So you have a new business—one that’s small but growing. Or maybe you have a side hustle that you’d like to turn into something more. You’ve considered investing in customer relationship management (CRM) software, but it doesn’t seem like it’s worth buying until you have more customer relationships to manage.
For certain relationship-centered businesses, CRMs have a litany of value, even if your business is cash-strapped and just getting off the ground. A simple CRM system can cost only a few dollars each month, but it’s an investment that can scale as your side hustle turns into a full-fledged business.
How a CRM can help small businesses stay organized
A good CRM system can benefit businesses and entrepreneurs at all stages.
For business leaders who are big on ideas and not great with organization and structure, CRMs can be a welcome ally. Some tools provide daily calendar reminders in addition to keeping track of all the customer information you might struggle to remember. Or it might make it easier to schedule meetings, leave notes for yourself, and schedule follow-up reminders for just about anything. And if you do forget to call someone back? Your CRM can remind you to get it done.
If your business requires a lot of networking and customer relationship management to get off the ground, a CRM keeps all those leads in order and ensures that you follow up on them. You can categorize contacts for future marketing purposes, and pull up reports to see who hasn’t been contacted in a while. You can even use it to see a visual representation of your network to help you identify key players.
Sales-focused businesses can use CRMs to curate customer lists and help track every step of your sales process to ensure no lead goes unfollowed. You can also use reports to calculate the average number of touches it takes to close a sale.
Whatever your needs are right now, look for a CRM that will provide that. You don’t have to buy a CRM with all the options that you’ll need in five years—you may not need all the bells and whistles at once.
Your CRM in the early stages
CRMs don’t just automatically provide value. You need to have a strategy for how you plan to use your CRM so you can make the most of its features.
Even before you have customers, a CRM can help you leverage your personal and professional networks to verify your ideas, find mentors and cheerleaders, and generate your first few leads and referrals.
When your business is ready to move from side hustle to small business, a CRMs can help you create a new client onboarding process that looks professional, saves time, and helps you avoid writing the (almost) exact same email for each client.
And when growth is happening fast, a CRM can keep leads (and money) from slipping through the cracks. A flood of new customers can be overwhelming, but a CRM can ease growing pains by helping you stay organized and cement processes to help you grow. If your growth plan includes additional employees or a virtual assistant, your CRM can become a hub for your team.
How to make a CRM work for your side hustle
Once you’ve decided you’re ready to push your side hustle into a business and you’ve chosen the CRM to help you do it, what’s next? Here are four ways to maximize the potential of your side hustle and its CRM:
1. Upload every contact
Upload every contact to it. This includes family, friends, and colleagues.
When you’re just starting a business, everyone you know can lead to your first customer, referral, or advocate. Keeping everyone in your CRM means you can log relationships, track follow-ups, and keep the big picture in mind.
2. Document every touch
Add rich details to your contact profiles. When you’re able to reference everything about your last contact, the customer will feel remembered and valued and be far more likely to engage with your business in the future.
By keeping a complete relationship history in the CRM, you’ll put less mental stress on yourself and be able to pick up right where you left off during your next conversation.
3. Schedule follow-ups
Schedule a follow-up after every touch. Follow-up reminders are one of the most important features of your CRM.
After every interaction with a contact, schedule some time to talk with him or her and forward an agenda. That way, you won’t drop the ball on any of your relationships, and you don’t need to stress about remembering when to circle back.
4. Test everything
Test absolutely everything. Once your business is operating, your CRM can help you iterate and improve.
For example, you might notice that your most common lead source is client referrals. So you decide to start a more referral program for your business. You can use your CRM to set up a pipeline to track your referral program. You can even use custom fields to help pull reports to see if your referral program is leading to more sales or higher lifetime value for new leads.
No matter where you are in your business process, a CRM can help you boost productivity, stay organized, and build your customer base. Don’t put off this valuable investment. Once you have one, you’ll wonder why it took you so long.