4 unconventional CRM strategies for touching base with customers

Most small business owners think customer relationship management is all about providing great customer service and managing your customers and projects as best you can. Which is one way to maintain great customer relations.

But CRM is much more than good account management. It involves staying in touch with customers at every juncture, from when they are new clients to when they are using your services or products to when they have fallen silent. Thus, CRM is an endeavor that covers the lifespan of every client relationship.

And this is precisely why it is so difficult for small businesses to maintain a consistent CRM program that is always firing on all cylinders. We small business owners have lots of other stuff to do besides calling up all our straggling customers and getting them back on the bus or shooting off regular missives to simply stay at the front of their mind.

Not to worry, friend, because here are 5 easy ways you can stay top-of-mind and in touch with your current and past customers.

1. Invoice notes

Yes, we all hate to get invoices (and don’t think for a minute that your clients don’t feel this way, too). Yes, we all groan when we see and

invoice and slyly peek inside, hoping it is less than it actually is. So why not make the experience a bit warmer and less dread-inducing for your clients.

Scribble a quick post-it note thanking them or with a warm message and affix it to the invoice. Or get really creative like having custom fortune cookie fortunes printed up and slipping a fun or idiosyncratic fortune into each invoice. It will add levity to the experience and remind your client why they like doing business with you.

2. “How can we improve” calls

Many companies send out long, impersonal e-surveys to customers to determine their level of satisfaction, which are most of the time ignored by clients who already have too much on their plate. However, one approach we have taken is to call up our clients twice a year and ask them one simple question: What’s the one biggest thing we can do to improve our service to you.

This works great on several levels.

  • It gives you a reason to reach out to current clients as well as those who may have fallen out of touch.
  • It gives you an excuse to engage in some small-talk and find out their current needs for your products/services.
  • You can find out some very interesting information that will directly benefit your business.
  • It makes your client feel good that you care about what they think and that you value the relationship.
  • It takes very little of your and their time.

Nuff said.

3. Open house

Did anyone say par-taaaaaay? Ok, this may involve a little more work than picking up a phone, but it shouldn’t really be all that taxing or expensive. Here’s our 5-step plan for a down-to-earth-but-heartfelt open house:

  • Send out snail-mail invites a month before, which your admin assistant (or your unpaid intern, or your eldest child, in case you don’t have an assistant) can complete.
  • Send out email reminders a week and a day before using one of the dozens of free email invitation services.
  • Spend an hour or two tidying up the office.
  • Take a trip to CostCo and buy a couple big party platters, a few cases of beer and soda pop and a case of $10 bottle of wine.
  • Roll out the red carpet for an afternoon and have your own happy hour with all your clients in the same room.

Oh, and according to several social psychology research studies, plying people with food and drink makes them more open to suggestions and more agreeable. Not that I’m suggesting you take advantage of people when they are in a weakened state  😉

4. The end-of-project (or transaction) “thank you”

Think about the last time you received a sincere, stand-alone thank you. Usually a thank you is tacked onto an invoice or a follow-up email as an afterthought, something that is more a pleasantry than an actual demonstration of heartfelt appreciation.

So next time you finish up a project with a client or finalize a big order, send that invoice or follow-up email. And then send another note (snail mail makes a bigger impact on people than email) or email (make sure it has a person’s name in the subject line and not something generic like “Customer Service” or “Sales”) that simply says “Thank You” in the subject line and then provides a short paragraph or two about how much you really do appreciate their service.

Better yet, personalize it with something related to the project or transaction. You may not hear anything in return, but you will certainly be heard.

Oh, and you can always use your handy-dandy business and project management software to keep tabs on your clients during your work with them  😉