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CRM Software 101: A CRM Primer for the Beginner Buyer

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We talk a lot on this blog about the latest and greatest in CRM software. Discussing the nitty gritty improvements in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 or comparing the various qualities of different CRM platforms is all well and good if you're up to speed on things, but if you're just considering a CRM solution, this can all be enough to make your head spin. Take a break from that for a second while we discuss the basics of CRM, and we'll try to stay away from too many confusing acronyms.

First of all, CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management.” As you can imagine, with a term like that, what it actually is in the real world can be a little nebulous. Some have come to treat CRM and CRM software as the exact same thing, though it's easy to imagine scenarios in which you can utilize CRM without a computer (business still occurred thirty years ago, after all). A small business owner can take the time to personally call a client that hasn't stopped by for a while, for instance, without the aid of software or a system. Of course, at a certain size, tracking these relationships on your own becomes impractical. That's where the software, and a CRM system becomes invaluable. That system is composed of many parts.

The first part you'll need to know about is “Sales Force Automation,” or SFA. This is what stratifies the sales process, and will help you systematically identify and cater to individual customers. Ideally, you'd have a legion of extremely talented and intelligent salespeople that are able to accurately serve a customer's needs 100% of the time. That will probably happen the exact day you win the lottery, so until then, using SFA is a good way of covering your bases. It will allow you to track new customers, sales activities, the sales process, and most importantly the performance and statistics related to sales.

The second major part of CRM is “Marketing Automation,” or MA. As you might have guessed from the title, Marketing Automation helps you run marketing campaigns. With MA, you can track individual marketing campaigns, customer response to that campaign, and the quality of that response. Naturally, this data isn't very helpful on it's own. Marketing data needs to merge with sales data to convert shoppers into customers, which is the real goal.

The last major part (for the purposes of this article, at least) is Customer Support. Just as you can expect your perfect sales force when pigs fly, that's about when you can expect to have a 100% satisfied customer base. There will always be those with complaints or other feedback with whom you will need to interact in order to secure repeat business and customer loyalty. Integrating Customer Support with your CRM solution will allow you  not to only deal with disgruntled customers in an efficient manner, but also to track trends of complaints and address potentially serious problems before they cause lasting damage to your business.

While this is by no means an exhaustive look at the many branches of CRM, it's a place to start. Another thing to note is that while these functions are listed separately here, don't think of them as independent modules. Proper CRM solutions, like Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, will have these components constantly communicating and sharing information to provide you a complete snapshot of your business' performance.

By CRM Software Blog Editors, Find a local Microsoft Dynamics CRM Expert

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