CRM (Customer Relationships Management) appears to meandifferent things to different people. I haven’t seen twodefinitions that really agree. The giant companies have manygoals when they speak of CRM. One that annoys me, that continuesto crop up, is the notion of immediate software response tocustomer requests. Sounds great. But when you read the fineprint, it also means less one-to-one company to customerinteraction. This is not a direction in which a small businesswants to move.

CRM (Customer Relationships Management) appears to meandifferent things to different people. I haven’t seen twodefinitions that really agree. The giant companies have manygoals when they speak of CRM. One that annoys me, that continuesto crop up, is the notion of immediate software response tocustomer requests. Sounds great. But when you read the fineprint, it also means less one-to-one company to customerinteraction. This is not a direction in which a small businesswants to move.

In the end, what these million dollar CRM systems do or donot do, matters little to small businesses. The price tag istoo high for most.

Is “Personalization” The Useful Part?

The better approach may be to look at some aspects of CRM tosee what can be done with software on our website to provide ourvisitors and customers with a more pleasant and enjoyableexperience. It may help to exit the CRM derby, stroll down arelated path, and think of only part of it: personalization.

Neat things flow forth from this orientation. For example,maybe invite visitors to check on things new since their lastvisit. Or on specials for the day, specifically tailored to this visitor in some way. Or when a customer clicks a form to reorder, fill the entry fields with data provided earlier. A great time saver for the customer, something they willappreciate. Simple, effective things such as these can beabstracted from CRM models at modest cost.

Large Scale Models

Large firms with bucks to burn can make personalizationcentral to a new kind of website. At a minimum, each page canaddress the visitor by name. At the extreme, the entire site can be presented according to previous information collected about this visitor. For example, if the visitor has kids, and a appropriate new product is available, it can be offered. And not offered to another visitor without children.

Building a website on the fly is a bit heavy for a smallbusiness. The coding challenge alone is heavy. The price tagfor software is high.

Still, a small business can implement simple ideas assuggested above. And more will spring from these.

For Starters

As a fellow into site performance and promotion, I’m alwaysleery of anything that may annoy a visitor. Hits are so hard toget, there’s just no point in inviting anybody to leave. So I’mvery concerned about any technology that risks turning visitorsaway.

I used a Pentium II PC for almost two years. Beginning abouta year back, some sites would not allow me to visit because Ididn’t have the latest and greatest. Maybe the giants can getaway with this, but a small business can not afford to lose evenone visitor.

In most cases, the reason I could not visit was that mybrowsers could not handle the trick JavaScript in place. I’ve a new system now, just 4 months old. A couple of days back I ran into a site that told me my software is out of date.

I have the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Netscaperunning. That is, the latest what work. (I couldn’t get IE 5.5to stop locking up my new system. And I don’t know of anyone whohas Netscape 6.1 running yet; I couldn’t make it work.)

To exclude any visitor because of the way a site is puttogether or the technology used, makes no sense to me at all. A small business can not afford this risk.

Let’s Keep It Super Simple

Your site must seek to embrace all visitors, regardless oftheir software or hardware. So what is needed to make suchsystems work is a very simple recognition procedure. It might go like this.

When a visitor arrives, put up a page in straight HTML,without any bells and whistles that would break even olderbrowsers. (My wife still uses Win 3.1 on a 486, and won’t eventalk of upgrading.)

Once the page is loaded, try running a brief JavaScript tocheck for a cookie. If the script fails, fall back and displayonly HTML pages. If the script runs, but does not find a cookie,ask the visitor if they would like a personalized visit about thesite. If no, forget it. If yes, get the information, save it,and use it. And finally, given a read of a cookie, personalizeas possible.

Will Bontrager , a top flightprogrammer, sees no problem in accomplishing the above. Further,he has a plan for holding costs down. Use a standard databasewith all possible fields, all of which will not be needed by agiven site. By holding to a standard format, the great expenseof a customized database installation is avoided. While Will did not put a price on it, a few hundred dollars might be ample.

With the database in place, JavaScript can handle a vastarray of personalization functions. If you don’t want to getinto writing this kind of code, libraries and code generatorswill provide you with workable code that can be cut and pastedinto your pages. And, of course, there are people like Will, who will produce precisely what you need.

It’s Past Time To Be Thinking

I ignored early announcements of CRM because there did notseem to be much of value to a small business. Which is the areain which I and my clients work.

I see now, though, that there are some things that can bedone in a simple, straightforward way. So long as we do notreject any visitor for lack of the latest tools, we can make the visit to our site more personal and more enjoyable for many.

Article Tags:
Small Businesses, Small Business

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob McElwain
Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already
have? Fix one that’s busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe
to “STAT News” now! mailto:join-stat@lyris.dundee.net
Web marketing and consulting since 1993
Site:
Phone: 209-742-6349

Bob McElwain
Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already
have? Fix one that’s busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe
to “STAT News” now! mailto:join-stat@lyris.dundee.net
Web marketing and consulting since 1993
Site:
Phone: 209-742-6349