The ABCs of CRMs

In some industries, the idea of running a business without a heavy reliance on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology would be a risky endeavor. In pest management, however, the strategic use of such systems could still help a company pull ahead as a market leader.

Back in the spring, Emilio Polce, president of Ecochoice Termite & Pest Control, LLC, in Vernon, Conn., brought on a specialist to help with leads, email marketing and social media. Polce was overwhelmed by the process of keeping up with customers, he admits, and the new hire introduced somewhat of a bundled software package including HubSpot.

“I never did any type of email marketing, and wouldn’t know where to begin,” he said. “But we’ve seen a big difference. We’ve never had people reach out and want to be part of our mailing list before, or to be part of our Facebook posts. We’re capturing more leads, and they’re quality leads. The close rate is very high.”

Before this year, he said, “Customers may have contacted us for a one-time ant or bee problem, or service in the spring or fall, but then we were losing touch.” The new efforts, however, help keep Ecochoice staying “top-of-mind. They’re now getting information from us on a regular basis. We’ve had people who haven’t done business with us in a few years reach out to us because of the emails from HubSpot.”

The difference has been significant enough that Polce has been able to reduce the amount of money spent with HomeAdvisor. And it’s not just about making sales, he said; it’s also about building better relationships. That’s what CRM is all about.

HubSpot, Salesforce, Housecall Pro, ServiceTitan, PestPac, Service Fusion and a host of other tools help businesses better “manage” customer interactions and engagement. That might focus on leads and sales, but also might involve keeping track of technicians while they’re out on calls, optimizing routes, providing reminders of upcoming service (or even customer birthdays), analysis of data to see which promotions are working and which aren’t, and creating more effective marketing.

Tips for beginners

In 2017, Small Business Trends online magazine published a list of 25 CRM best practices for beginners. Near the top of the list was the necessity of doing a need analysis up front. Brent Leary, CRM expert, told Small Business Trends that the assessment should detail what problems the business is trying to solve, what processes need to be implemented, what success looks like, and how it’s measured.

As with any technology, it can be easy to be dazzled by features or lured in by price—­especially when offerings are free. Even HubSpot has basic components with no charge among its variety of packages. But if the system doesn’t deliver what’s needed—and truly answer a business problem—it may end up being more trouble than it’s worth.

“Always look at the broader picture,” Small Business Trends advised. “Will and how will your CRM help you achieve the goals you have in place for your small business?”

CRM Trends, meanwhile, released a list of top CRM trends for 2018. Among them: content that is interesting and relevant on all platforms; an authentic, holistic, personal and inventive customer experience; and personalization. In other words, companies wanting to engage and retain customers today must know not only who they are, but also want they want—and how they want it delivered.

David Marshall, CEO of Arizona Pest Squad in Tempe, has discovered that customers often want service immediately—and both technology and a can-do attitude help it happen.

“When they step out of their comfort zone to say, ‘Can you help me?’ you’d better be able to help them right away.”
Arizona Pest Squad uses software by ServicePro to handle route optimization, tracking, appointment scheduling and more. And everything, he said, is “real-time.”

When a technician is on the way to a service call, the customer receives a text with a photo of the technician, license number, and other info. Within a few minutes after the service, the customer will receive a follow-up communication asking how the service went. In between, should a neighbor be interested in service, Arizona Pest Squad can do the additional call right away, and the referring party immediately receives a $25 financial reward. There’s also a mobile team that remains available to respond right away to requests from Yelp, HomeAdvisor and other lead generation resources. When customers visit the company website, they automatically start seeing banner ads, Marshall said, and those leads are solid.

Even with software in place, however, Marshall believes he can’t be hands-off. The technology actually spurs him toward the opposite. Coming from a music industry background, he said he learned early to stay personally involved in the making things happen. Today, he still goes out on calls himself to “stay in the know, stay in the tracks.” Technology aside, he sees virtually everything the company does as “customer relationship management”—right down to keeping track of the names and birthdates of customer’s dogs for an added personal touch.

Jumping in

For those interested in adding new technology, the experts recommend doing the research, potentially working with a consultant to find the right option, and considering not only where the business is today, but also where it’s headed tomorrow. The right data, after all, faithfully collected, kept up to date and used in the right way, can help any company more effectively reach its goals.

“Do your homework on the systems out there,” said Jeffrey M. Ryan, owner of The Small Business Partners, a Buffalo, NY-based consulting and strategy firm. “Do they solve your pain points as a business? Do you have a technical person in your business that has the time and skillset to build and manage the system? Business owners can do it themselves, but it is an investment of time that many owners don’t have.”

Most small business owners, Ryan said, still don’t know what CRM stands for, much less what it really is. There also are misconceptions that CRM tools are only for large businesses, and are just sales and marketing systems.

The reality, however, is that CRMs have evolved into a complete operating system for small businesses, and as such, are worth exploring. Ryan’s company works with small business owners to fully understand how their organizations operate and what the future goals are, and then builds written processes and custom CRM solutions.

It’s important to be wary, Ryan advised, of anyone who wants to jump in and build a CRM without careful analysis first.
That, he said, is like putting lipstick on a pig. CRMs can now manage every aspect of a small business: sales, marketing, customer management, email marketing, text marketing, direct mail, social media, websites, proposals, quotes, invoicing, contracts, inventory, accounting, expenses, reporting, human resources, recruiting and more. As such, pest control companies can have it all—they just need to decide what their unique “all“ should entail.

By Fiona Soltes

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