There are many pressures on organizations to make the most out of every customer interaction and maximize the return on investment on marketing and sales spend. However, businesses often don’t have the work force necessary to handle these functions as timely and effectively as they would like or the tools and processes in place to measure and track success. Companies that are able to track interaction, engagement, investments and customer patterns and behaviors often enlist the help of a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

“A CRM tool helps businesses manage sales, marketing and customer service operations without significantly expanding their work force,” says Gina Rosen, a consultant at Columbus. “CRM, in the past, may have been nice to have — a luxury technology, but in today’s marketplace, it’s a must have to stay competitive.”

Smart Business spoke with Rosen about CRM, its applications and how it has helped businesses improve processes to better engage customers, target sales and gauge marketing effectiveness.

What are the typical features offered by a CRM system?

The features offered by CRM are very diverse. It’s primary applications are contact management; marketing automation; sales force automation; sales and lead management; reporting and analytics; call center and case management, particularly with respect to customer inquiries or complaints; workflow automation, or automating manual processes; and social media integrations. Businesses have the option for on-premise solutions where the software is hosted at the business on its servers, or they can utilize a Web-based or cloud option, which involves less initial financial investment. The software can also be customized to meet the particular needs of a business.

Is CRM cost prohibitive for businesses?

No it is not, however, had this question been asked six or seven years ago the answer would have been yes. Previously, enterprise-ready CRM software required significant funds to get the software and hardware in place. But with the advent of cloud-based solutions, even businesses run by a sole proprietor can afford CRM and leverage its applications to optimize processes. The cloud-based model allows business owners to pay through subscriptions that charge per user. The pay per user cloud-based model offers a low-cost opportunity to implement CRM, experience the value and see the return on investment (ROI).

What are the most compelling reasons an organization would implement CRM technology?

A recent survey of 200 top-performing small and medium-sized businesses showed that the number one reason businesses implement CRM software is to establish data-based metrics for sales and marketing. It also provides the ability to show ROI and quantitative key marketing metrics that mean a lot to businesses.

The second reason CRM is implemented is to proactively communicate with customers. Customers expect a lot these days, and one of those expectations is that businesses, whether small or large, interact with them. To stay in front of your customers and offer personal interaction is critical.

Within that same vein, the third reason companies take advantage of this software is for custom-targeted sales and marketing. With CRM you can customize that end user experience, which makes your sales force more effective. Customers can interact directly with your CRM custom solution through your existing website and experience a tailored visit based on previous interactions, or your sales force can utilize the standard feature when interacting with customers and have all of a customer’s history available in one spot.

What are the most important value drivers for CRM?

The top value for a business is the software’s ability to help manage marketing and sales campaigns. CRM can help businesses test marketing and distribution strategies and gauge customer reactions. This information can be applied to future marketing efforts.

Another important value driver is that the software serves as a customer data repository, allowing you to consolidate customer knowledge within the organization in CRM. This includes far more than just contact details, but also customer behaviors and attitudes and price sensitivity. This, combined with personal data, can allow businesses to build more effective and predictive sales models and marketing campaigns that result in higher sales.

Further, CRM systems can help demonstrate ROI. With CRM you can quantitatively show increases in sales, customer referrals and participation in promotions.

What is the most common challenge a business faces when implementing CRM?

Typically the challenge is user adoption — getting your sales force and front line users to embrace CRM. They often see populating the fields as double entry, an extra step, or another way for management to check in on them. But once the sales force sees that using the software results in more sales, they can easily overcome that hurdle.

What are the most common performance metrics?

The top one, hands down, is revenue growth. The faster you can show ROI the better.

Second is growth in a business’s customer base, which means adding new customers or converting leads into paying customers.

The third most common performance metric is aggregating customer data. Many companies have customer data spread out over disparate systems. CRM gives businesses a one-stop shop for their records.

Can you give us some examples of companies that have benefited from implementing CRM?

The Toledo Mud Hens baseball team, which works within the media and entertainment industry, had ticket sales go up 88 percent in one year and their internal operations couldn’t keep up with demand. Adopting CRM allowed them to automate and streamline inefficient processes, which translated into more ticket sales. A customer testimonial is available with more information.

Another example is the human resources consulting firm Findley Davies. Implementing CRM in their call center has given them the ability to manage daily responsibilities and track productivity. It has dramatically changed and improved day-to-day operations within their Benefits Administration department.

