Basic guide about CRM for newbies (part 1): A total and utter beginners guide to CRM databases

What is CRM?

It's a way of managing your clients, customers, prospects and work referrers.
 

What does CRM stand for?

It started many years ago as Customer Relationship Management. And depending on which sector you are in, you can replace the C. For instance, if you are in professional services. 
 

What do professional services call CRM then?

They still call it CRM. But in that industry it's 'client relationship management'. Simply because they call customers, clients. 
 

Customer? Clients? What about prospects / referrers if CRM?

Yep, which is why Customer Relationship Management can be Client Relationship Management or Contact Relationship Management. Thank goodness they all start with C. 
 

What isn't CRM?

It isn't just sending them a mailshot. It's how you manage your relationship and spot opportunities resulting from that. Could involve sending them stuff that's relevant (please don't just send all your database the same newsletter - your contacts will soon turn everything off from you). 
 

Is CRM a database?

Not exactly, but it's so closely tied with databases, that most people would say "Yep, it's a database". And it gets a bit hard to swim against the tide. 
 

What does a CRM database do for you?

It depends on how you get most of your profitable long term sales. You get a CRM database (or CRM system) that suit your sales, Business Development and Marketing activity. Get a lot of work from doing events? Get a system that manages events. Don't do events? You'd be wasting your money getting one that is really good at delegate management. 
 

What do CRM databases do?

As a basic, they allow you to add all your contacts into one central database that everyone who needs access to, can get into. 
 
* All will allow you to log meetings and action points against those contacts. 
* Most will also allow you to track your opportunities in a sales funnel. 
* Most won't do email marketing. You need to add a email tool to them. 
* Most should link to an email tool. 
* Some will link to your Outlook contacts so you only really have one version of each contact in your organisation. 
* Few will have a simple event management tool. Fewer still will link to an external event management tool (if your lifeblood is events). 
* Some will also automate tasks and email actions (your marketing actions). Which is called 'Marketing Automation' funnily enough.
 

What is marketing automation?

This in the long run, becomes vital - if you are new to CRM, you'll also be new to marketing automation. All that is, is setting up the system to do things you usually get a human to do. No point getting a person press the 'go' button when a computer can do it (for instance, when you add a new contact, it sends them a pre-defined welcome note)
 

What sort of CRM databases are there?

Loads. Absolutely loads. 1,000's are available infact. Doing all sorts of the same actions, but slightly differently. Unfair isnt it.
 

How much do CRM databases cost?

* Some are free. 
* Some you buy outright and can use forever. 
* Some you buy and then pay a support fee each year. 
* Some you rent by user and by month. 
* Some you take free software but pay the IT consultant to tweak to your needs. 
* Or you can use Excel as you've probably already got that installed on your PC. Although Excel won't allow you to track activity and automate actions and emails. Unless you are very skilled. And even then, quite possibly not.
 
That's probably enough for now? Especially if you are very new to CRM. 
 
Good luck, and I hope this helps,
Simon