There’s an overlap between Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and sales tracking software and you may see the terms used interchangeably.

However, while CRM is an all-encompassing solution bringing sales, marketing, customer service and support together, sales tracking systems can be limited to the sales function.

Do you need sales tracking software?

Well, that depends how large and complex your organisation is. If your sales staff are juggling lists, databases and other contact systems it could be that a single system to rationalise the prospect-lead-contact-follow up process would be useful for you. Ask the people who know and involve them in the decision and the choice of system.

As with any type of software, there’s a huge variety of sales tracking systems available. Budget will almost certainly come into your choice, but also consider what you’re paying for and whether you’ll get full use out of all those smart new features. Sales doesn’t need to be over complicated – it’s about people and relationships at its heart – so don’t over complicate the system that monitors and facilitates it.

The most basic requirements can probably be reduced to just four areas: contacts, tracking, history and diary.

They’re all pretty self-explanatory. Making sure that the system you choose has strong contact management, can easily track leads, allows your staff to keep a record of how they interact with clients and prospects and will help organise their time efficiently should reap practical benefits. It should also provide decent feedback on how your sales team are doing.

See for yourself!

But don’t take our word for it, design your own ‘must do’ list in consultation with your sales specialists and compare it with the systems you look at. Integration with other systems – like your email software – and web access on the road are also likely to be on your mind. Support and security should be the first things you check whenever you consider buying new software for your organisation.

Whether you want something simple and good value or can try something more sophisticated, you will need to do your research. Many systems offer free trials and with some forethought these can be useful. Use review sites as well, but be aware that much of the material online is linked to people who are trying to flog you the systems. This site offers reviews and an overview of the sector and appears to be independent.

Today we’re going to look at how companies that implement CRM systems can improve their CRM strategy. In our experience, all factors I’m about to mention play a big role in CRM implementation success rates.


This is not to say that if you get all these factors right, your CRM ROI will go through the roof. However, if you do pay attention to them, you should significantly reduce the chance that your CRM project will become a statistic.


And what a horrible statistic. 18-70% CRM failure rate according to various studies might be an off-putting number. But in our experience as a CRM consultancy, this just goes to show the importance of a robust CRM implementation strategy. After all, successful Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementations show an average ROI of 243%, which should eliminate any doubts about the competence of the software. Taken that you’ve chosen the right CRM for your company, the only other factor to contribute to your success will be your CRM strategy.


Factors that contribute to CRM strategy failure

CRM Strategy Problem #1: You don’t have a CRM strategy.

Why is it a problem?
Not having a CRM strategy means you don’t know what you’ll do when problems arise. Perhaps more importantly, it also means that you don’t have a sense of direction of where you want to be in the next 3 or 5 years. You might end up stabbing in the dark and your system can eventually fall apart or become obsolete.

How to fix it:
Understand that CRM is not only about the power of technology and ad-hoc tactics. Create a plan that will detail how you want your current system to evolve and how you’re going to achieve it. Make sure you create a document that will be a point of future reference anytime you need to decide about adding functionality, new tactics or tackling unforeseen circumstances.


CRM Strategy Problem #2: You focus on reducing costs rather than improving value.

Why is it a problem?
Cost is a number and numbers can always be decreased. It’s difficult to decide when to stop reducing costs and start focusing on creating optimal value but it should be done because otherwise you’re risking damage to your business reputation.

How to fix it:
Determine a standard which you’ll always aim to deliver. Naturally, this standard should be higher for your best customers and lower for the others. However, you should also define the threshold for the lowest standard you’ll always provide for anyone. This is crucial to your company’s reputation, as it’s far more difficult to repair damage once it’s done. any cost reduction that can happen within these boundaries is then allowed.


CRM Strategy Problem #3: Your CRM strategy is more inward- than outward- focused.

Why is it a problem?
If you use your CRM primarily to track your employees’ actions, it distracts you from creating value for your leads (which is the point of a good CRM strategy). Your employees might feel spied on, do tasks for the sake of doing tasks and your company will gradually lose track of what matters for the customer.

