What is online CRM software

CRM - these three letters have been on everyone's lips for years. The concept of the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) often with the "CRM system“Equated, that is, the software that enables the CRM concept. But what do both terms actually mean? And what relevance do they have for marketers and salespeople? This article will give you an overview of the different facets of CRM. Explore the numerous possibilities that CRM solutions offer and implement your CRM project successfully!

Which does ______________ mean CRM?

CRM is the abbreviation forCustomer Relationship Management orCustomer relationship management.

With "Customer relationship“All interactions between a company and its customers or potential customers are meant here.

TheThe aim of Customer Relationship Management CRM is to create customer relationships to cultivate interactions as possible personally designed and individualized become.

Meeting customer needs: why is CRM important to your business?

At a time when processes in marketing and e-commerce are becoming increasingly automated, the individual customer care come up short quickly.

Especially when communication takes place in a standardized manner, there is a risk that individual customers no longer feel adequately looked after and wooed. As a result, customers may be dissatisfied.

Customer Relationship Management should act as a counterweight to this. As a customer-oriented approach, it aims to personalize communication with customers and potential customers - with the least possible effort and the highest possible return.

Components of customer relationship management

Each CRM solution offers a different range of functions. Regardless of a software solution, the actual process of the Customer Relationship Management several Basic conceptsthat companies should deal with. These can be understood as essential approaches to increase customer loyalty.

1) Communicative CRM

This aspect of theCRM refers to the exchange between the company and customers or potential customers. The skillEmails, SMS and calls or Skype calls be. All channels are synchronized and coordinated with one another. This enables an overview of all conceivable communication channels and makes it easier to decide on the most suitable channel for a specific contact.

2) Operational CRM

This is about obtaining the basic data, which is then analyzed further. Sources for this areSales, Marketing and Customer Service equally.

Typical data are, for example, submitted offers, incoming orders or returns. At this point, all relevantData for a specific contactsee as well general trends,which concern the entirety of all contacts.

The operational CRM interacts with the analytical component explained below: It feeds the analytical component with data and then in turn draws input from the analysis for further steps, such as creating a new offer.

Since it is mainly new data that is entered here, special care must be taken at this point: "The data quality and above all the validity is crucial in CRM, because the quality of the output can never be better than the underlying database“, StressesOlga Walter, CRM expert and lecturer in CRM, email marketing and e-commerce.

3) Analytical CRM

Theanalytical component of CRM draws appropriate conclusions from the data in the operational part. With the help of business intelligence functions, for example Create customer ratings, identify cross-selling options, segment target groups, offer management improve and a lot more.

This is the aspect of CRM that creates value for companies and enables them to gain new insights.

4) Collaborative CRM

Thecollaborative component of CRM refers to the collaboration between different teams (to avoid duplication) as well as between internal and external parties related to the company.

This can be limited to the coordination between different departments, but alsoCustomers, partners or suppliers to include.

Not only can work processes be coordinated effectively, but information can also be bundled in a targeted manner in order to provide customers with additional added value.

Advantages of CRM - Customer Relationship Management

From theHow the CRM works there are some advantages. First and foremost, the analytical component of customer relationship management makes complex issues measurable and interpretable.

Sales expert Karsten Hutzler, who built up call centers himself for a long time and establishedCRM solutions has made a decisive contribution in Germany, sees efficient CRM as the central database for customer management:

“There is no longer any redundant data, the complete history of all customers is available, sales campaigns are in progress transparently visible and thus evaluable and plannable. What did my last action bring? Actions can now be calculated. It used to be all gut feeling. "

Below are the key arguments for a CRM strategy, according to the levels of Buyer's journey orderly.

What is the Buyer's journey?

As Buyer's journey is the entire process that customers go through in discovering, evaluating, and purchasing a product or service. A distinction is made between three phases: Awareness, Consideration and Decision, in German for example: perception, reflection and decision. The CRM accompanies and simplifies this process and helps to evaluate the results achieved.

Awareness Stage (perception)

In this first phase of the buyer’s journey, potential customers become in the first placealert to a problem or need. As part of their marketing, companies can try to address potential customers and sensitize them to a topic, for example by publishing corresponding reports or blog articles.

Accordingly, the main thing here is to direct the right traffic to your own website, social media presence or blog of a company.

