Cloud Based CRM - bringing the power of CRM to SME's
by David Dwyer on 06/09/2015 1414 Reads
Why Customer Relationship Management is no longer a big boys toy
I’d been aware of the concept of CRM, but it wasn’t until 1997 that I had my first practical experience of exactly what it could do. I was working at Scottish Brewers (part of Scottish & Newcastle PLC) at the time and along with a group of my colleagues, I was to become a human guinea pig. We were selected to take part in a pilot of a new Sales Force Technology (SFT) system before it was rolled out to the entire Scottish Courage sales team.
At that time, CRM systems were for big businesses, with big budgets, and the very nature of the entire CRM industry was geared towards large organisations. In that respect it felt very like an exclusive club.
The concept of cloud-based software however forced the door to that club open and many innovative and entrepreneurial software companies have seized upon the opportunity by bringing CRM to the masses.
Today, many businesses still persist with using Excel to keep track of their client data. It’s not a bad option, but as you add more data, they become cumbersome, slow and unreliable. In my experience some small businesses will stick with Excel, some will do nothing and others will make the move to Cloud Based CRM. At Inspire, we believe the latter option will not only to turn your customer data into a genuine asset for your business it will also provide your business with the framework and technical infrastructure to manage larger volumes of enquiries.
Cloud Based CRM
The first company to popularise the concept of Cloud Based CRM was Salesforce.com. It's the grandfather to the entire industry, but until very recently, it was very much aimed at larger organisations. The types of organisations with large marketing and sales teams that needed to have their activity coordinated, managed and supported. Salesforce.com, stood alone for a long time and became the blueprint many software companies used as the starting point for creating their own cloud-based CRM solutions.
Salesforce.com is an incredibly powerful CRM system that is modular in nature, which means different tools can be added to open up new features or integrate with other systems. This makes Salesforce.com a scalable and adaptable solution. It also makes it a very complicated option for small business to plan, implement and maintain. They've tried to simplify their offering and have evolved their pricing model to appeal to smaller companies but unless you have a big budget, it isn't a solution we'd recommend.
Much of the newer, cloud-based CRM solutions came to exist by asking the simple question - how can we offer Salesforce.com functionality that isn't as complicated or expensive.
The good news is that there is now a huge range of cloud-based CRM options open to small business owners, and what's more, many of them offer free versions that are incredibly powerful.
That blessing is in many ways, the biggest drawback. The process of evaluating and then selecting a CRM system for your business can become a huge project in its own right. It will take time and you will find yourself constantly questioning if you have made the right choice. And if you haven't, you'll face the stressful prospect of having to start the process all over again, as most of the systems are not compatible with each other. It's therefore hugely important, and efficient to take the time to consider your real CRM requirements and see which of the solutions is best for you. In no particular order - here are a few to consider.
Each of these systems has their own positive and negative points and they all take a slightly different approach to how their solution delivers value. They do share one thing in common; - they weren't built for you. The solutions, by their nature, ask you to fit into their way of working and to compromise your real requirements. We don't think you should have to compromise and we think that there's a better way – browser based, customised CRM system from Inspire.
This approach begins and ends with your business and your requirements. In our experience smaller business owners are looking for a much more simple solution, without the clutter of features that will never be used. We'll work with you to develop a clear set of requirements and establish the elements that will make your CRM system unique. Our software development team will be briefed in great detail and your project manager will manage the entire process of taking your software from concept to launch, on-time, and on budget.
Creating your own software might sound out of your reach, but it will give you ultimate control over your CRM functionality and can be developed and changed as and when your business requirements change.
Whatever you do, do something. Customer Relationship Management can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or as complicated as Salesforce.com - but following sound CRM principles will have a positive impact on your bottom line. And don’t forget, what gets measured, and more importantly visibly tracked, gets done.
Take our advice and take the time to understand your needs fully before committing to any CRM system. Keep it simple, and start with the basic functionality that you need to help turn your business into a more efficient CRM driven version of itself.
For a free initial consultation to discuss your unique CRM requirements, please contact David on 01738 700 006 or get in touch through our web enquiry form.
David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David’s academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel & Ergonomics) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society, Entrepreneurial Exchange and Business for Scotland.