How to fix it: Understand that while CRM is a great tool for reporting on your employees’ performance, the main purpose of it should be to gather information about your customers so you can nurture them effectively. After all, your performance measures can be very high but what point does it serve if your customers don’t notice?


CRM Strategy Problem #4: Your employees can’t access your CRM from everywhere.

Why is it a problem? Not being able to access your CRM database from a mobile device limits your employees’ performance while they’re on the go. Especially Sales and Customer Service can meet and exceed you customers’ expectations more easily when they have all data at hand. By not addressing the importance of mobile CRM, you might be wasting time and money.

How to fix it: Choose a CRM that offers a mobile version.  Some CRM vendors, like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, offer the mobile version free of charge for every user.



CRM Strategy Problem #5: You haven’t won your boss’ support.

Why is it a problem?
The higher managerial level that supports the CRM project, the better. A general rule of thumb should be: the project should be supported by people with managerial control over any CRM user/implementer. Otherwise you’re risking that when the project runs into problems, you won’t be able to save it from failing.

How to fix it: Prepare a CRM business case and make sure all the key stakeholders are on board before launching the project.


CRM Strategy Problem #6: All departments are not using the same system.

Why is it a problem?
If your three customer-facing functions: Marketing, Sales and Customer Support are not working from the same database, you’re likely to waste time transferring data, money on multiple licences, disagree on crucial criteria and run into unnecessary misunderstandings.

How to fix it: Choose one CRM system that can be used by all departments in question. Get the help of your IT department* when implementing the system. IT should help take into consideration all these department’s needs, which perhaps wouldn’t happen if only the CRM vendor was to implement your solution. Another good tip to go by is to make up a cross-functional team which will take care that CRM gets used properly in each department.

*If you don’t have an IT department, make sure you pick a vendor that’s willing to invest time into getting to know your company’s needs.


CRM Strategy Problem #7: You’ve not made a habit of using CRM daily.

Why is it a problem?
Your employees don’t use the system as much as they could and as a result they are wasting time they could be using elsewhere. Moreover, their efforts are hard to evaluate since they’re not recorded in the CRM system. As a result, you’re paying for a glorified spreadsheet without taking full advantage of it.

How to fix it: Ensure all CRM users receive proper CRM training and understand the value of using it. Some companies have also found it helpful to implement a incentive system that will reward users based on how well they’ve adopted the system. Although this might cause some disapproval at first, in the long term it’s a good way of showing that the CRM project is a company priority.


CRM Strategy Problem #8: Your CRM doesn’t support all your customer touch points.

Why is it a problem? Customers like to choose through which channel they prefer to interact with you. Not being flexible enough to give them the choice may not only shed bad light on you, it can also frustrate the customers if they have to repeat information to you because you’re not able to capture it properly.

How to fix it:
Make an exhaustive list of all customer touch points you use and choose a CRM that will cater for all of them. Make sure your employees use the CRM to communicate with your leads as much as possible.


CRM Strategy Problem #9: You can’t guarantee that your system is safe.

Why is it a problem? Data security is absolutely crucial to your business’ reputation. If you’re willing to risk data leakage, you’re willing to accept all the negative publicity that goes hand in hand with it.

How to fix it:
Research the market well before implementing and choose a CRM that has good reputation for being safe. Take care to consult your vendor about CRM security and carry out all necessary precautions regularly.


CRM Strategy Problem #10: You’ve chosen a CRM that’s not able to grow with your company.

Why is it a problem?
As your company grows, you need to be able to accommodate for new users, extra functionality and data storage. If your system is not able to provide this, parts of your organisation might be left out of the process, which will cost you time and money.

How to fix it:
Make sure your current CRM system is able to support the size of a company you’re planning on becoming in the next 5-10 years. Your current CRM system doesn’t need to be able to support a much larger company; rather it should offer enough upgrading options to cover all your future needs. If you find there are other unnecessary limitations of your current CRM system, consider replacing it as soon as possible, to secure higher chances that your CRM will have a bright future.

