When we first start out in business, we have all the time in the world. Every inquiry, every meeting, every contract and every other step of the transaction has our undivided attention, because - let's face it - we don't yet have a whole lot else to do. Of course, most of us hope to steadily grow our business and to become busier and busier, which means staying on top of our clients only gets harder and harder.
That's where CRM comes in.
The term CRM (customer relationship management) refers to a system or software that helps you manage any combination of your sales, marketing, operations and client interactions. And when your business really takes off and you suddenly have more client interactions than you can handle, your CRM becomes a lifesaver.
Here are just a few examples of how a good CRM program can help you stay on top of your wedding business:
- Capture contact forms from your website and store client inquiries in one place
- Track client emails sent and received
- Generate and collect quotes, contracts, and invoices
- Follow clients through each stage of your process, reminding you of to-do items along the way
- Send automated email campaigns for marketing purposes
- Produce sales reports and other data relevant to your business
There are lots of different CRM products on the market today - I haven't had a chance to review them all (my first experience with a CRM software was an early version of Microsoft CRM!) but I love that developers are improving on these products, making them increasingly relevant to wedding business owners and other creatives, all the time.
Currently, I use 17Hats (this is my affiliate link) for my copywriting business and coaching services. While I don't think any system is completely perfect, I really like being able to instantly send contracts that can be signed online, craft my own questionnaires, and track exactly where clients are in my workflows. I've been happy enough with it that, after using 17Hats for about six months for my smaller ventures, I also transitioned my DJ company - which services 400 events per year - over to it as well, with no regrets.
Of course, lots of other alternatives exist for your consideration. Kyle's been faithfully using ShootQ, while others use products like Honeybook, Aisle Planner, Salesforce and Highrise. Each has its own benefits and shortcomings, so you'll definitely want to research which meets your needs, but the important thing is that you use something.
If you aren't yet at a phase where investing in a CRM product makes sense for your business, you can still plan ahead for a time when it does. Make notes as you walk a client through your process, so that you can see (in writing) all of the steps it requires to take a client from a new inquiry to a completed event, with thank-you note sent and review/testimonial requested. Brainstorm ideas for how you might automate at least some of these steps in the future. Consider what kinds of data you might want to be able to generate in the form of reports, and identify which parts of your client management take up the most time. Being aware of this kind of information will be tremendously helpful when you start researching which CRM software will be most useful for your business.
While I can't in good conscience advocate that a brand-new business owner sink money they don't have into a resource they don't technically (yet) need, I also am a believer in the adage "Start as you wish to go on," and business practices are no exception. With hard work and a good strategy, your wedding business will grow before you know it, and having a system to stay on top of your customer service before you need it is something you aren't likely to regret.
We'd love to know your favorite CRM software, and any other strategies you use to manage your clients. Feel free to comment here or join the discussion over on Facebook or Instagram!