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CRM for Small Companies? Yes!
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By Dave Brown

For all the benefits of a well-executed customer relationship management (CRM) strategy, for the most part, small businesses (particularly organizations or workgroups of between five and 25 people) have been left out in the cold.

Clearly, if you own or work for a small company, you are part of a vast market. Recent research from Inc. Magazine shows there are more than 7.8 million small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) of one to 500 employees in the U.S. as compared to only 8,500 large companies with more than 500 workers. For every one large U.S. business there are more than 900 small and medium companies in existence today!

Interestingly, of these 7.73 million businesses, there are 4.2 million companies of one to four employees. There are 1.5 million with five to nine people. The remaining 1.6 million companies are groups of 10 to 49.

Traditional CRM solutions are too pricey for SMBs. Must small businesses simply live without the benefits that large companies enjoy? To what extent should a small business be thinking about CRM? What are the CRM functions that would be most beneficial to a small company?

Every small business must keep customer contacts and account activities records up to date. A typical company can handle this basic function through the various components of programs such Sage's ACT? or Microsoft's Excel and Outlook. For groups of fewer than 10 employees, this may suffice.

However, the fact that the programs are basic doesnít mean they are easy to use. Each employee must install the programs on a separate machine, and they subsequently must be managed. The process of purchasing, installing and managing upgrades to keep these installations identical (or the hassle factor of borrowing another personís computer to access a central program like ACT) is costly and time consuming. Thus, migrating to a lower-end CRM solution may make sense at an earlier point than you think.

As an organization moves beyond five to 10 employees, the process of consolidating customer data, staff activities and ongoing background information on each device is a gargantuan task. At this point, it is very typical to discover that even with installation and maintenance costs set aside, a homegrown solution is no longer enough.

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Dave Brown is the President and CEO of EmergeCore Networks.
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