One of the most used acronyms over the past few years in the business world has to be CRM. As a start-up three years ago one of the first questions I was asked via Social Media was “What CRM system do you use?” I have to admit I had to Google what is was. I’m old school and had never heard of it before. Soon I discovered that CRM was the buzzword for a customer database. This is what I discovered when researching CRM.
What are the key functions of a CRM System?
- A platform to store and profile contact information.
- A means to plan and keep track of appointments with those contacts, not only for yourself but other team members.
- A means to schedule tasks and to-do’s for those contacts.
- A means to record any kind of interaction with a contact, namely meetings, phone calls, e-mail and documents.
- Some way of storing documents sent to and received from a contact.
- A way to send and track e-mail.
Not having a large budget to play with I looked into a Free CRM systems and came across CapsuleCRM. I thought at the time that I must need it, as everyone said they couldn’t run their businesses without it.
Yes, it worked well. But after a few months I began to realise that I really didn’t need it. I didn’t have multiple hundreds of leads to keep track of, nor sales contacts or a major marketing budget to spend. I am also a sole trader, so haven’t got others within my business who need to keep track of our customers or leads. It’s just me.
At the time, the biggest thing which failed me as far as CRM was concerned, was that I used to forget to log in and use it.
One of my first business purchases, other than my website, was Office 365 for Business. I needed it as I wanted a full Office Suite on and offline and as a Virtual Assistant I needed to also be able to access other businesses email, tasks and diaries virtually.
Outlook is one of the first applications I open every morning, it’s also synced across all of the devices I use; Office PC, Laptop and Mobile phone as I use it on the Microsoft Exchange server.
I soon discovered that using Outlook effectively was in fact using it as the CRM system which suited me and my sole trader business.
How can a small business use Outlook as a CRM?
The Contacts folder in Outlook already allows a comprehensive profile of any personal or business contact.
You receive an email from your website contact form or a direct email – Add the details into Outlook contacts with notes, and colour code as a lead in categories. Then flag their email. As an example: An orange flag could mean a follow-up phone call is required. To change the colour of a flag on a customer email, right-click on the flag icon and choose the appropriate flag colour.
You speak to the contact to arrange a consultation – add the date and time to your Outlook calendar and also add a note in their contact. If you have one hundred and one things to remember as I do ‘Add a Reminder’ when right clicking on the flag. You can also insert documents into the notes section.
Dependent on the outcome of the meeting you change the colour code in categories and/or flag in tasks to follow up.
Then use To-Dos, Tasks and the calendar to manage your work load after they become a fully signed up paying client. Or assign further follow up. It’s that simple.
As my telephone is also a Skype for Business number I can also phone my clients’ and leads direct from their Outlook contact profile.
If you receive multiple leads every week and have more than 100 clients, then yes, it may pay to have a fully functioning CRM system.
If however, you’re like me and have only a handful of leads every month and under 50 clients’. It just takes a bit of organisation and thought to adapt what you have to hand. Save your time and possibly money by using systems such as Office 365 or Google Apps. Just add steps like these to your lead/client processes and procedures. You’ll soon find, like me, that you don’t need a separate CRM.
After all, when you’re busy working to a tight schedule the one thing you don’t need is yet another application open in your browser. And, as a small business owner you also need to keep your expenditure low.
Nowadays when asked what CRM system I use, my answer is simply, Outlook 2013.