Do I really need CRM software?

What's the best CRM software for your business?

I was asked this week by one of my newsletter readers what the best kind of Customer Relationship Management software was. Previously I had recommended "Business Contact Manager" as an extension to Microsoft Outlook. But, my questioner asked, was there anything easier to use and with more functions.

This got me thinking, because there are several well-known CRM tools available, often quite expensive ones. But do you actually need to buy CRM software at all? Could you manage your relationships with your customers and your potential clients in a better way?

One of the difficulties of most CRM programs is that they are not "cloud based". That means you install them on one computer and use them at that computer. Given that we are now much more mobile and work in different places throughout the week, software tied to our desktop is less attractive. What you need is CRM "in the cloud" - a program which has web access. But these often have monthly subscriptions and don't always have all the features you need.

Nowadays you can do much CRM for free...! For a start, Gmail provides you with contact management as standard. Plus if you add in the free service, Rapportive, you can integrate LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter information for each contact and for individual emails. Plus you can add notes to each contact. This means all within Gmail you have up-to-date information on each contact every time you email them.

To enhance your system you can sign up for the free database service from Zoho, called Creator. This allows you to create any kind of database you need that sits in the cloud. In my case I have an "orders" database which shows what services people have ordered, who has ordered it, when the work has to be done by, pricing, invoicing, emails and so on. If you don't want to set that up yourself you can use the already established free Zoho CRM. And if you want to be really clever you can connect Gmail to Zoho CRM (or any of dozens of other free services) using Zapier.

With all of these free services you can build a much better CRM system than is available at a price from other companies. So do you need CRM software? Probably not - unless you have several staff and want a management system that is consistent across the organisation. But if you work alone or if you are in a small business where CRM is the function of only a couple of people, you'll find that a combination of Gmail and a few other free services is all you need.

WHAT I LEARNED THIS WEEK Flexibility is a route to success

This week I did my first "evening workshop". In the past I have done workshops mostly as morning or all-day events. But have never thought of offering workshops at the end of the working day. But one of my clients asked me to do just that. So as an experiment I agreed. And guess what - it works...! Even though the workshop was at the organisation's premises there were no distractions of telephones and emails because all the work for the day had been done. My client was happy to have a workshop for staff from 6pm to 10pm. They were happy because they got a free meal (and went to the pub afterwards probably). And I discovered that by being flexible I got business I wouldn't have thought of going for. So, you can expect to see me offering evening workshops more widely nowadays..!

Graham Jones Internet Psychologist


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