Is it time to modernise your spreadsheet with CRM?

Bill Hole, president of Microsoft partner US Licensing Group, shares his story about how his small business moved to Microsoft Dynamics CRM to gain better customer insights.

Drinking from the fire hose

You've heard the old adage about the cobbler’s kids having no shoes? As a technology company, we are saturated with information about all the products available, but sometimes it’s like drinking from a fire hose. And, since we’re focused on our customers, we don’t always have the time or resources to tackle our own business needs.

So we were like the cobbler’s kids, except instead of bare feet, we were losing sales leads because of a broken process involving a spreadsheet. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Excel, but as a small business, we needed a solution, not just a program that would allow us to do more with less.

When I started our sales and marketing efforts years ago, I did what many small business owners do, I opened a new spreadsheet, added some column labels and started capturing business card information.

That process worked for marketing by email and mail merge early on. I had a handful of contacts from the local Chamber of Commerce mixers and networking events that I had attended—low volume, grass roots and relatively easy to manage.

We were losing sales and our reputation was taking a hit

To sustain our growth, we needed to grow beyond the handful of business cards from the local mixers. We began to do events and became the “go to” local technology expert in our community. Suddenly, the business card stack went from a few handfuls to a few hundred. While this was a good problem to have, it still presented some challenges.

The simple little spreadsheet now needed many, many columns to capture as much data as possible. What was the discussion? When did they want a follow up? What product did they ask for again? We were losing opportunities because the spreadsheet wasn't providing timely information.

The situation was choking our sales pipeline and our reputation was taking a hit. We didn't want to be viewed as slow or unreliable. In order to maintain our pace, we needed to get off of the spreadsheet and fast.

Our broken business process got a major upgrade

I was sharing this challenge at a technology event when a fellow partner asked if I had considered a CRM solution. I replied that CRM was for big companies that had big budgets, lots of servers to host it and an IT department to keep it going. That wasn't us.

Oh no, he replied, that’s old school CRM. CRM in the cloud is here and it’s easy to consume and affordable. He went on to tell me about Microsoft CRM Online. By the time I walked away, I was eager to try this solution. My broken business process was about to get a major upgrade.

We created a new email campaign in minutes

I got back to the office and purchased a single license of CRM Online. Not a huge investment and if it worked, I could easily add more users. The browser experience was friendly and didn't require a PhD to figure it out.

I did a little research on how to import my spreadsheet and created some email templates that matched the emails I had manually sent before. I could populate fields to personalise the email and even attach PDFs of marketing materials. There was even a way to automate the email once new contacts were imported.

After a day or two of playing with CRM Online, I tried the first import and within minutes, my first email campaign had been sent. Fantastic! The new platform had pulled in the old spreadsheet data, automated what was once a slow, painful process and even yielded new intelligence.

CRM Online captured data from my spreadsheet and presented it in completely new ways. It reported which products and solutions were most popular and even gave us insights into the companies we were contacting, including company size and location.

CRM Online is our ‘go to’ essential sales and marketing tool

In the months since we implemented CRM Online, it has become an essential sales and marketing tool. By transforming our broken business process, CRM Online has streamlined our sales efforts while surfacing business intelligence that we didn't have previously. By going with Microsoft, we found a turnkey solution that didn't require expensive add-ons or a lengthy learning curve. And because it’s in the cloud, we can get to CRM Online from the road, from the browser, from the app, just about anywhere.

If your small business is facing a similar challenge, get off that spreadsheet and unleash the full potential in your data with Microsoft CRM Online.