Why keep it all in your head when there's a tool for that?
The only way I manage to stay sane in life is by using tools that get everything inside my head out and into a safe place that I can access whenever I like, and ignore whenever I like too.
I've spoken before about how I use Trello to organise my personal and business tasks and to-do lists, and today I want to talk about another type of incredibly useful tool that will save you those sleepless nights trying to remember who you need to follow-up with the next day and what on Earth happened to that person who sent you an enquiry 2 months ago...
A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.
What is a CRM system & who should use one?
A CRM system is an online tool, or piece of software, where you can keep the details and correspondence of all your customers, leads, prospects and sales opportunities. Everything from emails and phone calls, to referral source and the size of the business can be recorded and tracked.
These systems are mostly used by B2B companies, but can also be useful to businesses who sell a small number of 'high-ticket' products or services to consumers. Below are some examples of who might benefit from a CRM system:
- Website/Graphic designers (like myself)
- Software companies selling to other companies
- Catering companies selling to other companies
- Events and wedding planners
- Wedding photographers
- Interior designers (for businesses or consumers)
- Health or business coaches
There are many more examples, but I hope that gives you a flavour.
Which CRM system should I use?
There are hundreds of CRM systems on the market, some have free plans but most of them can get quite expensive. Below are the 4 I've personally had experience working with, and I've included some of my thoughts about each:
This system is very simple to set up and use, and has a reasonable free plan for getting started. The paid plans are inexpensive for small businesses too, but it lacks some features that the others in this list deliver on.
- Capsule CRM
My personal favourite and the one I'll be talking through below, Capsule's free plan is very generous, and the paid version is only £8 per month per user anyway. It has some amazing features, but doesn't compromise on user experience.
If you want a completely customisable package with a tonne of features, then SugarCRM could be perfect for you. Personally I found it complicated to use, and (from a designer's point of view) ugly. It's also very expensive, but the power is there if you need that.
This is probably the most well-known system out there, and again is one you can totally customise to suit you. The plans can get pricey, but this is slightly more complex to use and I feel is more suited to large companies than SMEs and entrepreneurs.
It's really up you which system you a) can afford and b) need. In my opinion, simplicity is best, and Capsule CRM seems to deliver that whilst also having the features I want. It's also seemingly quite versatile; I've seen it used in a 30 person million pound company and I use it myself as a one-man band.
How do I use a CRM system most effectively?
Rather than showing you step-by-step how to get set up and started, I thought I'd just share with you some tips and features that will help you use your CRM system as effectively as possible (I'm using Capsule CRM to demonstrate).
1 // Add your own custom fields!
While many know the feature is there, few tend to use it because they're not sure what to add. You can add several different styles of custom fields (eg, text boxes, drop down lists), and you can add these fields to either Organisations, People or Opportunities.
Something I've found useful is having a 'Source' field that has a dropdown list when I'm creating an Organisation. This prompts me to record where the customer or lead has come from or found me (eg 'Pinterest', 'Facebook Groups' etc), and is very useful when I create reports.
2 // Make use of tags!
Tags are my most-used feature, and I tend to use them instead of having lots of custom fields. Adding a tag to an Organisation, Person or Opportunity means enables you to filter your lists quickly and easily.
I like to add the following types of tags to Organisations:
- Business type or industry (eg, Cafe/Restaurant, Coach, Blogger)
- Which service they're interested in/Have bought from me (eg, Website design, copyriting)
- Whether they are a 'Lead' or an 'Existing Customer'
3 // Adding as much info as possible will help future-you!
I can't stress this enough.
When you add a new Organisation, Person or Opportunity, add as much information and fill in as many fields as you possibly can. Your will thank yourself for this further down the line.
The minimum information I add to Organisations includes:
- Email address
- Phone number (if I have it)
- Website (if they have one)
- Tag with industry/business type
- Tag whether they're a lead or existing customer
- Tag which service they're interested in
- Add a Person to the Organisation (owner, manager or decision maker)
4 // Create your own Opportunity milestones!
When you set up with Capsule, it will create some default milestones for you to define your Opportunities with, but these might not be right for your business.
To change these and add your own, go to Account Settings > Opportunity Milestones. I personally like organising mine as 'Hot' (keen to get started, 60% likelihood of winning), 'Warm' (seems interested but slow moving, 20% likelihood of winning) and 'Cold' (little to no response, 5% likelihood of winning).
Remember you can always go in and edit Opportunities and their Milestones once they're created, so you over time for example I would move a 'Warm' opportunity to a 'Cold' one if I haven't had any response.
5 // Don't forget to forward your email correspondence!
In your Account settings, you'll find your 'Mail Drop Box' email address. Whenever you receive an email from any of your customers or leads that have already been added to the CRM system, forward it to your unique dropbox email address and it will automatically appear in the Notes section of the relevant Organisation or Person! Neat, huh?
6 // Connect your Mailchimp account!
Last but not least, remember to go to Account Settings > Integrations, and follow the instructions to connect Capsule to your Mailchimp account.
Then, when you're creating a list in Capsule, you can go to Export > Update Mailchimp List, and it will add/edit information directly in Mailchimp for you.