2 min read

Digital investment to push up UK adspend

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The increasing willingness among firms to invest in digital is seeing British spend on advertising reach record levels as the sector responds to the ongoing economic recovery, according to a new report.

According to the Advertising Association/Warc Expenditure Report, new forecasts will see UK adspend jump by 5.5 per cent over the course of 2014, moving up to an impressive 6.5 per cent in 2015.

If this does come to pass, 2015 will see British investment in advertising and marketing go past the £20 billion mark for the first time ever, attesting to the rude health of the sector.

Pleasingly for marketers, this study comes hot on the heels of similarly positive predictions from respected sources such as the IPA’s Bellwether report.

CRM and other digital areas are one of the biggest drivers of the strong growth levels being recorded; mobile advertising increased by a startling 95 per cent from 2013, while broadcast video and digital national newsbrands also performed well.

“Another set of positive indicators to support the growth story – every pound spent on advertising returns roughly six. The forecast explosion in mobile advertising and digital formats points to UK advertising as the centre of a global revolution in consumer information, service and choice,” said Advertising Association chief executive Tim Lefroy.

Because the Advertising Association’s study is one of the only reports of its kind that uses advertising expenditure gathered from across the entire media landscape rather than relying on models or vague predictions, it is often considered the most reliable.

It revealed that internet adspend jumped by 15.6 per cent over the course of 2013, reaching £6.3 billion. As mentioned above, mobile was a major factor in this development, which is a genuinely remarkable growth story given the relative newness of the sector.

This development is matched by the decline in spend seen in more traditional areas such as print and magazines, according to the survey.

4 min read

How to make your CRM software work for you

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One of the difficulties in explaining the potential benefits of CRM to neophytes or sceptics is that it can become a fundamentally different thing depending on the industry you work in or the scale of your business.

What is important is not to think of it as a one-size-fits-all panacea that will deal with all of your marketing problems – CRM can be extremely useful, but it needs to be integrated and planned correctly if it is to be an effective part of your advertising technology.

Before purchasing the software, you should think about exactly what areas you need to target for improvement, and tailor the type of CRM you purchase so that it can fit into these gaps.

For instance, a large company with well-established procedures and an international, wide-ranging customer base will use CRM very differently from a start-up with its own aims and demands than its more mature competitors.

Ultimately, you need to make sure you have the right plans in place to make CRM work for you, otherwise conversion rates and return on investment will end up being disappointing, no matter how powerful the software package you have purchased is.

Here are some of the ways you can ensure your CRM is performing at an optimal level.

Keep it simple

As I explained above, it can be tempting to see CRM as a cure to all that ails your marketing function – to use it as a way of improving mobile content, engaging more effectively with customers, producing insightable data and sharing information across the company, all at the same time.

Naturally, this is an attractive proposition, but like most things that sound too good to be true, it is a pipe dream.

If you want your CRM software to be taken up across the company and used regularly, it makes sense to produce a simple, effective workflow initially, before adding all the bells and whistles that come with modern technology.

Of course, CRM can help you with improving your mobile service provision, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be used for such a complex task straight away. At first, use the fewest functions you can get away with – this will make the benefits clear and ensure that the people holding the purse strings will be happy to invest further in the technology later down the line.

Target it effectively

The failure of many CRM integrations comes about at least in part because firms do not have a strategic plan in place for utilising the software. You wouldn’t hire a new member of staff if you were unsure exactly what they were going to do – the same approach should be taken when adopting new technology.

Andrew Brittain, managing director of digital agency Advantec, recently told My Customer that companies need to change the way they look at CRM if they are to use it successfully.

“A CRM system is an important tool for building customer loyalty and encouraging retention. It will also keep your business competitive, but one common trap that can be fallen into by organisations is to see it as a standalone tactic, rather than developing it as a strategic function,” he explained.

“If you have a CRM system and it is not currently achieving what you hoped then it may down to the absence of a strategic plan, or because the system is not fully integrated and in line with business goals.”

Train workers to use CRM properly

Effective, comprehensive training on how to make use of CRM software will ensure that workers are comfortable with it and do not consider it either an imposition on their time or an overly complex, confusing system that they do not understand.