Gina Rosen is a consultant at Columbus. Contact her at (248) 850-2195 or mva@columbusglobal.com.

With more than 20 years in the market and 6,000 successful business implementations, Columbus is a preferred Microsoft Dynamics business partner for ambitious companies. Columbus’ key deliverables include flexible and future-safe ERP, CRM, BI and related business applications that deliver competitive advantage and immediate impact.

 

Published in Akron/Canton

“One of the most difficult client introductions I experience is when a CEO comes to me for help after having invested a significant amount of money in a website, only to find that the site itself prohibits effective digital marketing,” says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.  “This is a harsh reality for any business to face, yet it is all too often the ‘norm’ and often requires a costly rebuild to create the correct website that can be marketed and grow a business.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to ensure that the right items are in place from the start when building your business’s website.

Why is the way a website is built so important?

Business websites today are not only the first impression of your business to the world but a critical tool in marketing your products or services and delivering leads and sales. To effectively compete, a business website needs to be easily found via search and deliver a visitor experience that informs, assures and influences.

Here are some major considerations to address before you start building your company website, so you end up with a web presence that is capable of and fit to deliver the business growth performance you expect.

Ensure core code fitness

There are a variety of ways that websites can be coded. Some approaches result in more efficient and consistent processes and rendering of a website. The way a site is coded can dramatically affect the time it takes to load or view a web page. Load time is a key element of any search engine’s algorithm. The faster your website presents itself, the higher up on the list of search results it will appear.

There are a staggering amount of development intricacies involved in programming the features and functionality of a website. Proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires code-level arrangements and additions to enable the optimization that makes your website competitive in search engines. Knowing that the finished website will be marketed via SEO and other digital marketing tactics alerts the development team to anticipate and allow for the integrations, arrangements and ongoing code updates the website will need.

How does your developer plan to accommodate your website for the digital marketing tactics you will use? If he or she can’t answer this specifically, you should be interviewing a different website development company.

Keep it device agnostic

Most search engine spiders and Apple iPhone and iPad devices do not read Flash code well, if at all. Yet Flash is a very popular way to accomplish impressive visual design used by many Web designers.

Today, a website built entirely or mostly with Flash design may look fantastic, but it is severely crippled in its chances of being found by your target audience, especially those using an i-device. If your Web design must incorporate Flash, what is the plan to present an equally impressive visual experience to your non-Flash-reading website visitors?

This same audience accommodation principle applies to your website visitors who use a mobile device. The visual and functional experience of your business by visitors using a mobile-device grows more important each day as more and more people are using smartphone, tablet and mobile technologies. Your website’s presentation and feature functionality need to be tailored differently to a mobile visitor. What is the website development plan to not just accommodate but elate your website visitors’ mobile experience?

Build website flexibility

SEO and digital marketing are ongoing processes with dynamic, ever-evolving tactics and best practices. Web marketers need to access, update and publish changes to web pages quickly to take advantage of and stay on top of market dynamics that affect your business. These types of items include keyword refinement, pricing changes, call to action alternatives, message and page layout edits, timely campaigns and promotions, etc.

Access to editing and updating website content is mission-critical to effective Internet marketing. Integrating a Content Management System (CMS), to your website enables this. Insist that a web content management system be a part of your website development. Some CMS systems are more SEO friendly and more administrative user friendly than others. Take care to select a CMS that accommodates your Internet marketing needs in an easy-to-use format.

Incorporate cross fit integration

Points of integration that need to be considered for optimized development of a website include data-processing platforms or eCommerce shopping carts and payment modules. Each has critical security measures that are required to make your business a trustworthy online store or information bank.

Another basic business website integration to plan for is your Customer Relations Management (CRM) platform. Determine what type of information integration you will need and how this will be accomplished as part of your website development requirements.

Social media platforms, including blogs, social networking profiles and content syndication channels can be greatly enhanced with proper integration, capability for RSS feeds, etc. Enabling and achieving these connections with your website design may require extra development effort but is a key differentiation in effective web marketing.

In today’s digitally marketed world, as you understand the strategic importance that your website has in your ability to grow your business, it is clear that your website needs to be purposefully developed with fitness for SEO, user experience and Web marketing.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx.

Insights Web Design, Development & Internet Marketing is brought to you by Bayshore Solutions

Published in Florida