16 min read

CRM for B2B vs B2C | Best Practices Software Solution

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Despite the popularity of CRM for B2B firms, there is still some uncertainty as to how exactly businesses should make it work for them.

Partly this is down to a number of misconceptions around how it helps, what it offers and who can make the best use of it.

In part one, we considered whether it was solely useful for improving customer service, how complex the software is in reality and if it offered a one-size-fits-all solution for every business.

Here, we’ll examine some more of the myths around CRM processes, providing some insight into a technological trend that is only set to become more popular as businesses continue to focus on offering a good experience to their clients.

CRM for B2B vs B2C – Can it be a good fit for them both?

CRM’s reputation as a tool for improving customer service procedures can give the impression that it is better-suited for the B2C market than for the B2B one. However, this is simply not the case – as many cases of successful CRM adoption within the B2B sector stand to prove.

CRM for the B2B customer experience

For one thing, there has been a massive trend in B2B over the last decade towards adopting more innovative marketing trends, learning from the traditionally more flexible and engaged B2C sector.

After all, representatives of B2B organisations are still human and they like to be entertained (read: not bored) by whatever communication opportunity comes their way. This has led to a rise of B2B technologies that automate the most routine tasks of customer-company interaction, so the company can devote the maximum amount of time possible to human-to-human communication.

Commonly, CRM is divided into three broad categories: marketing automation, sales force automation and support & service automation. Let’s see how each of these contributes to the B2B customer experience.

You can also view this video for a quick summary of the following section.

Marketing automation

CRM for B2B marketing automation2
Marketing automation has been developed to foster interactive and personalised communication between a company and their B2B lead. The modern marketing automation systems are now able to create a whole unique experience for just about anyone.

Have you recently been to the website and watched a video about fly fishing? The next time you return, you can expect a welcome page with your name and an offer to download a white paper about fly fishing or a limited time offer for a fly fishing trip.

Similarly with lead nurturing capabilities, the modern marketing automation systems are now able to automatically follow up with emails based on your interaction on the website or with the sales team.

Other marketing automation features include:

  1. Real-time triggered campaigns – anytime a lead fills in an online form, an email is sent to their email address with a follow-up information and the lead is set to receive a chain of nurturing emails that will further educate them about the company’s offering
  2. Intelligent website forms – these are placed on the website according to who the lead is and contain fields with questions that the lead hasn’t been asked yet; the lead’s answers are automatically mapped into the CRM system
  3. Online behaviour tracking – keeping track of everything the lead has done on the website, including where they came from, how they navigated around the website, from which page they left, but also how much time they spent on individual pages, which Call to Action they clicked etc.
  4. Social media management – everything from scheduling posts, tracking customer sentiment, following the market thought leaders and setting up alerts for unusual social activity
  5. Single view of the customer – having all customer information appear on one screen with its complete interaction and transaction history for a holistic overview of the nature of your relationship
  6. Lead scoring – prioritisation of leads based on recency, frequency and importance of their interaction
  7. Event management (including webinars) – customisable pre-defined series of steps that have to be carried out during every stage of the event including event planning, budgeting, tasks, promotional activities and follow-up activities
  8. Web analytics – reporting on the state of your website, how many leads are landing on which page, how much time is being spent and how many pages are being visited during individual visits but also which pages need more work as their bounce rate is high and leads are not converting

 

Sales force automation

CRM for B2B sales force automation
Sales force automation has been developed to help companies improve their sales efficiency and visibility.

What we mean by this is what marketing automation is for marketers, sales force automation is for sales people – a tool that is specifically tailored to speed up their way of doing things. This way sales people can minimise the amount of time they spend ‘dealing with papers’ and use that time to meet with prospects – and sell!

Perhaps the most important function of sales force automation is its planning and reporting ability. The users (sales people) can establish goals to achieve, plan individual activities strategically and track their progress against these goals. Goals can be set for individuals or teams and their progress can be monitored visually and of course with customised reports.

Other common features of sales force automation include:

  1. Activity management – scheduling appointments, taking notes, recording outcomes of appointments, creating appointment lists and reports, setting alerts and reminders, automatically recording all online communication
  2. Email management – similar to that in marketing automation but more straightforward and simple. As with everything else, this feature can still be customised to give the sales person the most flexible and efficient email engine possible
  3. Contract management – creating and auto-populating contracts directly from the system, track and amend all contract information, renew and cancel contracts
  4. Mobile CRM – modern CRM systems go with the flow and offer the full CRM capabilities within their mobile apps. Those systems that do not offer the full mobile CRM capabilities should still be customisable enough to enable the sales person on the move to make necessary amends, access the CRM offline and check all necessary information
  5. Opportunity management – create, manage and track all opportunities, manage all tasks that need to be taken to push the opportunity down the sales funnel, manage quotes and proposals, establish probability of sale, filter and prioritise opportunities based on desired criteria

 

Service and Support automation

CRM for B2B service & support automation
And finally, the last big area of CRM is the service & support automation that has been developed to enable the customer service department to serve customers more quickly and efficiently.

