The recent furore around data and information security has put a great deal of pressure on companies to ensure they keep their systems safe from intrusion and avoid losing sensitive material, particularly when they wish to use it for marketing purposes.

Only nine per cent of consumers have confidence in brands to keep their data secure, representing a ten-year low when it comes to consumer trust, according to a report by Fujitsu released late last year.

George Gee, head of CRM at restaurant reservation service Bookatable, told Marketing Week huge organisations such as Tesco and Barclays getting it wrong highlights just how difficult keeping information safe can be.

The latter recently saw thousands of confidential files hacked and stolen, while the former has some 2,000 customer data profiles posted online by a cyber criminal.

Given the huge volume of information being processed by many firms, particularly as big data analytics begins to gain traction within the corporate world, it is clear that this issue is unlikely to be swept under the carpet.

Mr Gee suggested that ensuring all members of staff within an organisation know the best practice when handling sensitive information is one way of reducing the likelihood of embarrassing incidents.

“Obviously, our IT department has processes in place around security on laptops and computers for example, but human error will always be a factor in these situations and organisations need to limit that ” he explained.

CRM can help in that it ensures data goes through safe channels and is dealt with by the right people, suggested Mr Gee.

He also advocated that companies should not hold on to information for too long after they have utilised it, which is also a process that can be automated through the use of a CRM system.

“It limits our risk because our database is where data should be held. It is about addressing human error – your systems can be as secure as possible but, ultimately, if someone decides to email a bit of data to someone, then that [system] is flawed,” concluded the Booktable expert.

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.

Embracing big data can help chief marketing officers (CMOs) leverage their position and gain more influence within an organisation, as long as they have the right tools in place to manager it, according to a new report.

B2B market research company Circle Research and marketing agency dnx surveyed 52 marketers from B2B and B2C organizations in the UK and Europe, finding that 83 per cent of respondents have already put plans in place for big data investment.

According to the survey, the main reason behind this spending is that big data can offer granular, detailed understanding of consumer behaviour – allowing businesses to put more reactive, engaging plans in place for their own customers.

Some 69 per cent of people in the sample are already utilising this information to shape their overall operational and commercial approach.

Furthermore, there is a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ element to the widespread investment seen across the sector, with nine out of ten respondents worrying that insufficient spend on big data could see firms placed at a competitive disadvantage to their rivals.

Drew Nicholson, the chief executive of dnx, said technology is now in place to gain an unprecedented level of insight into what makes consumers tick, whatever the service or product involved in the process is.

“Whether it’s search, affiliate, display or email blasts, all of those things you can measure and work out if they’re helping your business or not,” he explained.

However, he warned that a shift in thinking may be needed before companies can fully embrace the potential of big data; although creativity remains crucial, it is vital that this approach is leavened with the use of hard information.

“Marketers need to be prepared to roll their sleeves up and get involved in the data, maybe a slight cultural change [is needed] in the way they think about things,” he explained.

Despite the recent furore over the privacy – or otherwise – of online data, a new survey has revealed that consumers are happy to give their information to brands they consider to be trustworthy as long as it will be used for something productive.

The report, from SDL, found 79 per cent of respondents willing to interact in this way with brands or companies they felt were likely to keep their personal information securely.

For firms utilising customer relationship management (CRM) tools to improve the sales journey of clients and customers, certain kinds of data can be crucial in shaping policy.

The SDL survey also revealed that while consumers are not comfortable with being “tracked” in a physical store, they do not tend to read privacy policies or take the option to drop out of web tracking practices, highlighting something of a lack of understanding among many internet users in the UK.

Mark Lancaster, chief executive and founder of the organisation, said that building up trust will be crucial if companies are to justify their use of personal information gleaned from the net.

“Marketers and brands need to earn that trust to be successful. They need to ensure the customer data they use translates to a better experience for their customers and give customers a compelling reason to share their data,” he explained.

Web-savvy operations “that understand their customers’ privacy concerns and commit to using customer data judiciously will create a strong customer commitment,” concluded the SDL chief.

CRM technology can help ensure that information is used to create a good experience for consumers – responsive sites, strong communication levels and personalisation are all vital in this metric, and many of the processes involved in this can be efficiently automated via the right software.

