Beware of These 7 Common Small Business CRM Mistakes

Small businesses need Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to thrive – and that’s not an understatement. Of course, you can get by without one (as everyone did in the dark days before CRM existed), but you’ll be very limited. You won’t be nearly as streamlined or effective as you could be with the right system in place. And, worst of all, you’ll be spending so much time manually dealing with what could be automated, that you’ll lose time you could’ve spent delivering the services that are your specialty. 

But, what if this doesn’t ring true for you? What if you’ve tried using a CRM tool, and you haven’t seen the dramatic difference we’re saying is possible? This is a common scenario for many small businesses. The cause is almost always one of the same seven mistakes. Let’s dig into what they are, so you can figure out what is making you veer off course and miss out on the benefits of a CRM system you desire. 

1. Choosing the Wrong System

You have a financial planning business, and your best friend owns a pet grooming business. They use a certain CRM solution and have raved about it to you. So you go through a demo and sign up. Surely, if it works wonders for Abby, it’s got to do the same for you right? 

Actually, not at all. Different types of businesses require different tools. Depending on your industry, your specific niche within that industry, your revenue, your personnel, and your needs, you’ll benefit from a particular CRM system more than others. If you get the wrong one, you may not get the exact functionality you were looking for in the first place. Or, you might be spending far more than necessary for extra bells and whistles you just don’t need. 

Before signing up for the software, do your research. Find out for what type of user a solution is best suited, and whether a particular tool will check all of your boxes. Sure, you can get recommendations from friends. But don’t take their word as gospel. Do additional research to make sure you’re getting something that’s a fit for you. 

2. Viewing the Tech as the Fix

The next big mistake we see small business owners make all the time is thinking that a new CRM solution is going to transform their company. It’s the whole, “Once I get this tool, our business will practically run itself and I’ll never need to do anything administrative again!” philosophy. While it might sound crazy, it’s actually very common. 

After all, CRM systems promise a lot. They can help you set appointments, automatically communicate with customers, nurture those relationships – and much more. But they don’t do this magically. Many providers conveniently forget to tell you that you’ll need to put in the work, and the right inputs, to get these results. The technology isn’t going to save, or fix, or transform your business. But you can, using the software for what it is: a tool. 

3. Lacking Implementation

So you got the right system for your business and needs. You signed up, launched the application, told your team about it – and then waited for results. But you quickly realized nobody was using it. Or, if they were, they were doing the bare minimum to make it look like they were logging in and entering contacts, but nothing more. What gives? 

The issue here is almost certainly on the implementation side. When you ask people to start using something new, they need support. They need proactive training. They need to have a dedicated person they can go to with questions and troubleshooting requests. Most people won’t feel comfortable using even the most intuitive of solutions unless they’ve had it explained to them. 

So before you start asking people to adopt a system, give them a training workshop. Give them practice and resources. Only then will they be set up for success. 

4. Expecting Dramatic Habit Changes

Not only do people require proper training to start using a new solution, but they also need to know that their workflow won’t be changing drastically. Nobody likes change, and if people are used to working a certain way, they have their habits. They know how they like to do things, and you’re going to wildly upset the apple cart if you start demanding new habits. At the very least, you’ve got to acknowledge that the changes you need them to make will be difficult to get used to, but are important. 

If using a CRM system properly is going to mean your team has to change how they’re used to doing things, allow them a grace period for this transition. Help them come up with a plan for how they’ll slowly change their habits to integrate the new solution into their day-to-day activities. Make sure you’re supportive and go so far as to expect some slip-ups. New habits are hard for anyone to embrace, even if they’re something the person is passionate about. And it’s likely no one is going to be passionate about your CRM system. So you’ve got to recognize it’ll take a little time and patience to uproot deeply rooted workflows. 

5. Non-Owner Mindset

There’s a great adage that states, “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business.” It means that when everybody thinks the entire group is responsible for a task, nobody will end up doing it. There’s no ownership, no responsibility, no accountability. You can’t just tell people that “All of us will be using the CRM system to manage our contacts now” and then expect contacts to be entered the right way – or at all. 

 Instead, empower your team with an ownership mindset. Delegate clearly. “Joe put all your new sales contacts into the CRM and make sure all your emails to them are getting captured.” “Roxanne, please pull <this specific type of> report at the end of every month so we can stay on top of trends in our communications and sales.” “Gary, your job is to go into the system every Friday and merge contacts or remove duplicates as necessary.” “Maria, you set up our email campaigns in the system.” Give specific tasks to specific owners with specific dates to make sure every job gets done when it’s supposed to. 

6. Unclean Data

If only the data we put into our CRM systems could be pristine and useful  Oh wait, it can! But it requires some work. When you train your employees to use your new solution, make sure you also give them parameters around how they should enter data. Are you using “United States,” “U.S.” or “USA” for contacts’ country of residence? Do you have a clear process for tagging your contacts based on the services they’ve used, or the services they’ll need? 

One of the most frustrating things about having a great CRM system in place is not being able to use it as you want to because the data set is a mess. You can’t prevent a lot of this in training, and you can also fix this by giving someone the dedicated job of data clean-up at periodic times. This will help you stay on top of the information you’re entering, so you can use it how you want to. 

7. Not Asking for Help

Finally, what is your culture like? Does your team feel like they have to perform perfectly, or have you set the expectation that it’s ok to try and fail? Hopefully the latter, but you can still make changes if it’s the former. Let your employees know they can – and should – ask for help with the new system if they need it. Give them the phone number and email address of someone they can contact if they have a more complex question. This is a hugely important step in having a successful CRM program. 

So, how is your company doing with its CRM journey? Are you suffering from one or more of these mistakes? If so, you can still fix them. And when you do, you’ll start to see the real power of what a CRM solution can do.

 Read more: Mobile CRM: Definitions and Industry Trends