As you might expect, service & support automation enables the support team to manage their support tickets, report on performance and search the ticket history to find the solution to the most common problems more quickly.

The most serious/delayed problems can also be set to escalate to another member of the team to make sure they are resolved on time. All tickets are automatically moved down the workflow as soon as a task is completed to allow for quickest progress possible.
While utilising this kind of technology in the B2B market, it is important to keep in mind that B2B customers are likely to be aware of what’s going on, as the word about this technology is spreading fast. Or better still: they might by already using it to nurture their own customers too! This is still not very likely as for example, companies using marketing automation are still a small minority, but it’s growing fast.

This doesn’t mean however that they will favour whoever seems to push out some ad-hoc communication without the help of this powerful software. Who would you rather prefer – someone who is organised enough to anticipate in advance what interaction you’d prefer and give it to you, or someone who bases their communication on guesswork and labour-intensive manual actions?

Flexibility of CRM systems in B2B companies

The software’s inherent flexibility means it can be useful in any number of contexts, offering a great deal of value when it comes to B2B sales processes.

Manufacturing firms can use CRM to help predict their sales successes over the coming year, while their counterparts in oil and gas will find it useful for following up potential sales leads or tracking information about existing customers. This video offers an overview how NatWest, a financial services company, serves their B2B customers with the help of Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

While there’s no doubt CRM is popular among B2C companies such as those in the retail finance sector, it would be foolish for B2B marketers to dismiss its potential usefulness. Companies however need to be cautious about the best practice of using CRM systems for client interaction, as the sales cycle tends to be very different between the B2C and the B2B market.

The best way to make sure the CRM solution will fit their particular needs as a B2B company, it’s best to consult independent CRM system reviews and choose an implementation partner with a long successful history of implementing that particular software in a similar market.

 

CRM is only for large B2B businesses

Many people might think of CRM as something that can be utilised by certain kind of firms but is not an option for others, particularly in relation to the firm’s size. While there is clearly a difference between how a small retailer and a huge corporate entity would utilise the software, that doesn’t mean that in general, CRM is more suitable for one than it is for the other.

On the other hand, it is crucial that people planning to install CRM within their business plan consider how they want to use it and what elements of the system they feel will add the most value to their proposition.

CRM for small B2B companies

CRM for small B2B companies
Small businesses are likely to have limited budgets and the need to implement the solution very quickly. While this does seem like a gross oversimplification, in our experience it has usually been the small firms that aimed for something that’s easy to learn, extremely cost-efficient and simple to implement.

Small businesses are likely to implement a CRM solution to help out with the most mundane tasks and to speed up their day-to-day operations, including:

  1. Email management – A system of creating, testing and sending emails and tracking their delivery, open and click-through rate; often with the ability to track which lead performed a certain action with every individual email
  2. Documents – A database of all sales literature in relation to best practice, market trends and information and also past quotes & proposals, presentations, notes etc.
  3. Jobs/tasks – A system for creating and keeping track of jobs (broken down to individual tasks) that are assigned to individual users and can be marked as completed, in progress or can be escalated to another user based on its importance and the users’ competence
  4. Correspondence database – A virtual inventory of all correspondence between leads and the company – including physical correspondence such as letters, faxes, parcels, brochures, event invitations etc. Also good for keeping track of non-physical communication such as phone-calls, texts, face-to-face contact, scheduled & unscheduled meetings, etc.
  5. Account management – A process of gathering information about every individual lead, taking note of every interaction and advancing the lead down the sales funnel based on the progress in their decision making. Accounts can be delegated to individual users and reassigned to other users based on their competence and role in the organisation (sales, customer support, etc.).

While small businesses are not likely to have a big IT team in place, they are very likely to benefit from CRM solutions that operate from the cloud. This way a small business looking for a CRM solution can kill two birds with one stone – reducing their initial setup costs to minimum (by paying a small monthly fee – compared to the set up costs associated with an on-premise CRM solution) and not having to worry about the system’s setup, infrastructure, data storage and so on.

CRM for medium-sized B2B companies

CRM for medium sized B2B companies
Medium-sized businesses, in our experience, benefit from CRM systems that are more closely customised to their needs while still not being over-optimised to the point that they would hinder productivity.

These companies are usually in that spot where they have enough customers to keep the cash flow coming in comfortably at the same time as looking for new opportunities for innovation, new markets or just looking to really strengthen that position in the market they already serve.

