CRM Technology Helps SMBs Anticipate and Meet Customer Needs

Customer relationship management (CRM) for small and medium businesses (SMBs) has changed a lot in recent years, thanks to the impact information technology has had on the marketplace. Now, in addition to doing things like planning ahead for busy seasons and practicing hospitality to patrons, SMBs also can leverage technology to optimize relationships with customers. CRM software helps businesses better manage sales, marketing and customer service operations. Many SMBs are finding that CRM software provides much-needed insight into customer needs and are using it to better serve current and potential customers and gain a competitive edge. Wondering how CRM software could help your business? Here are a few scenarios that demonstrate its value:
  • For retailers that want to better understand and attract their target audiences, CRM software can provide rich information about all current customers, gather it in a single information repository and even analyze it for more effective marketing and sales.
  • Or, for businesses in the financial services sector that need more efficient ways of determining the individual needs and preferences of clients, CRM software can help by supplying real-time information about customer interactions and lead details and capturing it in one location. This information in turn helps in the development of new strategies to better serve, attract and retain clients.
  • CRM software benefits the professional services industry by greatly improving project management. It includes tracking and monitoring capabilities that provide detailed information about all projects, activities and tasks, as well as real-time insight into client information across the company to ensure everyone is working from the same data.
Microsoft’s latest CRM software, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, has all the capabilities SMBs need to better understand and serve customers. Designed to perform all the functions mentioned in the scenarios above, and more, this solution is based on Microsoft tools and interfaces employees are already comfortable with and provides better intelligence for decision making. It connects people, processes and data both inside and outside an organization, all while delivering the power of productivity for users. While this solution is available as traditional, on-premise software, SMBs also can access CRM online via the cloud. Click here to learn more about how your business can benefit from this powerful CRM technology.
Cindy Bates
<div> Cindy Bates is the vice president of the U.S. Small- and Mid-Sized Business (SMB) Organization at Microsoft. Cindy and her team serve millions of SMBs in the U.S., helping them start, grow and thrive by utilizing today’s powerful and affordable technologies.For small business resources & information on the pending end of support for Windows Server 2003, click <a href="" target="_blank" title="Windows Server 2003">here</a>.</div> <div> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> | <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a> | <a href="" target="_blank">@cindy_bates</a> | <a href="/author/cindy bates/all-posts" target="_blank">More from Cindy</a></div>


Having been a Microsoft

Having been a Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultant for years, I agree that CRM can help businesses keep track of customers and related data which helps with everything from marketing to sales to invoicing. Microsoft CRM is a product appropriate for any company with dedicated IT support and a Microsoft only platform.

Dynamics CRM is an extremely powerful and thus complex product. It requires deep expertise to install, configure, and manage. The Online version doesn't need to be installed or maintained but you will still need someone that knows how to manage and configure it. I love the product but don't think it is appropriate for what I consider is small business.

If you are a smaller company, and for the sake of argument let's say you have one IT employee or less, then you probably need a less complex CRM system. If you use an Apple product in the office, you will not be able to (fully) use Dynamics CRM. If you are in either position I suggest looking for a product that supports all operating systems and requires little or no expertise to use.

Zoho (, Salesforce (, Highrise (, and SugarCRM ( are all worth looking at. Highrise is the simplest having few features and very limited customization options. It is great if all you need to do is track accounts, contacts, and leads. I have not used Zoho but it is very popular among the small businesses I work with. Both SugarCRM and Salesforce can be as complicated and customizable as Dynamics but work (better) with Apple devices.

Be careful when comparing features and prices. Dynamics CRM is probably the most feature packed product for your money. I hate Salesforce because of their complicated pricing and feature tiers. The real goal of CRM is to have a system your sales and customer service employees will use. They tend to avoid cumbersome systems when they can. I have seen companies spend a fortune building very nice systems just to have their salesforce ignore it because it took to long to use. I prefer to buy to most feature packed product for my money but in this case usability is more important.

Also be sure you can get great support for whatever product you purchase. Before buying a CRM, start a trial and submit some form of support ticket during before the trial is over. If you don't like the support, move on to a different product.

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