This should start with a short introduction to why the system has been brought in, explaining the benefits it can offer on an organisational level – workers will be more likely to express resentment or uncertainty if they are unclear about what CRM is for.

However, a short afternoon session is unlikely to sort out all the issues staff have with utilising new technology. Businesses that provide ongoing support and development opportunities to their workers around CRM will find their investment proves far more worthwhile.

Potentially, Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be adapted to more quickly, because its basic interface is more easily understood by people who have spent a lot of time with the tech giant’s other products.

Ultimately, bad training will mean no workers utilise the CRM package, which is one of the biggest reasons that many implementations fall by the wayside and will make the investment a waste of money.

4 min read

Privacy, consumers and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

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One of the hot topics of 2014 so far has been data security and the importance of keeping personal information secure. Huge stories such as the ongoing drama over the PRISM surveillance programme have placed this issue at the top of many consumers’ lists when it comes to something they demand from a company, and firms need to be seen to respond or else find themselves left behind by more security-conscious competitors.

However, this places firms in something of a bind; they need to ensure that they keep customer-focused information as safe as possible, but the emergence of big data analytics means that there is more of it than ever before, and the businesses that utilise it effectively can steal a march on their competitors.

Obviously, the solution isn’t simply to ignore the huge benefits big data can offer, particularly as the market matures.

It also wouldn’t be wise to dismiss the valid concerns many consumers have around the issue of information security.

So what can businesses do to take advantage of big data while also meeting their customers’ demands?

Security concerns

A recent survey from the Direct Marketing Association expressed positivity about how the industry is performing but noted that many consumers are still concerned about the use of information.

The authors estimate that direct marketing in the UK grew by approximately 8.6 per cent in 2013, but highlighted the fact that “negative connotations are impacting the market with regard to spam mail, e-mail and nuisance telephone calls being seen as invasive”.

“There are concerns that this will implicate the direct marketing industry by threatening access to the likes of customer database lists. However, it is evident that the personalisation of campaigns, which comes from accessing individual information and personal details, proves to be effective and drives a direct response to campaigns,” the study revealed.

CRM is an important part of managing these databases, as well as keeping the information they involve centralised in one location, thus making it easier to maintain its security and integrity.

The Internet of Things

As the Internet of Things becomes increasingly important and more technology is connected to the web, businesses will have even more data to take on board, meaning the bind alluded to at the start of the article is getting even more pronounced.

Tom Hostler, managing partner at digital agency Poke, recently told Marketing Week that the current situation with the Internet of Things is making many firms conscious of the need to develop their data processes.

CRM can help with this, as long as it is well-integrated and utilised effectively.

The more information a company is taking on, the more it needs to ensure that it can manage it, and having the right software in place is a big part of that.

Mr Hostler predicts that more smart products will emerge over the coming decade, leading to an exponential growth in the Internet of Things.

“Where it gets exciting is when these devices and networks are joined and the data sets can be combined, overlaid and patterns detected. This creates a new era in smart services and insight-driven marketing,” he concluded.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

CRM vendors, as well as the users of their service, need to be aware of the importance of security when it comes to developing their software.

With this in mind, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Trust Centre was set up as a way to underline the tech giant’s commitment to security and assuage any fears buyers might have over the way it stores and structures personal information.

It puts forward a series of so-called ‘online trust principles’ – a commitment to the privacy of consumers, to becoming an industry leader in the field of transparency, to complying with third-party regulations on security and to constantly updating their approach to cope with the changes taking place in the tech landscape.

“We have developed our practices and policies as a result of over fifteen years of experience in providing security for online data. Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle ensures security and privacy is incorporated by design from software development through service operations,” the organisation declared.

Choosing the right CRM provider is crucial for businesses that want to be seen as secure and interested in the privacy of their consumers; those firms that have a strong ethos around this issue, such as Microsoft, will help strengthen that part of their image.

Of course, this is only part of the issue – companies need to take the initiative and ensure that their approach towards data security is proactive, or risk suffering serious reputation damage.

4 min read

CRM, Retail and New Approaches to Marketing | Microsoft Dynamics 365

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The world of British supermarkets has undergone major convulsions in recent years, with old certainties changing as a host of young contenders emerge to challenge the established superpowers of Morrisons, Asda and Tesco.

Admittedly, the process may not be quite as exciting as it sounded in the first paragraph, which was composed under the influence of too much Game of Thrones.

