How well do you know your customers? This article on b2bleadblog.com discusses the importance of knowing what customers really want: Lead Generation: How well do you really know what your customers want?
“It is absolutely necessary. Don’t base your marketing on assumptions and allow your customers to identify your success.”
– Alex Corzo, Manager of Brand Integration, Orlando Health
The case studies at Optimization Summit 2013 reaffirmed the importance of value proposition testing for me. For example, through testing, Jon Ciampi, Vice President Marketing, Business Development & Corporate Development, CRC Health, learned his customers craved trust, not luxury. He reinvented his lead funnel based on this insight, changing everything from his company’s landing pages to his team’s call scripts.
So, how can you discover your value proposition?
You can read the full article here, courtesy of b2bleadblog.com.
An article on computerworld.com discusses reasons to use social media and social networks for customer support and services: 5 reasons to use social CRM for support and services
So this article may come as something of a surprise, as I’m going to be beating the drums about social CRM again, this time for the service and support organization. Why? Social networks give you the quickest access to customers where they already are.
Almost anybody you want to do business with is somewhere on Facebook or LinkedIn or product-review networks, at least in the United States. More importantly, these networks are the cauldron that brews the buzz about your products. Social gives you access to new kinds of information and real-time feedback for critical parts of the service, support, training and professional services business processes.
You can read the full article here, courtesy of computerworld.com.
Let’s face it. If you are still managing customer records using an Excel spreadsheet or a spiral notebook, you are doing an injustice to yourself and to your customers. When a customer calls for service they expect that you know what product or products they purchased, and if they have had any history of service or repair issues. Without an automated system you’re lost and they know it.
In today’s competitive environment the difference between your organization and your competitors is likely to be the buying experience the customer had with you and the level of customer service you provide. Fail at either one and your customer is gone.
For many years small and mid-sized businesses used contact management software to manage the interaction with their clients. Contact management software provided businesses with the ability to consolidate and share information throughout the organization which is not practical with an Excel spreadsheet.
Today, the industry has evolved to cloud based or online CRM software programs that are a bit more advanced in functionality. This new breed of client management software is affordable and offers access to customer information 24 hours a day/7 days a week from a remote office, a smartphone or a tablet PC. Providing any time, anywhere access ensures that you can provide world class service to your customers by processing orders, responding to service inquiries and providing a buying and service experience that your competitors cannot.
Small to mid-sized enterprises often have trouble managing the activities and performance of their sales staff. While there are a number of sales force software programs on the market, businesses have found them to be over-engineered and too hard to use.
One company that has solved this problem is Commence Corporation. Commence has been building sales management software for more than two decades, and its products have been sold and distributed by several companies under a private label agreement. Today, the Commence sales software program and sales tools are sold as part of their online CRM software solution.
Commence CRM provides not only robust sales tracking and sales management functionality, but also enables businesses to create and automate a custom sales process. An analytics reporting tool displays where every new sales opportunity is in the sales cycle, thereby ensuring that no opportunity falls through the cracks. Reviews of Commence CRM have been very strong and a free trial is available.
The concept of CRM or Customer Relationship Management Software has actually been in existence for more than two decades. The term has evolved over time from contact management software to sales automation software to customer interaction software and now Customer Relationship Management software or CRM. But the business application of CRM has remained the same and that is to capture, track, manage and share information throughout the organization. The idea is that by providing employees with immediate access to customer information they can improve sales execution and customer service, thereby giving their organization a competitive edge.
The evolution of CRM was brought about by advanced technology such as cloud computing, and the introduction of specific departmental software solutions for sales, marketing, and customer service. Today, social networking is an important component that continues to expand the use of CRM software to help businesses market, sell and provide services to their customers.
Finding a CRM Solution that works for you
There are essentially three levels of CRM software and even the most basic offerings can provide value to your business. Selecting the right solution has a lot to do with the maturity of your business and the objective you have going forward.
The most basic CRM offerings enable you to manage accounts or companies and contacts or people. If you own a small business and have been operating it using an Excel spreadsheet and e-mail, a basic CRM solution would be a nice step up from what you are doing today. It will allow you to capture vital customer information including notes and history, track activity, and share this information with your staff – something that is difficult to do using an excel spreadsheet.
More advanced CRM systems traditionally add marketing, sales and lead management features and are designed for companies that want to build brand recognition via bulk e-mail programs, capture and manage leads or new opportunities and automate the sales process. Companies that have used automated systems in the past such as contact managers often find these more advanced systems appealing for their business because they are a natural next step up from contact management programs. These programs are often quite affordable and easy to use and can add substantial value to your business.
Comprehensive CRM programs, often referred to as enterprise level systems, are designed to automate and integrate both front-end and back-end business processes such as accounting and ERP. These are robust and complex solutions that require a strong commitment from management to implement and use. Companies that have automated their marketing, lead management and sales management processes look at enterprise solutions as an important component to closing the loop between front office and back office business processes. Instead of operating disparate silos of information, these companies strive to integrate all business processes into one universal system or database. These solutions are typically only found in larger organizations that have the staff and expertise to implement and manage them.
The good news is that there is a large selection of CRM systems to choose from and traditionally free trials and demos so that you can test them. The best advice in selecting one is to document your requirements. Then seek a few offerings that can support those requirements.
