Over the course of the last two years, so much has changed for small business owners. E-commerce has exploded in response to the pandemic, and supply chain issues have made it difficult to keep many items in stock, and more difficult to promise delivery dates. In addition to these changes, a recent small business survey from Act! found that 21% of small business owners felt pressure to communicate more with their customers since the pandemic started.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that customer expectations, and the ways customers and businesses interact, have changed meaningfully. Fortunately for small business owners, there are easy-to-use tools, like a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, that can help streamline communication with customers, creating simple, personalized and automated messages with just a few mouse clicks. By leveraging a CRM platform – and combining it with marketing automation – small businesses can effectively reach customers and strengthen relationships without risking their bottom-line during times of economic uncertainty.
There are several ways a CRM tool can help small businesses improve customer communication in the wake of change and economic instability, for example:
CRM platforms provide comprehensive contact tracking, making it possible to secure a record of every interaction a business has with a customer. This type of database can be invaluable by making sure nothing “slips through the cracks” and ensuring customers feel like they are always a business’s top priority.
In a down economy, many small business owners will be working to do more with less. Having top tier organizational tools can help them quickly and effectively communicate with customers, with adding to customer support staff.
CRM also allows businesses to easily segment their customers into groups, enabling them to send targeted messaging relating to their customers’ specific purchases and interests. In addition, many CRM solutions are extremely customizable, meaning they can be scaled and sculpted to fit the evolving needs of any business, no matter how it changes to adapt to the current economic climate.
The addition of marketing automation functionality can further improve customer communication by making the quick dissemination of targeted, personalized messages possible. Using marketing automation in concert with a CRM platform allows businesses to send reminders about promotions and sales, or offer warm wishes for events like birthdays and anniversaries. This sort of consistent and carefully considered outreach fosters customer loyalty, which is always crucial, but especially so at a time when customers are cutting back on spending.
Having a centralized system managing these relationships also makes it easy to take stock of what outreach is having an impact and what’s missing the mark, which ensures a business doesn’t waste time (or money) when every penny counts.
Boosting productivity while strengthening relationships
In addition to improving customer communication through new organizational tools and easy to personalize automated outreach, embracing a CRM platform also creates a big productivity boost. Automating outreach and creating a segmented view of the customer database means businesses spend significantly less time on simple follow ups with current customers. This gives business owners more time to get creative and nurture valued individual customer relationships. Act!’s small business survey found that 42% of respondents reported that CRM boosted their productivity after it was implemented.
In addition to improving current customer relationships, CRM software also keeps a pipeline of new customers flowing. A CRM platform can help quickly turn warm leads into new customers by organizing leads and sending quick automated responses to inquiries. This “outreach efficiency” ensures that every important customer gets attention quickly, building trust and starting them on a path to becoming a valued (repeat) customer.
The last two and a half years have been a huge challenge for small business owners, and the sad reality is that many small businesses didn’t survive the shock to our economy that accompanied the pandemic. Now, with more challenging economic news piling up, it’s no wonder that in June, the NFIB small business optimism survey showed small business owners had record-breakingly low expectations for the future. To survive that kind of economic upheaval, small businesses need loyal customers and every structural edge they can get.
CRM offers help on both fronts, boosting productivity and centralizing customer records, while making customer communication simple and easy. Together, these improvements may be enough to help a business survive the coming economic storm.