The most important part of any business is its customer base – so it makes complete sense why customer relationship management (CRM) would be an integral component of any smart business plan. CRM is about a lot of things. It’s about reaching out to your customers, about keeping them happy, and about how you present your company through smart marketing. The latter becomes even more complex when you consider newsletter outreach, which is a whole entity in and of itself, calendars, scheduling, etc. There are also a lot of companies out there that forecast the CRM needs of small/large businesses and have developed services/software that help you keep on top of things. Here’s a review of some of the top ranking CRM software: EssentialPIM – I know of a great small business owner who caters to home theater needs of OC/LA’s elite…but as good as he is, his business is always struggling because he can’t retain clients. He can’t retain clients because he has a core problem with scheduling. He can’t make schedules, communicate them or stick to them. Ideal for home-based businesses and small business owners, EssentialPIM helps you keep on top of things with a great scheduler that lets you… Use the software’s task module to mark projects with different tiers of priority. Organize files with an unlimited number of folders and notes. Personalize files by including images, tables, etc. Crawl through all your files with easy search features that quickly find what you need (which is great when you’re in the middle of a call with a client). Import data from Outlook. Create easy-to-tackle to do lists. Export lists and calendars into HTML, making them easy to share with clients and associates. You can hyperlink any document. EssentialPIM also protects your data via passwords and encrypted files. Prices range from $40 to just under $100. You can also use EssentialPIM Free; however, it only gets you a fracture of the functions that EssentialPIM Pro offers. Centerbase – In addition to company calendar management, Centerbase offers data security, easy data import, live sales force automation and price flexibility - all this on an easy-to-use Centerbase Dashboard. Their calendar management feature works a lot like EssentialPIm, offering clients the ability to set and manage schedules, appointments, create reminders, track tasks, set priorities and deadlines. They take it a step further by integrating a central calendar with any individual record or file, which is great for merging a reference point, task or deadline in the calendar with a company product launch, sales lead or opportunity. Data can be secured by allowing either public view, read-only, private or custom. This customization is perfect for larger companies or those with many projects to manage that may be data sensitive. Whatever your data, you can import data into a consolidated registry that can be manipulated as needed. Drive your customer relations with a sales team that’s in the know. Centerbase’s live sales forecasting lets you anticipate trends by creating reports/charges based on existing information. This is especially necessary for e-commerce businesses to help them determine what needs they’ll have in the coming months. Taking a step back, Centerbase also helps manage leads by classifying sales relationships between accepting, closing, re-opening, sending an initial email and sending a closing email. This is an undervalued primary step that many small businesses can keep on top of, causing them to lose contacts that would have converted into customers if only a little more CRM was in play. Leads need to be nurtured and this is a great tool to do just that. Stay tuned next week for part 2, with more top CRM software and how it can work for you….