CRM for SMB Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

Learn what CRM is, how a CRM tool can help SMBs improve their marketing and deliver outstanding customer experience at all touchpoints.

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What is CRM and what is CRM software?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. In the broadest sense it refers to all processes a business uses to manage its interactions with prospective and existing customers.

From the point of view of the organization, this includes all interactions across marketing, sales, support and other post sales processes.

Additionally it also includes analytics and forecasting of customer behavior. Typically this involves collecting data and its analysis to design, manage and enhance customer experiences across all touch points.

Then what is CRM software?

Over the years with the explosion of technology to support organizations to better manage their customer relationships and experience, CRM has become synonymous with the software applications used.

Increasingly, the term CRM is now being used to refer to the technology systems companies use to manage their external interactions with customers. These interactions refer to all touch points during the customer lifecycle, from discovery to building awareness, education, purchase, and post-purchase.

When the data related to all these interactions, across all touchpoints in the entire customer lifecycle, is captured and stored in a CRM system, it empowers the business to deliver enhanced customer experiences across those touch points and build better relationships.

Read more about What is CRM?

How does a CRM system help business?

With the widespread adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) tools, the near ubiquitous use of mobile applications, and the increased ability to gather customer data, various functions in the organization capture and track the data that is useful to them.

This has led to an explosion of tools available for marketing, sales and support functions. According to sites that track these tools there are close to 10,000 tools just for the marketing function. The trends are similar for applications focussed on sales and support and even analytics functions.

While each of these tools serve a useful purpose within the narrow scope they are designed for, this fragmented approach leads to data silos. Customer interaction data is critical to understanding and optimizing customer experiences across the complete lifecycle. As the criticality of this data grows and the sheer number of potential touchpoints, the need and ability to track and monitor a multitude of parameters and details across many online and offline channels a vast amount of data gets collected by customer-facing functions, but they tend to be fragmented or siloed. This makes it very difficult for organizations to have a complete view of conversations and interactions that are happening with a prospect or even an existing customer.

CRM systems solve this problem and break down data silos. Either a single tool or a collection of tools that forms the CRM system, serves as the central point for businesses to store, manage and analyze customer interaction data. The tool(s) provide the means to collect and process the required data. This gives the various teams the capability to have an informed and meaningful conversation with the customer at all stages of the life cycle.

With a centralized data store that can be updated in real time, each department has a single view of the customer. We refer to it as Customer One View. Having this capability makes various teams more effective in delivering outstanding customer experience and accelerating growth.

  • Marketing teams can analyze customer trends, identify segments that see more value in the offerings and convert better, design targeted campaigns and automate them to save time.
  • Sales teams can get a complete picture of all the past interactions with the customer and collaborate better with marketing to make the right solution pitch.
  • Support teams can have all the relevant information right at their fingertips to solve customer issues better and meet SLA (Service Level Agreement) targets.

What is Customer One-View?

Customer One-View (also sometimes called Customer 360-degree view) is a comprehensive view of customers achieved by leveraging data from across various touchpoints in a customer’s journey.

Achieving customer one-view is a non-trivial task. It starts with customer-facing teams having a well defined and structured process to capture structured and unstructured customer data from all possible channels.

The CRM tool can facilitate organizing and making this raw data as well as derived insights available to all teams in real-time. Leveraging this capability effectively can make the customer journey experiential instead of being merely transactional and disconnected.

Learn more about customer one view >

Do small businesses need a CRM?

It is a popular notion that a CRM system is an expensive, complicated tool set that only makes sense for large enterprises. Nothing could be further from the truth. Considering how important customer relationships are for all businesses, it makes even more sense from SMBs to invest in a CRM considering that they have limited bandwidth and resources to invest in manual tracking of customer data.

For SMBs each lead matters. When leads fall through the cracks because they were not being tracked it has a real and significant impact on business growth. And once a customer is acquired, retaining them is critical for business success. According to research done by Frederick Reichheld, the inventor of the net promoter score, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.

A powerful way for businesses to stand out from competitors is to invest in technology and adopt processes that can help build deeper relationships with customers. Being able to have meaningful conversations with customers at all stages of their journey with great contextual communication and support and deep insights is a competitive advantage.

With a substantial number of businesses building out their online presence, there is an abundance of customer data that can be gathered and analyzed to gain an edge. Having all of this customer data tracked and organized in a CRM from the very beginning helps bring a strong data driven culture for tracking customer interactions among all the teams. Eventually as the business scales and processes mature, this data driven approach can be quickly adapted to optimize marketing campaigns through automation for consistent and personalized messaging.

