This article is part of a larger series on CRM.
The customer relationship management (CRM) process refers to the steps and decisions businesses make to manage and improve their relationships with leads, prospects, and customers. A CRM system is a useful tool in this process as it streamlines operations and customer interactions, making them more efficient and effective. In this article, we outline six steps and the roles sales, marketing, and support teams play in the overall CRM process.
1. Generate Brand Awareness
The first step in the CRM process is to make your potential customers aware of your products and services through different marketing channels like social media and advertisements. The marketing team begins this task by researching your target audience’s demographics, purchasing behavior, interests, and preferences.
The team also creates customer personas to segment the audience into groups. Then, you can launch marketing campaigns tailored to your target audience’s interests. Knowing your customer demographics and creating their persona helps guide you in creating effective marketing messages that resonate with your customer base.
A buyer persona is a fictional character representing your ideal customers, including details such as their demographics, behavioral interests, values, and challenges. This helps businesses identify their specific target market and understand what they need to provide their customers.
An excellent CRM system collects data, uncovers patterns in the behavior of past leads, and shows you which approaches lead to more conversions. Use this data to customize your marketing campaigns based on what appeals most to your target audience to convert more prospects into customers.
Download our comprehensive CRM ebook to learn more about choosing and implementing the right CRM system for your small business.
2. Acquire Leads
After you have introduced your brand to your potential customers, the second step is to generate leads. The sales or marketing team (or both) engages with your target audience via available communication channels.
For example, the marketing team could use the sign-up form on your website to encourage visitors to subscribe to newsletters. The sales team can take advantage of your CRM’s live chat function to respond to visitors and request their contact information.
CRM platforms with lead generation and enrichment tools help you pull in important information from your site visitors. This makes it easier to personalize prospect outreach.
Lead generation is the process of attracting leads or potential customers into your sales funnel. This is done through multichannel engagement and by generating content that captures the interest of your audience. It also involves nurturing them through the buying process to increase the chances of turning them into customers.
3. Convert Leads Into Customers
Once you have captured the attention and interest of your prospects, the next step is to convert them into paying customers. This is done through a combination of content marketing and marketing automation. The CRM analyzes and captures contacts and leads’ interaction with these activities, and the sales team gauges lead interest and builds further trust with them until they decide to make a purchase.
Lead conversion varies based on the offering of a business. For example, a lead conversion tactic for a retail business might involve sending a series of promotional marketing emails to encourage potential customers to buy. Meanwhile, a lead for a high-value service, such as real estate, will include more complex business processes like sending and revising proposals, contract and cost negotiations, and multiple follow-up conversations before a purchasing decision is made.
4. Nurture Leads
Nurturing leads is crucial in building customer loyalty wherein customers keep coming back to you and making repeat purchases. One of the most effective ways to nurture customers is through email marketing where you continuously share relevant content based on their preferences.
This is where email marketing list segmentation plays an essential role because you shouldn’t employ a one-size-fits-all approach since your customers have varied preferences. Therefore, build various email marketing distribution channels based on factors such as past purchase history, demographics, and pages visited on your site.
Here are some examples of content sales professionals can use to nurture their leads:
- Introductory product demo videos
- Whitepaper with customer case studies and testimonials
- Survey about customer goals or product preferences
- Blog posts about key features of a product
- Email newsletters about useful services
- Link to relevant webcasts or podcasts
- How-to articles or e-books
5. Provide Quality Customer Support
The CRM process does not end when a customer makes a purchase. Your business needs to retain customers for it to grow—and this is where your support team comes in. Excellent customer service keeps clients coming back for your products or services. Make sure you deliver superior service, preferably via various communication channels (live chat, email, and phone) whenever your customers need it.
Leverage your CRM’s help desk and service system to understand your customer’s user experience after they make a purchase. It is important to get honest feedback from them to understand the changes that you need to make to improve their experience.
Robust CRM systems provide your support reps with the data and resources they need to resolve customers’ issues efficiently (e.g., customers do not need to rehash their information since reps can simply look it up in the CRM). Also, the CRM provides you with communication tools (chat, email, or phone) that you can use to immediately respond to customer complaints as soon as they crop up.
6. Drive Upsells & Cross-sells
Once you’ve built and established your customer database, the goal is to introduce repeat buyers to your other products or services—whether that is an upgrade to their usual purchase or a completely different product that they may also be interested in based on their purchase preferences. To do this, you can use two strategies: cross-selling and upselling.
Upselling is a sales strategy used to convince existing customers to buy additional products or upgrades related to their original purchase. Examples of upselling include offering warranties in addition to a gadget and letting a customer know that another product offers more features than the one they chose. Grouping together several varieties of a perfume brand to create a new bundle is also considered upselling.
Meanwhile, cross-selling is a sales strategy used to obtain more value from a deal or sales transaction. It involves suggesting additional products or services complementing an existing purchase so you can generate more revenue from one deal from customers who are already in the buying mindset. For instance, cross-selling works when a product is paired with a complimentary service such as purchasing a laptop sleeve after buying an actual laptop.
Use a CRM to organize your customer list according to purchase history and send custom email templates about relevant products for each group. You can also set reminders for regular check-in calls with repeat customers. This is your chance to ask them for feedback about your product or service and how they think you can improve their experience.
Key Benefits of Incorporating Software Into Your CRM Process
A robust CRM solution offers tangible benefits that help make the CRM process more effective and drives sales return on investment (ROI). There are different types of CRMs to choose from depending on your business needs, but all of them contribute to the growth of your business in ways that help you improve your sales process, manage marketing initiatives, and offer quality customer support.
Best CRM Software Providers for Small Businesses
When choosing a CRM provider, keep in mind that the best solution for small businesses should be reasonably priced and easy to use, especially for beginners who do not have technical knowledge. It should also include core CRM features like contact management, account management, lead management, sales automation, and reporting. Below are our top picks for the best CRMs for small businesses.
Small Business CRM
Recommended Use Case
Best overall for small businesses needing a robust CRM with free and affordable plans
Free or $15 per user, per month
Best CRM for social media integration and inventory management
Free or $14 per user, per month
Best for users who want an easy-to-use system with visual sales pipelines
$14.90 per user, per month
Best CRM with a built-in phone for in-app calling
Free or $39 per month for up to 5 users
Best scalable, free CRM for unlimited users
Free or $45 per month for up to two users
Best advanced features like lead generation, customizable reports, and case management
$25 per user, per month
*Based on annual pricing
For a closer look at the features, strengths, and weaknesses of each provider mentioned above, read our guide to the best CRMs for small businesses.
Following a proper CRM process helps create a better customer experience in each stage of the customer lifecycle, and this is made easier by using a reliable platform and a good CRM strategy in place. By using and choosing the right CRM, you have access to the customer data you need to personalize your audience engagement, making the whole process more efficient.