As a seasoned entrepreneur, I’ve seen a lot of companies struggle with taking their business to the next level once they’ve experienced initial success – whatever their product or service may be. As their sales increase and the customer base grows the company is suddenly faced with more relationships to manage, more prospects to track and more data to collect, organize, and analyze. It’s a lot to handle. And with the mix-and-match collection of tools they’ve been patching together it’s impossible to consolidate all the data and effectively use it to help build sales, expand reach, and build lasting customer relationships.

Inevitably, it leads to unhappy customers, poorly developed targeted marketing campaigns and lost sales opportunities. So what’s a growing company to do?

Enter Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms. A CRM platform provides a centralized system for effectively managing and optimizing customer relationships, the entire sales process, marketing activities and support services. With a good CRM platform you can automate basic business tasks, improve workflow, increase productivity and create more sales opportunities. Plus, these platforms can be integrated and synced with a variety of business tools and applications including email, calendars, databases, file managers, and accounting software.

Several decades ago, CRM platforms only catered to the needs of big corporations. They were considered too expensive and too complex for smaller businesses. But with the advent of open-source, cloud-based solutions, businesses of any size now have access to enterprise-level CRM tools that can be customized to fit their needs. All of a sudden, SMBs can access the horsepower of big league corporate tools.

So why go with a CRM platform? Here are 4 key reasons:

1. Front and Center

CRM systems enable you to compile all sales and customer data in one central location, providing instant access for the entire organization via an easy-to-use interface. Every interaction with a customer, whether it’s sales or service related, can be recorded. Data can be compiled from a vast array of sources and channels including website forms, email campaigns, sales calls, service requests, contact lists, transaction histories, social media, seminars and more.

This means your sales and support teams will now be able to know your accounts and customers inside and out. And it will help ease the learning curve for new staff.

2. Analytics and Business Intelligence

Now that you have this immense amount of data, how do you interpret it and act upon it? How do you use it to make better business decisions to drive performance and increase ROI?

CRM platforms feature analytics tools that enable you to analyze your business data in a variety of ways to get a real-time comprehensive view of your business. And with these tools, key information can easily be accessed and shared company-wide.

You can slice, dice, and deep mine your data to create a host of interactive dashboards and custom reports. This allows you to track key performance indicators, develop more accurate sales forecasts, identify new leads, monitor lead conversion, measure customer satisfaction, identify customer demographics and much, much more. By properly leveraging your data you’ll gain a deeper insight into your customers and your business.

3. Your Marketing Hub

CRM platforms also help you manage and monitor all your marketing activities. They provide tools to automate some of your marketing processes (such as email campaigns), streamline workflow, and improve collaboration. And with ability to tap into and analyze sales and customer data you get the insights you need to make smarter marketing decisions.

CRM gives you the power to create, deliver and manage more relevant and impactful marketing campaigns. It gives you the ability to track and measure effectiveness across all channels, identify and target customers, develop and track leads, track marketing spend, and create lists of prospects and customers.

By effectively using CRM software for marketing you will be able to better drive consumer interest and pass on higher quality leads to the salespeople.

4. Enhance Customer Service

Great – you captured marketing leads, they’ve been converted into sales, and now you have actual customers! And those customers expect timely, knowledgeable support when they have questions or need problems solved.

According to the 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer, conducted by echo for American Express, “Three out of four consumers say they have spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer service experiences. Conversely, in 2012, over half (55%) of consumers who participated in the study intended to conduct a business transaction or make a purchase, but decided not to based on a poor service experience.”

A CRM platform can help you deliver top-notch service all the way through the customer’s experience with your business. Customer service and help desk reps can now easily access customer information and transaction histories to efficiently handle any questions or issues. This goes a long way towards improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

A smart CRM solution makes all the difference when you’re finally ready to jump up to that next level of business performance, accountability and sophisticated growth. I recommend it to any businessperson who needs a versatile and powerful tool to create better communication and collaboration throughout the company, respond to customers faster, improve marketing effectiveness, and provide better service and support.

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