How does a CRM help marketers?

Marketing is no longer limited to TOFU (Top the funnel) awareness and lead generation. For building deep customer relationships, relevant and consistent communication is critical at all stages of the CLC (Customer Life Cycle).

Marketing teams are tasked with the challenge of correct positioning of offerings and formulating GTM (Go to Market) campaigns. With each campaign, marketers are able to collect invaluable information about customer interactions - ranging from opens, clicks to purchase behavior and conversion metrics.

When tracked and analyzed properly, this data can give marketers deep insight into their customer’s preferences. The effectiveness of each campaign gives teams a better understanding of what messaging is most effective and resonates with the target audience, which products meet the needs of the customers, what problems they are trying to solve in their own lives and how the messaging helps them find solutions.

This data is the first step towards building customer alignment within the organization across all teams. A CRM system enables all departments starting with marketing to record and share meaningful data about the customer across teams that will at some point interact with the customer. Having this data is essential to building a customer one-view. Having the correct view of customer data ensures that customers get a consistent and outstanding experience across all touchpoints irrespective of which team they are dealing with and how much time has elapsed from the first interaction with the business.

A CRM enables marketers to analyze and model customer preferences, pre and post-purchase behavior. This capability gives marketers the capability to refine their ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and thus improve their targeting and messaging. With a central location for all customer data and reports, marketing teams have better clarity about their audience. The tool enables businesses to keep track of all the conversations they are having and they can track changes as those conversations change and evolve as the business grows.

By enabling superior data capture and deeper insights, CRM systems also help marketers reduce the cost of their campaigns. Campaigns that come up short are expensive and drive up the CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost). With improved segmentation and targeting, marketers can focus on the most profitable customers and improve the ROI (Return on Investment) on their budgeted spends. This also enables marketers to send the right content to the right audience. Especially in SMBs with small sales teams, marketers have an outsized responsibility to tailor the correct messages to ensure they don’t confuse or overload the audience with mixed messages.

What are the essential CRM features for small business marketers?

Marketers driving growth for small businesses are unlikely to need a complex CRM system setup unlike a large enterprise. The ability to capture and organize customer data in a single location and leveraging the data to run data driven campaigns is a solid foundation for small businesses to build deep relationships with their customers.

There are a few essential features that SMB marketers need to look out for in a CRM. These include:

  1. True customer one-view: The CRM should be a centralized location for all customer data across touchpoints. Having a single source of truth from which all teams operate is critical. The CRM should be able to be a central hub that has the complete history of all interactions (emails, phone calls, contracts etc.) and is able to provide a complete customer profile. Having this capability allows the marketing team to send the right message to the right person in the customer organization at the right time.
  2. Integration with key marketing channels: For businesses with small or zero sales force, getting marketing to be accurate, personalized and automated is extremely important for success. Since the CRM is the centralized data store of customer interaction data, it should also be integrated with the key marketing channels used to reach customers - email, social, telephony, video etc.
  3. Automated lead capture and tracking: With the velocity of online transactions sky rocketing, it is important for growing business to be able to capture leads and nurture them with as much automation as possible. Managing data in different tools increases the risk of data loss can lead to revenue leakage. Lead forms on the website should integrate seamlessly with the CRM to populate leads from marketing campaigns. Marketers should be able to track and segment this data using workflows to have automated and personalized campaigns running in real time to provide an awesome customer experience.
  4. Ability to test, analyze and optimize - at scale: Determining what positioning and value proposition resonates with the customers needs experimentation, fine-tuning and multiple iterations of campaigns. And this is a constantly evolving goal. As the market conditions change, competitors change their offerings, the company launches new products and the messaging will need to adapt quickly to sustain growth. The CRM should empower marketers to easily monitor how various channels are performing and run analytics to gain insights. They should then be able to quickly modify campaigns to adjust to new market conditions and iterate with a tight feedback loop.

Read more about CRM for SMBs >

CRM for SMB Market - Download the eBook, for free!

Read this guide to understand what CRM really means, how good CRMs help break down data silos between teams and how a single view of your customers can radically transform the way you grow and build deep connections with your customers at every single stage of their journey with you.