A common issue of medium-sized B2B businesses that can usually be resolved by a smart CRM system is the complexity of the company’s growing network. The need to organise the information of individual companies, individuals as well as cluster is what a well-optimised CRM system should be able to do for any B2B organisation.

In addition to the features that small businesses utilise in their CRM systems, medium-sized companies usually also profit from:

  1. Campaign management – A more sophisticated organisation of promotional campaigns that work in relation to each other: a complete database of offline and online events, their planning, budgeting and responsible users
  2. Elaborate market segmentation – Organisation of the lead database by several layers of criteria, including company size, industry, location, turnover, lead score, date of engagement, product of interest etc.
  3. Analytics and reporting – A business intelligence feature that lets you review your performance in relation to employee effort, results, progress against goals, overall market tendencies, customers’ online activity, customer issues raised, win/loss ration against individual competitors etc.
  4. Budget and revenue tracking – Also based on powerful analytics, the CRM system should be able to report on the incoming revenue, raise flags when budget is being overstretched and forecast future revenue based on the current sales pipeline
  5. Customer service – A system of tracking individual customer tickets in relation to the company’s account and products, being able to set individual service level agreements and track performance against them, and customised service queues with alerts, reminders and task escalation
  6. Sales automation – As already mentioned, sales automation is something that can benefit any company with a sales team. Medium-sized B2B companies usually profit from a centralised lead information database, reminders & alerts, elaborate sales funnel and opportunity segmentation, competitor tracking, performance reporting etc.

 

CRM for large B2B companies

And finally, large sized businesses are usually very keen on optimising all of their processes to the maximum detail as this often results in greatly improved speed of delivery and revenues.

Since these systems are highly customised, there is no typical set of features that a “standard” large company would utilise – rather the same set of aforementioned features that are delicately fine-tuned for optimum performance.

So does size matter for a B2B CRM?

In our experience, size definitely matters when choosing and implementing the right CRM system. Doing plenty of research and taking a careful, thought through decision can help you avoid valuable resources worth of investment down the line. Simply opting for the same kind of set-up as a larger competitor is likely to end in tears, which is why working with experts who know exactly what your options are when it comes to CRM is so important.

 

CRM will reduce the need for analysing data

CRM for B2B data analysis
CRM software is useful for many reasons when it comes to examining information. By putting all kinds of data and figures in place for people across a company, it makes it far easier for workers to keep track of statistics.

Also, because it archives information, looking through it to develop an understanding of trends and potential market shifts is far more possible.

However, it is important that companies do not simply put their CRM software in place, rub their hands together and wait for instant success. Having the right staff in place is also crucial if firms are to take advantage of their new technology.

In fact, it’s the most successful B2B companies that leverage the full power of analytics that their system offers. It’s like buying a fancy car: on one level, you buy it to enjoy the smoothness of driving and great fuel efficiency. On a deeper level, you’re also very chuffed by the looks you’re attracting from everyone else.

What we mean is, buying a CRM system and only using it for automating tasks without analysing data is like buying a fancy car without enjoying the attention it attracts.

Enough of metaphors though – here is what a good CRM system should be able to analyse & report on:

  1. Marketing – quantifiable success of all online & offline campaigns, including audience reached, responses received, leads generated, leads warming up, leads by status, leads by score, lead conversion ratio, amount of leads qualified, pipeline investment & revenue, etc.
  2. Sales – performance of individuals and teams regarding sales closed/lost, amount of meetings & events attended, opportunities in the pipeline, opportunities by value, monetary value of every stage of the pipeline, amount of revenue expected in the next period, invoice revenue, etc.
  3. Support – performance regarding amount of tickets served, cases resolved/unresolved, contract by account territory and status, contract by owner and status, average time spent on resolving various types of issues, etc.

 

CRM will be too technical for my company

CRM for B2B too technical
We come across this myth quite often, and it’s quite understandable. With IT budgets under pressure, particularly for smaller companies, it is somehow expected that buyers are rather wary about the prospect of implementing and using a new piece of software across their business.

However, the reality is that modern CRM tends to be fairly simple to understand and unlikely to cause any major problems, or place a seriously increased burden upon IT infrastructure.

With storage offered in the cloud, marketing chiefs will not need to worry about anything like server space or set-up. Furthermore, enough external support should be provided that any issues can be sorted out at the providing company’s end.

Implementation needs to be carried out correctly if you are to benefit from all the possibilities offered by the software, but once this process has been completed a fairly smooth ride can be expected.

For this reason we always recommend our clients work closely together with us so we can establish their needs and goals and tailor the CRM solution to their exact requirements. And not to forget, the suitable type of training will ensure that the users are happy with the system and can make the most of it.

