The Ultimate Beginners Guide To CRM Databases
CRM is a way of managing your clients, customers, prospects and work referrers. It isn’t a database. Although a CRM database helps you manage your relationships rather more easily than pen and paper. CRM started many years ago as Customer Relationship Management. The ‘customer’ reference is often replaced with ‘client’ or ‘contact’ depending on which sector you work in. CRM isn’t just sending your contacts a mailshot. It’s how you manage your relationship and spot opportunities. That will involve sending them a mailshot of course and having the ability to see everything in one place makes this process much simpler. And speaking of mailshots, don’t just send all your database the same newsletter – your contacts will soon turn everything off from you if your communications are not relevant TO THEM. A CRM database will help you get profitable long term sales. You get a CRM database (or CRM system) that suit your sales, Business Development and Marketing activity. Get a lot of work from doing events? Get a system that manages events.
As a basic guide to what CRM databases do, they enable you to add all your contacts into one central database that everyone who needs access to has it, and manage what happens with your contacts. All will allow you to log meetings and action points. Most will allow you to track your opportunities in a sales funnel. Most won’t do email marketing. You need to bolt an email tool onto them (most should link). Few will have a simple event management tool. Some will also automate tasks and email actions so you don’t have to press the ‘go button’. There are absolutely loads of CRM systems to choose from. 1,000’s. Doing nearly the same thing, but we believe that if you can combine all your data (email, CRM activity) in one place, you will increase your chances of identifying more prospects. There are loads of ways to buy your CRM system too. Some CRM systems are free (don’t touch them unless you are an IT whizz kid), unless you classify MS Excel or Access as free and they are pretty simple to use. Some you buy and then pay a yearly support fee. It’s a large up-front investment though. These can be small or large. You can pick some up perfectly acceptable systems from PC World for instance if you are a small organisation. Bigger organisations need something more robust for 100’s or 1,000’s of users. Suppliers of big systems like Microsoft or Oracle will sell you ‘their’ system – most likely based on the number of users you want to access your system. Expect something like £500 – £900 per user. After you’ve bought the system, then you have to buy servicing and maintenance so it’s supported by the supplier. Usually somewhere between 10% and 20% of the purchase cost. This will last for the entire time you want your system supported (things like the phone helpdesk or new version upgrades).
Getting far more popular are those you pay for each month (you may have heard of Cloud, or SaaS). All it means is that you don’t own the software, but borrow, or rent it – accessing it via your internet connection on the supplier’s servers. You can still add contacts to it, tweak it’s look and feel, add any number of users with different security levels to it (the good ones anyway). You simply pay by month and by user. Its dead easy. Very low start-up costs, no installation issues. No finding space on your server. But you pay for this convenience. Just think about how long you will use it for (forever?) and how many users you plan to give access. Dead easy to install too. Infact there is no installation issues – you just pay and log in. You’ll need constant internet access though. CRM databases that use free software but you pay the IT consultant to tweak to your needs. This is Opensource software. You need to be a techie to tweak these systems. But there are plenty who have taken these and created their CRM solution on the back of it. Biggest advantages – it’s cheaper in the long term if you have a lot of users, as you don’t usually pay by the user license but your IT suppliers development costs. You’ll still need to pay for support.
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