By Sarah Croft, Marketing, Sage

Small businesses face a challenging landscape, and one that will have lasting impacts on the way that they structure and manage their operations. The recession has focused minds on revenues and margins and brought the importance of retaining customers sharply into focus.

A recent Sage UK Omnibus, which polled 1,500 small business owners, found that in the past year nearly one in five (18%) small businesses have missed out on a much needed sales opportunity through poor tracking of leads. And 19% of entrepreneurs still record customers’ contact details manually in a note book, while 21% lack even the most basic processes for tracking sales leads. Put simply, without implementing effective CRM processes, SMEs will struggle to keep their customers happy, drive loyalty and differentiate their business.

CRM software helps firms to better understand, anticipate and respond more efficiently to customers needs. It tracks details about customers and every interaction your business has had with them in a central hub. Spreadsheets, traditionally used by some small businesses to record their customer details, no longer sufficiently do the job. Customer needs are ever changing and therefore businesses need an active system that can be updated easily. CRM software gives a 360 degree view of their customer base.

The implementation of CRM can help identify emerging buying trends, detect neglected or dissatisfied customers and gauge customer preferences. And it also can increase sales by enabling you to better time when you engage with prospects and customers. For example, by monitoring social media platforms you could spot potential sales leads in real time. If you run a plumbing business you could respond to consumers voicing their frustration about problems with a sink. And if the customer’s too far away for you to help directly, offering some general advice will also help raise visibility of your company and increase trust in your brand.

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