If you’re a small business owner today, you’ve probably been told time and time again that you need a CRM.

Of course, this begs the question: what the heck is a CRM, anyway?

Before we get to the juicier parts, let’s  get the most basic need-to-know facts out of the way:

On the surface, what a CRM is (and what it does) is pretty simple.

What does CRM stand for?Customer Relationship Management
 Who should use a CRM?Anyone who wants to keep their business organized and profitable, from solopreneurs to Fortune 500’s
What tasks can a CRM help  you with?
  • Capture and manage leads
  • Keep detailed, up-to-date client records
  • Access your data from different locations and devices
  • Store all client communication (emails, documents, meeting notes, invoices) in a single, centralized location
  • Track payments and see your projected income
  • Automate client-facing tasks: appointment reminders, email follow-ups, late payment notifications
  • Allow team collaboration
  • Segment your customers for targeted marketing promotions
How much does a CRM cost?Most CRMs have fixed monthly pricing schemes ranging from Free to $300 per month
What’s the “best” CRM for small business?There’s no such thing. The best CRM for your business is the one that meets your specific needs, is within your price range, and is easy for you or your team members to use

However, business owners often find themselves scratching their heads as they attempt to navigate the CRM world. And why shouldn’t they? The definition of a CRM seems to vary from company to company claiming to offer the market’s ultimate solution.

Meanwhile, the difference between one CRM to the next is staggering for small businesses. Oftentimes CRM solutions are so bloated with extra features that service-based business owners feel overwhelmed or priced out.

So perhaps the better question to ask isn’t what’s a CRM, but rather what kind of CRM do I need?

I Own a Small Service-Based Business – Do I Really Need a CRM?

Here’s the deal. There comes a point in the life cycle of every business owner where juggling back and forth between Google Contacts and Excel sheets just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Just as your business grows, so should the tools you use to manage your relationships. Outgrowing those free tools is easy enough to notice, as more and more “warning signs” keep cropping up: 

You may have accidentally double-booked a couple of clients because of a small oversight in your address book.

Maybe you screwed up a few tables in your Excel sheet and have to start over from scratch.

Or even worse, manual data entry starts to feel like a part-time job as you’re constantly entering in client information day after day.

Service business owners shouldn’t accept these headaches as “business as usual.” As your clients’ list grows, the more time you’ll inevitably spend on non-billable tasks.

Scheduling appointments. Following up with clients. Invoicing. Billing.

These time-consuming tasks don’t simply go away. The time spent taking care of these tasks not only adds needless stress to your life, but also eats away at your earning potential.

An hour spent in a spreadsheet or address book could be an hour spent with a client. Think about how many of those hours pass over the course of a month and what it could be costing you in terms of your revenue and relationships.

Listen: the “C” in CRM stands for “clients.”

Rather than sink your earning potential or sacrifice valuable time with clients, a CRM serves as a sort of superhero to eliminate time-wasting so you can provide the best service possible to those who matter most to your business.

When you have a CRM system that takes care of your contacts and bookkeeping on your behalf, you can focus on providing that stellar service. The result? Your business is organized, clients are happy and you can focus on attracting new ones.

If you feel that you’re so bogged down by back-and-forth grunt work with your clients, you’re inevitably dropping the ball somewhere. Instead of allowing your business to stagnate, it’s probably time to invest in a CRM.

How a CRM Can Help You with your Daily Tasks: Real-Life Examples

With all of this talk about how a CRM system can be a lifesaver to your business, what does that system actually do?

We’re glad you asked!

Below we’ve provided some snapshots from the daily lives of today’s busy service business owners and what a CRM can do to save the day.

1. All of Your Leads, All in One Place

The emails are pouring in from people looking to get in touch.

You’re getting the occasional pings from your website contact form and Facebook account, too.

You have leads, no problem. But there’s no rhyme or reason to where they’re coming from.

Meanwhile, some people are giving you little more than their first name while others are trying to tell you their life’s story.

What now?

Funneling leads through a CRM solution not only keeps all of your leads organized in one place, but helps you learn the essential info you need prior to meeting for the first time.

From personal contact information to more specific details such as their budget or services they’re interested in, your leads should be more than just email addresses.

