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By Dave Brown


The Net to the Rescue

As with every market sector, the emergence of the Internet has revolutionized the business environment for small companies. Online newsletters, web driven marketing resources, and even the ability to conduct e-commerce have all been factors that have changed the SMB marketplace. The Internet has launched new resources for conducting business, yet it has also meant that a small company may be supporting a much larger base of new and potential customers than ever before. The Internet has both changed the face of the CRM tools available for a small business customer and the very nature of the customer relationships the business needs to support.

We see a resounding need for businesses passing the 10-employee level to have the ability to manage centralized customer information and to share data across the organization. While a company may be small, its need to span a broad geographic area or to access centralized information remotely still can be immense.

At this level, a company may want to evaluate one of the industryís newest free or low-cost CRM products. Several companies have recently launched free online CRM applications that let companies organize existing and prospective customer data. Make sure the options you are considering let co-workers share data and coordinate work efforts. Consider, however, that in some free or low-cost implementations, storage of your customer data is entrusted to another organization. While these companies will work to keep your information as confidential as possible, the knowledge that a disgruntled employee or an unknown competitor could potentially tap your customer information is a factor you should always take into account.

If a decision is made to keep customer data in house, you may consider CRM solutions that come embedded or that can be downloaded into your companyís network infrastructure. Cost savings stem from the fact that these online or entry-level options donít require maintenance or installation of software.

Make sure CRM packages you are considering can import contact records from Microsoft Outlook, POP e-mail accounts or whatever system you are using now. This will prove to be extremely helpful in correlating your CRM records and activities with the rest of your team.

While entry-level CRM packages are still a relatively new development, the ability to plan, schedule and manage pre-sales and post-sales activities is critical to small companies. Even a simple solution can allow your business to reach out to current and potential customers more effectively and add value to the services you provide.


Dave Brown is the President and CEO of EmergeCore Networks.
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