But it is true that the supermarket landscape is in flux. One way in which big brands have responded is by placing a renewed emphasis on customer relations and CRM, as they attempt to slough off their reputation as faceless corporations and form strong links with British shoppers.

Waitrose – the upscale grocer that is acting as one of the contenders to the likes of Tesco, winning market share and opening new sites – recently reaffirmed its commitment to accessible, inspiring marketing.

Marketing director Rupert Thomas described the shift in approach as being an attempt to move on from direct selling to ‘inspiring’ customers, shaping how they think about food and their leisure time.

“The role of advertising is shifting. We want to help people make great choices around what they do and who they shop with. It is less about selling and talking to consumers about products or services they should be buying,” he told Marketing Week.

CRM could prove to be crucial in this change. While it is obviously important that retailers bring in good staff to produce the kind of engaging content referred to by Mr Thomas, a well-integrated relationship management system will make it easier to keep track of how people respond to this new approach.

It will also free up marketers from the burden of technical tasks, meaning they can spend more of their time in generating inspiring and innovative campaigns.

What do customers want?

Working out what customers want is one of the great challenges of marketing – but modern technology is providing firms with a glut of data that can produce insights in this area if managed effectively.

By tracking sales information, responses to marketing campaigns, the popularity of certain products and more, supermarkets or smaller retailers can form a clear picture of the people who use their stores.

Naturally, this will then make it easier to plan changes to advertising or sales functions, by ensuring that firms know how to tailor their approach.

Such a large amount of information can be daunting and difficult to manage; after all, having a large amount of information is pointless unless you have the framework in place to draw intelligible statistics from it.

A CRM database can make this a lot easier, by placing all the data in the same place and providing ready-made analytics tools to explore it.

Brand connections

The holy grail for many retail companies, particularly those that are used on a regular basis such as supermarkets, is brand connection – creating a link between customers and their service that means they are the first stop for somebody’s needs.

However, producing this kind of link is difficult given how competitive the market is, with firms such as Aldi attracting a lot of shoppers because of their willingness to undercut the prices of competitors.

In such a situation, the only way a firm like Waitrose can compete is by generating strong brand awareness.

“People see us as a trusted source of information and a place to go for inspiration on everything, from how to cook to what to do with their families. What people buy into with us as a brand is an opportunity to engage with us across a broad spectrum. It’s about trust in the brand,” declared Mr Thomas.

To create this kind of relationship, it is vital that businesses have a clear idea of how they have interacted with customers in the past, which is where CRM can offer a great deal of help.

By tracking all previous conversations had with or campaigns targeted at individual shoppers, CRM can make it far easier for retailers to offer the kind of personalised experience that creates brand engagement.

Multichannel

Finally, CRM can help supermarkets improve their multichannel approach, ensuring that they can offer customers a unified experience across mobile and online.

While the bricks-and-mortar shopping offering is still crucial, more and more consumers now buy their weekly food online, meaning that it is vital they feel like valued customers when purchasing items in non-traditional ways.

As firms struggle to enhance their mobile channel, CRM can make it easier to migrate customer data and manage relationships over the web.

2 min read

How to engage with ‘Generation C’

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The dizzying array of alphabetised generations can be hard to keep track of – I think we’re up to Generation Y now, but who can be sure? According to a new report from Infomentum, it is Generation C that needs to be targeted by marketers over the coming years.

This group of consumers are people who are fully engaged with social media – digital natives who are unconvinced by traditional marketing techniques and demand more personalised, engaging experiences when connecting with brands and companies.

Some 65 per cent of people within this category are between the ages of 16 and 24, the report found, meaning they are likely to be a strong audience base for years to come.

Gen C respondents tended to own a range of devices, such as smartphones and tablets, highlighting the importance of integrated mobile strategies among marketers keen to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Some 86 per cent used social media as part of their personal lives, as well as banking and shopping online, suggesting that plenty of data should be available from this demographic if companies develop the ability to harvest and analyse it.

Only 1.5 per cent of respondents would describe themselves as fully satisfied by the features of the websites they use on a daily basis, with 98.5 per cent annoyed or unimpressed by certain facets of their experience.