Report---Discover-what-businesses-really-think-of-their-CRM-platform

2 min read

How will digital develop in 2014?

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The digital marketing sector is one of the fastest developing within the advertising industry, with technological and cultural changes meaning that organisations need to constantly update their approach if they are to stay ahead of the curve.

According to the Adobe Digital Trends Briefing for 2014, published earlier this year, found 20 per cent of firms across the globe consider improved customer experience to be the biggest trend over the next 12 months.

With increased investment in customer relationship management (CRM) processes and the growing ability for firms to take on information about prospective buyers through big data analysis, it is clear there is a major opportunity for tech-savvy companies to alter their approach.

Content marketing, mobile, multi-channel campaign management and personalisation were also cited as potential trends.

In the world of b2b, producing high-quality content is likely to be the focus over the course of the year, while b2c marketers are likely to concentrate on developing their mobile policy.

Adobe found that both areas are also keen to work on developing the experiential elements of their marketing policy – by utilising CRM and big data, businesses can personalise their approach for each consumer or buyer.

However, it is crucial that firms are able to deal with this shift, as coping with a large amount of data can be somewhat daunting even for companies with the right kind of talent and experience in place.

Ken Fitzpatrick, chief executive of the Digital Marketing Institute, recently highlighted the pace of change in the industry.

“The world continues to speed up, real-time advertising is just around the corner, and digital marketing disciplines are devolving and specialising as they mature. Marketers are going to have to be continually adaptable, and tradi­tional education models simply cannot meet the pace of change,” he warned.

This was also underlined by Adobe, which recently released data showing 76 per cent of marketers feel the sector has changed more in the last two years than it had done in the 50 years before that.

5 min read

Internet marketing in 2014

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In his talk at the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2014, Sinan Kanatsiz, CEO of KCOMM, talked about using internet marketing to boost brand engagement. Sinan offered a high-level overview of everything that’s changing in internet marketing today and building on what he said, we offer you our insight on what we think is relevant for B2B marketers today.

Be consistent, build trust

According to Edelman Trust Barometer 2013, 64% of people need to hear a message 3 to 5 times before believing it. This means, always striving to deliver new messages might actually be counterproductive, as simply redressing one message multiple times might help you build higher trust. Of course we wouldn’t recommend you to keep tweeting the same 140 characters 5 times in a row – but forming a few core messages and pushing them out in different forms (infographic, blog, video, etc.) has proven to be a successful practice.

Change is important

Sinan mentioned that every 2 years, his businesses undergo a transformation – changing their whole website’s CMS, look & feel and content. In addition to this, he makes sure their social media profiles are always changing looks in order to keep their followers interested. The only things that remain constant is the website domain, the logo and company colours. Why? Because the marketing world today is changing so rapidly that sticking to the same design for too long might limit youryou’re your audience’s horizons.

You might be asking, how does he know that he doesn’t take a step in the wrong direction? Sinan, as many others, can predict which changes are likely to be successful by using powerful predictive analytics that are embedded in today’s CRM systems. Marketers love predictive analytics because they get to test marketing messages without spending an extra dollar, which is something they could never do before.

Interesting content

As the amount of content available on the internet grows by the minute, those who are keen on reading it must find new ways of getting through as much information as possible as quickly as possible. How could content marketers not help them with this? Sinan Kanatsiz in his talk argued that infographic is the new white paper – packed with facts but much faster to read. Similarly, the video is still on the rise and shows no signs of stopping: YouTube is the largest television network in the world at the moment.

Visual content in general is very powerful because it creates impressions very fast – it takes as little as 300 milliseconds for a person to form an impression. The point is to create messages that are better at being spotted and create the right impression. Create messaging that’s appropriate to these media, push them out via the right channels and you should receive more traffic than with traditional text-based content. Of course, text-based content is still very powerful and won’t be leaving anytime soon. How to make sure it’s successful? Whatever you’re writing, your story must be well thought-through, have a depth, a character and conflict.

Use customer data

Data, data, data. Information about your target audience will help you create more tailored messaging. The top 5 most important data for marketing success according to Experian Data Quality are: contact data (54%), sales data (44%), demographic data (38%), preference data (31%) and behavioural data (26%). Use your customer data in your email marketing, to segment your database and create more personalised messages. Greeting the email recipient is always a good idea if you want to make the impression that you care. Also, pay attention to what devices your target audience uses to connect with you – are they mobile? 40% of all internet traffic is now from mobile devices – are all your touchpoints ready for this?

