Starting a new business is tough! It's daunting. It can also be expensive and require external financial support. If you have made the decision to create a business it is critical that you plan early for success by using tools, technology and process to give your small business every chance at success.
Small Business CRM and effective strategy
When making recommendations to businesses that are just starting out we always strongly recommend that you begin early by adopting a philosophy of recording everything. Every interaction with everyone around your business is a potential lead, an opportunity or someone you can follow up with at a later date if not immediately. So, get into the habit of recording everything. Once basic information has been recorded you have a foundation upon which you can build additional value. Examples here include grouping your contacts so you have of clear view on paying customers versus potential customers and so on. The key is absolutely record everything.
3 years ago we had a series of family visitors over Christmas and a very busy house. My step-son was in the Shower and complained that the water was cold and didn't appear to be heating up. The usual remedies of recycle the boiler power didn't seem to help. We phoned around 2 or 3 local heating and plumbing specialists to see who would be available to come over quickly and fault diagnose and hopefully fix the issue. We eventually found a local heating engineer who said he'd swing by immediately. He turned up, remedied the problem quickly and effectively. We paid, cash on the spot. He left and we continued using our heating and hot water as normal. Everyone was happy. The heating engineer missed out on his biggest opportunity. He had in his hands a paying customer who lived locally, who went from zero to paying in an hour. But,
We never heard from him again! 3 years have passed and we still haven't heard from him again. I'm pretty sure that had he offered to do a service on the boiler at the relevant time that we'd probably have accepted the offer.
Using CRM as a Small Business
So, what could or should he have done in these circumstances?
- At a bare minimum he should have recorded my name, phone number and address. He had this information as it would be the barest minimum required to come out and fix the issue
- He could have asked me for my email address or even extended this with my other contact details like my twitter handle, alternative contact numbers
- He could have recorded the details, serial number, name and type of my boiler and noted its last service date (or in this case the lack there of!)
- He could have left me his business card, or even put once quietly on the front of the boiler, or even behind the access door so if I had a problem in future I'd know how to reach him
Had he done so what could his options have been?
- He could send out an offer to 'service' the boiler on or before its service date
- He could see if products he has access to sell could have replaced it as an upgrade (especially as our boiler was so old and wasn't being manufactured anymore)
- He could reach out with 'courtesy contact' checking that his impromptu repair on site had stayed good and that we were still happy
- He could have left a handful of business cards with me and asked me to hand them out a work, or give to friends and so on
- He could have asked me to leave a review on his website or even his Facebook Page as the job was successful and a great case-study
It's not Rocket Science
It really isn't! Record who you talk to, those who email you. Especially the calls at 9pm at night, or at 5am in the morning. Keep records of all interactions and transactions. Record emergency call-outs. Record details of conversations that happen that could be leads even when you are not at work. If you are down at the local pub and a publican is complaining about their boiler, heating or hot-water offer to follow up. Exchange details, record the appointment and keep your promise. You'll be amazed how your business will grow step by step, layer by layer. Most of all, be sure to enter the details into your CRM solution so that the data can grow in value to you as a business over time.
What's the cost of not using CRM as a Small Business?
If my example with our hot water and heating is anything to go by then we can assume that this heating engineer treats all of his leads, customers and opportunities this way. It is a lot easier to sell products and services to existing clients than it is to create new ones (I've heard evidence to suggest it is actually 9 times easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to create a new one). Be sure to leverage the value of what you learn whilst doing your business and record the basics. Over time the data you gather will be where your next order comes from. Start early, do it right. The cost of not doing it is remaining a sole-trader or a small business for a very long time, losing opportunities to engage your value proposition with your 'base'.
One of the toughest elements of running a small business is that your leads are hitting you whilst you are on site with a customer and you are committed on a job. This means that unless you are absolutely on top of your callbacks and have a well oiled procedure for follow up that you will miss many opportunities. You can think about other ways of capturing leads at this point, for example putting a request form on your website to capture a lead that automatically fills in the client details in your CRM for you, and sends you a nice email alert letting you know another client has just registered on your site. Keep watching these articles for more hints and tips like this that will take your business from 'survive' mode into 'thrive' mode.