The R of CRM - why relationships always come first in business
CRM is 'Customer Relationship Management' software. Just as the word, 'Relationship' sits in the middle of the acronym CRM, 'Relationships' sit at the centre of your business. CRM sometimes gets lumbered with the label of ‘database’ or, worse still, ‘list’. Both these words make CRM sound much less about relationships in business than they should be. By using its shorthand all the time, we often forget what CRM really stands for. While CRM is actually not just for customers but also for prospects, interested people, connections, suppliers and partners too, it’s most definitely about relationships and personal connection.
The minute you start to think of your contacts as a list all lumped together is when you’ll start to forget they are individual people and businesses with their own questions, problems to solve, and decisions to make.
Where to find your ‘hidden’ business contacts for your CRM
We talk through this a lot with Connectably users. And perhaps, like them, as a small business owner you may have a lot of ‘contacts’ in lots of places if you’ve not already tidied them all up into a CRM. Outside of a CRM, here's where you might also find your contacts–customers, prospects, partners and suppliers lurking:
- Your accounting software: The first place we look to pull customers into your Connectably account is Xero accounting software. If you're not a Connectably user, are you overlooking existing paying customers?
- Your email software: If you’re already using a system like MailChimp or AWeber, etc., you’ll already have lists of prospects for marketing to, and customers that you keep in contact with. Or, you might at least have ‘lists’ that you don't email all that often.
- Your email inbox: Yes, we know you don’t mean to do it, but you can end up with a lot of your contacts simply ‘in’ your inbox.
- Your phone contacts: ?? see email inbox.
- Spreadsheets: From events, a sales plan you had, enquiries, networking, offers you made, follow ups, your research... you get the idea, you probably ‘made a list’ somewhere on a spreadsheet.
- LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media: see the note about this later.
- In your head: There are always some contacts who haven’t made it to any of the above, even if you’ve been ‘meaning to’ add them...
What to do next with all your business contacts and CRM
Now you’ve worked out where all your contacts are lurking, it’s not a good idea to just ‘bung them in your CRM’ and start connecting with them. For a start, you may not even have permission to do that. With GDPR causing everyone to be even more rigorous with their opt-ins and opt-outs, you really can’t just take all the contacts you have and start emailing, mailing or calling them. It's also worth noting that even if you DO have a CRM, to avoid GDPR chaos, make sure everyone is in that one system so you can connect with them in the best way possible. Look out for any stragglers.
Work out your business relationship history
What you can do is work out the relationship you have with every one of your contacts. Then, when you are clear on the relationship you already have, you can take some ‘get in touch’ action that works best, and suits that relationship’s next steps.
Your business relationship status is important
Thinking about the types of contacts you may have in categories, here’s a likely list:
- People you’ve worked with before – past clients;
- Current / active clients;
- People who are in the sales process right now – prospects with meetings booked, quotes in progress, or those in the process of deciding;
- People who you communicate with regularly but aren’t on your list: those you email directly or chat with on social media;
- Contacts you have but who didn’t come to you directly: referrals ‘from a friend’ or ‘who found you on social media’;
- Old contacts who’ve not heard from you for a while, not customers, but ‘people you know’
- Partners, suppliers and business friends who you may or may not have worked with but you’ve at least ‘talked with’ before.
The thought of putting all these people into one email list and sending them all the same information seems more obviously ludicrous when you see them set out like this. And yet, it wouldn’t be the first time. Perhaps you've found yourself added to somebody's 'send to all' list yourself where you’ve been ‘lumped in’ with everyone–from a current customer to a ‘blast from the past’.
Sort out your business relationships and send the right messages
You can happily communicate with current customers and past clients in the same way. Send them great content and other ideas of what to do now they’ve worked with you. Share what else they might want to do with you or buy from you. Add value to what you've already done together. Show off examples of results so they can be inspired, and remind them of what they’ve bought already.
Prospects and leads can be sent similar things. Show off results, answer all the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) and SAQs (Should Ask Questions) they have about your business, your service, your competitors (yes) and the problems of what you offer (yes again). The ‘They Ask’ approach sees you create content that answers any and all questions your potential customers have. It doesn't just have to be about your 'stuff' either. Explain your approach, your difference, your ‘why’. You can also talk about how other people do what you do, be factual, make comparisons, and share what you know. Tell your stories, give examples and have an opinion as well.
