As small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) struggle to survive in this economic climate, they are placing a major emphasis on increasing sales. Whether through finding new customers or attempting to increase the volume of purchases by the existing customer base, the attention is on getting the sales organization to be more productive. SMBs, in spite of tough economic times, are investing in technology to enhance the productivity of the sales force and for the most part are implementing Customer Relationship Management tools to make this happen. While this is decidedly a step in the right direction, there may be additional ways to increase sales productivity. This article examines a more effective way of utilizing CRM software to increase customer acquisition and revenue growth.
The Role of Technology
The last several years have brought a radical change in the relationship between the customer and business as a whole. More and more customers are collaborating with businesses and technology is playing a key role in this new collaboration. An increasing percentage of interaction with customers is coming by way of social networks and online communities. These interactions include suggestions for product improvement, requests for help, information requests and even customers assisting their counterparts directly. These customer conversations are driving the need for the business to respond in a timely fashion and to also convince potential customers of their ability to adequately address their needs.
This is driving executives to focus more attention on discovering the “favorite” customer or target market and crafting a marketing message that resonates with that target market. To do this effectively, the business needs to gather and analyze all of the relevant customer data points, In addition to demographic and geographic data, the business needs to understand why customers are buying their products or services and more importantly, what specific language the “favorite” customer is using to describe the buying experience.
The Changing Customer Role
This calls for the establishment of a close collaborative effort between the business and the customer base. Sales and any other part of the organization that is in direct contact with the customer needs to listen closely to the conversation in order to hear what the customer is saying. The data gathered needs to be analyzed so that not only does the business then understand which customers comprise the target market, but also how those customers think and how they communicate.
This effectively achieves two goals. First, it allows the sales force to be immensely more productive by getting them to concentrate on that part of the general marketplace that has these pre-qualified prospects that have the same profile as the “favorite” customer. Secondly, it gives the marketing side of the business the ability to script a marketing message that resonates with the customer since it uses the information gleaned from the customer and can be written in a language that the customer understands.
Even more importantly, with more customers using online communities and social networks, it is essential that the key phrases that the business uses are the same as the key phrases that the customer uses in their posts on Facebook and LinkedIn or in their tweets on Twitter. It also allows the business to search engine optimize its web site because the language and the keywords used are the ones the favorite customers are accustomed to.
So now, the business has a marketing message that resonates with the customer. The sales force has a sales pitch that is geared towards solving the customer pain and is in a language the customer understands. The customer feels that the business is listening and hearing them and prospects not only find the business, but when engaged by the sales force are easier to bring to a close.
Can current CRM systems play in this arena?
Most current CRM systems are very effective at helping the sales force automate the sales process and manage the sales cycle. The way they do this is by collecting customer and prospect data that the sales force uses to manage sales campaigns, schedule sales calls and keep the sales cycle moving along. To meet the new paradigm of target marketing that requires collaboration with our customers, these CRM systems need new functionality.
Commence Corporation is taking a leadership position in this area and understands that the future of customer relationship management will be centered on the collaboration and partnership with customers. Commence is busy restructuring the data points that their system collects to include the needed demographic and psychographics data that CRM system do not capture today. Commence is also looking closely at interfacing the product with social media applications so that it can collect and analyze all of the different streams of customer conversations that are currently on the web, then use this information to targeting effective marketing campaigns.
As a result of the economic downturn, many SMBs are struggling to justify the capital outlay to upgrade or implement a new CRM system because of cost and business uncertainty. To survive in today’s economy, you need to implement a CRM software solution, but you need to do it for the right reasons. Don’t implement a CRM solution to simply automate the sales process. Growing your business will require the ability to capture, manage and share vital customer information from several data sources and then use the information to gain a competitive edge. Select a CRM software provider that offers a platform that can support the customer collaboration that will need to take place in the future.
About the author: Larry Caretsky is the president of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software, which can be deployed in a web-based, cloud-computing environment or on premise. Caretsky is considered an expert in Customer Relationship Management and has written numerous white papers on the subject, which may be accessed via the company’s web site at www.commence.com.