Generation C consumers demand flexibility and collaboration within their working environments as well, highlighting the fact that companies need to develop their procedures internally and externally.

John Mancini, chief executive officer of AIIM, said: “We live in an age of big data and mobility, and where we can pull information from hundreds or thousands of different sources – the challenge for employees and employers is managing and understanding this.

“For employees, particularly those in the Generation C bracket, being able to find information and to find it quickly is an essential part of their jobs.”

1 min read

More digital investment expected in 2014

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Businesses are likely to make further investments in the digital marketing sector over the coming 12 months as this area gains further traction, both in B2B and B2C sectors.

Ashley Friedlan, the founder of Econsultancy, recently suggested that digital transformation is likely to continue in 2014 as firms across a number of different industries attempt to change their approach.

Writing in Marketing Week, he suggested that digital has become the “Trojan Horse” that will allow companies to reach the big prize and connect with customers as effectively as possible.

“Although digital is the catalyst and driving force behind change, particularly for organisations whose business models have been most disrupted, it looks like marketing as a function within business is to be the primary agent of change,” he added.

Marketers are now at the vanguard of a change in the industry, as companies attempt to become more customer-focused and change their approach in order to do this, explained Mr Friedland.

Forward-thinking British firms are “seeking to grow by reinventing the customer experience across all channels, driven by digital, to align with changing customer behaviour and a shifting business model,” declared Mr Friedlan.

While capital expenditure in the past has focused on infrastructure, big tech, property and so on, it is now expected to shift towards intangibles like data, content and code.

Agile processes are also likely to become popular, while new marketing technology systems based around software such as CRM are being developed by many firms, the industry expert claimed.

Data will be at the heart of the reinvention of data over the coming years, he concluded.

A similar trend was pinpointed in Deloitte’s 2013 chief information officer survey, which suggested that 75 per cent of IT leaders hope to support business growth through innovation.

2 min read

Make Your Life Easier – by Making Sales’ Job Easier

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Although you’ll never completely remove the to-ing and fro-ing between Marketing and Sales, you could go some way towards calming it down by, dare we say it… making Sales’ job easier.

Why would you want to? Arguably, doing just this is, in essence, the marketing team’s job description. Ok, so that description misses out some of the nuances of your work but Marketing is largely about helping Sales close leads quicker and bring in more revenue.

Think about it this way; if you make the sales department’s work that bit easier and try to work with them rather than against them, they’re more likely to support you too and recognise your contribution towards the organisation’s bottom line. But, if helping Sales is not a good enough reason in its own right, do it to subsequently make your own life easier. So, how to ease both your workloads? By using your CRM.

Use CRM for a better alignment

Efficient use of your company CRM is the most straightforward way to ensure that both Sales and Marketing align and your company flourishes. Even a few changes in your processes can mean a shortening in your company’s sales cycle and an increase in company revenue.

Help Sales create better first impressions by ensuring that your CRM is filled with the correct personal details. Names and numbers are crucial but any other detail you obtain can be of use to your sales team and could offer them another avenue in conversation. Your role is largely reconnaissance; make sure you’re feeding back correct information to those who are planning the strike.

How often do Sales complain that the leads you forward to them are simply not ready to purchase? It is said that only 25% are ready to purchase straight away, with the rest needing to be nurtured and kept warm. A CRM like Microsoft Dynamics offers the option to retain leads and score them. In doing so, you can be sure that only the best leads are sent over and Sales would have a stronger track record with your leads.

Let CRM help you sell more

Selling to existing customers is collaborative; just because you initially sent out the lead to Sales and they closed it, don’t forget about them. With all departments focusing on their own role, everyone needs to be active in their approach to previous clients.

Try to identify trends in clients’ buying habits and then help with brand awareness by nurturing them, this will help customers automatically return to you. Go further and create a marketing campaign exclusively for previous customers include incentives with your CRM to hand, you can see what they previously bought and cater to their needs.

2 min read

Customer service through digital channels ‘ineffective’

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A great deal of the customer service being delivered through digital channels is not engaging effectively with its intended targets, according to a new report from Accenture’s Global Consumer Pulse.

The research, seen exclusively by Marketing Week, says 53 per cent of British consumers have switched brands in at least one industry because of poor digital relations.

