CRM Systems for SMEs of the Fourth Kind

In a previous life, I used to evaluate  and select software packages including CRM systems for my large organisation clients.  Over a period of several years, I reviewed all the major Customer Relationship Management (CRM) packages more than once. One of several lessons I learned was that the software evaluation process of large customers forces software companies to add functions to tick all the boxes that get them on the short list, but nevertheless whether the extra functions were acquired or developed, you could always tell the origins of the software and users often found the “box ticking functionality” to be difficult to use or unsuitable for the process.  In English, leopards can’t /don’t change their spots ! Even though CRM software for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) may be less complex, it is still worth looking at the roots of the software; for CRM those origins might be:
  • Sales – This is about improving the process of lead generation, follow up and conversion and focuses on closing sales to new customers at the lowest cost (efficiency, if you like!).
  • Marketing – Marketing is about understanding customers and the competition so as to identify new customers and design campaigns to reach these customers with offers (effectiveness, if you like!).
  • Support – is about looking after a customer who has already bought products or services and usually involves help desk tickets and product/ service knowledge bases (sometimes called customer service!)
These are the first Three Kinds of CRM System for SMEs and of course, most of them have added functions to fill the other two kinds of CRM System for SMEs.  I will come back to the Fourth Kind later.

Selecting a CRM  for your business

The sales and marketing approach of small businesses varies considerably depending on the product / service and the type of customer. Complex products / services take a lot of selling and that may include awareness and education as well as proposals and contracts – even if you’re allowing customers to download White Papers and watch webinars or videos, you still want to capture their details, so that you can follow up with them and see whether you’ve made it to the long or short list or whether they need more information or help. Similarly, large organisations tend to have a long sales process designed to eliminate all but the obvious suppliers/products/services.  On the other hand, simple products/services have a relatively simple and short sales cycle and they’re often bought by consumers on impulse.  Here a CRM can help your team strike “while the iron is hot” more often (since each transaction takes less time).  That is important when the customer can move to another website with a few clicks of a mouse. So whether your products/services are complex or simple or your customers are consumers or organisations, winning new business is hard; after all, most of these people don’t know anything about you, your business or your products and services.

Changing Technology

I know that business owners don’t want to talk about technology, but it’s what I advise on and you’ll soon see why we are dipping into the world of the CRM software industry.  Like everything in the world of software, everything is continually changing, sometimes for the better.  CRM systems used to be very expensive capital buys, which put them out of reach of SMEs.  Large businesses spent a lot of blood and treasure buying and modifying their CRMs to their own needs, so now they need expert users and administrators to keep it all going, Few of them are ready to repeat the experience, so the CRM software people must look elsewhere – to SMEs – your businesses are now on their radar. Your needs are entirely different:
  • (Much) lower capital cost - maybe even a completely new charging mechanism
  • Simplify the software’s functions – your business doesn’t need all those Big Business bells and whistles !
  • Make implementation straightforward – can your business afford to dedicate a project team to set up a CRM ?
  • Reduce the need for training – you want people to be marketing not “using the software”
  • Make the software easy to use and administer – learning to use the software should not be a full time job (everyone is already busy enough !) and few people have the technical skills
Now let’s return to leopards and spots – many of these packages are originally designed for big company use and no matter how much they try, it will be difficult to produce an SME specific version, especially when you are so familiar with the package you can’t remember what people don’t know ! This has made space in the CRM market for specialist SME CRM software and there are many examples – we’ll be posting a review of some of the leading packages soon.  But what is noticeable is that many of the same mistakes are being made again – Software people still don’t understand Sales and Marketing and the same lessons are now being learned by a new bunch of software engineers, but there is some good news.  You may have heard of ‘Software as a Service’ or SaaS (sometimes pronounced ‘sass’) (also known as Cloud Services); this meets all of the SMEs’ requirements above: Software as a Service is paid for monthly, the upfront investment has been made by the SaaS vendor.  You can use standard functionality (vanilla flavour only) quite cheaply and implementation is just a matter of loading your own customer data – if you already use a financial software package, most of the data will be in there.  Training of users takes hours and the SaaS vendor does all the system administration . The jump in technology has allowed new vendors to enter the market with software written specifically for SMEs.  This means that there are a quite different group of vendors to consider and their entirely new charging mechanisms (effectively monthly rental) makes them affordable for SMEs.  But there’s another new piece of thinking that has entered the mix - and that’s the fourth kind of CRM system.

The Fourth Kind of CRM System for SMEs

In the description of the functions of CRM, I talked about the sales and marketing capabilities and you may have noticed that they were focused on winning new business, not on repeat business – there is whole lot of research which says profitable and stable businesses get a high proportion of their revenue from loyal customers who buy time and again.  Not only that, but once a customer has enjoyed your products or services, it is much easier to persuade them to buy a second, third, fourth time.  In many service businesses, keeping customers is so important; life can be a treadmill of promoting and discounting to constantly replace customers who are moving on to the next offer !  The kind of businesses I am talking about are:
  • Beauty salons
  • Spa /Massage businesses
  • Garden Services (pool care, lawn care)
  • Cleaning Services (inc carpet cleaning and window cleaning)
  • Chimney Sweeps
  • Maintenance of Plumbing, Heating, Ventilation of Air Conditioning systems
  • Pet care (Dog walking, sitting, grooming, training)
  • Therapy (physio's, dentists, podiatrists)
  • Car Repair /Valeting /Washing
The Fourth Kind of CRM System is focused on retaining customers, by analysing buying behaviour and designing campaigns which will encourage them to buy
  • different services from your business
  • more services from your business

How does it work ?

If you use financial software, the data can be transferred automatically into the CRM SaaS system and then the system analyses the data automatically.  It will regularly recommend campaigns to make fuller use of your staff, to reduce travel between appointments, to sell services customers may not realise you provide (eg offer nail treatments to pedicure customers).  If you approve those campaigns, the system will make those attractive offers to customers by sending text messages or emails.


  • Higher retention means greater profitability
  • Higher utilisation means staff can be charged for more money
  • Advertising expenses can be reduced – if you keep your customers, you don’t need so many new ones
  • Low time commitment – (automation and staff at the SaaS provider do most of the work)
  • Customer loyalty means a more stable business – to someone acquiring your business or lending to it, that has great value
FreshLime is a powerful  retention-orientated CRM  system, which comes with a guarantee of 3 x Return on Investment (ROI).  That means that if, in any month,  your FreshLime campaigns do not result in you achieving 3 x your monthly charge, you will not be charged.  Click the link, if you would like to have a no-obligation discussion about running a FreshLime service trial