For firms that want to take advantage of the growing amount of consumer data available online, privacy and efficiency are likely to be crucial measurements of success over the coming years.

Online marketing campaigns need to be seen as secure as well as being innovative and engaging if they are to connect with an increasingly web-savvy customer base, it has been claimed.

The latest edition of the annual TRUSTe Consumer Confidence Index, released late last month, found six in ten web users to be more concerned about their privacy than they were in 2013.

Given the shocking revelations about the NSA that made headlines last year, this caution is entirely understandable, with Britons worried about how their personal data is likely to be used.

However, firms can take the initiative and ensure that potential buyers – on a b2b as well as a b2c basis – feel comfortable in engaging with their advertising initiatives.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a highly secure system for this form of marketing, with the tech giant keen to be seen as a trustworthy partner when it comes to data security.

"We proactively monitor to help identify potential unknown threats by predicting malicious behaviour and monitoring for irregular events that may indicate threats," the company claimed.

TRUSTe European managing director Ken Parnham said: "After a barrage of media headlines about government surveillance programmes such as NSA's PRISM, it is perhaps unsurprising that consumer online trust has fallen to its lowest point yet … it is a wake-up call for businesses."

Considering that the data contained within a CRM system can often be a business' most valuable asset when it comes to marketing, it's obvious that choosing the right provider is crucial.

And in the light of the TRUSTe report showcasing widespread consumer concern over privacy, this looks like an even more important decision.

Lack of trust can result in a drop in sales and restrict the growth of the digital economy as b2b or b2c customers prefer to use traditional marketing tools which they consider to be more secure, so firms need to take a great deal of care with their data handling.

The internet has made marketing a fundamentally real-time, responsive process. It's no longer enough simply to send out a newsletter and wait for the sales to come rolling in – businesses need to stay on top of their data if they want to connect with potential customers.

A good example emerged last month when Marketing Week reported that auction website eBay recorded a 22 per cent jump in searches for polka dot dresses on its site after the Duchess of Cambridge left the hospital wearing one following the birth of her child.

Similarly, during a cold snap in October of last year, searches for coats from the auction website jumped by nearly 50 per cent on the previous week.

Obviously, these examples are focused on the world of consumer sales, but b2b companies can also benefit from analysing their data in real time via customer relations management (CRM) processes that provide up-to-date information about how buyers are behaving.

UK head of eBay advertising Phuong Nguyen said: "Despite the opportunities, many brands aren’t leveraging instant insights, or building in the necessary flexibility for campaigns to use them as much as they could."

"Targeting based on real-time behaviour means that brands can be quick to capitalise whenever new pockets of consumers emerge."

This is transferable to the b2b sector, where flexibility can often be even more important – for instance, the oil and gas market is particularly sensitive to minute changes in the market, something that CRM can help businesses stay on top of.

Because the insight garnered through CRM processes can be used to target specific areas or customers instantaneously, it adds to the efficiency of the marketing cycle for firms keen to gain a jump on the competition.

And with the proliferation of data as smartphones and tablets make their mark, there is likely to be even more information for analysts to make use of over the coming years.

As Laura McLellan at Gartner predicts, CMO’s budget for technology is supposed to exceed that of CIO in 2017. What does this mean for you?

With increasing budget for technology, there will be more pressure for good marketing data. So how do you make the most out of this challenge?

The answer is simple: by measuring your data and optimising your processes.


Why should you care?

Research shows that staggering 66% of marketers don’t measure their marketing activities and/or performance. So why should you? Well, ask yourself this question: How can you improve something if you don’t measure it?

Imagine that you’re in a meeting with your CEO and they tell you that they need more sales this year. They give you a certain budget and tell you to come back with the best result possible.

How are you going to come back with really good sales figures if you don’t know what’s most likely to make it happen?

Here are you options:

  1. Do what you’ve always done and wonder if something else would work better
  2. Keep doing things at random and hope it works
  3. Start measuring your activity and repeat what actually works

If you’re like most marketers, you’re measuring some things, but are not really sure whether they’re the right things to measure. How do you find out, and which tools should you use to measure your marketing activity?


What should you measure?

It’s always good to start with something simple. Start at the bottom of your funnel: track the amount of sales you achieve every month. Measuring this single figure regularly and reflecting on the result keeps you well informed of your performance.