CRM plays a subordinate role during this phase, but the analysis of the interactions that have already taken place and successful sales can be used retrospectively to improve theadapt and optimize your own web presenceso that it attracts as many interested parties as possible.

In addition, the relatively young approach of "Social CRM" come to fruition. The aim is that sales employees actively identify potential leads through targeted research in social networks, enable them to be addressed and address publicly expressed problems and questions.

Consideration Stage

If potential buyers are aware of their problems or needs, see each otherlook for a solution and weigh up various alternatives. For companies, the goal here should be that suitable potential customers ultimately choose their own offer.

To do this you have toProspects first become leads by forging an initial connection with a company and are then regularly provided with information. This happens, for example, when visitors to the website of a company that offers a possible solution to their problems or needs sign up for a newsletter.

The key advantage of aCRM solution lies in theautomation this process. So z. B. After registering for a newsletter, a welcome email with a request to confirm the email address can be sent.

The same applies to regular newsletters or special offers, which companies make their Significantly reduce costs can.

In addition, the possibility of a detailed analysis of empirical data in many places completely or at least partially saves an extensive and expensive oneMarket research. Are explanatory videos or podcasts more likely to be consumed? Which content-related topics are particularly popular?

Questions like this can be answered with effective CRM can be answered after a short time based on user data. In this way, individually tailored offers can be implemented, which then lead the leads to the decision stage in the course of marketing workflows and sales force automation.

Decision Stage

As a result, you can Filter out qualified leadsthat are already way down the sales funnel, so that are particularly likely to make a purchase. These leads can then be looked after in the same way as their position in the sales pipeline, for example by assigning them a permanent sales representative for more personal loyalty.

In addition, the CRM automatically reveals whichTargeting works particularly well with leads from a specific target group: will a direct product comparison or a live demonstration convince them? This can be read off with great certainty from the data available. The bottom line is that this means more sales and thus more more sales for the company.

The conclusion as the end point? How CRM contributes to customer loyalty

It is important to realize that CRM and the importance of customer relationships do not end with a purchase decision or a deal.

Because this is exactly where work on the Customer satisfaction and loyaltyat. During this phase, sales reps have the chance to turn customers into loyal promoters and advocates who willRecommend company and buy from company again.

The CRM supports them in this, for example by adding additionalRe-, cross- and upselling potential can be identified. In addition, with the help of the collected customer data and an established customer support, successfulRetention marketing operate, for example in the form of follow-up emails.

Which does ______________ mean Retention marketing?

Retention marketing refers to nurturing existing customers so that they will return to a company the next time they make a purchase decision.

Existing customers of this kind are extremely profitable, especially in competitive markets: After all, they have already gone through the entire buyer's journey and have shown that they are seriously interested in what a company has to offer.

On top of that, Customer loyalty significantly more cost-effective is the acquisition of new customers across all phases of the buyer’s journey. If a customer is qualified as a regular customer, it can be assumed that he is essential for the company's further sales.

This is expressed in the well-known 80/20 rule: 80 percent of company sales are generated by an average of only 20 percent of customers.

Current trends in CRM

In addition to the basic components that are in eachCRM strategy should find again, various trends have emerged for some time. The focus is currently primarily on the following three areas:

Social CRM

This form of theCRM obtains data from social networks such asTwitter, Facebook, Xing etc., for example in the form of web monitoring.

In doing so, a targeted search is made in social networks for mentions of one's own company, one's own brand or product, etc. and the relevant context is analyzed: Is the term mentioned in praise or criticism? What conclusions can be drawn from the associated profiles about the demographics of the company's target group (s)?

Social CRM but also includes the possibility of giving users the chance to interact in a targeted manner and thus strengthen customer loyalty in social networks. This can be done, for example, in the form of help forums or surveys on product development.

Mobile CRM

The mobile availability of contact-related data inCRM is especially essential for people in the field or home office. Mobile CRM is not just about enabling mobile access via cloud solutions, it is also about making it as easy and convenient as possible.

Corresponding applications are ideally optimized for smaller keyboards or input methods and focus on those functions that are primarily needed in mobile use.

This includes, for example, the option of reading out the information on scanned business cards from the B2B contact via artificial intelligence and entering it directly into a corresponding solution.

