CRM Versus Contact Management Explained

14-Oct 2021

Modern marketing means more than just advertising your services and hoping that someone comes calling. Modern marketers prioritize creating personalized customer experiences and building authentic relationships. 

At the same time, automation technology helps the most rote tasks get done in record time. Keeping things organized through marketing automation leaves more time for the personal attention your potential clients expect.

Companies need ever more sophisticated systems to manage their leads as they move through this highly individualized, connection-driven sales process.

According to Thomson Data, " 86% of customers would pay up to 25% more for a better customer experience," meaning that lead management has become part of a wider focus on excellent, personalized client journeys.

When you're trying to level up your organization and improve overall prospect communication, you'll need to choose between traditional contact management and the newer approach of customer relationship management. Let's discuss the differences and how you can make a wise choice for your business.

What Is Contact Management?

Good businesses have always had some kind of contact management system. At its core, contact management is a database of names, numbers, other contact information, and maybe a note or two confirming who this person or company is.

Managing your contacts is certainly a key first step. If a sales representative finds a contact in the contact management database, they know that they've most likely had some kind of contact with the company before.

But you're unlikely to know from just finding a log of a particular prospect exactly where they are in the sales funnel and what approach would help bring them in as a client. This is part of why customer relationship management has become so important.

What Is a CRM?

Like contact management, a CRM, or customer relationship manager, does store methods for reaching out to particular leads or prospects. However, it brings a few more powerful tools to the table:

  • A CRM will store records of each contact your office has with this prospect, including details like what kinds of projects they've considered in the past or what they've signed up for.
  • A CRM will be an accessible portal that multiple teams within your business can use. Marketing may use it to determine what kinds of leads or prospects they want to find, sales may use it to tailor communication with high-value leads, and management can use it to get an idea of what's coming next for the business.
  • A CRM can really boost the ability of the company to personalize communication and create continuity even when multiple team members are handling things like customer relations and support, since it brings all the relevant information about a customer's connection to your business in one place.
  • A CRM can also help managers understand exactly how sales and marketing are working, allowing for detailed coaching when they want to see better results. 

What Are the Downsides of a Contact Management System?

In many ways, contact management systems haven’t evolved a lot since people were using Rolodexes on their desks. They do bring all of your contacts to one place, and they can keep a team organized. Many even allow multiple people to access the same software via the cloud.

However, the CRM is the next step in the evolution of contact management, bringing relevant options to the communication platform and becoming much more than a source of phone numbers. 

When a sales team member can breezily reference past conversations and offer tailor-made solutions and promotions, a conversation takes on a personal touch that can appeal to clients who are used to a more impersonal, hard-charging sales approach. 

Contact management, on the other hand, requires that team members mention and "hand off" client needs to each other manually, making sure everyone's up to speed. Otherwise, you risk creating a frustrated client who says they've already explained their needs to the last person who contacted them. 

Who Uses CRM Software?

These days, service firms of all kinds use CRMs to make strong connections and build a long-term source of warm leads for work. Everyone from accountants to engineers and graphic designers to IT service companies needs a system that allows them to keep track of distinct needs, interests, and project timelines.

CRMs dovetail well with project management systems since the information gleaned during the sales process remains relevant and is often the first important information handoff of a major project. 

When the project team incorporates all the details from the CRM, they can work to deliver exactly the project that was promised. 

What Are the Benefits of a CRM?

A customer relationship manager offers a valuable history of how your team has connected with a given client or potential client. The benefits include:

  • Seamless handoffs between team members, who have information at their fingertips to help a client without having to rehash their needs.
  • The ability to tailor outreach to potential repeat customers or past customers.
  • The ability to update contacts when they change, such as when a client contact leaves the job and someone new comes aboard, in a way that everyone can access. 
  • The potential for organized email marketing campaigns and other outreach, along with data analytics to understand how those efforts perform. 
  • The ability to build an organized strategy for client outreach that can be flexibly implemented depending on how busy your team currently is. 

A CRM should be part of the lifecycle of a project with your service company. After all, the information about any successful projects will help build a long-term relationship that brings repeat business.

Key Takeaways

When working with extensive client work projects, you don't want to rely on a simple database of contact information. Rather, you want to build long-term relationships that anyone in your company can jump into when needed, using all the gathered information to make a sale more likely.

A CRM platform can be especially powerful when integrated into a larger system that creates proposals, tracks projects, and completes projects with automated invoicing. 

The Accelo platform does much more than just track your clients before they sign on for a project. It gives your team a comprehensive profile of everything they've learned about the client and then tracks project approvals and comments in one place. 

Check out our features comparison to see how much more effective the Accelo approach can be compared with traditional contact management. 

Want to see how an integrated CRM in a client work management platform can work for you, building your profitability and productivity? Sign up for a free trial of Accelo today!

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