If you want to have a better idea of your situation, the next thing to measure if the number of proposals you send each month. If you know how many sales and proposals you’ve processed each month, from these you can derive your sales conversion rate.

For example, if you sent 5 proposals and made 1 sale, that means your conversion rate is ⅕ or 20%.

Moving up the funnel, the next thing to track is the quantity of leads you’ve generated. If you know this number, you will be able to calculate your lead conversion rate. For example, let’s say you generated 50 leads, sent 5 proposals and made 1 sale. Calculating the ratios of these values will give you a great evaluation of your performance. You now know that you sent a proposal to 10% of your leads and you successfully closed 2% of your leads.

This may not seem very useful. You may be asking now: What difference does it make if I know how many percent of my leads became customers? Knowing or not knowing the reality doesn’t change anything, does it?

The answer to that question is: It does when you know what activities are bringing these results. So to complete the picture, you should measure all the marketing activity you’re engaging in. This includes e-mail campaigns, social media activities, postal campaigns, advertising & PPC, telephone calls, and so on.

Engaging in all of these activities and measuring your results should give you a picture of how well each activity is working for you. That way, you can track the link between each activity and sale and precisely measure your marketing ROI. Ultimately, you’ll be able to determine which activities are leading to most sales.

Each month, produce a report of these activities, and evaluate how well you’re doing compared to the past. Too much work? Not if you have the right tools to do this for you.

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Which tools should you use to do this?

One of the most powerful tools to gather and analyse all this data is a good CRM system. In fact, a well-designed CRM system will help you track all your business activities and your customer’s journey down the funnel.

That way you can see which of your activities brought the most customers into your funnel, and which types of your marketing activities lead to most successful sales. For more information about how Redspire and Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help you measure your marketing performance, get in touch.

Cloud vs On Premise CRM: A definition

If you’ve been involved in meetings discussing technology solutions there is a good chance that you’ve heard the terms “Cloud” or “On-Premise” mentioned. So firstly, let’s put this post into context by describing what a cloud based solution is and what an On premise solution is.

On-demand CRM

(or “Cloud CRM”) is shorthand for a remote CRM system that is hosted away from your offices, on the internet (or ‘the cloud’) and not on your own computing system. Because it’s hosted remotely, it means that your information can be accessed anywhere, any time and any place (assuming the user has access to the web). They’ve been around for a while, but really took off as internet download speeds improved and made accessing large amounts of data easier to do. Paying for on-demand CRM is usually done via a licensing system – you pay an annual fee based on the number of people who will use the system.

On-premise CRM

(or “In-house CRM”) on the other hand, is a software that you manage from your own company’s premises which allows you to have absolute control over your data. You typically purchase your licences only once and after that the whole system management stays with your IT department.

The problem in teasing out the advantages and disadvantages of on-demand against on-premises CRM solutions is that almost all the information out there is put together by someone who wants to sell you one or the other.

However, there are some generally agreed challenges and opportunities that can be looked at objectively. On-demand seems to grow in popularity, and small businesses are in the vanguard of those taking it up. It’s no surprise really, cloud storage and cloud applications are mushrooming in every area of computing, so why should CRM be any different?

What’s important?

On-demand CRM should now offer you very nearly as much customisation as an on-premise solution, certainly if you’re using an established system with a wide user base. However, they are designed to be used – and tailored to – a variety of organisations, and if your business is going to need something completely unique then on-premise solutions may be better suited to add extra pages, tabs and so on. Against this it should be noted that on-demand CRMs are usually designed so that they can be customised with no programming expertise by users.

On-demand will come with remote access as a standard, almost certainly via the web. It’s worth checking, though, that you won’t be completely cut off from your new CRM system if you lose the internet for an afternoon. Also check which devices can use the system.

Price is a major decision maker for any small business and it’s something you should research carefully when you consider your CRM system. And don’t just look at upfront costs, bear in mind that you might be using this system for five years or more and weigh the initial layout against licensing fees and extra user costs. However, in the short term in particular, on-demand CRM is almost always better value.

Go for the long-term strategy

With on-demand systems you are putting a lot of your data over the wires, so ensure that you check out security carefully. That said, for small businesses, the costs of hosting their own data in-house with the levels of security most CRM solutions will offer can be prohibitively expensive in any case. In fact, outsourcing this function can often offer increased levels of security.

