What is CRM and how can it help my business?

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1 What is CRM and how can it help my business? Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can transform your sales effort. They can improve your sales closure rate and give you, as a business manager or owner, much more visibility and control over the sales process. Here s a plain English look at what CRM is, how to choose a CRM system and some tips for implementing one for your business. What is CRM? A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, also known as a salesforce automation system in an IT solution that replaces the old salesman s contact book. A CRM system does these four things: 1. Stores all the contact details for people that your sales team speak to: names, companies, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays etc. 2. Records the contact history between each person and your sales team. (e.g. Today I rang Tom and he was interested in our proposal but asked me to call back next week. ) 3. Automatically reminds you of follow-up tasks. (e.g. Call Tom Harris today to follow up on proposal. ) 4. Allows management to see what s going on in the sales pipeline through a series of reports on the information in 1 & 2 above. This allows you to do things like track performance of a sales team member, see how a product is progressing in a particular sector, or forecast sales for the next quarter. Why a CRM system is better than a contact book If you look at the four points above, the first three aren t that much of a leap ahead from the old paper contact book. But with a CRM system, there are some clear benefits: 1. Getting the management reports you need is much quicker and easier. 2. The data remains in your control at all times, as managers of the business. It s easy for a salesman to walk out one day with their contact book, but if you hold the data in a CRM system, those leads stay with you. P1 of 6 unity*dc limited Jan

2 3. With more and more companies using relationship marketing campaigns like direct mail, newsletters and other modern marketing techniques, a clean, up-to-date database of contacts is vital. A well-run CRM system can provide that data. 4. If you have more than one person responsible for sales, a CRM system can help you share the workload. Everyone can see the contact history, so when someone calls your sales team can respond effectively. 5. If you choose to use a telemarketing provider, they can also use your CRM system, making them a more effective extension of your team whilst keeping you in full control. Choosing the right CRM system for your business You can buy CRM in different flavours: as a software program that you install on your computers and manage yourself, or as a managed service that you buy per month. Solutions also come in different levels of complexity too: there are complex solutions that integrate with other IT systems like ERP systems to give larger companies a complete suite, and systems that are more suited to small, flexible teams. Each option has pros and cons and which one you choose depends on your company s business priorities. Installed software Software as a service Enterprise solutions Lighter-weight solutions P2 of 6 unity*dc limited Jan

3 Traditional installed software This is the IT model that we re all used to we buy a software package, install it on our computers and manage it ourselves, with help from the support line. Fixed initial cost, smaller ongoing cost Data fully under your control Data kept secure within your office network Large upfront cost Hassle of having to operate the software: backups, hardware etc. Often difficult to share outside office with telemarketers and remote working Common products: Act!, Sage CRM, Sage SalesLogix from Sage Microsoft Dynamics CRM Goldmine Software as a service (SaaS) solutions CRM is one of the first applications to be marketed heavily as a software service. You use the software through a standard web browser so there s no software to install on your systems. Small initial cost Scalable from 1 sales person to a large team simply upgrade the account as you grow No back-end IT support needed backups etc are part of the service You are dependent on the service provider for data security, backups etc. you need to manage this risk Service is dependent on your office internet connection Remote access your telemarketing provider can get access from their offices, and your sales team can get access from home or on the road Regular monthly service charges rather than initial capital expenditure Usually offers a means to connect with other solutions (what techies call an API). Common products Salesforce.com SugarCRM Highrise OpenCRM RightNow Netsuite Sage CRM, Sage SalesLogix P3 of 6 unity*dc limited Jan

4 Enterprise CRM systems There are CRM systems aimed at the big corporate market, but which can also suit in smaller companies that use a high degree of automation. Let s say that you ve only got a sales team of 5 people, but they each cover 200 or more customers. Most customers place their orders with you online and the sales team are only there to win new business and maintain healthy relationships with your customers. Your direct customers may well be dealers or resellers selling your products via the channel. If you use an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system like SAP or Oracle, or a specialist services business platform like Lexis-Nexis, then a CRM system that integrates well with this may work best for you. Effective integration with your other systems Can be expensive and complex Common products LexisNexis InterAction Oracle s PeopleSoft Enterprise and Siebel CRM SAP CRM Lighter-weight CRM systems If you re a small business with only modest budgets for IT and you prefer to keep things simple, then a lighter-weight system may suit you better. These lighter CRM solutions deliberately limit their features so that they remain simple to learn, manage and use. Simple and straightforward Limited features Easy to learn and use Inexpensive Common products Highrise SugarCRM Really simple systems Outlook Business Contact Manager P4 of 6 unity*dc limited Jan

5 What we use at unity*dc We re a small services business that likes to work flexibly, so a lightweight, software-as-a-service solution is best for us. We chose Highrise by 37Signals as its simplicity really suits our business model. Highrise also has an extensive API. This API, or application programming interface means you can get the system to talk to other systems. We use the API to link the CRM system, containing our contacts and sales leads, to our newsletter distribution system. This enables us, as a relationship marketing agency, to practise what we preach. Tips for implementing a CRM system Be clear about your business needs Be clear up front about what your business and your team really needs from a CRM system. Once you get out into the market you re likely to be caught up in a maelstrom of features, benefits and hype from all the vendors, so know your onions before you step out there. Put your people first Any system is only as good as the information that people feed into it. If your people don t see the benefit of your CRM system, it s not going to work. Get them involved right at the beginning as their input and their buy-in is often what makes the difference between success and failure. An investment in good training for your people on the CRM system will pay off in quality of data. Talk to your marketing partners When you re implementing a CRM system, talk to key partners about it too. Talk to your telemarketing partner and marketing agency, as they can also make use information from your CRM system. Getting them involved early on may allow you to reap extra benefits for your marketing like reduced costs or increased effectiveness. Have a robust backup Having all your customer data centrally is powerful, but what about the risk of losing it? If you re implementing a solution installed solution on your office network, make sure that you ve got a robust backup strategy in place and good anti-intrusion security on your network. If you re choosing a hosted service solution, then make sure that you do due diligence on the provider. P5 of 6 unity*dc limited Jan

6 Can they demonstrate that they have a robust backup and security strategy in place? Will they let you run a regular additional backup for your own safe keeping? Consider using outside help to clean up your data in the beginning One of the major reasons why companies delay introducing CRM is the backlog of customer data that they already have. For many the state of this data is something akin to the state of their loft or garage: you know it s a mess but you also know it s going to be a major job to fix it. There are firms out there that can help you sort out your customer database, quickly and effectively. Even if one sales manager or partner uses Outlook for his contacts and another a Rolodex of business cards, these firms can help wrangle the information into one central database. Then they can de-duplicate, check and clean addresses and even remove deceased people and those with opt-outs for the mailing and telephone preference service. About Jeremy Mai & unity*dc Jeremy Mai has worked in relationship marketing for over 10 years. He has worked with clients like British Airways on their Executive Club programme, Mercedes on the launch of the R-Class and a variety of smaller business on their digital and relationship marketing strategy. unity*dc is a relationship marketing agency. It specialises in helping companies get business success from valuable relationships with customers, partners and prospects. It develops and plans relationship marketing programmes, and delivers by managing the practicalities that make these programmes work effectively, including the data cleaning services mentioned above. unity*dc does not sell CRM systems. It often advises clients on selecting one, and its interest is driven by the fact that a CRM system is often an enabler for the customer data that relationship marketing depends on. For more white papers by unity*dc, visit P6 of 6 unity*dc limited Jan

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