How does a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) package that’s already installed on every computer in your office and every member of staff uses dozens of times every day sound? Pretty great probably. Two of the big stumbling blocks to adopting CRM in small businesses – cost and complexity – are killed off just like that. But can Outlook do an effective job for you?

Of course, you need to do more than just send and receive messages to get the most from Outlook as a CRM tool, but Microsoft’s email programme has potential in this area. You’ll need to get on top of the calendar, journal and contact managers, notes and task management. Using Microsoft Exchange Server and SharePoint Server can make it a shared, multi-user experience (this is more integrated in the latest versions of Office 365). Outlook even keeps a record of every conversation you have with each contact.

So, Outlook certainly has CRM potential. In addition, there are a number of add on programmes that can add extra CRM functionality to Outlook for much less than a full CRM solution would cost. Microsoft also sell Business Contact Manager for Outlook which claims to turn it into a much more effective CRM tool.

However, a fully functioning CRM will do so much more. One of the first things it will do is manage your email messages – often through Outlook. It will also control your contacts and – as many experts are keen to point out – Outlook doesn’t yet allow you to link documents to a particular contact.

It’s this sort of functionality that a fully-fledged CRM system will have. It will almost certainly be more sophisticated than Outlook, more networked and more likely to link different parts of your organisation.

However, if you are a small business with a small IT system – Outlook needs extra software to work in this way on a network – then Outlook can certainly do a job for you (let’s not forget that Microsoft also have their own CRM package). As we’ve mentioned, two of the problems many businesses find with CRM systems are their complexity and the difficulty in getting staff to successfully engage with them.

As you consider CRM and think about trying out some trial versions, perhaps it would be worthwhile to do the small amount of research necessary to give Outlook the chance to perform to its fullest capabilities.

Managing the performance of your marketing is just as important as planning and executing it.

However, for many marketing managers, measuring ROI is still a big challenge, which sometimes results in having a hard time negotiating the marketing budget.

This is a shame because – as we marketers know – every extra pound is worth having!

Let’s start with ourselves then. What can we as marketers do to have more money? Well, we can either spend less or make more.

  1. How do I spend less?
  2. Spend less money: Use marketing analytics that measure how much money you spend on every campaign and on every channel. That means you’ll be able to extract what works best on which customers and where – so you won’t waste resources stabbing in dark.
    Spend less time: Also, for lead optimisation, use the lead scoring function that will tell you how ready your leads are and how much value for your company they have. The better you define your scoring criteria, the more you’ll know which leads are not worth the effort and which still need some nurturing.


  3. How do I make more?
  4. Spend your money here: You can spend the money you save in many ways – experimenting with new campaigns or reinvesting in the best performing ones. That means the more money you bring in, the more money you bring in.
    Spend your time here: Dedicate your time and effort to those leads that are sales-ready and carry high value. Your sales reps will close deals sooner because they will know who to target and how, while your customers will enjoy talking to your company because you’ll always be relevant and will take care of those who appreciate it the most.

What is eCRM? eCRM stands for electronic customer relationship management. That means everything you do online to nurture your customer relationships.

Many people describe the difference between CRM and eCRM in many different ways. The countless definitions can be quite confusing because we use the same term ‘CRM’ for the strategy of taking care of cusomers and also for the CRM software. The same term therefore stands for policy and technology, and some CRM vendors will argue that you can’t have one without the other.

However, we believe that you do not necessarily need CRM software to be able to engage in customer relationship management – and eCRM.

Why? Because eCRM is simply about taking care of your customer relationships using digital channels – which you’re probably already doing today.


Ways to engage in eCRM

Ask yourself the following questions to see how your business might be engaging in eCRM.

  1. Email
    1. Do you keep in touch with your customers via email?
    2. Are you sending promotional email messages to your audience?
    3. Do you evaluate their performance and try to replicate your successes?

  2. Social media
    1. Do you spend time broadcasting your message to a wide audience?
    2. Do you listen to your target market and look for patterns in demographics, behaviour, target market needs etc.?
    3. Do you react to what your target audience says about your brand?

  3. Tracking customer behaviour on your website
    1. Do you test various page layouts and copies and try to work out which ones work best?
    2. Do you use tools to see which pages are most popular?
    3. Do you optimise your website based on this data to enhance your visitor’s user experience?

