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I am the CRM chump.
In this blog I share my experiences, lessons and learning about Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software, Marketing & Lead Management Systems, and other related business software systems.

 

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How to Select The Right Marketing Software System

A Systemic Approach to Evaluating Lead Management Systems

Marketing has always been charged with reaching out to new prospects and existing customers and then forwarding leads to the sales team. Historically, marketing processes have been more art than science; marketers often worked more by feel and intuition than by facts. However, that subjective work behavior is difficult to methodically improve, scale and often results in performance inconsistencies. When marketers deliver highly qualified leads, they are celebrated; but when they don't they are dismissed or put on the spot to explain themselves. This hit or miss performance casts doubt on the strategic value of the function and marketing can quickly come to be seen as a discretionary expense, particularly when companies are downsizing.

The marketing mantra hasn't changed, but the software tools at marketing's disposal have. A new breed of marketing software systems which use prospect behaviors and lead management best practices empower marketers to acquire more leads, but more significantly allow marketers to include more intelligence with those leads, and thus better qualify them for the sales force. These marketing software systems also automate the lead scoring and nurturing processes, thereby automatically maturing leads until they are sales-ready.

Selecting the right marketing software system can be relatively simple, if you understand what to look for.

The Marketing Business Problem

The challenging economic climate has resulted in staff and budget cuts to many sales and marketing departments. Sales people have more pressure to sell, and to do that they need to receive qualified sales leads at the time buyers are ready to buy. Studies by Gartner and Aberdeen illustrate that sales staff actually now need more leads than in the past just to achieve flat revenue production. Acquiring those sales-ready leads is marketing's responsibility – and they too have to do more with less resources. However, while sales people have gained automation and information from SFA systems, CRM software and other sales tools, marketing staff have largely been forced to accelerate the manual business processes that have yielded mixed performance results.

Marketing practices are well known and laborious. They start with basic lead generation and are then followed by gauging the readiness to buy based on a weighted scoring system that attributes values to rank and qualify prospects. Qualified leads are forwarded to sales, while the rest are either disqualified or inserted into lead nurturing programs. Several of these nurture programs may be performed simultaneously, using the lead data to determine what messaging and content is best received for each type of lead.

But these processes can easily break down. A remarkable percentage, perhaps near half, of sales leads received by the sales team are not acted upon timely or at all. Leads passed to sales, but not believed qualified by sales, are often simply ignored and not passed back to marketing for continued nurturing. Similarly, lead nurturing often takes a back seat to lead generation and fails to receive the attention it needs to succeed. Read more about marketing software systems »



Getting the Jump on Lead Management Software

A Proven Approach to Implementing Lead Management Systems

A new generation of technology is aimed at increasing the volume of qualified sales leads to be distributed to the sales force. But in order to put that technology to work, sales staff will have to work closely with marketing staff to tackle some long-standing issues. Difficulties with lead management pre-date marketing automation – think of Alec Baldwin taunting his sales team with a stack of leads on index cards in the movie Glengarry Glenross. However, with team cooperation and some software automation tools there are fewer excuses for allowing these difficulties to persist.

A relatively new generation of lead management systems enables marketers to better qualify sales leads, append those leads with additional personal data, and recycle the leads that don't pan out today into nurture marketing campaigns. For sales pros, it should be an era of working more qualified sales opportunities, increasing close rates and earning more commissions. But unless you tackle the long-standing cultural issues that keep marketing and sales from working as a cohesive team, these lead management systems will simply accelerate a broken process.

One of the more subtle powers of lead automation systems is their ability to act as a catalyst for systemic change in how your marketing and sales organizations operate together. Once you know what these software automation tools can do for for the sales team, you'll want to work closely with your marketing staff to make sure they understand how those tools can help them as well. Read more about lead management systems »



10 Signs Its Time For a CRM Software Upgrade

Key Factors To Determine Whether to Refine or Replace Your CRM Software System

CRM systems are widely hailed as the tools to enhance customer relationships, grow customer share and aid your company's path to a profitable bottom-line. However, sometimes CRM applications feel a bit like an old clunker. But how do you know if it's time to trade in your CRM system or just give it a tune-up?

"This is a challenging economic climate, so companies should think doubly hard about what they can do to make better use of what they already have," comments David Frenkel, CEO of Panviva, a developer of business process automation applications.

"We see a lot of enterprises contemplating major rip-and-replace CRM system projects," laments Frenkel. "However, we know that most CRM software failures are more a result of end user adoption problems rather than software issues." A new training program for staff may be the only upgrade you actually need.

According to the CRMshortlist.com CRM Review Report, most CRM applications scale well and can be tailored to accommodate most any feature set or reporting requirement, but, there is a time when a software upgrade or trade-in makes more business sense. The challenge is in being able to know the difference. The experts have weighed in with their recommendations and advice on how to make that call. You May Need a CRM Upgrade If … »



Forgotten CRM Fields: Data Capture To Jump-Start Your CRM Success

Look Beyond Default CRM Data Collection to Unique Customer Behaviors and Metrics

Those experienced with CRM applications know that these business software systems can be incredibly valuable tools for aggregating information about customers and their behaviors. After all, the current era of CRM systems grew from personal contact management systems, which organized customer contact data for sales reps, and then grew in scope to include marketing and customer service in a goal to build a complete picture of customer relationship.

