Do you keep a record of your clients? Is it an excel spreadsheet you loathe wading through? Or is it a beautifully computerised system that gives you peace of mind, like having your own personal secretary?
When I first started out in business, I didn't do much in the way of marketing. If I wanted to find the last time I e-mailed someone, I had to scroll back through my e-mails or use the search function.
It wasn't the best system, to say the least. I'd meet people at wedding fayres who weren't sure when they'd be getting married. So I'd ask them to call me when they'd settled on a date.
But this meant the onus was on the customer. Why should they have to find me? And that's how I lost customers - from not keeping in touch when I should have been.
Clearly, this couldn't go on forever if I wanted to stay in business.
I thought about my average customer's journey:
Go to wedding fayre. Meet me and get a flyer.
Buy wedding dress. Think about lace on dress going with lace on a cake.
Get flowers arranged.
Decide a cake's important. Who should they go with? Who was that person they met at that wedding fayre?
Book transport for the wedding.
Send out 'save the date' cards.
Think about cake again. Where's that cake flyer?
Google cake makers in Bristol. Choose the first one that pops up.
And there it is at number 10 - the very thing I want my customers to avoid. Why should they have to do all the legwork? Wouldn't it be easier if they had someone in mind? By the time they get to number 6 they should know already who'll be making their cake (and it should be me).
So I looked into small business CRM systems. (Although CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, I think it's far easier to think of it as 'how to stay in touch with your customers and make sure they choose your services').
The one I ended up choosing was Táve. I briefly looked at a few others like Studio Ninja and 17 Hats but Táve had a great write-up from someone in a similar field so I gave them a shot.
What Táve will do for you
There are lots of things it does but here are my 'most important, couldn't live without, thank you so much someone invented this' reasons for choosing Táve.
The traffic light system
As soon as you've entered a customer's details, they automatically get a green light. This means NEW CUSTOMER! Hey! This person's just made an enquiry! When they book their cake, they move from the LEADS box to the JOBS box. But if they haven't yet booked, they soon change to amber. A while later, they change to red (or 'stale' as Táve likes to put it). In other words, at a glance I can see if I've kept in touch with my customers. If they've got a red box next to their name, it means I need to give them a call or send them an e-mail. If I don't, they could easily go to a competitor (shudders).
All communications stored under one roof
If a customer, their fiancé, their mother-in-law and the venue have each sent me a dozen e-mails with a number of different requests, I don't want to have to hunt for them. With Táve, all the e-mails are there under the customer's order, along with my notes (such as when I've telephoned them and if they have any dietary requirements - very important for a gluten-free cake business!).
No-one wants to type out the same e-mail over and over again. Previously, I had a set of templates in Word which I'd copy and paste into an e-mail and then customise. But with Táve, all this is done for you already. You just click the template you want to send (e.g. "How to find The Bakehouse") and it'll put your customer's name and your contact details into the e-mail for you. You can add files (I send a map & photos of how to find me) and even include invoices if you want them to make a payment. It certainly makes contacting people far more efficient.
Calendar & dashboard
I like pen and paper calendars. They're easy, right? Hmmm. Not when people call to change an appointment or you realise you've suddenly got 5 wedding cakes all to be delivered on the same day. But the Táve calendar ensures everything's recorded. If you double-book yourself a little angry red triangle appears (and who'd mess with an angry red triangle?). It also converts everything into a 'dashboard' so you can see at a glance what's coming up.
If you know where people are coming from, you know where to invest your money in marketing, right? Táve records how people have found me (e.g. search engine/wedding fayre/Twitter etc...). It then puts this information into a helpful little pie chart. It also does this for all sorts of other things. It shows how long it takes for someone to make a booking, why someone chose not to book a cake with me (e.g. their friend's making their cake) and best of all, stops me from making an educated (but naïve) guess at why things are happening in my business.
What Táve doesn't do
Clearly, no system is perfect. I'm not a particularly techie person, so it may be you can get round these issues, but for the moment I haven't managed it.
It doesn't sync with all e-mail systems. You can therefore only send your customers an e-mail but not receive them (although G-Mail & Hotmail can sync).
You can't send mass e-mails. Let's say you want to send your customers your latest newsletter (assuming they've all agreed to marketing material). You can't do this using Táve.
Automated e-mails will go out unless you manually stop them. Let's say you've got a set of e-mails set up to go to a client to persuade them to buy a cake. After the 2nd e-mail, they contact you and purchase something but you forget to cancel your 3rd automated e-mail asking them why they've not bought a cake. How weird is that going to look?
Those things aside, in the last month this new system of mine has led me to nearly £3,000 worth of new business (and notice I say 'new business' - it doesn't include clients already on my books).
So if you're wondering whether Táve's for you, click here to start a free 60 day trial. I honestly believe it's worth it.