  4. Capturing new leads
    1. Do you actively seek out new lead and engage with them online?
    2. Do you have a subscription button on your website?
    3. Do you use data capture forms to get new leads so you can nurture them later?

  5. Tracking campaign success
    1. Do you measure success of your individual campaigns?
    2. Do you try to figure out the common traits of your most successful campaigns so you can replicate them?

If you said yes in at least one case, congratulations, you’re engaging in eCRM.

… So why do other businesses spend money on CRM systems?


What is the advantage of CRM software?

The answer to this question is rather straightforward: information is power. The advantage of having a CRM system lies in the ability to gather data about everything you’re doing.

The system gathers lots of valuable data for you, such as information about campaign performance, performance of teams & individual employees, etc. By automating some of the most tedious eCRM tasks, you can also get to a much larger audience much more quickly. This means you get to do more things and gain deeper insight into everything you’re doing as well.


How can a good CRM system leverage your eCRM?

Let’s see how the eCRM you’re doing without CRM software can be enhanced by using one.


  1. Email –Good CRM systems enable you to send bulk emails to any target audience you choose. You’re also able to reflect on the success of every email you’ve sent out by looking at its delivery, open and click-through statistics. Every next of your email activities is then based more on hard data and less on subjective opinions.
  2. Social media – If you choose a CRM system that integrates with your social media, you’ll be able to listen to your audience’s conversation, engage with them directly from your CRM system and measure the overall sentiment of the posts your audience sends out. This way Marketing can manage your brand better, Sales can find new (otherwise hidden) opportunities and Service can identify and resolve issues in record time.
  3. Tracking customer behaviour on your website – Modern CRM systems let you see the journey your website visitors take. Each visit journey gets recorded on the lead’s record and the score they get for each visit is automatically added to their overall score. This makes your lead prioritisation straightforward and means that your Sales people know where to pick up from where Marketing left and stay relevant.
  4. Capturing new leads – With an intelligent CRM system, you don’t need to manually process leads who sign up for updates on your website. Smart CRM systems automatically create new leads from data capture forms. That means you can just drop these new leads into your marketing nurture programme and the software will take care of the rest.
  5. Tracking campaign success – Arguably the most value you can extract from a good CRM lies in the analytics. Within a powerful CRM system, plenty of reports are available at a click and they take just seconds to be created. This way you can see success metrics of all your efforts which lets you enhance the quality of your eCRM in the short and long run.


Other tools to improve your eCRM

CRM is not the only tool with the ability to enhance your eCRM. The functionality we’ve mentioned in this article is provided by many other tools, such as Google Analytics, email marketing software, marketing automation software etc. However, we believe that a strong CRM programme should integrate all these tools in one place.

If after reading this article you find that you’re happy with your current eCRM routine and you don’t need anything else at the moment, that’s fantastic. In the future, if you notice that you want more, you know where to go next – get a powerful CRM system that will leverage your effort and help you forecast and improve your future performance. According to Forrester Research, companies who adopt Microsoft Dynamics CRM get an average ROI of 243%. That sounds like something to look forward to!

5 “no-brainers” and 5 actual pieces of useful advice.

    Speed of implementing

  1. Implementing too quickly: This is a classic no-brainer. You really do need to do enough research so you can make the market fully meet your own requirements.
  2. Implementing too slowly: Actually, over-analysing can harm your business too. The time and energy you invest into researching and meeting different vendors should be limited, otherwise you can make your expectations too unrealistic. Don’t waste time when you could be dedicating it to working with your existing CRM! Make sure you schedule your process realistically before you start implementing.

    Importing data

  4. Importing too much data: Any data that won’t be used in the next half year is generally not worth importing as by the time you come to use it, it will be too obsolete to rely on.
  5. Not importing enough data: Do you think transferring data is too much hassle? Keep your existing valuable data alive. Choose a CRM vendor with easy data import technology and look into the future to determine which data might still make a difference.

