The R of CRM – why Relationships always come first in business

A CRM is Customer Relationship Management software, and the core of what Connectably is. Unfortunately, it’s also something that can get lumbered with the label of ‘database’ or, worse still, ‘list’ making it sound much less about relationships in business.

By using its shorthand all the time, we often forget what CRM really stands for, and while it’s actually not just for customers but also for prospects, interested people, connections, suppliers and partners too, it’s most definitely about relationships. 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 talked through this a lot this week with Connectably users and maybe, like them, as a small business you may have a lot of ‘contacts’ in lots of places if you’ve not already tidied them all up into a CRM. Here’s where else outside of a CRM you might find your contacts–customers, prospects, partners and suppliers–lurking:

  • Your accounting software (the first place we look to fill up Connectably with contacts is Xero accounting software)–expect to find customers and suppliers in your accounting software too
  • 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 at least you might have ‘lists’ that you don’t email all that often **coughs**
  • 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 ‘made a list’ somewhere on a spreadsheet…
  • Written down–and sometimes the pen isn’t mightier than the sword of a CRM!
  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media (see 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, 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 customers
  • People you’re mid-selling to right now–prospects with meetings booked, quotes in progress, or deciding
  • People who you communicate with regularly but aren’t on your list–you might email them directly or chat on social media
  • Contacts you have but who didn’t come to you directly…maybe you got them ‘from a friend’ or ‘found them on social media’ (we’re not judging, but this category needs to be more ‘formal’ from now on)
  • 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 may have been added to a list yourself where you’ve been ‘lumped in’ with everyone–from a current customer to a ‘blast from the past’. It actually happened to me today from someone with whom all I’ve done is exchange a couple of emails and book a ‘let’s chat’ call–jumping the gun a bit there, assuming I want all their ‘news’ (I unsubscribed right away, in case you’re wondering).

Sort out your business relationships and send the right messages

Current customers and past clients you can happily communicate with 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 ‘mid-selling to’ contacts 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). We’re big fans of the ‘They Ask’ approach where you create content that answers any and all questions your potential customers have. And not just about your ‘stuff’ either–explain your approach, your difference, your ‘why’. 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 too.

If you’re not currently connecting with contacts via an email system, 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 be OK if I added you to our CRM/email list/etc. so I can keep you up to date with our news/ideas/offers?”–worded to match your usual conversations, then add them. To dive straight in and add them without asking (refer back to what happened to me today and how it annoyed me!) is likely, in most cases, to piss them off.

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. They might but they might not, so do what you’d do in any relationship you want to keep on good terms, and ask! I’d also use this approach for your partners, suppliers, business friends, and people you know, too–you know your relationship with that person or business best, so carry on the conversation and ask the question. They can only say no, in which case you’ll either have to keep up the conversation the way you do now, or decide that they’ve just told you something about your relationship with them, and you’ll probably know which it is!

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. We’re sure you have better manners than ‘barging in on a conversation uninvited’ and this is the equivalent with email. If there’s a list of contacts you want to get to know better, connect with them in ways they are open 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 perhaps that might then 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.

Here are 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’s a few ideas to see if they still want a relationship with you:

  • Just start sending them content–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–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 have a giveaway or ‘lead magnet’ already 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–with limited time or availability or a 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?–not subtle, but if your relationship can handle it, it’s definitely the easiest option!

And be 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 a 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 your different ‘groups’ of contacts and speak to them in the way that works best. Just as you wouldn’t have the same conversation with your mates as you would with your mother-in-law, same goes for your business relationships too (unless you are mates with your mother-in-law of course and she appreciates your humour).

Connectably is simple connected business software, connecting everything you need to run your small business in one place, from marketing, to sales, to getting paid, to accounting.

From your phone or desktop send emails, create quotes and proposals, track sales, take payments and know everything is already up to date in your accounting software. Save time and work smarter with connected software to make ‘evening admin’ a thing of the past.

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