One of the key selling points of an on-demand solution is that you get an IT team for free (or, for less than it costs to employ your own). If you’re struggling to find IT support in any case, you might not wish to add a complex new software system to their responsibilities. However, do check that your on-demand supplier can offer you all the support you’re going to need, including if possible user training and help lines – outsourcing CRM admin to the end of a phone that is never answered is no answer.

Some experts warn that on-demand solutions don’t offer the same level of integration into existing systems that can be found with on-premise systems. This may be true if your organisation is complex, however, for many small businesses on-demand will be perfectly adequate. However, do check out what you’ll be getting.

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How to Measure CRM Effectiveness

Many companies now view customer relationship management (CRM) tools as an important part of their business, because of their huge capabilities. CRM’s are like an extra member of your team – providing reports, analysing and collating data, identifying sales opportunities, automating marketing processes (such as autoresponders, follow up e-mails etc.), plus much more.

They are also, of course, there ultimately to manage your relationships with your customers and potential customers. And one of the major benefits of this part of the software includes keeping all the customer information in one place, with easy access from other parts of your organisation, if needed.

CRM effectiveness and customer service

This means that if a customer has answered questions previously, or has expressed a certain dislike or like of a product or service, this will form part of their profile. Communications can be customer-specific and targeted to the individual, so they are not alienated by receiving non-relevant, ‘spammy’ communications and offers.

It is the seemingly little things like this that make a customer feel valued, and will encourage their loyalty. And increased loyalty means increased revenue.

Tracking CRM effectiveness

But are you making the most of your CRM system? It could be that you are not taking full advantage of what your relationship management software offers. Or, it may need a ‘tweak’ in the sort of rules you set up within it.

So, how can you measure your CRM effectiveness? There are many ways to track and work out just how hard your CRM tool is working for you.

For marketing, look at activity such as:

  • The number of new contacts;
  • The number of opens
  • The numbers of interactions, etc.

For sales, it can be data such as:

  • Sales volume;
  • Additional sales;
  • Cross sales;
  • A tangible increase in revenue that can be directly attributed to your CRM tool etc.

Once you have carried out this exercise, you will be able to see how your CRM tool is helping your business. If you feel it could be doing more for you, or that you are not using it to its full capabilities, then you may benefit from speaking to a specialist for help and guidance.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that many information technology systems, whether customer-facing or back-office, were designed on what is sometimes called a vertical basis.

That can be a serious problem for an organisation, unless CRM (customer relationship management) systems and techniques are implemented to deal with it.

Why is that a problem?

Historically, information technology systems were designed to reflect organisational hierarchies. As these were essentially vertical silos, such as Accounts, Shipping, Customer Service, Procurement and so on, systems were designed to support those functional requirements.

The net result is that information relating to an individual customer, may be scattered across a range of systems that have little in common with each other in terms of design objectives. That information is also typically used fundamentally differently by the owning organisational silos.

This means it is sometimes difficult or even impossible to obtain a single horizontal customer view cut across the organisation as a whole. Those organisations that have one customer with multiple customer numbers are a good illustration of the problems that can arise.

That is sometimes a critical inhibitor to optimal product development, behavioural analysis, cross marketing and customer retention activities. Typically these functions are horizontal in an organisation and not vertical – so they will need integrated data in order to support their objectives.

Modern approaches to data management

Today, enlightened organisations design their processes and supporting systems on a matrix rather than vertical silo basis.

CRM systems and techniques are instrumental in helping to make that happen, for example, by having a single integrated repository of information relating to a customer.

CRM achieves a single customer view, primarily through two things:

  • Making sure that all interactions with the customer, through whatever channels, conform to a single integrated process relating to data storage and eventual use;
  • Being able to integrate information coming in through new customer-facing processes and systems, with that held about the same customer on existing possibly vertical legacy systems (e.g. back office).

The benefits of this to the organisation are potentially staggering.

Not only does it avoid embarrassing and potentially highly-damaging errors in terms of customer engagement but it also provides a fundamental platform for things such as productivity improvements, product development, cross-selling, customer retention and in some cases, customer or market disengagement where things are no longer profitable or viable. What are your insights on customer data management?