Ryan Sweeney is a content strategist at WorkWise, the provider of OnContact customer relationship management (CRM) software. We asked Ryan why small business owners should consider implementing a CRM software solution. Here's what he shared:

Running a small business means facing an ongoing series of ever-evolving challenges. We're fortunate that entrepreneurs have more tools at their disposal than ever before to meet such challenges efficiently and effectively. One particularly powerful tool is CRM software, which adds value by improving sales, marketing and customer service efforts.

Why Small Business CRM Rocks

When small business owners ask if the time is right to implement a CRM solution in their company, here's what I share with them.

Flexibility of the Cloud: CRM software was once a hefty investment within reach of only large enterprises with deep pockets. That's no longer the case. Today, small businesses can leverage the great perks CRM offers through a cloud or "hosted" software deployment. This slick solution eliminates the necessity of having an extensive, in-house IT department. Small business owners with cloud deployment also won't have to worry about software maintenance issues including backup, updates and other expenses commonly associated with an on-premise deployment. And in some cases, CRM solutions are even available on a month-to-month basis without a long-term commitment.

Helps Get--and Keep--You Organized: Staying organized while trying to grow your business is a never-ending effort. You might even be relying on a low-tech system, such as Excel spreadsheets, to carry your business forward. If I just described your methodology, it's time to reconsider. Excel spreadsheets don't offer the foolproof safety and flexibility that CRM software inherently provides. You can't take them with you everywhere on a mobile device or tablet, and keeping data updated and de-duplicated is a feat in and of itself. CRM software does all of that for you and more. And you get mobility, which is pretty awesome, too.

CRMs Offer Features Galore: Conduct some research and you'll likely identify a CRM software vendor with the ideal solution for your business. There's a strong likelihood that it will come with all the features your business could ever want because modern CRM solutions are packed with diverse and incredibly useful productivity tools. Some specific features to look for include a centralized database, email designer tools, email integrations, accounting and finance functionality and integrations, call center software, and workflow automation. And that's just the tip of the productivity iceberg.

CRM Tools You Can Leverage

Now that I've exposed the benefits of CRM software, let's take a closer look at some specific tools you can leverage to stay in control of your growing business.

Sales Automation: This is what you think of when you think CRM software: It provides small businesses with the visibility they need to visualize their pipeline, create influential forecasts for future sales and grow their business for the long term. It can also track business leads and new prospects that arrive through your company's website, create new tasks for you (and your sales team, if applicable) and remind you when it's time to connect with existing customers and prospects.

Email Marketing Functionality: If it's available, it's often wise to invest in a CRM solution that's fully integrated with a marketing automation tool. This gives you email marketing functionality, which can be a formidable resource for small businesses. With email marketing at your disposal, you benefit from features like an email designer that enables you to build quality, unique email designs to dazzle prospects and customers. In addition, you'll have the capability to segment email automation efforts based on target audiences, locations or other parameters which you set. Utilizing this feature saves time and amps up your cool factor.

Landing Page Integration: You might not expect such an advanced feature from a traditional CRM tool, but the best ones now include landing page integration. Here's how it works: As prospects land on your website, you can track their actions and see which pages they linger on the longest. If they submit a form through your website, you'll capture all of their relevant customer information, which is then automatically stored in your CRM database. This data will be accessible to your entire team, from sales to marketing. Your lead generation efforts just got way more refined, benefitting your business' bottom line.

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