To aid important data capture, CRM vendors have designed their business software systems to store the most common data that forms the basis of understanding customers. While most customer management systems come ready to capture the basics, this out of the box delivery represents only the lowest common denominator for customer data capture and understanding. Every organization is different, and so the data captured and correlated within a customer relationship management application should vary from company to company based on its unique customer market, products or services, and business processes.

However, it is more common that this added value is never considered, and CRM software is allowed to work on autopilot without thoughtful consideration of data that could result in key corporate learning and competitive advantages.

For some organizations this lost opportunity is the result of a misalignment in customer facing business processes. For example, "Customer satisfaction reviews are easy to include in CRM systems but are often not implemented," advises Jeff Lionz, president of Lionzforce, a California CRM consultancy. Typically this happens not because the CRM system cannot accommodate the data but instead because no one has sponsored the idea of including the survey data. Without a sponsor, a good idea simply remains on the sidelines and the effectiveness of the CRM software is impaired. Read more about CRM data capture »



Implementing CRM Metrics For Continuous Process Improvement

Key Performance Indicators Lead to Continuous Business Performance Improvements

Successful businesses aren't built on luck. They're built on strategic planning, tenacious execution, rigourous feedback and continuous process improvement.

For users of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, often the most under-implemented component of the closed loop process is the feedback system. So how do you acquire the feedback to constantly hone your customer facing business processes and CRM applications? Pay attention to the performance metrics.

That's where measuring, analyzing and leveraging all that helpful data that's being recorded and collected in your business applications, particularly in your Customer Relationship Management software, becomes a more valuable resource to your business than you ever imagined.

It's important to understand that your work doesn't end after deploying your CRM system. In fact, it's just getting started.

You purchased and implemented your CRM system to improve marketing campaign performance, sales pipeline visibility, customer service response or any of the other objectives that improve your customer relationships, and subsequently grow your business. But if you stop moving forward with your CRM software after the go-live event, then you're missing the opportunity to baseline your performance and implement programs to continually raise the bar.

Most CRM systems include performance dashboards, operational reporting, business intelligence and built-in query tools to measure the successes and failures of customer interactions along the way. If the CRM software tools aren't robust enough, there are plenty of third-party software vendors who can deliver enhanced tools to measure the true efficiency or effectiveness of your customer facing business processes. Read more about CRM metrics »



CRM Software Improvement Checklist

Implement Periodic CRM Software Reviews to Increase User Satisfaction and ROI

As another year begins wouldn't it be nice to start fresh without the leftover IT hassles from the prior year? CRM systems touch both your customers and a wide population of your company staff. Making improvements in your CRM application can have material and sustained benefits in the years to come. Now may be a great time to make some tweaks to your CRM software in order to improve customer facing business processes and customer service, to both your external and internal customers.

  • Start by catching up on your CRM software suppliers Web site for all recent patches and updates and apply them now before the nonstop work starts piling up and this fails to make it to the top of the priority list. This is an important software maintenance item and it's good practice to get into the habit at the start of the year. Also check for related software patches for your operating systems, web servers, databases and other related applications.

  • Have any glaring holes in your CRM system that need to be filled? Any missing software modules that could help with employee productivity? Any newly released features that you haven't implemented yet? Now may be a good time to talk with your CRM vendor to see if they have special end-of-year pricing or similar promotions to bolster their revenue before the end of quarter or year, while helping you fill your needs.

  • Are there any remaining CRM software training issues that need to be gone over with your staff? Can your users help your business get more out of the CRM system by getting more in-depth training? Can your staff help you bring in more sales, customers and business opportunities by improving their knowledge and skills with the application? If so, now is a great time to look at additional training options to expand software skills. Investing in your staff who use these tools can only help maximize software ROI. Read more about CRM improvement checklists »



Are Competitive Digs by CRM Vendors Effective?

CRM Software Companies Have a Long History of Trading Barbs for PR and Headlines

Oracle Open World was bill boarded by CRM pundits as an event where Oracle would "trash every software vendor in the universe and tell you why they rule." To that end, Larry Ellison would not disappoint and in his Sunday keynote address delivered a number of digs at a few different software technology companies, but mostly toward cloud company, Salesforce.com. The Oracle CEO claimed Salesforce.com was not really a cloud company, it was just a 10 year old software company, but not a cloud company like Amazon. That statement was a head scratcher for me. Cloud computing doesn't really work without cloud software, and Oracle bagging on a company because of the age of its underlying software foundation is ironic as software as a service (SaaS) was only introduced at the turn of the century, and then the cloud a few years after that.

CRM software buyers and customers have seen a lot of sniping between CRM software vendors, usually with Salesforce.com as both the lightning rod and the instigator. Salesforce.com has probably become a frequent target in part because of their success, and in part as they were the original party crashers back to the earlier days when they were the spoilers of Siebel's annual user conferences - and other CRM competitor conferences as well. Salesforce's CEO Mark Benioff spoke at Oracle's OpenWorld and dispensed a few zingers of his own – clearly reacting to the barbs tossed Salesforce's way on Sunday night. After stating "We come in peace!", he then lampooned Ellison's "cloud in a box" hardware announcement.

Like several software technology vendors, SugarCRM has also taken some shots at Salesforce.com at its event and even staged a mock counterprotest at Dreamforce last year. And the CRM conferences go on and on. Perhaps it's creative and all - "look, we're saying things that end up in the media!" - but I think it's probably not the most mature or wisest behavior to engage in from a Customer Relationship Management or reputation point of view. Read more about competitor behaviors »

 

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