Stefan Beeck, consultant at Simon Kucher, is also convinced of the added value of mobile usability in an interview with Handelsblatt:

Before it was CRM systems sales representatives had customer data with them in their notebooks, maybe even just in their heads. Now companies can find everything from the address to the preferred communication method of the relevant employees at the customer Store all important information in CRM systems and access them on the go.


This trend is also "Any relationship management“Called and describes what manyCRM systems have been doing for a long time: namely, that not only interactions with customers are included, but also those with all other parties who are connected to the company.

As already mentioned, these can be suppliers or partners, but alsoInvestors, press representatives or influencers. In this way, an even more comprehensive picture of all internal and external contacts and communication processes is drawn.

What exactly can a CRM system do?

Customer Relationship Management is the approachthat enables complex management of customer relationships in the first place. These The approach can be mapped in applicationsin which all information available about a company's contacts is collected and managed in separate data sets.

So differ theseCRM systems or the CRM software in their focus on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, which also serve to optimize processes, but whose goal is ideal resource control and management.

If a user creates a contact record, it can be used in a wide variety of ways. So can Customer relationships are managed in a variety of ways:

CRM & lead generation

Customer Relationship Management supported Lead generation and lead approach with relevant information, user acquisition and the subsequent management of acquired customers. Here, the data records on individual prospects are essential in order to retain site visitors and convert leads to customers - that is Attract customers.

In manyCRM solutions all e-mails can be integrated and automated directly. This simplifies the entry of relevant data and prevents information from being spread across too many different programs.

CRM database

TheCRM database offers a common platform for the exchange and use of data - i.e. a central location where all CRM data is accessible. This is especially for them collaboration important between colleagues, but can also be useful for coordinating with suppliers.

Another basic function is the analysis of the collected data. For example, users can Sales forecasts or optimal communication strategies create for different leads.

CRM & quotation management

This is also helpful with regard to suppliers and business partnersCustomer Relationship Management Company through a simplifiedInquiry and offer management.

This also opens after a business dealmatching CRM system Extensive options, for example to offer after-sales services and effective customer service.

This includes, for example Complaint processing or the provision of information on the correct use of your own product. Because only satisfied customers, who still feel that they are well looked after even after the purchase, return and recommend a company to others.

CRM & Marketing Automation

Ideally, aCRM system thus a sound basis for processes of theMarketing automation. For example, as soon as a website visitor requests a company's newsletter, information is automatically sent to him by email, his data is recorded by the system and he is qualified as a lead.

The subsequent communication can then be automatically tailored to his interests and preferences.

Because all contact-related data can be integrated and processed, completely new ones arise for CRM users Cross- and up-sell options.

Because with one CRM you can analyze whether certain leads, users or customers could also be interested in a different or higher-quality product.

What Type of CRM System is Best?

Once the decision to introduce a CRM solution has been made, the next step is to determine the right variant for your own company.

As with any other software program, the various offerings on the market differ in terms of what they do specific type of program, its focus and ease of use for IT laypeople.

So how can the right CRM software for a company be found?

Basically, the market offersmore complex and less complex applications. Simple systems are of course suitable for everyday use by many different employees with different levels of knowledge. Because if a system cannot be used properly in the first place, there are no benefits to be gained from it.

However, if all the possibilities of customer relationship management are to be used to the maximum, a certain complexity cannot be dispensed with. So it is a matter of oneFinding a compromise between the two extremes based on one's own employee know-how and the desired functionality.

CRM solutions according to number of users and company focus

A detailed guide on how to do thatoptimal CRM system for your company, as well as further general information about CRM, CRM system and CRM software can be found in this overview of the available CRMs.

CRM software as a desktop solution

As its name suggests, this program variant isonly installed on one computer and can only be used from here. Accordingly, these solutions are usually quite cheap, but they are mostly only suitablefor a single user. This option is useful, for example, for small shops in local retail stores or self-employed people.

Workgroup version of a CRM

With this application you cannumerous contacts from different users manage. This means that data can also be maintained and analyzed across departments, but it shouldnot much more than a dozen employees work this way - so it's a small business CRM solution. As a rule, the accesses are tied to the respective computer and are therefore not suitable for mobile access.