While all the recent hype and fanfare seems to be focused on cloud based CRM software, IT departments of larger companies are still very much interested in on-premise business solutions and for good reason. Cloud based CRM systems are traditionally offered as generic products with a set of predefined features and functions. They may be a good fit for smaller organizations with limited business requirements, but many larger corporations need more flexibility than these systems offer. While a few cloud based CRM systems do provide some customization it’s often limited and requires a high level of programming expertise which can be quite costly.
On-premise applications have been traditionally designed with a high degree of flexibility in mind making customization easier and less expensive for the IT department. There is no right or wrong solution here, but it’s important to be aware that if your organization requires complete control of the customer information in your CRM system, a cloud based CRM offering may limit your ability to achieve this.
The number one request from small to mid-size businesses evaluating CRM software is ease of use. This is because CRM systems have traditionally been over engineered and simply too hard to use. Delivering the right combination of functionality and ease to use has been a challenge for many CRM software providers, but according to customer testimonials Commence CRM seems to deliver the right balance of functionality coupled with a simple design and navigation.
Commence CRM is a robust offering that rivals many higher end solutions. In addition to the standard account and contact management, sales, leads and marketing modules, Commence CRM adds optional applications for project management, customer service or help desk and integration to disparate software programs. Even with this level of functionality customers report that the product is extremely easy to use. What makes this possible is a clever design and use of a digital dashboard that enables the end user to perform 90 percent of their daily tasks without ever leaving the initial screen.
The CRM dashboard can be configured by each user with a click of a button and may include all or a subset of the following features or portlets:
- Today’s Calendar
- Monthly Calendar
- Today’s Activities and To-Do’s
- Overdue Activities
- Company News
- Favorite Reports
- New Leads
- Project Tasks
- Sales Performance
- Sales Pipeline
- Schedule Opportunities
- Support Tickets
Sample Dashboard Used by Sales Staff
Each portlet enables you to perform that task right from the dashboard and even provides a shortcut to additional functionality. The Leads portlet for example allows you to enter a new lead right from the dashboard. You can view all the leads you are currently working on by clicking a button labeled more … it’s that simple.
With Commence CRM you can add a new account or contact, a new lead, a new sales opportunity, schedule follow-up activities add or update a project or a service ticket; even view your favorite reports without ever leaving the screen. Learn more with an online CRM demo or free trial of the CRM software.
An article on ecommercetimes.com discusses how to use the customer information captured into your CRM system to build strong customer relationships: Tap CRM to Give Your Customers a Pleasant Surprise
Customer relationship management may lead to smoother sales and service interactions between you and your customers, but it can also help you go above and beyond. Your customers are filling your CRM system with intelligence about their desires and their needs; it’s time to use that data to help cement your relationship with them for the long term.
So you have your CRM application in place and humming, collecting information about customers and potential customers and organizing it so you can use it. That raises a question: How are you using it?
Most companies pour it back into sales, marketing and support to keep feeding those machines, which is good. It’s the way you realize the value from your CRM investment.
You can read the full article here, courtesy of ecommercetimes.com.
Companies that do not currently use CRM software are often concerned about user adoption. They fear that CRM programs that are too hard to use will become shelfware, and they are probably right.
The problem with CRM solutions that are very easy to use is that they don’t do very much, and for the most part are nothing more than glorified contact managers on the web. Those that provide a high level of functionality are designed for larger companies and are often overkill for small to mid-size enterprises.
Becoming a top choice among small to mid-size enterprises
One company that seems to have addressed this concern is Commence CRM. This online CRM system strikes a nice balance between simplicity and value. Commence is a robust product offering that rivals many higher cost solutions and is modular in design. This allows customers to start with the basics for managing accounts and contacts, calendar, notes, activities, history and even integrate your e-mail. Then add additional functionality when you are ready.
Companies that wish to manage sales can add a lead management and sales pipeline management module for just a few dollars more per month, and those that want to do bulk e-mailing can add the marketing module as well. What’s unique about Commence CRM is how easy the additional applications are to use. The product is also available for use with an Apple Mac, PC or any mobile device or tablet. Commence CRM seems to be the perfect fit for those companies that want more than a simple contact manager on the web, but not the cost and complexity of higher end solutions that are cumbersome to use.
Image courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
CRM software is now becoming an important component for companies that wish to improve sales execution and customer service. The recent rise in CRM utilization is due primarily to two factors.
- First, there are now a plethora of easy to use low cost solutions for businesses of any size.
- Secondly, businesses are seeing a return on their investment and actually improving how they market, sell and provide services to their customers.
CRM is working, but it requires more than just the CRM software itself. Many small to mid-size companies struggle to implement internal business processes for improving sales and customer service and look towards CRM software as a way automate these functions. Today’s CRM systems are designed to do just this, but they require experienced professionals that can couple the features in the CRM software with best practices for managing sales and customer service. Here is an example.
The ABC company wants to do a better job in managing leads and their sales process. They select a top rated CRM solution that has all the bells and whistles for streamlining the sales and lead management process. The problem is they don’t have a process. Leads are loosely distributed based on territory and every sales person, while having a monthly quota, still has their own personal process for how they sell.
So how do you automate and streamline a process that does not exist?
You have got to get some help. Look for a CRM solution provider that has an experienced team of people to ensure you realize the maximum value from their solution. I am not referring to end user training here. I am talking about business process automation. An experienced team of people can help you define your processes and then automate them using CRM software. This is a one-time investment, but one that makes a significant difference in improving how you manage and conduct business into the future.
Image “Flowchart And 3d Character Shows Process Or Procedure” by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net