Why CRM for SMBs Can Make You Crazy

We came across this article about CRM last week as things were settling down for the holidays. Now that we’ve had time to digest it, we realize there is some strong stuff in here that can help Localogy members who build, market, and sell SaaS solutions to SMBs. The article identifies six key challenges facing CRM developers and product people. And it has a point of view on how they should be thinking about CRM going forward. 

We’ll go through each of the six challenges and offer our perspective.

No. 1 More is Not Better

According to the author, Chris Smith of Curaytor, most CRM platforms simply are not doing what they were intended to do. Simplify. Instead, he argues that many of the leading CMRs tools are more focused on reporting results than driving results. You might say CRM tools are a means for larger organizations with layers of sales management to gain a pulse on the sales momentum in an organization. The challenge is that for most small businesses, there’s not a large organization that needs reams and reams of data. They just need something super simple to use. It seems pretty clear that taking a platform built for enterprise and shrinking it down for the small business market will miss the mark. 

No. 2 Too Much Data

Large organizations deem larger databases of prospects to be better. After all, size and scale are key. So in large companies, everyone is adding contacts into the database making it larger and larger. But larger and larger does not equate with smarter and smarter. And for a small business operator, adding contacts into the database should be a methodical process. Then there’s the option to buy lists from list brokers and add those into the database. Often those lists are stale and out of date. So small businesses should really focus on what goes into their databases. We all know the term. Garbage in, garbage out. And those selling CRM to small businesses should be teaching them how quality matters over quantity. 

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No. 3 Put Personal into the R in Relationship

While the middle letter in the CRM acronym stands for a relationship, too often the tools divert us from forming authentic relationships. We’d argue that this isn’t a good move for a large company that has hundreds if not thousands of salespeople. For small businesses, in particular, anything that feels inauthentic or robotic is a major “no-no”. So instead of thinking of a CRM as a relationship tool, think of it as a CM tool – customer management. And business owners should be guided to build personal, authentic relationships with prospects and customers. This means that the tools that a built for small businesses should “force” the business owner to make phone calls, send postcards, use people’s names to drive personal relationships that matter. After all, those are the customers that will become advocates. And advocates are the highest form of compliment to a business. And they are fantastic for social marketing. 

No. 4 Aligning Tool Function with Stage of Business

Perhaps the biggest challenge of building a CRM platform for small businesses is to find the sweet spot of functionality and simplicity. Too much functionality and it will be overbuilt for the three-person small business. Too little and fast-growing small businesses will find it too limiting. As we’ve seen, by using tiered pricing models of good, better, great – i.e., bronze, silver, gold – companies can offer less or more functionality as needed. Of course, the small business needs to be coached to choose the right option. Selecting the gold option might serve the SaaS company well, but the small business might use only a fraction of the functionality. And this will inevitably lead to disappointment. 

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No 5 Stale Data is as Bad as Stale Milk

CRM is a software tool. And while new technologies like AI and machine learning might well one day lead to automatic updating and refreshing of the database in a CRM for the small business, that is not a “today” thing. Rather, anyone offering CRM to small businesses needs to reinforce the importance of keeping the database as current and up to date as possible. No one likes the taste of stale milk. And stale data isn’t any better. 

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No. 6 Who Will Be the “Key Operator” for the CRM?

Many of us remember the notion of the “key operator” when it came to running copying machines in offices. If the machine stopped working, it would say something like contact the “key operator”. That was usually someone who was trained on the ins and outs of the machine. In today’s world of CRM, everyone should have a working knowledge of the CRM tool, particularly the owner-operator of the business. Even if they don’t use it day in and day out, having sufficient user knowledge should be something every software company encourages. Imagine if just the desk person knows how to use the CMR and they walk out the door one day? This happens all the time. That leaves the owner in a particularly vulnerable place. 

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