CRM is a oft-misused term. Here at crmcog, I use it in context of technology enablers to maintain customer relationships. But when we talk about CRM for small businesses we often see this mixed with other core business aspects that aim to track *all things* that mean business. This is often frowned at, especially in larger enterprises, and is considered a factor that dilutes the value of CRM ultimately leading to its failure as a solution. But what can a small business do here? By its very nature, a small business has limited amount of resources to spend and it is often not feasible to get everything right. The prime most directive is to run the business and IT is just here to help it more efficiently at a super-optimized cost. So proposing “best-of-breed” solutions with multiple software systems is just never going to take off. So, advisors of smaller businesses have to take the middle path. The middle path is to modularize and possible separate CRM and back-end processes, and be flexible around it.
The middle path for CRM + Core should focus on below factors.
- Identify the core, and build/extend the CRM system to “modularly” provide that. By making it modular, you are using the system to provide the most basic of the functionality considered non-CRM, but keep the option of replacing that with a more capable system/module in the future
- Do not spend lot of energy and money on validation and automation of the pseudo-core module built in CRM. No matter how much intelligence you apply, it is really difficult to build a comprehensive system unless you have studied that particular industry for small-businesses quite exhaustively
Let us see two examples of what I am talking about here.
- CRM and Inventory
Smaller businesses are built around providing a product or a service to their customers. Tracking orders is important part of CRM, but having these orders be the sole owner for tracking inventories can be a nightmare scenario for a large enterprise developer. To achieve this in the CRM system consider building an assets module that gets updated at each order, and which can own all inventory “for now” and “for the foreseeable future with the current business model”. It should be easy enough to replace this with an external system (e.g. InflowInventory, Deposco, Apps for Inventory Tracking in SFDC)
- CRM and Finances
Possibly more challenging than the inventory part, finances are absolutely critical part of the small business. Let’s face it – small businesses want the goodies offered by CRM in the “long term”, but they cannot immediately see the effect of Analytics or the positive impact created by tracking all transactions. However it is important to know the business value of a customer, and the “business value” easily extends to include each and every financial transaction, reconciling the transactions and tracking overall impact on business. CRM products include most basic of these by enabling costs/prices to be tracked against orders. Reports can be used for reconciliation or tracking finances rather than building specific modules. However when the business has sufficient traction, look at solutions like Zoho Books, accounting products for SFDC.