributors and industry cooperative networks such as lobbying groups and trade associations.

Customer Advocates and Experience Designers. These are the people who design customer experiences with an eye toward meeting or exceeding customer relationship goals.

Performance Managers and Marketing Analysts. They develop performance indicators and metrics, collect data so that marketing campaigns, Web strategies and customer relationship activities are kept on track.

Once all these different areas of your business have been dragooned into line, committed to the ideas of Customer Relationship Management and trained for their respective roles in the effort, the technology may be brought to bear on the issue.

What to Expect

While shopping around for the right CRM system, you need to decide whether or not you want to farm this out to a specialist or do it in-house with purchased software. The difference is one of available expertise from CRM specialists and the flexibility of the actual system. A good, comprehensive system should include the following aspects:

The database. This is essential for storing data on each existing customer and sales prospect and their interactions with the organization.

Customer intelligence. This software determines if the CRM plan (based on customer needs and projected profitability) is being followed and if goals are being met.

Business modeling. This software reports on whether goals were met and if the models of customer segments and game plans worked as hypothesized.

Learning and competency management. This technology deals with training and improving processes and technology so the organization comes closer to its desired results.

You can build up your system over time or have everything put together right away, concentrating on what you see as the most important areas first. If you go the latter route, however, you need to understand that eventually you will have to integrate and coordinate all of them to get the maximum benefit from your CRM plan.

Best Options

The following are examples of some of the best CRM technology applications that we have found. All of these are available for those who want to handle their CRM themselves. They range in price from a couple of hundred dollars to well over a thousand and you can find out more about them at the websites listed.


Since 1995, Canada-based Maximizer has garnered over 8,000 CRM customers and over 1 million users, as well as a reputation for being the best value in its class for a full-featured CRM solution. Starting prices for each of the versions available are $219 for Maximizer 9 (contact management only) and $499 for Maximizer CRM 10 (full customer relationship management software). For that money, this web-based software offers simple and quick deployment; easy training, use and maintenance. Users can take advantage of a number of different access options from Palm and BlackBerry devices to the Internet; sales, marketing and workflow automation; customer, partner and support management; business intelligence, full customization and more. For more information about Maximizer, visit maximizer.com

GoldMine Enterprise/Premium

GoldMine is the product of FrontRange Solutions of Pleasanton, California. Benefiting from the input and best practices of the world’s largest CRM user base, GoldMine is designed to add significant value to your CRM efforts, not simply automate your sales calls. The software is easy to implement, offers a quick return on investment, as well as a low cost of ownership. Some of its features include customer relationship, sales, marketing and opportunity management and support; forecasting; marketing automation and more. For more information about GoldMine and a price quote, visit goldmine.com.

Oncontact CRM

This offering from Oncontact Software, designed for mid-market companies, is a solid value for the price ($1,000 to $1,500 per user license), boasting good customization and integration capabilities. Built on Microsoft’s .NET platform, the software robustly addresses three primary CRM areas. These are account management, marketing and customer service, and they are broken up into discreet modules. The account management module contains a history of all interactions with customers and prospects on an individual or company-wide level. The marketing module offers marketing functionality complete with call center features and methods to create, execute, manage and track successful campaigns to increase leads and generate sales. The customer service module offers a full-scale customer service and help desk management system that enables users to track customer service inquiries, incidents and problems. In addition to the modules, the Oncontact user interface is fully customizable, allowing users to manage their customer and prospect data as they like. For more information about Oncontact, visit oncontact.com.

Is this topic relevant to your small business? Discover more for FREE through our print version.

Reader Comments

There are currently no comments. Be the first to leave a comment!

Copyright © 2009 - 2022 America's Best. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.