I’m sitting down in my car between two client meetings. I open my notebook where my daily schedule is written. I jot down a few notes about the meeting I just had, then I’m on my way. Of course, this was in 2004. Over a decade later and I’m still doing just about the same thing. The only difference – everything is in my CRM app. So, what is a CRM app? Why are companies paying to use them?
A CRM App is a mobile phone app that allows you to access most, if not all, of your CRM’s content. In addition to reading the data in your CRM you can also add and edit the data. There are many advantages to using a CRM app rather than using pen and paper. Keep reading to learn more.
What’s a CRM?
Let’s start with the basics. CRM stands for Contact Relationship Management. Imagine taking your customer’s business card and combining it with everything else you know about them. Every important detail you’ve learned through working with them – like their personal email address, their buying habits, and even their dog’s name. CRMs allow you to take all this info out of your head and put it somewhere tangible. Imagine never forgetting another important detail.
Tracking that type of data is just the starting point. CRMs give you a place to keep all these tidbits, but they also track history too. As you finish calls, meetings, and general to-dos they are taken from your calendar and recorded into the contacts history. A good CRM will also automatically add every email to the contact’s history. Now you can look back in time with a specific customer and really understand your past.
The past isn’t the only thing we want to keep an eye on though. Sure, we can’t see the future, but we can still plan things. CRMs give us a place for this too. Within the world of CRM they’re usually called activities. Some call them reminders, appointments, or even ticklers. No matter what they’re called, they’re key to remembering what you plan to do with a customer.
So, what is a CRM? It’s your customers business card plus everything you know about them, everything you’ve’ done with them, and everything you plan to do. This gives you one place to look for anything about a customer. Once it’s in the system, it doesn’t have to stay in your brain. Not that you’re going to forget all the details, but you’ll never remember every detail forever – you’re not a computer, after all.
Why not use paper?
Old school? Sure. But lots of folks still use paper to take notes on their customers. Especially in the scenario I outlined at the top of this article. You’re just in the car between appointments and it’s a lot faster to jot something down in your notebook than it is to open the laptop and enter data. Shouldn’t you be concentrating on selling rather than doing data entry? Plus, sticky-notes make great reminders! Right?
They do. It’s hard to ignore a little brightly colored piece of paper stuck to your monitor bezel. One time I walked into a prospect’s office and saw her monitor, keyboard, and desk lamp peppered with these little buggers. That seemed like the down-fall to me. I have hundreds of reminders in my CRM. This prospect seemed to have hundreds too. It made me wonder how she remembered we even had an appointment. Yet, even though she seemed entrenched in what appeared to be a chaotic state of disarray, she was still mostly organized.
So then, why not just use paper? Clearly it can do the job. No one could really argue that it doesn’t. Business has been around a lot longer than CRMs have. Personally, I don’t recommend paper for the same reason I don’t recommend using a horse and carriage. Not for the sake of using technology just because it’s there, but because at the end of the day, the advantages are just too high to ignore.
One simple issue is that you can’t search written notes. Sometimes I forget the name of someone I haven’t worked with in a while. But with a few keyword searches, I’m easily able to find them in my CRM. How do you do this with a notebook? It must be like some sort of boring treasure hunt. Except the treasure isn’t a chest of gold, it’s a chest of wasted time.
Convenience is another huge issue. I can’t tap my notepad and pull up driving directions. I can’t tap a business card, and have it start dialing a phone number. And like mentioned before, I can’t talk to my notepad and have it write what I say. With a CRM app on my phone, all these functions are simple.
Sharing your info with colleagues, partners, administrative assists, or heaven forbid, lawyers is easy with a CRM. Just add a user and tell the system what they’re allowed to see. Simple as that. If you don’t want to give them full access you can send data into Excel or a PDF file too. If you’re just using a paper notepad, I’m not sure how you share data. But I imagine it involves a photocopy machine and a lot of time.
On the topic of lawyers – a customer of mine was threatened with a lawsuit. Their customer was claiming that they had been mistreated, lied to, and cheated. None of which was true. In response to the threat, we sent them a company detail report. The company detail report is a detailed list of every single interaction. Every email, call, and meeting, from any employee, past or present, was fully printed off into a 230-page PDF file; with time stamps. We never heard back from their legal department.
Written notes can be well organized. Especially if the person has a great method. But no matter how well everything is organized, sorting the data, filtering the data, or reporting on the data is nearly impossible. Say you want to find all your prospects within a range of zip codes. This takes a few seconds in a good CRM. It would take days on paper.
Marketing is another big advantage in favor of using technology. You can’t e-blast from your paper notebook. Most companies interested in marketing will still at least keep a digital list in Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, or some other e-marketing web service. But these services are no match for a real CRM. They don’t allow you to say – pull up a list of customers who you’ve spoken with on the phone, but never held an in-person meeting with and send them a different e-mail than you send to customers you have met. In other words, these e-marketing platforms don’t allow you to target specific customer segments.
Growth is probably one of the hardest things to manage without the organization that a CRM provides. Perhaps in the beginning it’s just you and a partner making sales calls. But as a company grows and takes on more salespeople, trying to keep it all organized on paper is like skipping a rock across a pond. It might feel satisfying, but it will always sink in the end. You really can’t manage growth without a tool to manage it. Yes, you can grow without a tool, but you won’t be managing that growth.
The last big advantage that comes to mind is being sellable. Sometimes business owners get to retire. What happens with their company? Preferably they’ll be able to sell it. But nobody will buy a book of business that’s just in your head and on paper. A CRM turns all that customer knowledge into a tangible asset.
Which CRM’s offer an App?
Any CRM worth its salt will have some kind of phone app. Though not all phone apps are equal. If you’re still shopping around for a CRM, it’s a good idea to do some investigation before making your final decision. There are a few key things to look for in a good mobile CRM app. Let’s discuss.
The first and most important thing to look for is how much CRM data will be available on the app. Can you view more than just the basic contact details? To truly benefit from your CRM app, you need access to more than just the phone number and address. You’ll also want to see history, pending activities and custom fields.
The second thing to look at is your calendar. Believe it or not, not all CRM apps even offer a calendar view. Some of them only offer a task list. I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty hard for me to schedule my next meeting with a client unless I can see a calendar view.
The last thing to look for in a CRM app is whether or not the data is available live, offline, or both. You want to be sure the data is accessible in the way your users need it. For example, if the data is only available live then users can’t access it unless they have a signal on their phone or are connected to Wi-Fi. On the other hand, if the data isn’t available live, changes your users make won’t be seen by others until they synchronize. Preferably, your CRM app will offer both offline and live access.
Where do I download the CRM app?
If your CRM is a web or cloud-based solution, then you’ll probably have two options for how to access the data from your phone. Firstly, by downloading an actual phone app. Secondly, you can usually just go to your CRM’s login page on your phone’s browser – just like you do on your computer.
Usually the CRM app is developed by the company that makes the CRM itself. If that’s the case, you’ll likely find the CRM app available from the standard app store on your phone. That’s either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Just go to the store and do a search. Once downloaded you can launch the app, plugin your credentials and should be good to go.
If your chosen CRM doesn’t have an app then there will likely be a third-party solution. If that’s the case, you’ll need to do a bit more research. I always start with a quick Google search. But at that point you might just want to hire a consultant. When we get into third-party solutions, it can start to get complicated.
The bottom line, if you’re running a business, you need a CRM. They’re very accessible now and the benefits are too many to simply ignore. If you’re shopping around for the perfect CRM make sure it comes with a great phone app. Do your research and ask a lot of questions before you dive in. Starting with the wrong CRM is costly and completely avoidable.