    Initial functionality

  7. Implementing too many features: You will end up paying too much and your users might end up overwhelmed. You also need to consider the amount of time needed for customisation of the whole system, as implementation is only the start, adding on more time again before you reach the fully optimised state.
  8. Not implementing enough features: Start small but make sure it counts. Write up a list of what you need and don’t let yourself be sold a solution that doesn’t fit your current business processes.

    Reasons for implementing CRM

  10. Focusing on fixing a management problem: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Make sure you’re implementing CRM for the right reasons: better customer relationships, not better company management, and adjust your objectives accordingly.
  11. Focusing on fixing a technology problem: To treat a CRM system as a unified database without pursuing the additional benefits it can bring to your marketing, sales and service would be to completely miss the CRM essence. Understand that implementing CRM calls for change and more clarity in your business processes, and make sure your company can handle the shift.

    Relationship with your vendor

  13. Over-relying on your vendor: Make sure you are clear on the responsibility division before you sign the contract. Also, never assume that they are perfect – the outcome will also depend on your share and initiative.
  14. Over-relying on yourself: Don’t be afraid to take a step back. You may well profit from hiring a consultant who specialises in companies like your own. Outsourcing some business expertise is likely to bring you more objectivity, skills and confidence in the system.

Podcasting has been around for many years but has not, until recently, made too much of an impact on the ability of a company to get leads and sell.

However, the landscape has changed greatly over the last six months or so, as many high-worth potential leads have discovered podcasts because of the rise of high-profile business and political leaders beginning to podcast.

Also the meteoric increase of use of the smartphone and iPad has led to people using podcasts when they are on the move, in the gym and whilst doing many other activities. It has been estimated that there are 50 Million podcast listeners on iTunes alone, with humour being the largest category followed closely by all business-related topics.

So whilst many more people are turning to podcasts to educate and entertain themselves, the number of people who are creating podcasts is not increasing at the same rate. This means that there is a valuable opportunity for those businesses that choose to grasp it. Even a 10 minute per week tips and ideas podcast on iTunes can reach thousands of people and increase your reach as a business.

An example is Wes Murray’s Essentially Fit (a fitness podcast for the over 40’s). Before he started his podcast, he was doing well with his business, however it has exploded afterwards in the number of leads that he is receiving.

A great content idea is to simply interview other business leaders in your field who are influential. Not many people will turn down the opportunity to broadcast to thousands of people. But any content that engages will build a following. When deciding on your podcast content, do remember it is possible to podcast using video as well as just audio.

A great resource to learn what is needed to start podcasting is the Podcast Answer Man. He has details of everything you need to get started (although he does go a bit high-end, when really all you need is a basic microphone and audacity – a free piece of software).

Most of us here will know that CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. But what is CRM as a concept? That’s where things start to get more complicated.

Here are a few definitions from around the web that, between them, sum up CRM.

CRM as a tool for managing interactions

Let’s start with Wikipedia, the encyclopaedia written by its customers, which says that CRM is “a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers”, using technology to tie customer services, technical support, sales and marketing efforts together. It adds that CRM will measure marketing across many channels, manage support requests from customers, set appointments and manage call centres.

It remarks on the growing importance of social media in CRM and warns that $2 billion (according to a 2003 report from Gartner) is spent on CRM software that simply isn’t used; that in 2007 staff were considered by CEOs not to be using CRM systems and that 43% of respondents in the same survey said they were using less than half of the possible functions of their CRM systems.

CRM as a tool for customer satisfaction

Business Dictionary is shorter and more to the point with its definition that CRM is built around the “identification and satisfaction of the customers’ stated and unstated needs and wants”. It also highlights the role of technology in CRM. It goes on to state that CRM is built on profiling potential customers to both understand them and build better relationships with them. Integration of contacts, sales and support are identified and according to Business Dictionary the whole process is built around a database.

CRM as a belief system

Barn Raisers posts 21 bite-sized definitions from various experts. You can take your pick here – some focus on software while others are of the opinion that CRM is a philosophy – and there are some interesting graphics on CRM processes. Perhaps the snappiest and most easily understood definition comes from Jennifer Carnie of Customer Systems who ditches all the jargon to conclude that CRM is: “The belief that customers should feel like a VIP every time they communicate with your company.”

