Archive for March, 2012

SME sector says Business is looking brighter

SME sector sees growth potential in UK

Although the economic crisis continues to place severe pressure on small and medium-sized businesses and make trading conditions difficult, the outlook is encouraging.

SMEs account for the majority of all enterprise in the UK and feedback indicates many are placing themselves in the best possible position to survive and prosper by running a tighter ship, streamlining services and becoming more customer-focused as they work hard to retain existing clients.

A recent survey indicated four fifths of SMEs believe that 2012 will be better than 2011.

Consumers still value the individual care and attention to detail a small business can offer and those SMEs which invest time in nurturing the relationship they share with their customers will encourage loyalty and satisfaction.

Advances in social media and digital marketing have widened the opportunities for businesses to communicate with their customers and develop stronger relationships. Social media, in particular, gives businesses a direct route to their customers and provides a valuable insight into their habits and preferences. It’s one of the most cost-effective options for building brand awareness and the information collected can be used to modify sales and marketing projects to be more personal to specific customers.

Evidence shows more and more SMEs are embracing social media and using it to manage their reputation and the relationships they have with their customers. They are also measuring their performance by actively seeking feedback from customers and welcoming complaints so they can improve service standards.

Many small or medium sized businesses are also reporting good profits despite the economic downturn and are seeing a steady stream of work. Although the financial climate has led to cost-cutting and staff losses, the result has been a more streamlined operation which is both competitive and growth-orientated.

However, despite the growing optimism, the availability of finance continues to be an on-going concern among SMEs and a barrier to growth. Banks are now much more likely to reject loan applications and overdraft requests as they did before the financial crisis. Many businesses are reluctant to even attempt to apply for finance because of the perception they would be unsuccessful.

Taken from a discussion at Business Exposure Group

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CRM systems – vital or just a good idea?

The way a business manages its relationships with its customers can play a significant role in its success. In times of economic uncertainty in particular, the importance of strengthening loyalty and retaining existing customers is often paramount to the business’s survival.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a widely implemented strategy for managing a company’s interaction with customers and projects. It involves using technology to organise and synchronise business processes.

However, CRM shouldn’t be viewed as an IT project alone to make customer contact more effective and efficient. It needs to involve the whole business and should be embraced as a strategy to understand more about customer needs and use that information to enhance relationships and modify sales techniques.

The overall goals are to find, attract and win new clients, nurture existing clients, entice former clients back and to reduce the cost of marketing and client services. Identifying which of your customers is more profitable can improve your marketing success and ultimately lead to increased sales and stronger customer satisfaction.

CRM Systems – Are they different?

There are many types of CRM including sales force automation (providing sales reps, managers and executives with more selling time and less administration), marketing (identifying potential targets and measuring multichannel campaigns) and customer service and support software (to identify and reward loyal customers).
There’s also appointment scheduling, analytics, collaboration between teams within a business and social media, where companies look to gain access to conversations and take part in the dialogue.

However, there are disadvantages of CRM. Businesses can find the process of training their staff to use the new systems they have installed challenging. It can also require additional work for the team through data inputting and will require continuous maintenance and system upgrades.

There may also be issues with data protection and processing times and it could run the risk of dehumanising a process that should be personal.

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