Add a CRM system to unleash the full power of Microsoft 365

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The missing link

You’ve been a longtime Microsoft Office user, and recently you’ve upgraded yourself to Microsoft 365. You’re enjoying the benefits. You can access any document or file on the cloud anytime and anywhere you want … and on your desktop, too. You’ve got gigabytes of storage space for you and your team. You’re collaborating more. You’re easily using it on any device. You’re also using the service to host your email, conduct online meetings, and create presentations. Your system is secure. It’s fast. And it’s always updated. You’re feeling like the prince of productivity.

Except…you’re missing something.

It’s made by Microsoft but it’s not included with Microsoft 365. However, it integrates deeply with the apps in Microsoft 365. No business productivity system is complete without it. Guessed the right answer yet? A CRM system.

What is a CRM system?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. There are many good CRM options for individuals and very small companies — like Zoho and Insightly — and larger versions such as for larger companies. Microsoft’s excellent version is called Dynamics CRM — and it adds itself right to the Microsoft 365 portal. While all these CRM options will integrate or synchronize with your Microsoft 365 apps, you subscribe to your CRM system separately.

And it’ll change the way you do business in these three important ways:

You’ll build a valuable business database.

A CRM system is your hosted business database, a repository of valuable data about anyone and everyone who comes in contact with your business. Customers. Vendors. Suppliers. Prospects. Partners. Friends. Family. The good systems are designed to hold millions of records, so whether you’re a one-person shop, a very small business or a larger company, you’ll be set. If used the right way, you’ll build up a database of all of those in your community over time.

Even better? Everything you’re doing in Microsoft 365 will be logged and stored in this database. Your emails, tasks and appointments from Outlook can automatically be synchronized into the database. Your Word docs and Excel files can be stored there, too. Your conversations will be noted and saved. And not just for you – but for your whole company.

It will be a one-stop database that holds everything about anybody who touches your business. It’s shared by all. It’s an enormous intangible asset.

Nothing will fall through the cracks.

As you build your database you’ll get good at scheduling follow-ups. Your customers will be reminded to order again. You will proactively check in with your clients. Quotes and proposals will be pursued. You’ll stay on top of your opportunities and forecasted sales. You’ll know about open problems and service issues. You’ll create lists and ensure there is a continuous communication process with your community so that they are hearing from your company through emails, printed correspondence, phone calls and meetings throughout the year. You will create simple workflows to alert you and others when things are due or outstanding. No one gets forgotten. Nothing gets left behind.

A great CRM system ensures continuity and ongoing relationships.

No one in your company will look like a dope.

And I mean that. There’s nothing worse for a customer then when he or she calls a company and they’re treated like a stranger. That doesn’t happen with a good CRM system. You and your employees are sharing all interactions with your community in the system. You have the system integrated with social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. You have emails, activities, notes, conversations and documents linked to every contact and account.

You will allow your customers to communicate with you through a web portal. So when that customer (or prospect, or partner, or friend) calls in, whoever answers the phone knows everything about that person: who spoke to her last, what work was done, notes about her, who’s scheduled to talk or see her next, what events of yours she attended, who she’s connected to on LinkedIn, etc. That way, instead of saying, “Who are you?” your people are saying, “Hello, and great to talk to you again!” It makes an enormous difference.

So you’re right: Microsoft 365 is great. But it can be much, much greater if you just add in a crucial, missing piece. That’s a CRM system. It doesn’t matter how small or big your business is. It’s worth it.

Gene Marks
Gene Marks writes a daily column for the Washington Post on business and public policy. He also writes weekly for Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, and periodically for The Huffington Post and Gene also regularly appears on Fox News, MSNBC, Sirius XM Radio and ABC radio. His work reaches hundreds of thousands of business owners and executives each week. Gene is a Certified Public Accountant and runs the Marks Group PC - a 10-person technology and management consulting firm located near Philadelphia. He spent nine years with the international firm KPMG, most recently as Senior Manager. Gene speaks frequently to business groups so they can better understand the trends affecting their businesses and - most importantly - the actions they should take to continue to grow and profit.