Your CRM, your choice

In our personal lives, most of the time we don’t tend to shell out money for completely inappropriate things. We don’t, for example, buy high-heeled slip ons to wear when we go trail running. We know the size and shape of what we need, and what we need it for. This rational decision-making comes quite naturally; we feel entitled and empowered to buy the right stuff for the right reasons.

Remarkably though, when it comes to business, we can end up buying something inappropriate that ends up wasting money, slowing us down, and sometimes causing a lot of damage.

Even in 2019, plenty of businesses aren’t entirely sure what Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions can do for them specifically. It’s so easy to make a CRM choice based on what others are doing, as if safety in numbers is somehow an insurance policy against failure. But it’s not. And it certainly doesn’t guarantee success.

What does load us up for the win though, is choosing empowering technology and making it fit beautifully. CRM should be a platform that spreads comfortably under every critical point in your business to get the whole thing moving where you want it to.

So step one is to clearly set out your business goals. Step two is to map out the CRM features that enable each one.

Yes it can be tricky to unpick specific features from all the CRM hype and marketing – but it’s worth doing, and worth putting vendors through their paces to get you get there. Choosing CRM will never be as easy as choosing shoes, but you have the right to demand clarity and simplicity.

Here are some business outcomes you might want specific CRM features to support:

Engaging your audiences

You probably have a symphony of stakeholders – perhaps employees, customers, investors, suppliers, retailers, press, and government bodies. The more you understand your audiences and the real people in them, the more you can gear your business to deliver what matters and build ongoing, win-win relationships. That equals a strong, sustainable, growing business.

CRM must help you build this understanding by utilizing data, tracking interactions and analyzing experiences. Then it must help create the best experience at every interaction. That means guiding your people through planned-out processes and giving them the right information at the right time via whatever communications channel is best for the audience.

Features to consider: data management, audience profiling, audience journey mapping, interaction management, information / knowledge sharing, unified multi-channel interactions.

Sales & service

Selling is the reason for being in business. We all do it. But how well?

Imagine everything that is most effective about selling: those moments of engagement where your salespeople are explaining things, exciting and winning people over. Then imagine freeing them up to do just that for most of their time…less admin, less data capture, less tedious research, less reporting…more engaging. Yup, the answer is technology.

You want your CRM to guide your salespeople through a proven selling process, furnishing them with the tools and information they need at every step. It should monitor their progress, flag things that need attention, and present reports and forecasts you can easily understand and trust. Sounds like heaven, but it’s perfectly possible to achieve.

Features to consider: sales behaviour and productivity tools, sales automation, lead management, quote management, and reporting and forecasting.

Marketing

How are you attracting attention and getting potential customers interested enough to engage with your brand? It’s 2019 – you probably know that the best way to approach this is with CRM.

CRM is the train track for your marketing strategy, helping you execute, manage and report on every part of the process. You can set it up to get your messages to the right audiences at the right times, using any channel…social media, events, emails, post, whatever. It’s the platform for creating and qualifying new leads and nurturing them through to sales.

Automation gets CRM doing tedious crunch work so your people can think, plan, strategize, and experiment more. And as with sales, CRM reporting can give you a clear view of where your resources are going and what you’re getting back for them.

Features to consider: customer profiling, data management, campaign management, lead management, social media integration, marketing platform integration.

Looking after customers

Happy customers can represent more value to your business, and if you turn them into advocates they can even help you attract new customers. Customer service processes can be managed tightly via CRM and it’s the best way to keep a real-time view of customer satisfaction. By understanding each customer touchpoint and empowering your people with the right tools and information you can make excellent customer experience the norm.

Features to consider: service process and workflow management, case management, service metrics reporting and dashboards, customer satisfaction measurement, self-service.

Make it work for you

Will your CRM be customizable? Will it fit into your business? Can you add features or jettison them, and shape the platform as time goes by?

CRM should work around you, your people and the good technologies and processes you already have in place. If you have to change perfectly good elements of your business or compromise on what really works for you, just to get a popular CRM, then it’s time to reflect. All your competitors will be compromising too – but you don’t have to. What could that mean for your business?

And CRM isn’t all about the initial implementation – it’s a platform that should enable change, and therefore needs to be flexible itself. It’s critical to understand the total cost of operating, changing and developing your CRM over time. If too many things will be cast in stone and you’ll need to give up the freedom to try new things and respond to changing markets, that’s a red flag.

Features to consider: flexible team, role and security management, customizable workflow and process management, project and task management that fits to your business, customizable and DIY-ready reporting with dashboards and analytics, ease of integration and development, open mobile deployment, and a licensing agreement that suits you.

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