Working with Data and Leads in your CRM

Getting the CRM architecture right and connecting the tool with other marketing automation tools helps you to not only to run campaigns efficiently but also helps improve the collaboration between marketing and sales teams. With analytics and reports being run of a single centralized customer data source, it is possible to determine closed-loop ROI reporting on marketing campaigns i.e. ROI contributions from all teams can be tracked all the way from actual acquisition costs to CLV (Customer Lifetime Value).

However getting the right data in the right place is not a simple task. Each organization uses their CRM in a different way and sometimes in ways that the system is not designed for. To get the most out of the CRM system and to have an efficient lead flow, here are some critical points to consider:

1) Clearly define asks for the CRM

With the system being so central to the customer journey experience, it is easy to get carried away with the scope of what the CRM system is expected to accomplish. It is critical that teams collaborate to arrive at a clear understanding of the customer journey touchpoints and internal responsibility handover among teams. It is also essential to have clarity if a particular ‘ask’ from the CRM system is a need or a want.

It might be useful to create a table and list out the core asks, segregated as needs and wants and then add details once these are defined clearly. This table when designed in collaboration with the sales team will ensure successful adoption of the CRM. Also the required fields and field definitions can be clarified well before the implementation begins which will save the administrators from the frustration of rework at later dates.

2) Diagram lead-flow pathways

A visual representation of the intended lead flow paths from various marketing campaigns gives a clear picture of data requirements from the CRM system and integrations with other tools.

Start with the high level campaigns and then deep dive into the various categories - lead generation campaigns, lead conversion campaigns, sales-support campaigns and so forth. Within each of these campaigns, diagram all the components and pathways for data flow. For inbound campaigns you might start with the search term and chart out the path to conversion goal - this could be a content download or sign-up for a free trial. Similarly for outbound campaigns start with the reach out list, including where the list is obtained from (segmented CRM data, event guest list, webinar sign-up list etc.).

3) Avoid GIGO. Clean the database

The effectiveness of your campaigns is directly impacted by the quality of your database. Additionally sending emails to bad emails leads to a lower sender score which will impact the effectiveness of your campaigns.

As you build your database over several years, the data, especially of older contacts and leads will often be out of date. People move on to other organizations, change email and contact information. Sometimes entire organizations change - they shut down, get acquired or merge with others. Data cleanup is essential to having a database that can be used to drive customer acquisition. There are many tools available to help assess the quality of your contact database.

4) Segment to conquer

Segmenting customer data gives SMBs the ability to have clear messaging and positioning for various types of customers. Since small businesses don’t have the resources to support large and specialized sales teams, marketing campaigns are critical for growth.

Sending the same communication to your entire database is suboptimal and will reduce the effectiveness of your marketing spend. If the messaging fails to resonate with your audience, they will stop paying attention to your communication or worse - unsubscribe from your messages.

There are three broad types of segmentation models CRM tools usually support - Static, Semi-dynamic and Dynamic.

Static segmentation is used to create one-off lists. You might use these for campaigns that don’t run very often, to create personas or for basic reporting. Once created these lists are not modified. Semi-dynamic segmentation results in lists that contacts get added to based on the segmentation criteria but there is no subtraction. These lists are used to identify users based on high-level engagement criteria. For example you might generate lists for all users who ever subscribed to your product update newsletter. Fully dynamic segmentation on the other hand creates lists in which people are added and subtracted based on conditions that are set. These are lists typically used for nurturing drip campaigns, personalized campaigns, advanced granular reporting and time series reports.

5) Align with Sales

With accurate data collection and customer one-view, CRM systems can make it easier for marketing and sales to align over quality of leads. A key objective of the CRM is to enable all teams to have a unified view of the customer including all the relevant interaction data points. As noted above, working with sales to define the data fields and data definitions will ensure that lead flows are smooth.

Marketing and Sales should also align on lead scoring criteria and add these to the CRM system. Having clear definitions of the main parameters are critical for seamless alignment on lead flow.

  • Sales-Ready Score: This score is the threshold that a lead has to meet to be considered by the sales team. CRM systems make it easy to implement and track these scores for leads at scale. CRM systems can track the entire history of all interactions the customer has had in the past. This builds up a true picture of how sales-ready the lead truly is. Instead of relying only on the last action to determine the score, tools can build a comprehensive score based on past and recent actions. Intelligent workflows can be build in the CRM to nurture leads who are not ready to buy, till they exhibit the right buying signals.
  • SLA (Service Level Agreement): This is an agreement of the time frame within which sales has to act on a lead passed on by marketing and is often a point of friction between the two teams. CRM systems can track the status of action taken and trigger automated steps in case of overrun - including escalation notifications to managers.