Social CRM and lifestyle data

Oliver Blanchard at Brand Builder has no time for philosophies, insisting that CRM is a function. His well-argued piece attempts to bring CRM into the future – or even the present – by defining social CRM. Essentially, he brings in the idea of ‘lifestyle data’ to the equation, but hopes that the term social CRM will become obsolete as our likes, follows and friends become an accepted part of business data collection. The piece is well worth a read.

CRM and customer loyalty

The most technical of our definitions is to be found at (PDF) and amounts to an academic summation of the subject. It’s a dense read, but does attempt to define CRM before discussing it in detail. CRM can be a strategy, process or tool the paper argues, summing up the over-riding philosophy of CRM as, “Knowing your customers better will enable you to serve them better and keep them loyal forever.”

There are many more CRM definitions out there and if you’re interested in the subject it’s certainly worth taking a look around. While there is disagreement there is a lot of common ground, most of which centres on the fact that CRM is a good, if not vital, part of any business and technology is key to its success.

Harnessing and understanding customer data can offer businesses the chance to find new leads and increase their revenue in an increasingly competitive marketplace, an expert has claimed.

Dave Peters, chief executive officer and founder of Emagine International, recently laid out some of the potential benefits that can come from working out how to deal with information gleaned from the behaviour of consumers.

He suggested that such data, if used effectively, can have a revolutionary and galvanising impact on the world of marketing and advertising.

Writing in Digital Marketing Magazine, he explained that customer information is not a novel thing but in “recent years the amount of data available (from the internet, social media, mobile, credit cards, transport and building infrastructure and so on) has become so vast that we can really only make sense of it with the help of automation and machines”.

Indeed, businesses have carried out a rudimentary type of this analysis for many years – think of the owner of a small shop noting that a particular brand of biscuits sells more than the others and purchasing extra of them, for instance.

So what’s changed? As well as the remarkable expansion of information pinpointed by Mr Peters, the sophistication and power of automated CRM and big data analysis systems has improved over the last decade.

The Emagine International founder expressed his hope that the emergence of this kind of automation would make it easier for marketers to engage in creative processes and produce innovative work.

He added that siloing relevant information can be a real value-adder for B2B and B2C firms.

“Customer interactions are relevant and valuable, and customer experience can be easily tracked and improved, providing marketers with the opportunity to create rich records of what a consumer wants while creating greater “stickiness” with the brand,” declared Mr Peters.

Extracting more valuable insights from consumer behaviour is likely to be the biggest trend over the coming 12 months, he concluded.

There is a lot of data ready to be collected from consumers at the moment, with firms investing in analytics technology, skilled workers and CRM systems to ensure they can take advantage of it.

While all of this is important in taking as much information as possible on board and attempting to learn from it, an industry expert has warned that failing to place it into a proper context could leave businesses spending too much on an ultimately pointless function.

Emma Haslam, insights consultant with 4PS Marketing, argued that firms need to consider how data fits within the big picture of their business activities if they are to glean as much from it as possible.

After all, it isn’t only the digital world that has an impact on how consumers behave online, meaning organisations should not simply concentrate their data collection on web-based platforms.

She said: “Of course marketing certainly plays its part in affecting customer behaviour, so do you refer to all your offline activities when looking at your web analytics? Do you have a calendar of your TV adverts, when they were shown, and what they were promoting?”

Keeping track of all these functions either via a standardised database or a CRM system is crucial if companies want to ensure their analytics team has access to as much information as possible.

By examining online and offline data, firms can develop a 3D picture of their market, consumers and competitors, rather than relying on the one-dimensional images created by simply focusing on one source.

“Without a calendar or record of the above scenarios that anyone can easily refer to, you’re leaving your analysts pretty impotent in their ability to give you a complete picture of what impact everything your business is doing is having on your online performance,” added Ms Haslam.

Although she suggested that companies do not need to invest in a whole new infrastructure to reach this level, there is no doubt that CRM software can play a role in improving data analysis.