Remarkably, people in the UK were less enthusiastic than any but one of the other 32 countries surveyed when asked if brands are melding traditional and digital customer support effectively.

Only four per cent of British respondents strongly agreed that companies do this well, with Japanese consumers the least enthusiastic at two per cent.

Accenture managing director Rachel Barton said this concern is a major factor in stopping “channel shift”, the desired process whereby consumers start contacting companies via the internet rather than using traditional means such as the phone.

This is an aim for many firms because it will allow them to save cash and become more efficient; however, until their service provision begins to match their aspirations they are unlikely to succeed.

“Although the penetration of online channels is very high, the phone channel has not dwindled,” declared Ms Barton.

“If digital were truly able to allow customers to execute an end-to-end task, I wouldn’t expect to see phone use quite so high.”

Some 43 per cent of people had used company websites in a bid to satisfy their needs, with less than one-fifth satisfied by the response they received from this channel.

Other factors such as optimisation for smartphones and tablets can prove decisive in how happy customers are, the report revealed.

Ms Barton concluded: “31 per cent are frustrated with a lack of mobile functionality. Our view is that every customer is a digital customer and mobile has to be a part of every organisation’s proposition.”

2 min read

How is CRM set to change in the coming years?

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Customer relationship management (CRM) has been a part of the business landscape for a very long time, while automated CRM systems have also gained a great deal of traction over the last few years.

However, the emergence of big data, the mobile revolution, the increasing emphasis placed on social networking and other factors are all coalescing to produce conditions that could see the CRM market change a great deal over the coming few years.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM has recently announced a host of updates that will be made to its software as the company attempts to compete with its rivals in what is an increasingly crowded market. There is little doubt that its counterparts will also be planning new moves as they hope to keep up with the mercurial marketing world.

Christopher Bulchotz, director of content marketing at Relayware, recently suggested that CRM needs to change to keep pace with the shifts seen in communications.

Writing for CRM Buyer, the Relayware chief pointed to the emergence of mobile as a key factor in these developments. In this area, successful and effective integration remains the exception rather than the rule, he explained.

“It should be about the data that’s entered into CRM via mobile devices, with access to some critical content. Determining which data and which content requires some thinking, along with a reassertion of the goals of the organisation’s CRM effort in general,” he declared.

What this means is that organisations purchasing the software – as well as the vendors that supply it – need to take steps to think about how they wish to use their CRM processes to engage with customers.

Business intelligence developments and social CRM are also going to be big in 2014 and onwards, concluded Mr Bulchotz.

“Unless CRM and marketing automation are integrated, running analytics on the two in a way that yields results about the effectiveness of marketing becomes extremely difficult, and finding those insights can force companies back to manual processes,” he said.

2 min read

Usability key metric for CRM

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The best-performing CRM vendors across the globe are focusing on usability to provide business and marketing solutions that are easily accessed and simple to learn, according to a new report.

Consultancy firm Nucleus Research’s Technology Value Matrix for CRM study found that functionality and ease of use are becoming key market differentiators as the sector continues to mature.

One way in which vendors are definably improving their approach is by simplifying user interfaces, according to the survey.

Rebecca Wettemann, vice-president at Nucleus Research, said major shifts have taken place within the market as the “accelerated cadence of releases” alters how CRM is seen by many firms.

“Providers focusing on real usability improvements and following the dark cockpit principles of simplify, focus, and automate are starting to widen the gap, challenging others to play catch-up,” she added.

Nucleus expects the coming months to see providers further improve their offering by investing in cutting-edge functions such as territory management, configure-price-quote, and performance management, making these core parts of much CRM software.

Finally, the organisation found that decisions around adopting or switching CRM technology are becoming more important for many companies as they realise the potential benefits it can bring when utilised effectively.

Rather than simply looking at product roadmaps, companies are placing more emphasis on long-term relationships with CRM providers, assessing what they can offer them over the years to come in terms of commitment and partnership.

This follows a report published by Nucleus early last year showing that usability is also a key metric in the business intelligence (BI) industry, one that has close links to CRM software.

“As the previously monolithic world of BI fragments, the now varied world of analytic applications has vendors pursuing best-of-breed solutions for narrow markets. As they carve out their niches, we see a growing need for solutions that are smarter, more intuitive and easier to use,” declared principle analyst Nina Sandy.