Learn more about pipeline management >

How to choose the right CRM for your small business?

There are literally hundreds of CRMs to choose from. The one that works best for your business depends on factors that are unique to your business. Going with the one that pops up with top the search on your favorite search engine, or the one with the maximum advertising budget to flood the web pages you visit may not be the one that will be most effective for you.

Consider the following questions when evaluating your CRM system:

  1. How complex are your CRM processes? To decide which CRM tool best meets your needs, you need to have a good understanding of the complexity of the processes and workflows you are trying to implement. When you are just starting off, chances are you don’t have a very complex workflow. It is important to consider a simple to implement and use CRM that can quickly map your processes without implementing a huge cost of resources and learning curve for your teams.
  2. What are your marketing and sales channels? The core motivation to have a CRM is to build a centralized repository and customer one view for all teams. Your CRM system should be able to integrate directly with the channels you use to communicate with your customers. If this cannot be done easily, then you again run the risk of building data silos and ending up with fragmented customer data.
  3. Which teams will use the CRM? Have an understanding of which teams will use the CRM and how. This will determine what kind of data flows need to be supported and what other tool integrations the CRM might need to provide. Will it be just marketing or marketing and sales or marketing, sales and support? To truly exploit the power of customer one-view, all customer facing teams should be adding to and using the data from the CRM.
  4. Can the CRM scale along with you? Look for a CRM that has the capability to adapt and scale as your business grows. It is nearly impossible to expect that any system will possibly have all the options and workflows that you will ever need baked in from day one. Also you don’t want to end up paying for a whole bunch of capabilities you will never use as a small business.

The requirements of your business from the CRM system when you are a small business with a small marketing-sales team and a growing organization with several specialized team members spread across different functions and geographies is going to be vastly different. The demands of data handling and reporting will also change. A robust CRM should have flexible architecture and supporting tools - like low-code/no-code process builders, which let you extend the CRM in the way you need to.

Read How Free is your Free CRM >

How Vtiger CRM can help with your marketing needs?

Vtiger CRM gives small businesses a feature packed CRM designed for marketing, sales and support teams around customer one view. Unlike most of the more expensive, enterprise focussed CRMs, Vtiger does not “stitch” together data from different modules for these functions.

Vtiger CRM is architected ground up to be a true centralized customer data store, which gives marketers the confidence that sales and support teams will have complete access to the entire history of transactions right from the first interaction the customer had.

With an easy to use and intuitive interface, Vtiger CRM helps marketers for small businesses integrate and manage the channels they use without the need for specialized engineering and IT teams to set up and manage the CRM.

A central store for all your customer data: Capturing and storing all customer data in a single place makes it easier for you to work off the very latest and up to date information. This can give your team deep insight into customer behavior, purchasing patterns and more. When you know your customers well, you can engage with them in a meaningful way and connect with them through relevant messaging.

Get true 360 degree view for all customers: With an architecture designed around customer one view across all teams, you can now develop granular understanding of your customers across the entire journey. If you are starting off on your CRM journey then Vtiger might be pretty much the only tool you need. You can easily import data from multiple sources, organize and clean the database to create a single view of all your customers for the entire organization.

Capture and Segment customer data with ease: With smart webforms you can easily capture data about visitors to your website and other online properties. Once the data is imported into the CRM, you can use advanced segmentation capabilities to slice the dice the data the way you want to. You can create custom segments and create lists based on those to micro-target customers any which way you choose to. This powerful combination of data capture and segmentation gives marketing teams the capability to design and execute highly effective campaigns at scale.

Build engaging content for your touchpoints: Designing emails, forms and landing pages are the most common use of HTML by marketers. Creating these from scratch and deploying them can be a technical challenge for most marketers, especially those in SMBs who are juggling so many challenges at the same time. Building these essential campaign touchpoints can quickly become a roadblock to running multiple campaigns across segments. Vtiger CRM lets marketers quickly build custom landing pages, email templates and custom forms with easy to use drag and drop editors.

Analyze and Optimize your campaigns: With easy to use inbuilt analytics reports you can see which channels, which campaigns and what messaging works and which ones don’t. With these insights you can focus your marketing efforts on the right segments and channels and deliver maximum ROI on your campaign spend. The real time insights combined with the power of customer one view gives the marketing team capability to better understand and act on customer behavior data.

Learn more about Marketing Automation with Vtiger CRM