If you’re not currently connecting with contacts via email marketing, and you’ve only ever ‘chatted’ on direct email/social media, etc., then you need to use your own judgement on how, when and if you move them over to your CRM. It might be a ‘one by one’ process where you send a message the way they’re used to hearing from you (private email or a DM) and simply ask the question "Would you like to be added to our CRM/email list so I can keep you up to date with our news/ideas/offers?" worded to match your usual conversations. To dive straight in and add them without asking is likely, in most cases, to annoy them. It’s a big assumption to make that someone who may be happy to ‘get the odd message’ might want an email from you every week.
For names you never got ‘directly’, this is a big no-no for adding directly to a CRM. Not only is it against Data Protection rules, but it’s spammy. If there’s a list of contacts you want to get to know better, connect with them in ways they are open to at first. Follow them on social media, reply to their posts there, become visible to them ‘in public’. If you start conversations, perhaps then move that to messaging on the same social media platform, and, if it's appropriate, move to a conversation or permission to email. But don’t dive in with that. Start a relationship in a way they are ‘allowing’. Sending someone an email cold is very rarely a good idea which, I am sure if you’ve been on the receiving end of, you didn’t appreciate either.
Some ideas to rekindle business relationships
If you have contacts that you’ve lost touch with, either on an email list that you’ve neglected or direct contacts you’ve simply not been in contact with for a while, here are a few ideas to see if they still want a relationship with you:
- Just start sending them content, 1-to-1: if you’ve been writing a blog, penning articles, getting interviewed, shooting videos, answering questions, or just have something to say, send it out. Send it the way you used to send it, keep it relevant, make sure it’s useful and just start talking again.
- Share other people’s content: if you’re short on your own content, then share and ‘comment on’ other people's. Share relevant blogs / articles / videos / interviews and explain why you think it’s worth sharing and add your comments.
- Ask them what they want: you can do this either as a formal survey, or a "What’s your biggest problem with your xyz right now?" (xyz being the thing you help with)
- Give something away: if you already have a giveaway or ‘lead magnet’ that they don’t have, offer it to them. Or, if they signed up and received that giveaway before, create a new one. It doesn’t have to be complicated but the key is to make it relevant and valuable. A short cut is to give away something that makes up one of your paid for services, a slice of something that you usually charge for. Or put together a 'how to' guide or video, share shortcuts of your own, write a checklist, a list of ideas or ‘things to avoid’. The question to always ask when creating this giveaway content is "Do people already pay for this?" and if the answer is yes then you know you have something of value. Offer it to your contacts and, if they want it, you’re back in a relationship and you know they are interested in what you do.
- Make an offer: if what you do is a pretty straightforward ‘do you need this or not?’ thing, you might want to make an offer, perhaps with limited time or availability or a short-term deal on price, to see if this will create a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. A good idea with this one is, rather than lose people because they don’t want to buy right now but are still genuinely interested in what you offer, to add a 3rd option to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ of ‘not right now, but keep me updated with other offers/I still want to stay in touch’ and that way you’ve kick-started your relationship again even if they don’t buy now.
- Be direct and simply ask ‘do you want to stay in touch? This isn't particularly subtle, but if your relationship can handle it, it’s definitely the easiest option!
It's perfectly OK if some people no longer want to stay in touch. Perhaps they’ve moved on with their business or life and no longer need or want what it is that you do. It’s very rarely personal, but more a ‘I don’t need that any more thanks’ and it’s far better to have a focused, quality list of contacts than a ‘massive list’ that have no connection with you.
Every contact in your CRM is a person you have a business relationship with
So the moral of this story is: treat every contact you have on your list as a person you have a relationship with:
- If the relationship is working well, keep it going.
- If it’s been neglected, get back in touch.
- If it’s no longer working (for either of you), then it’s time to move on.
The best thing you can do for your business is to have a CRM that’s full of people you have a great connected relationship with, and the trick is connecting with them each in the way that suits that relationship best. Gather together those different ‘groups’ of contacts and speak to them in the way that works best. It's the same context as how wouldn’t have the same conversation with your mates as you would with your mother-in-law. The same goes for your business relationships too.