SEO

Despite the spiking growth of social media in the past few years, search engines are still the most trust worthy sources of content for customers. This means SEO is crucial to your digital success. It’s important to take SEO seriously and follow the best practices; especially make sure you use powerful meta tags, your content is up-to-date and you keep building backlinks from reliable websites. It’s a peculiar fact of internet marketing, that sometimes even though your links from other websites won’t be read by many people, search engines are still going to rank your site higher than they would without these backlinks. This may not be a very romantic thought, but it does give you a higher chance of reaching your audience with your other, relevant content.

Integrating media

Unless you target a very unusual target market, your audience is very likely to be on several media at once. Be everywhere they are. Whether it’s your website, email or social media, your messaging needs to be consistent across all channels. Integrate your social media into your website and you email, and use a CRM system to map the movement of your audience across these channels.

 

So how to engage your customers best?

Always focus on building a relationship. Engage with your audience via several touch points, ask them questions and get them to provide feedback to you. If nothing else, ask them what kind of content would they like to read from you or what has been their experience with your services so far. Use humour and real, relatable stories to engage them. People who make other people laugh evoke an emotion in them, and such positive emotion creates trust. Don’t be afraid to cross personal boundaries and create content that’s more relatable and more engaging. Who doesn’t want to connect with others while they’re connected to the internet?

4 min read

Are there CRM Benefits for the Manufacturing Industry? | Role of Software

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Britain’s manufacturing industry has remained relatively robust over the last decade despite the economic issues it has faced, with growth expected to increase over the course of 2014 as the macro situation continues to get slightly better for firms across many different sectors.

According to the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI’s) latest Industrial Trends Survey, total orders improved over the course of March, although output growth and export orders eased when compared to February.

Despite this, the output and export metrics remained above average, with growth expected to edge up even further over the next three months.

Anna Leach, CBI head of economic analysis, said the overall picture was a positive one.

“Growth in exports is crucial to rebalancing the economy and ensuring a sustainable recovery. Over the last few surveys, manufacturing export orders have underperformed relative to overall orders as the UK’s domestic recovery has caught hold more quickly than some of our key trading partners – most particularly, the eurozone,” she added.

How can marketing help with the industry’s ongoing recover? As an essentially B2B sector, manufacturing has tended to lag behind when it comes to the adoption of new technology and innovative styles of advertising, but this could be set to change over the coming years.

Manufacturing and CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) is just as important in the B2B sector as it is when working with consumers, particularly as the industry develops and buyers begin to expect more sophisticated methods from their cohorts.

There are a host of ways in which CRM software, if installed and utilised properly, can add value to the manufacturing industry and help firms move ahead of their counterparts.

Positive customer relationships

Buyers in the manufacturing sector are becoming more empowered, as the internet makes it considerably easier for them to search for alternative suppliers. This forces companies to pay more attention to what channels they use and consider how they manage their relationships.

Simon Bowker, UK and Ireland manager for Teradata eCircle, pointed out last year that businesses “must adopt a new approach to their marketing strategies and processes as well as the tactics they invest in”.

Co-ordinating digital and traditional channels is also important for firms that wish to work closely with potential buyers, he added, writing for The Manufacturer.

CRM can help with both of these processes, ensuring firms do not need to spend too much time or money on changing their marketing plans.

Sales forecasting

As the popularity of the CBI’s regular forecasts attests to, the manufacturing sector is extremely sensitive to changes in the economic environment, meaning that predicting how well a company will perform over the course of six months or a year can be difficult.

However, putting as much sales information as possible at the fingertips of everyone within an organisation is one way to ensure that everything is kept track of, and reduces the possibility of any disappointments or surprises.

The immediate dashboards offered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM software, for instance, mean that it will be easier to make responsive, real-time sales decisions based on an analysis of all the available data.

Improved customer targeting

Business marketers are becoming more savvy with regards to online activity, data and targeting – ultimately, they need to, as the channels through which buyers engage with providers has changed fundamentally as technology continues to develop.

However, more can still be done to ensure that firms are being as efficient as they can in undertaking these processes.

As the emergence of big data analytics has highlighted, companies have access to a great deal of information that can help them form plans and insights into how they wish to proceed.

CRM can help frame and contextualise this data, as well as making it available across an organisation.

A change of approach

Last year, Cassandra Whobrey, CRM product manager at Microsoft UK, told The Manufacturer that the industry is beginning to change.

She added: “CRM isn’t just a glorified address book: it provides a window into how your customers view you and your business. Who are they? What do they buy? What don’t they buy? When did they last buy? Geographically, where are they? How do they contact you?”

Firms that adopt this kind of technology before it becomes commonplace can gain a march on their competitors and take advantage of the insight it provides.

3 min read

CRM – some of the common myths dispelled

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Although CRM software has become more popular over recent years, there are still a number of myths about how the technology affects businesses, as well as uncertainty over the way it really works and the benefits it offers.

