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A closer look at making the best use of CRM with your SMB

In the SMB arena, CRM is a misunderstood concept. It stands for Customer Relationship Management, but too many SMBs focus on the C and write CRM off as just another sales tool. But CRM is really about the R – and making sure your expensive CRM is pulling its weight means tracking the R.

What is successful CRM? This must be quantified during the project planning phase. Quantifying your goals means combining database expertise (what can you track?) with sales creativity (what do you want to track?). The idea is to flesh out customer relationships with new data points – points you can track from the CRM.

Start with the goals you defined while planning. For example, within your customer profile the CRM system may have database values for Spending (or you might add Spending as a custom value). This value lets you track how much a customer has spent over x amount of time. You'll need to define, at the planning stage, the various values of x – across product lines, within certain customer segments, and so on. Creating a baseline value for these fields at the outset means you'll be able to measure their changes over time. It bears mentioning that all this is dependent on sales staff covering the data points at every sale.

Advertising/marketing and cross-sell/up-sell are two of the success metrics CRM project managers often employ.

Advertising/marketing can be crucial, but be careful how you measure it. The idea is for the CRM to track which of your campaigns are working best. This requires fields for querying customers on how they found out about the product. The fields can be as simple as drop-down menus where sales staff select the customer's ad source, or they can be more complex: For example, different phone numbers on ads in different magazines, enabling you to track the source of each call, then match the source number with its designated ad. All managers need to do is run an SQL Server report based on those fields.

For cross-sell and up-sell goals, most CRMs have pipeline tracking built in, matching customers to goals for managers and sales goals to customer leads for sales staff. Just as important is measuring current selling status within an existing pipeline. Managers can get a list of current quotes, then export those results to Excel and create a Pivot Table showing the Sales Agent, Customer Name, Product, and Quote Status. Combine the same process across several product lines to measure up-sell and cross-sell as they are happening.

Many companies don't bother designing their own success metrics. These companies wind up at budget meetings without a clue as to whether they've spent their money wisely or foolishly.

For more on Customer Relationship Management, see our article on how to choose your CRM software, and our feature which examines how to win customer loyalty through CRM and the personal touch.