This system organization also makes it easier to tailor your marketing messages to specific leads. Looking to offer a coupon or freebie to new clients? Want to invite a lead to your next event? When all of their information is in one place, you don’t have to dig to make it happen.

2. Get to Know Your Clients Inside and Out

You’re minutes away from a meeting with a returning client and your mind goes totally blank.

Thoughts start racing through your head.

“Is this our second meeting? Third? How long ago was our first?”

“What did we discuss last time, anyway?”

“Ah, there was something unique about this client’s situation. It’s on the tip of my tongue…”

When you’re dealing with lots of clients, you have to work overtime to remember all of their specific wants and needs.

Give your brain a break and let your CRM do the legwork for you. With a CRM system, you can keep a detailed profile of your clients to record details of your meetings and keep notes for future ones. 

Need to know if your client has special instructions in terms of treatment or payment? Check.

Want to track your client relationships over time to see how much money they’ve spent with you? Got it.

Have trouble associating names with faces? A CRM can help with that, too.

Having these details handy is crucial to both building those ever-so-important relationships with clients but also providing personalized service.

3. Make Life Easier on Your Staff

Something comes up and your staff is tasked with taking up the reigns of your business.

Perhaps it’s a family emergency. Maybe you’re out with the flu.

In other words, you’re not there to answer each and every question about your customers.

Your staff needs a comprehensive list of what your clients want, how much they’re going to pay and special instructions to provide awesome service.

With access to CRM, that list already exists for those times when you aren’t around.

Encouraging collaboration with team members, a CRM helps keep your staff in the know. Empowering your staff to have more information on hand about your clients is a win-win for both parties.

Rather than keep your business’ information confined to a single spreadsheet (or worse, one person’s memory bank), your business runs smoothly whether you’re in the proverbial office or on-the-go.

4. Perfect Your Payment Pipeline

You go to check your bank account before bed and your heart sinks.

Your balance is short. Again.

You scramble through your statement and quickly realize that two client invoices from last week still haven’t been paid.

It feels like deja vu as you track down their email addresses and write panicked messages requesting payment, worried about bounced checks that aren’t your fault.

Getting paid should be the top priority of any service business owner, and an effective CRM ensures that payments are constantly coming through your pipeline. By knowing who owes you what at any given time, reaching your monthly income goals becomes much easier.

You shouldn’t have to second-guess whether an invoice has been paid or if someone has accepted your price estimate. Automated invoice reminders through your CRM guarantee that you spend less time chasing down payments and more time counting your hard-earned cash.

5. Instantly Segment Your Clients

You’re looking at your current list of clients and you realize that’s all you have.

A list.

You remember who they are, but you can’t recall where they came from or how often you meet. You want to keep better track of who’s who, but you have absolutely no idea where to start.

Looking over your client base shouldn’t feel like staring at a laundry list of names. The ability to segment your individual clients is a game-changer toward becoming more organized and more profitable. 

For example, you can tag clients who haven’t been in touch with you for a while as “inactive”. You won’t believe how easy it is to “re-activate” some of your dormant clients through a simple “we miss you” email with a “welcome back” coupon

Segmenting your clients into groups ensures that you can effectively tailor your messaging to your clients in a way that resonates with them deeply and intuitively. It can also clue you in on which of your clients you should be focusing on most.

6. Collect More Meaningful Information

You’re meeting with a client for an initial consultation with when it suddenly dawns on you

We’ve spent 15 minutes collecting information that you could have collected beforehand.

Personal history. Preferences. Expectations.

Is this 15 minutes of back-and-forth really necessary, or is there a better way to make that initial consultation count?

A CRM can act as an alternative to a traditional contact form, collecting every essential piece of information you need prior to meeting with a client.

Again, knowing more about your clients prior to your initial meeting allows you make a killer first impression. Not only that, but you can free up time in your schedule to take on more clients as a result.

Want to See a CRM system in Action?

Understanding what a CRM is might seem like a headache, but for service-based business owners, the need for one is crystal clear.

Eliminate those repetitive-time consuming tasks that keep you away from your clients. Take control of your business to provide the best service possible. Keep your schedule full and your clients happy.
And if you want to see what a CRM system designed specifically for service businesses looks like in action, we urge you to give vcita a spin today!