These myths can prevent companies from spending cash on their CRM system, perhaps because they feel like the much-vaunted benefits it offers have been over-stated by experts or chief marketing officers keen to make their stamp on the business.

Here, we will seek to dispel some of the most common misconceptions about CRM, clearing up some of the issues around the technology and highlighting what it can offer to companies keen to automate elements of their marketing system.

However, we will also point out that companies need to ensure they have their house in order before they decide to invest in the software.

CRM is just about customer service

Customer relationship management (the clue is in the name) is often considered to be simply about dealing with the links between clients or consumers and the business they are purchasing goods or services from. While this conception is understandable, the reality is that CRM offers a considerably more holistic system than this formulation allows.

Although CRM software will help combine the disparate elements of sales, retention, customer service and client support, it will also make it easier for marketers to analyse data and utilise information to produce actionable insights.

With the emergence of big data as a worldwide trend and the increased technological capabilities of many industries, being able to deal with large amounts of information is crucial for marketers.

Last year, research from Forrester Consulting found that only 17 per cent of firms consider themselves to be mature professionals when it comes to behavioural marketing, highlighting just how much this area is set to develop in the coming years.

Only 45 per cent of marketers surveyed were capturing and consolidating customer behavioural data from multiple channels in a single database. Doing so could help firms get ahead of the crowd.

In addition to its basic function of managing and automating elements of customer service, CRM can offer a great deal of help to businesses keen to sift through the vast morass of data they gather each day and turn it into something that can provide leads and guidance to their marketers.

CRM is too complex 

Many people, especially smaller business owners, may feel that investing in CRM technology will prove to be a complex and confusing task, instead preferring to stick with their own tried-and-tested methods.

While their caution is understandable, the reality is that a well-integrated CRM system, tailored especially for a company, should be intuitive and helpful rather than complicated.

Although it is important to have the right staff in place to utilise the software effectively, a company should be able to get the best out of its CRM assuming it considers all the possibilities available to it and opts for the most suitable one during the initial purchase period.

CRM is a one-size-fits-all solution 

This misconception is a common one with companies investing in CRM and can cause major problems further down the line, if firms feel that the software will solve all of their marketing problems and fail to ensure it is sufficiently tailored to their industry.

It is crucial a company is clear about its needs and demands before installing its customer relationship management programme, as if it is not it can end up with an unwieldy system that proves difficult to use.

Conversely, particularly for larger companies, it is vital their CRM is customised to ensure they have all the facilities they need when it comes to managing both data and clients.

One of the great benefits of CRM is the number of changes that can be made to it depending on how a firm wishes to utilise it. For instance, companies can install a relatively simple system and then add to it over time as workers become more capable of using it effectively.

3 min read

Saving Money with Cloud CRM

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Does the cloud seem like a luxury you can’t quite justify? An unnecessary expense? Did you know that if you choose the right cloud, you could actually save money and in most cases increase profits?

There are several ways to look at adopting a cloud CRM. The most economical way is to consider hardware costs and the need to update on a regular basis. Ask yourself, how much do you spend on upgrading your hardware to ensure that the latest softwares runs efficiently? Constant upgrades become less of any issue when the computing is handled off-site, with terminals on your end only really needing an internet connection. There are other things to consider too; with fewer powerful computers and far fewer servers onsite, you can outsource the cost of maintenance. Assuming you’re new to CRM, there is an additional advantage in not having to purchase new equipment on top of reduced maintenance fees. Outsourcing affords you and your IT department a more stress free existence, permitting you to concentrate on bigger picture solutions within your organisation.

It’s the little things

It’s worth noting how the improved functionality offered by using a cloud CRM could boost revenue. A cloud CRM, such as that offered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM, adds a degree of flexibility to your workforce. Do your staff have different device preferences? Are some aggrieved at the prospect of using a desktop? Is there an office rivalry between OSX users and Windows? Using a cloud CRM allows all their needs to be met as the CRM is available and compatible on them all. Small things such as these help to boost office morale and, in turn, help drive productivity.

Even more importantly in this cross compatibility is mobile functionality, Microsoft Dynamics CRM supports Android, iOS and Windows Mobile as standard. A CRM built from the ground up to maximise mobile use permits your mobile Sales reps to have access to the same high quality information as those that are desk-bound. Productivity has been shown to increase by as much as 15% when sales teams have access to a mobile CRM platform. No longer will forgotten documents foil a sale, as everything can be contained, edited and added via their mobile phone or tablet.

What about privacy?

The level of a security on offer at the world’s data centres is another reason to consider switching from an in house CRM to cloud CRM. Data centres are known for having physical security measures on par with major banks with only a select few having access to the physical servers. In the age of the litigious person who is already quite sceptical of having their details stored elsewhere, this is particularly reassuring.

