With Dreamforce ’14 only 4 Days, 19 Hours, 06 Minutes and 35 seconds away at time of writing, I figured now is a great moment to share a few of my personal learnings regarding ways marketers can squeeze more value out of a CRM. Whether you’re using Salesforce, Sugar, Microsoft Dynamics or some other system, these ideas will help mold your CRM into a technology that will enhance the effectiveness of any department charged with customer-focused goals.
Customize for simplification
Complicating your system for the sake of sophistication will reduce its value. Remember: the sole point of ANY technology is to create efficiency. Technological sophistication is a good thing, but only if it’s founded on a logical, goal-focused strategy. And the primary goal for any CRM is to drive efficiency among the sales team as well as adjacent, customer-focused operations (marketing, accounting, customer service, etc.).
If your system (or the processes you develop to use it) is too complicated, users (particularly sales reps) won’t fully or properly adopt it. Here’s an example of overcomplicating: going crazy with custom objects/fields and expecting reps to provide the data. While you may think you’re creating a reservoir for profound prospect insights, what you’re likely doing is requesting info based on marketing needs rather than sales data, which often only results in two problems:
- Customer/prospect data never makes it into the system because reps don’t understand how or aren’t able to input all that data, or
- Reps cursorily provide questionable data just to complete the task; thus the info isn’t accurate, which undermines the entire point of having a CRM in the first place.
The best way to maximize CRM value and to ensure it is leveraged to its full potential is to first understand what users (again focusing on sales reps) need to enhance their efforts and reduce the amount of administrative work/data entry tasks. In other words, focus on customizations that automate processes to make jobs easier. Continuing with our example above, rather than adding custom field to obtain as much customer data as possible, only add objects/fields that are relevant, understood and available to sales rep. Acquire all other insights from third-party data appending services such as InsideView, NetProspex, Discover.org, Data.com, etc.
Make sure it’s connected anywhere it can help
Integrating your CRM with other systems and tools will drastically increase its value, reducing administrative work while providing a holistic view of all customer information.
- Marketing automation platform – Connecting your CRM with your MA platform should be a no-brainer by now. It increases lead velocity, customer insight and data accuracy.
- Finance/accounting systems – The flow of data between these systems enables more accurate forecasting, which in turn allows for more-effective strategic business decisions. On the flip side, sales gains greater visibility into payment issues, enabling reps to assist more effectively with collection process. This is obviously better for customer service and retention.
- Demand generation platform – By connecting your system to your prospect acquisition platform (your system used to manage and measure offline data/lead sources – media, content syndication, lists, events, etc.), you’re able to create a closed-loop marketing process to more effectively optimize demand generation programs and maximize lead volume and conversion rates.
Plug-ins enhance the effectiveness of operations typically adjacent to the CRM’s core capabilities. They provide additional feature sets within your system and complement the idea of customization for simplification by reducing time spent on manual tasks. They can be incredibly valuable, but if too many plug-ins are added without adherence an overall workflow strategy, they can end up bogging down the processes they’re meant to facilitate.
Whether you’re connecting your CRM to other systems or adding plug-ins, it’s always a good idea to outline your workflow and necessary processes. You can then use this blueprint to develop a beneficial strategy for integration.
Govern your data and how it’s communicated
It’s always a good idea to be cognizant of where your data comes from. This entails understanding the systems and processes that provide the data while also ensuring its accuracy. The refinement of lead data should be treated as a narrative (parallel to the buyer’s journey); if you don’t know the origin of each lead and how it evolved through the funnel, you’re only hindering your ability to improve your operation.
Effectively communicating your CRM data throughout the company is every bit as important as understanding its origin and evolution. Reports should to be meaningful to reps and management alike. Be very selective of the metrics you report, basing them on strategic goals that are defined during inter-departmental meetings. Otherwise, you risk muddying the waters, hiding the valuable information that your organization needs most. Lastly, make sure reports are easily obtainable – all the info is useless unless it’s accessible.