CRM as a cloud solution

With a cloud solution, theoreticallyan unlimited amount of customer data can be managed in parallel by numerous users. Therefore, these solutions are also suitable for larger companies. In addition, these solutions usually offer oneuniversal access from any device. This is made possible by the fact that the system is not stored locally but on external servers and can be accessed via the Internet. This makes such online solutions ideal for companies withmany employees in the field or home office. These systems are usually paid for according to the subscription principle with monthly contributions.

CRM enterprise solution

This would be oneextensive CRM solution for large corporationsthat can serve various branches, numerous departments and thousands of customer contacts. Enable CRM solutions of this sizeall functions presented here, record every form of customer contact and provide detailed analyzes. In addition, they are often compatible with other applications that can be used operationally by the respective departments and whose data then flow together in the actual CRM system.

From which Company size worth a CRM system?

The question is often asked whether individual self-employed people or small companies with a handful of employees should really establish their own CRM processes. The answer is clear: yes! If you want to lay the foundations for a successful company, you have to involve potential customers at an early stage and manage the relevant data professionally - no matter how small or young the company is.

Business models and availability of CRM systems

Even if every program differs in terms of details and every system has its strengths and weaknesses, the offers can essentially be divided into three categories with regard to the business model and availability:

License-based (commercial) CRM systems

This is the classic form of software applications. Companies purchase the program (usually as a single license) and install it on their own computers.

Advantage:Since the program is owned by the company, it can be easily adapted to your own needs. The decisive factor here is whether support by the provider is included. The provider also takes on the setup, adaptation and training of employees. Companies can put an optimally installed program into operation as quickly as possible.

Disadvantage:The main counter-argument to be mentioned here is the high costs. Because purchasing the required license is associated with a comparatively expensive one-time or monthly payment. Regular maintenance is also an additional cost.

Conclusion: For companies whose employees are not really IT-savvy and who (for example due to a very special industry) individual requirements for the CRM system this classic commercial variant is a good choice despite the higher costs.

Open source programs (CRM freeware, CRM hosting)

The special thing about open source programs is that they are not owned by a single manufacturer and are usually not sold commercially. Instead, they are the result of many different programmers working together to continuously develop the applications.

Advantage:Since the Most of the CRM systems of this type are free of charge at first glance, this is by far the cheapest solution. If a solution has an active community, it is also constantly evolving, so any bugs are usually fixed quickly.

Disadvantage:These too CRM systems are not without their shortcomings. Because even if there are no costs for the application itself, companies still have to invest in the facility and in employee training, so that the cost advantage is sometimes put into perspective.

In addition, since no special provider provides the corresponding services, these aspects can be more complicated than when setting up a licensing program. Ultimately, in many cases there are no or only limited experts and trained service staff available who specialize in the respective system.

Conclusion: This variant is only suitable for companies whose employees themselves have in-depth IT knowledge and are thus largely able to deal with the new system themselves.

SaaS offers (software as a service, online CRM software)

In many cases, companies do not necessarily have to rely on owning the software that is used in-house. Instead, cloud programs can be used, which in principle work in the same way as the known cloud storage systems: The application is made available online as a so-called web app and users access it via an individual user account.

Advantage:Since the actual program is stored centrally on external servers, no IT specialists are required. If there is a problem, the provider can solve it without having to be on site in the company. In addition, it is easy for field staff to access the system at any time and from any location using a mobile device.

In the case of SaaS solutions, hybrid use is usually guaranteed. This means that, for example, the mail system does not have to be relocated to the cloud, but still with the cloud-based CRM software can be coordinated. If necessary, companies can also do without special hardware.

It should also be noted that some cloud solutions free of charge Are available.

Disadvantage:Since all information is stored online, a constantly functioning and reliable internet access is of course essential. What may sound banal is not always guaranteed completely, especially in many rural areas of Germany. Also to be taken into account: Often the (fee-based) SaaS applications are more cost-intensive in the long term than the classic single license solution, as they cause recurring (mostly monthly) costs. In return, users benefit from regular updates and continuous support.

Conclusion: Companies for which it is particularly important that employees device-independent and from everyone Location out on her CRM system can access. But the whole thing is only financially worthwhile if the savings from the unnecessary hardware are serious or if the corresponding CRM is free.

Originally published May 7, 2020, updated 6 May 2021

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