Digital and logical precautions are also regularly updated to keep in line with industry standard. Microsoft, for example, stick to ISO 27001 certification to ensure they remain ahead of the curve. CRM security measures extend beyond both digital and physical security to include many redundancy features. Multiple backup locations and power redundancies are standard procedure at Microsoft data centres, guaranteeing that, in the unlikely event that anything happens at a particular data centre, your data is still secure and accessible round the clock.

2 min read

What’s on the Horizon?

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2014 is set to be a busy a year in the CRM world. Microsoft may have only just released the latest update of Microsoft Dynamics last autumn, but their 2014 pipeline is packed with further ameliorations and additions to their offering. In the roadmap released recently, Microsoft reaffirmed the company’s continued support for its CRM packages, outlining a string of detailed features set to be implemented over the course of year based on improving the social and marketing aspects of Microsoft Dynamics.

Social

Showing their continued trust in the integration of CRM with various social network features, Microsoft have 3 major social events lined up in the pipeline. Microsoft purchased the social monitoring and analytics tool, Netbreeze, last year and is to begin implementing it under the Microsoft Social Listening banner. The first of these Social Listening updates is set to take place in Q2 2014, offering Microsoft Dynamics users a powerful new tool to exploit trends in social networks. A Q3 update to Microsoft Dynamics codenamed Libra will implement further refinements in the way that the CRM interacts with your social media channels.

CRM

Microsoft intend to release two relatively major all round updates to Dynamics CRM. Originally, they were tipped to concentrate this year’s updates on just the cloud arm of MS Dynamics CRM, but they have since confirmed both onsite and cloud customers will be updated. Currently titled Leo and Vega, they are set for release Q2 and Q4 respectively. Microsoft have been quite forthcoming with the content to be included in Leo, but the details of Vega remain under wraps until the Convergence Conference in November. Leo is set to concentrate on the service module of MS Dynamics CRM including features such as; better SLA management and email to case automation.

Marketing

Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Marketing Pilot, now known as Microsoft Dynamics Marketing will receive two updates over the coming year. As with everything under the Microsoft Dynamics umbrella, the UI is identical to the other but a separate cloud program. It is believed that a new pay tier will be instigated to entitled Microsoft Dynamics CRM Enterprise, in which MS Dynamics Marketing will be included free of charge. This new feature is Microsoft’s attempt at unifying the third party Marketing Automation add ons associated with Dynamics, to bring it in line with other Marketing Automation platforms.

The recent acquisition of Parature is sure to rear its head over the course of the year, expect further updates in the coming months and in all likelihood a big reveal later in the year at Convergence. It’s an exciting time to be part of Microsoft’s growing CRM enterprise whether you’re only in the browsing phase or already committed to Microsoft Dynamics, there has never been a better time to embrace it.

2 min read

It’s Like Cheating!

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For years, marketers have yearned to have as much information about their clients and the companies they represent in order to refine their campaigns. But that all-important additional information can sometimes be hard to glean – what sources do you use? Scour through Linkedin, company websites and news articles manually and retrieve the data yourself? It’s likely to provide reliable information but the amount of time you would spend doing so wouldn’t reflect too well on your ROI. Not to mention the fact this would be a continual process; the business world isn’t static and information changes on a daily basis, so for any of the information to be reliable, it would need to be verified regularly. What is the solution? How do you get quality information without a team dedicated to round the clock updates?

Not all data is created equal

This is where InsideView comes into its own. InsideView integrates completely with Microsoft Dynamics CRM to provide you with in depth insights into over 50m companies and people worldwide. Collated from over 30,000, InsideView sources to create a seriously well rounded image of the leads and organisations housed within your CRM.

InsideView does exactly as it suggests by cleaning up bad or dirty data from your CRM. It automatically revives your database by adding missing information to your leads or updating those that are incorrect or incomplete. A routinely maintained and cleaned database has been proven to generate as much as 7x more inquiries and 4x more qualified leads than a static database reliant on irregular updates. Not only does InsideView clean your data but it also enriches it, offering up company secrets that have traditionally been harder to acquire.

Faster, better, stronger

The speed with which InsideView collates and implements this data can help improve your marketing department’s ROI. The time spent traditionally researching for your upcoming campaign is now vastly decreased meaning you can focus on developing creative content. Not only is research drastically sped up but having a more rounded lead has been known to shorten the sales cycle.

Designed to integrate completely with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, InsideView can be up and running within 10 minutes allowing you to gain from it almost instantly. InsideView ensures that better leads are available before your marketing campaigns begin, meaning that they’re even more qualified on the other end of your campaign, and Sales are happier with a better quality of lead. This addition to Microsoft Dynamics CRM can directly help align marketing and sales, by allowing marketing to consistently send forward quality leads.

