We know – another day, another marketing acronym. But once you’ve learned about SEM and become a wizard at SEO, you’ll need to do some great CRM in order to keep those new customers you’ve earned.

What is CRM? It stands for Customer Relationship Management, and it’s key to the success of your small business. The technical definition?

“Customer relationship management (CRM) is a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.” (Wikipedia)

In a practical sense, CRM involves taking the time to treat each one of your customers as an individual with specific needs and desires, and a unique history with your business. It means keeping track of interactions, purchases, customer service issues, and personal information in order to provide the best service possible.

Why is CRM important? In virtually every business model, the cost of retaining a loyal customer is far less than the cost to acquire a new one. Therefore, encouraging customer loyalty can mean big savings for your business in the short and long terms. One of the best ways to ensure loyalty is through personal relationships. A customer is far more likely to stick with a business the feel knows them personally than to try their luck with a business with which they have no history. They feel, justifiably, that they will receive better service from a company that they’ve already spent money with, and that knows their habits. Your job is to meet and exceed that expectation.

How can good CRM be achieved? If you’re anything like me, the number of personal details you’re able to keep in your head is limited. Without reminders from Facebook, I would likely miss 90% of the birthdays of people around me. But since most businesses are not friends with all of their customers on Facebook (because that would be creepy), a variety of CRM software solutions have cropped up in recent years. These platforms allow you to keep track of individual customers with pertinent information like their contact details, last purchase date, and any personal notes your staff makes, such as birthdays, anniversaries, allergies, and favorite items.

Perhaps the most widely used solutions available is Salesforce, which offers a variety of service levels from the most basic to the very complex. Salesforce is a very robust tool (with a fairly robust price tag), but it might be a little more than some business owners need at first. If you’re just getting started in CRM, or if you run a smaller business, a tool like ContactMe might be a better fit. It’s built with small business owners in mind and offers a good variety of features at a lower price point.

Once you have your CRM software in place and you’ve started to gather customer information, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll use it. Social media marketer Lou Dubois offers some great advice in an article on Inc., in which he suggests 5 ways to build personal relationships:

1. Communication: focus less on sales communications, and more on interactions that make customers feel involved in your company

2. Rewards: Create a loyalty program that is based on individual habits, likes, and dislikes.

3. Enhanced Customer Service: Erase the lines between departments in your company and make sure everyone buys in to a unified customer approach.

4. Start Small and Emphasize Human Touch: Encourage employees to take the time to learn customers by name, and try to opt for face-to-face interaction when you can.

5. Be Flexible. As a small company, falling back on rigid policies is a good way to lose customers. Take advantage of your size and agility.

All solid advice for driving a more customer focused strategy for your company. Have you implemented a customer relationship management program for your small business? Tell us about it in the comments below!

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the Online Content Specialist and resident blogger at Webs. Loves branding, marketing, whales. Get more from Sarah on Webs’ Blog and Google+.

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