When Does a Rapidly Growing Small Business Need to Automate Its Relationships with Customers?

Author: Christopher Hosford Date: July 16, 2014

Reaching the Tipping Point for CRM

Sponsored by Insight.ly

Every business wants—and needs—to manage its relationships with customers well. But when it comes to customer relationship management technology, smaller businesses may hesitate. In the past, customer relationship management software, or CRM software, has fallen under the realm of big business.

But for quickly growing small companies, there comes a time when face-to-face interactions with so many customers and prospects simply are impossible. And simple spreadsheets and email platforms can be easily overwhelmed by a growing customer database.

More Employees, Less Insight

“Once you get to the point where you have one or more dedicated sales reps, you definitely need to start using a CRM solution,” says Jon Russo, CEO of Princeton, New Jersey-based B2B Fusion Group, who counsels companies on installing marketing technology solutions. “Smaller retail companies and professional services firms could use CRM packages to track customer purchases and keep in touch using emailed notices and coupons.”

Beyond the sales department, a growing workforce often requires adding technology. Founders of small businesses can keep track of things up to a point, but new employees may have little insight into company details. For companies adding staff, automating contacts, sales, quotes and scheduling data via a CRM platform is the next logical step.

Maintaining That Personal Touch

While a CRM system helps make sense of customer activities and sales, it has another benefit: Only through automation can sales reps engage with so many customers in an understanding and personal way to improve loyalty and customer lifetime value. When your company has more customers than you can relate to personally, a CRM system is a must, Russo says.

To be sure, smaller businesses may be hesitant to jump into a sales technology platform such as CRM. According to a recent survey by Brother International Corp., in partnership with SCORE, small business owners are evenly divided about which is the greater risk: investing in technology too early versus hesitating and thus giving competitors an advantage.

However, 72 percent of small business owners also say new technologies offer a bigger return on their investment than hiring new employees in 2014, according to the survey. Twenty-eight percent of the respondents indicated that new hires offer a better return on investment than does investing in technology.

Which brings up the question of price: According to software review site Capterra, several cloud-based CRM solutions aimed at the small-business market offer plans in the $7-to-$25-per-month range, with prices rising based on storage and the number of users. However, many CRM companies feature free trials, and some even offer free, limited-capability versions. These approaches allow for plenty of experimentation without spending a lot. 

“I would say that it’s probably better to deploy your CRM technology sooner rather than later,” Russo says. “If you’re growing quickly, so is your customer data. And customer information is any business’s lifeline to success.”

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