When Parlor Custom Skis and Boards first opened in 2013 with just 25 pairs of custom-built skis, it was easy to manage production and customer relationships. As head of sales and marketing, I kept everything in my head: customers’ names, which skis belonged to who and all the key specs.


But as we got bigger, we started to make mistakes. There was simply too much customer information for me to manually track on an Excel spreadsheet. It was overwhelming. The system we had—if you can even call it a system—kind of broke down.


The good thing is we saw the problem coming. A year in, we realized we needed a solution for formalizing our very informal system in order to preserve that feeling of one-on-one customer interaction, but on a much greater scale.


In 2014, we adopted the HubSpot CRM, a customer relationship management tool that’s provided for free with our other HubSpot subscription services that allows us to track interactions and automate some of our communications. We’re not only selling a product, but an experience and a service—so this gives us the ability to really enhance our experience.


Our CRM has helped us facilitate our rapid growth, as Parlor has posted annual sales increases of 20% to 35% since we adopted it. Our factory will produce 500 pairs of custom skis this year, making us the largest ski manufacturer in New England. And there’s no way we could have sustained a trajectory like that without our CRM.


Lifting customer care

What the CRM does is allow us to provide a seamless experience for customers—so there aren’t holes in our communication—and we can track how we’ve served them over time, so they don’t need to remind us every time they call or email. For example, it can easily show us what the customer has bought from us, or even questions they’ve asked. That allows us to forge a long-term relationship with them because we have that built-in memory bank that any of our employees can access.


There are four critical customer touchpoints our CRM automates:


  1. First contact. A potential customer can enter the CRM system in a variety of ways—by responding to a direct email from me, filling out a web form or entering a giveaway. We now have your name and email, and we know you who are.


  1. Placing an order. If you order a pair of skis, the CRM emails and texts you updates: “We’re preparing parts for your skis.” “Your skis are going into the press.” “Hey, your skis are done.” It takes four weeks to build a product, and the updates provide continuing high-level customer care.


  1. Ongoing interaction. The buying cycle for skis can take as long as seven years. It’s not something you purchase every year. Once you are in the system, the CRM tracks conversations we’ve had, specs we might have discussed, referrals you’ve made. So when a customer calls, even years later, it allows us to be accurate and super responsive.


  1. Staying in touch. The CRM allows us to stay in touch with our past customers or prospects in different ways. For example, if we do an event for existing customers, you get invited. Or if it’s been a couple of years since you bought skis from us, we’ll email you care information with a note that says “You’ve had your skis for a while now. You might want to bring them in for service.”


“So when a customer calls, even years later, it allows us to be accurate and super responsive.”


Scaling up service

The CRM has allowed me to be much more efficient, freeing me up to offer better service to more people. Our early customers got the most hands-on experience from start to finish. But this lets us maintain that feeling at a larger scale.


For small business owners who are thinking about bringing on a CRM, here’s my best advice: They all sort of do the same things. Our CRM has features we don’t use because they’re not relevant to what we do. Figure out exactly what jobs you want your CRM to do and make sure the solution you choose offers that functionality.


As a small business, the relationship you build with the client is super important. At Parlor, we’re always looking for new ways to give people better value, more information and different touchpoints. Tools are tools, but how you use them is where the great potential lies.

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