by Cyndie Shaffstall
Whether you’re B2C, B2B, or B2E, you likely have (or want) prospects that you will convert to leads and from leads to customers. How you identify prospects, engage and nurture leads, and convert to customers is probably unique to your company and the products or services you sell; the software that you use to facilitate this process is called a CRM or customer relationship manager.
There are myriad CRM applications available, both standard apps and SaaS models and that in of itself is not a determination of the scope of functionality. Some CRMs are a small step up from list management applications or a series of features within other applications, such as an email-automation application. Others are complex end-to-end relationship identification, engagement, and closing tools, such as Salesforce.
In 2009, Forrester Research estimated that 47% of all CRM initiatives fail and the primary reasons for these failures are centered around a lack of focus, a lack of buy-in from stakeholders, and approaching the software as a technology rather than as a solution to managing customer relationships.
In this article, I’ll discuss how a CRM can be an effective method for enabling and empowering both your sales and your marketing teams, while keeping the C-suite informed and involved.
According to Manoj Ranaweera, CEO, edocr.com, “The customer-relationship management process can be illustrated as: lists + enrichment + qualification + emailing + scoring + sales + updating. Repeat.” I agree wholeheartedly that the process we’ve outline here has nuances that we have not disclosed, but for the purpose of an introduction, I’ll focus on the 35,000-foot view.
I am often asked by clients to weigh in on the topic of list rental and purchase, and my answer remains the same: it depends on the list. After sending millions of emails for our clients over the years, we know that the vast majority of commercially available lists do far more harm than good, but we’ve also found that even some of the worst lists can be gently nurtured in order to avoid a total loss.
Direct-mail lists, for instance, have shown to be powerful aids in the nurturing process and using this vehicle as an introduction before beginning an email campaign can mean the difference between expense and revenue.
List vendors range from the nefarious — lists of millions for a pittance — to the notorious, such as those offered by Dunn & Bradstreet or other reputable companies, and how each vendor collects the data will be reflected in the deliverability of your emails or direct mails.
As an example, we spoke with David Ramsey, president, Radiology Data, and learned that their list of radiology companies and departments has methodically built through the process of making individual phone calls to each of the facilities in their list. During the call, and introduction is made defining the purpose of their call and information collected concerning the appropriate contact person, the type of equipment, buying practices, and more.
According to Ramsey, “I see both sides of the coin. I own a business that needs prospects to whom we can market, but I’m also in the business of helping other companies with their prospects. With this unique vantage point, ensuring that our data is collected in a manner that produces the best results for my customers is of the utmost importance. At the same time, I want to ensure that the prospects’ names that we collect are high quality and the appropriate point person for the type of contact they will receive from our customers. This raises the bar on both deliverability and engagement.”
“I want to ensure that the prospects’ names that we collect are high quality and the appropriate point person for the type of contact they will receive from our customers.”
— David Ramsey, president, Radiology Data
In short, purchasing or renting a list can be a viable option for your business, but don’t forego your homework. Make sure you know how the list was generated, what expectations the people in the list have for receiving marketing messages, and, if you intend to email, use direct mail to first establish the relationship.
Whether you have an existing list or you have acquired a list, cleansing your list is an important process and one that should be repeated regularly. A CRM is a powerful tool and one that will help you to send appropriate messages and correspondence, shorten the sales cycle, manage contractual documents, and more, but only it will only be as accurate as the data within.
An especially helpful best practice is to have your list processed through the national change of address service offered by the USPS and licensed vendors. An NCOA will update the physical addresses for each prospect ensuring that mail is sent only to valid addresses (saving postage costs) and that you don’t head out the door for a meeting at an address that changed two years ago.
Other best practices include removing duplicates and appending data to gain information you don’t have (such as gender, age, income, revenue, and so on). Maintenance processes can be a great drain on resources, but with each cleansing session, the process will go more quickly, and you will find fewer errors.
If you’re just now in search of a CRM, the likelihood is that you’ve been tracking your prospects, leads, and customers in a spreadsheet or database application. The good news is that in most cases, you will be able to directly import this data without too much effort and, depending upon the size of your company, users, and other factors, you will have many to a few possible CRM solutions from which to choose.
In order to choose the best application, you should give consideration to the following (but this is not an exhaustive list):
For a feature comparison, information, and reviews on some of the contenders, visit SoftwareAdvice.com
As you develop your CRM system, you will use it to import/add prospects, nurture leads, monitor their position in the pipeline, track the value as an opportunity, manage contracts, close sales, and more. The interactions you have with leads offline in activities such as phone calls, meetings, trade show visits, and other events that occur outside the application, will be critical to an accurate understanding of each lead’s status.
As I pointed out in the introduction, the inability to gain buy-in from stakeholders is very often at the root of a failed implementation. In order to be successful, the people who use the system need to be involved in the selection, deployment, and training of which CRM you will use. Only then will you gain a commitment and concerted effort from them to add prospects and keep lead and customer records up to date.
Your marketing department is a wealth of information on the sales readiness of your leads. With today’s analytics software, marketers have unprecedented visibility into the behavior and preferences of recipients. When your sales team is armed with information about messages read, white papers downloaded, videos watched, podcasts heard, and other engagement points, the lead’s interest level in your products or services can be inferred.
“When you use your CRM, Excel, or other tools separately from your automated-email marketing, you’ve probably found yourself searching through old email conversations trying to determine engagement or have received an angry reply from a prospect you emailed who had already opted-out. CRMs and email-automation applications are designed to work in tandem. As the account owner, it’s your job to ensure they do.”
— Clint Wilson, CEO, Cazoomi
Integrating your CRM with your email-automation system will enable marketing and sales to work more closely together for the benefit of the organization through the sharing of data. In instances where you have chosen disparate systems, software connectors created by Cazoomi can bridge that gap. These connectors will enable you to pass sales lists, in whole or in part, to the email application and data collected about engagement with the campaign back to the CRM.
Lead scoring is information with both the CRM and email-automation system that indicates the level of sales readiness, usually with increasing numeric values, but not always. Capitalizing on advanced integration between your CRM and email-automation application, engagement with campaigns can increment lead scores in the same way that sales and offline engagement that is being tracked by the sales team. The syncing of this data to and from ensures that marketing messages are on target and that messaging improves sales readiness.
Your B2C, B2B, or B2E organization will benefit from a CRM deployment as collect prospects, track lead activity, and convert leads to customers. With dozens and perhaps hundreds of CRM applications available, choosing the appropriate feature set and gaining stakeholder buy-in will ensure a successful implementation.
Spider Trainers is a company of experts in email development, web development, search-engine optimization, analytics, graphic design, ad creation, multimedia creation, social-media postings, writing, and editing — and CRM-to-email integration.
As marketing-automation architects, we analyze your needs and create campaigns for you that ensure your return on your email-automation software investment — even when you’re feeling the pinch of full workloads and too-few resources.
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