CRM Is Really ARM
At its essence, a CRM system is a software platform for managing customer relationships — ideally on a global, enterprise-wide basis. But CRM is really a misnomer because a customer relationship management system merely implies a database of customers. In reality, the system is managing a database of customers, prospects, and leads, making audience relationship management (or ARM) a more accurate term.
“Management” is a strong word in the context of a CRM because you are managing in the present and future tense, and tracking audience interactions in a historical sense. CRM systems are complex and expensive, but they’re necessary for any sizable business. Cost concerns are mitigated when they are implemented effectively and prove their ROI. There are many CRMs available. The most popular and recognizable are SalesForce, MS Dynamics 365, and HubSpot. Functions of a CRM include:
- Logging and tracking audience interactions
- Lead tracking (depends on integration)
- Marketing automation (depends on integration and platform)
- Workflow automation (including order management, and technical support with content)
- Sales enablement (depends on integration).
The primary communications integration with the customer is through email, and because of this, proprietary documents can be exchanged and stored. Orders and order history can be tracked if configured.
CRM to MAS
Close integration with your marketing automation system lets you manage the transition between leads and prospects, enabling you to complete the buyer’s journey and be prepared for the next purchase cycle through customer satisfaction. CRM is crucial for customer retention, because customer satisfaction will be tracked by interaction. Happy customers tend not to question their purchase decisions. Most importantly, they come back for more products and services!
The Cost of a CRM
Fixed costs for CRM licenses vary (either seat licenses or enterprise-wide licenses). But the true cost of the CRM has to include time consideration for areas like integration, customization, training, and file maintenance to log client interactions. This is a catch-22 — theoretically, the more data you have on a client or prospect, the better you are positioned to serve their needs, but this is a situation with diminishing returns.
While some data input can be automated, and AI offers further potential for automation, at this point in time, someone has to input the data. Typically, this is going to be Sales, and whoever defines the structure of the system is going to have to decide if Sales should be actively selling or inputting data. This is a real threat to productivity, and a balance has to be struck among CRM stakeholders as to what data is needed in the CRM for optimum customer support and retention.
CRM systems are SaaS (Software as a Service), meaning the platform resides in the cloud, eliminating the need to purchase hardware, or manually update the software. SaaS also improves system security as it is managed by the provider (make sure you read the service level agreement to ensure you’re getting appropriate security and backup protection).
Cost/Benefit to CRM Stakeholders
- Sales team. As the account owner, Sales is responsible for data input and maintenance of records. Garbage in, garbage out applies here, so users have to understand that while there is a cost to inputting timely and accurate data, it is outweighed by the benefit of using timely and accurate data across the enterprise to move the customer or prospect along the buyer’s journey to a sale.
- Marketing team. The marketing team will use the data in the CRM system to target specific audiences for outbound marketing efforts and mine the system for customer insights.
- Customer Service team. The primary use here is for data input and account maintenance in conjunction with the sales team. The benefit is that in an outbound marketing mode, the customer service team can use CRM in telesales or telemarketing programs. Many CRM systems can integrate directly with modern phone systems, and with additional software, can be programmed for automated telesales campaigns.
- Product Management, R&D, and Technical Support. Customers can be surveyed and accessed for inclusion in voice-of-customer product development programs to validate assumptions. Tech Support can mine the CRM system for customer insights from comments and customer interactions.
- Administration. Administration pays the bills and can use CRM data to identify new market or sales opportunities, either through increased penetration of existing accounts or expansion into new markets or geographies.
Ideally, the CRM system should be globally deployed but partitioned so that each geography can be managed locally and independently, with data aggregated for enterprise-wide management and business intelligence. There are powerful business intelligence platforms, such as Microsoft Power BI or Domo, which integrate with CRM systems and can incorporate external data to bridge the gap between what is known and what is possible in terms of addressable markets and market conditions.
Why CRM is a Four-Letter Word
The principal objection to CRM systems is the time required for data input and maintenance of records. Until we are able to go directly from the cerebral cortex into the CRM system (imagine a wireless helmet with an inner non-invasive induction interface), there is no getting around data entry. The best way to minimize onerous data entry requirements is to ensure the CRM system is structured to capture the logical-minimum information necessary for relationship management. Use logical up-front planning to structure your CRM system as if YOU had to enter the data!
If you would like to review your CRM requirements, contact us for a 30-minute consultation.