3 min read

CRM and automation

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Marketing can prove difficult to quantify – certain campaigns may offer a relatively intangible benefit to a company, like brand awareness, that can be difficult to explain to financial directors keen to see a direct return on investment.

This is especially true when belts are being tightened and budgets examined closely. Despite the UK’s tentative recent steps towards economic growth, the country remains on a slightly shaky footing, meaning firms are keen to ensure that all parts of their organisation are not over-spending or wasting cash on pointless exercises.

For marketers, this has led to a new ‘era of accountability’, according to a host of recent studies.

One way in which firms can respond to this paradigm shift is to work with CRM software, which can offer a number of benefits when it comes to accountability and return on investment.

By automating a number of processes that would otherwise need to be carried out by staff, the technology can save both time and money, allowing marketers to focus their attention on other tasks that can add value to their business proposition rather than being snowed under by administrative issues.

Recording performance

A host of experts have suggested that marketing departments are being put under pressure to quantify their successes, with this trend set to continue over the course of 2014.

The Marketing 2020 report produced by Marketing Week, EffectiveBrands and ISBA revealed large, growth-orientated decisions are increasingly being placed at the door of this part of the business.

Furthermore, 58 per cent of senior marketers suggested they are now being asked to work with the chief executive on producing overall plans, up from 38 per cent in 2006.

“Under-performers are not guided by big data, whereas the over-performers have integrated it into the way they work,” said Marc de Swaan Arons, founder of EffectiveBrands.

What this means is that marketers are increasingly being asked to utilise complicated information to justify their spending and explain how they are attempting to engage with existing customers while maintaining a relationship with current ones.

CRM software can help with this process in a number of ways. It makes it easier to prioritise and track leads, potentially creating profit as well as freeing up employees from having to undertake this task manually.

It also ensures that customisable dashboards can be used to create visual representations of performance – this ensures marketers can easily find out what aspects of their overall scheme are providing the best return on investment, making them more accountable to the holders of the purse strings within their organisation.

Also, by displaying a sales funnel it can make it easier for marketing chiefs to forecast performance and work out how well specific teams are carrying out their tasks.

Automation and productivity

In addition to placing marketers under pressure to justify their spending, the current economic situation has encouraged them to become more productive and wring everything they can out of the time they have available.

This shouldn’t mean working longer hours or bringing in a host of new workers, which can be expensive in itself – instead, chief marketing officers can look to automated processes to make life easier for their existing staff.

CRM can offer a number of benefits in this arena, presuming it is installed correctly and well-integrated with an organisation’s overall aims.

By reducing manual data management to a minimum, it ensures workers can fulfil their potential, spending time on value-adding tasks rather than busywork. Although some training will need to be provided, this initial expenditure of time will be more than made up for once the CRM software is operating effectively.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be especially useful in this regard because it utilises an interface that will be familiar to anyone who has used a Windows computer, meaning less initial familiarisation time will be needed.

Mr Swaan Arons also suggested that “marketing has caught up with the rest of the board in terms of accountability … now we need marketing to step up and lead”. CRM software can make it easier for the department to do just that.

2 min read

Marketers ‘must learn about consumers’

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It is crucial that marketers find out who is interested in their brand if they are to target their campaigns to the right people and form them in the best possible way, whether they are working in the b2b or b2c sector.

This has always been true – however, techniques for gaining an insight into consumer behaviour have become increasingly subtle and intelligent, making it possible for firms to learn more than ever before about the people who buy their products or services.

Nick Adderly, a former Heathrow Airport marketing director, recently compared the current situation to the past, when early loyalty programmes forged new ground in assessing the relationships people had with brands.

“The cost per member or contact was high, so you could justify or afford to build relationships with high-value customers only where you could make a pay-back,” he explained, writing in Marketing Week.

However, the mobile and digital revolution recorded over the last few years has fundamentally changed how marketers assess the behaviour of consumers, Mr Adderly declared.

Although online was once considered extremely different from offline, buyers are increasingly seeing less of a difference between the two approaches as ecommerce becomes more common.

“Whereas online was once the poorer relation of the customer buying experience, now it’s the best part. Consumers increasingly see no break between the physical world and online. If you don’t respond to this new reality, you will lose,” declared the former Heathrow chief.

But how can firms embrace these changes and utilise consumer information effectively to improve the buyer experience? A host of technological advances have made it easier to do so, ranging from big data analysis to consumer relationship management (CRM).

Mr Adderly cited UK retailer John Lewis as an example of an organisation that is “closing the loop between digital shopper and store visitor, so it can get a better understanding of cross-channel behaviour”.

Marketers and companies that can do this are likely to perform better than their counterparts over the coming years.