By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals
The competition in the markets that most small businesses inhabit is fierce. From specialty contractors to tax advisers and marketing consultants, small business owners face a slew of competitors from other solopreneurs, small, medium and large businesses. With limited resources, it’s difficult for companies of any size to defend themselves from every challenger, but this is especially true for small businesses. Many large companies have figured this out, however, and are creating successful strategies targeting markets that are dominated by small businesses. Using their greater marketing and operational expertise to displace local businesses; think Blockbuster and the corner video store, or Dominos and the local pizzeria. As technology plays an ever greater role in how businesses interact with their clients, small businesses will continue to find themselves under siege by those who can harness new ways of operating.
For many small business owners, the more insidious trend is the emergence of the on-demand economy and the growing efforts by companies such as Amazon, Porch, and Groupon to insert themselves between small businesses and the customer and ultimately hijack the relationship. Small businesses that rely on these companies for business find their margins eroded, and the relationships that were their greatest competitive advantage stripped away.
Small businesses looking to insulate themselves from these trends need to focus on their relationship with the customers. Taking special care to build these relationships is the key to denying savvy competitors from inserting themselves into your customer relationships. Even small businesses often have too many clients to keep track of off the top of their head, and it is no longer sufficient to merely provide good service at the point of sale. The dentist’s office that sends a reminder text the day before an appointment and wishes you a happy birthday by email is an example of a company proactively growing relationships with their patients.
Deliberately engaging customers on an ongoing basis requires a structured way to maintain your customer data. Virtually every large and medium sized company uses customer relationship management or CRM software to accomplish this. It’s time for small businesses to do the same and utilize technological platforms to organize and maintain their customer relationships.
By using a CRM for small businesses, entrepreneurs can engage existing customers on an ongoing basis. These efforts have a number of positive benefits for businesses including increased frequency of transactions, larger numbers of referrals, and denying competitors access to your customers. These benefits can be achieved without a deep technical knowledge and for a fraction of the price of sourcing new customers through direct sales and advertising efforts.
See how we designed PipelineDeals to be the ideal CRM for Small Businesses
For most businesses, their customer list is one of the single greatest assets. New customers are expensive and time intensive to develop. Once a client is gained, it is comparatively inexpensive to continue growing the relationship and along the way finding opportunities for repeat business. As marketing gets more complex, it becomes more difficult and expensive to successfully dominate your industry niche. Instead, small businesses should take advantage of the relationships they already have and utilize them to their fullest ability by implementing a CRM software.
While the main purpose of this post is to highlight the role of CRM software in helping small businesses thrive by maintaining their customer base, the benefits do not stop there. CRMs assist in cultivating relationships at all stages of the buying process, from moving new prospects down the sales funnel to maintaining well-established relationships. For corporate sales teams, the CRM is a fundamental tool for the cultivation of new business, providing a platform to focus, report and forecast sales activity. Furthermore, a central repository for customer data is essential any time accounts transition between sales reps that are a time when client relationships are notoriously vulnerable.
Large or small, businesses are not using technology to augment their customer relationships and tap customer data in ways not previously done. Thankfully for small businesses, the barrier for deploying a CRM platform is lower than ever. For companies looking to maintain their customers and their independence, a CRM is now an indisputably essential tool.