Though I don’t always think of myself this way, I am a small business owner. Freelance writing is a business. I have customers – if fewer now than a year ago - and I have relationships with them that I have to manage.
Which is why I was intrigued recently when one of my best customers, Small Business Computing, asked me to look into the state of the art of computerized customer relationship management (CRM), especially as it relates to small businesses.
CRM is no longer, as it was when I first heard the term a decade or more ago, a bleeding-edge business application for big corporations only. Today it’s recognized as a core, mission-critical business function, and the technology for automating it is increasingly available to companies of any size. As I show in the article, which is here.
I was particularly interested, though, in comments from a consultant I interviewed, Linda Daichendt, whose company, Strategic Growth Concepts, helps small businesses in the Detroit area.
Linda is a marketing and strategic planning consultant, not a technology wonk. But she understands her clients and she understands very well the value of CRM to them. She was especially clear on its value in helping small businesses not only manage customers in the administrative and sales-process sense, but also in analyzing and understanding their customer bases so they can generate the most revenue with the least effort and cost.
And the strong impression I got from Linda is that too many small businesses are missing the boat on CRM. They’re not implementing readily available and inexpensive – in some cases, free – tools because they’re too harried, too focused on winning new customers, too lacking in vision, or just not sophisticated enough to understand the value. Too bad.
Not that I use SugarCRM or the free version of SalesForce.com or even the venerable Act! myself, but my business is so small and so simple I can easily make do with Microsoft Office Outlook. And do.