When the Market Pivots, Sugar is the Key to Agility
Few businesses face more challenges in the digital revolution than media companies, especially newspapers.
News today is instant information, with constant updates and video. Print is as old and dry as the ink on the paper.
Charlie Gunningham faced those challenges and more when he became CEO of Business News, West Australia’s largest independent business media organisation. Although the publication was fairly young – founded in 1993 – it was a legacy enterprise with an outdated business model.
In addition to its print product, Business News provides daily online updates (25 stories posted to their website daily), twice-daily news emails, an online business information search service (BNiQ), special themed publications and business events, such as speakers and forums.
Many of the units and efforts had merit, but Charlie knew it was evolve or wither.
Not only did Charlie and his team have to reposition the publication in the digital world, he needed to overcome shrinking revenue by achieving scale economies, linking diverse departments, such as editorial, advertising, marketing and circulation; and increasing online revenue through subscriptions and advertising.
He envisioned a single platform that would align departments, harvest customer data, identify consumer reading patterns, enhance marketing and complement solid news reporting with instant updates as stories evolved.
Charlie saw the writing on the wall…and it was digital.
A Scalable CRM That Works
Business News embraced the future by adding a modern, scalable Customer Relationship Management platform in SugarCRM’s Professional version.
“We looked at a number of CRM options, including MS Dynamics and Salesforce, as well as software packages designed for the print industry, but felt these were cost-prohibitive or were unable to handle the complexity of a multi-dimensional subscription news service,” says Charlie. “SugarCRM has the right balance of innovation, flexibility and affordability.”
Business News joined other media companies that use Sugar, such as The New York Times, Sandusky Newspapers in Ohio, RussMedia in Europe and Japan Broadcasting Corp.
Charlie got immediate results: time-to-market was an outstanding three months, and formerly siloed departments increased productivity because they now were linked by a 21st Century, cost-efficient CRM hosted on a partner-managed private cloud.
Adding Sugar digitally transformed a legacy industry, ensured its survival as a business entity and made its staff more informed and effective.
Breaking Down Silos Enhances Customer Visibility
When Charlie came on board, he inherited a database management system that was as archaic as his company’s print product.
It was called “Ask Adam,” a pseudonym for a Microsoft Access DBS that was used by some departments, ignored by others and that created information silos.
It might as well have been called “Don’t Know from Adam.” Because departments did not share databases, the company couldn’t create a consistent customer experience.
“If you wanted to find out what was happening with a client, you would have to walk around the office and ask people. And because different departments couldn’t see what the others were doing, there were a lot of double-ups and repeat client contacts. Situations were arising where our sales team would be hesitant to contact potential clients due to a lack of visibility over whether – or how often – contact had been made,” says Charlie.
Today, Sugar is the foundation for all functions across the business: two-thirds of Business News staff use the system on a daily basis. The staff now has a single view of the customer and everyone can immediately see what is going on across the business – from ad sales to what subscribers are reading, who is sponsoring which event and if they are in an upcoming special publication or not.
“Sugar has helped us break down silos. Advertising and subscription sales have clear, consistent processes and are able to work in unison with clients,” Charlie says. “Customers have access to their own information via our website, which they can update (even including which news they would like to receive in our weekly update). We are much more coordinated now, and because of this, the customer experience is much better.”
“We know this, because we regularly survey our customers’ Net Promoter Score; since implementing Sugar CRM, our NPS has been consistently above +30 – an excellent result.”
Easily Customised Without Costly Code
Sugar’s platform, including mobile, gives sales, marketing, editorial or circulation real-time information, no matter where they are.
“Our whole strategy is that news informs data and data informs news. Sugar allows us to integrate these, and we can provide a better news service to our customers as a result,” Charlie says.
The CRM is customised with accounts and customer portal integration, additional reporting tools and email automation. By using workflows, newspaper layout, ad placement and frequency, and the print delivery database all are managed within Sugar.
“Sugar saves us such a tremendous amount of time. There was an immediate saving of over $100,000 in admin time and salaries because of task automation, and this has only grown over the past couple of years,” Charlie says.
Prior to Sugar, Business News was encumbered by manual processes – such as data entry, subscription forms and invoicing. Reporting was limited and cumbersome, leaving teams without access to the insights and metrics they needed to help guide business decisions.
“Now subscriptions and invoicing are all automated and can be done with a click of a button. When someone works through an opportunity for a new subscription, or if a client completes a subscription using the online portal, an invoice and subscription are automatically generated and sent to the client. This means fewer mistakes are made and there is automatic data capture,” says Charlie.
Whether it is sales, subscriptions, advertising or event management, teams can pull up to 160 Sugar reports with little effort and no special coding.
“Some reports would take an hour and half to run in the old system; now it is instant and in real-time,” Charlie says. “Some of the biggest benefits we get from Sugar are the visibility and clarity. Single view is amazing; we can immediately see ad spend, the forecast pipeline for ad sales, where a customer is in the sales cycle, their current ads and the discussions that people have had with them.”
The ability to customise dashboards means information is no more than a click or swipe away.
“Sales can see specific information on a company or contact in real-time, and sales people can access it from their tablets when they are on the road, which means they are better informed when contacting clients. It is fantastic, we had none of this before,” Charlie says.
Creating Meaningful Marketing Insights
The Sugar/MailChimp integration means fully automated push campaigns, which include the daily alerts for 48,000 customers.
“Our daily alerts are much more elegant: it is quicker, web-based, all in one place, and the team can see exactly what people are clicking on – something they couldn’t do before,” says Charlie.
With the support of an integrated CRM system, Business News is growing online readership and digital subscription sales. Today, 74 percent of readers access the publication via digital channels.
“No media business is doing it easy at the moment,” says Charlie, “but Sugar is making it easier for us because it is way more than a CRM – it’s a platform to run the whole business: it is our production system.”
Going All The Way Into The Ditigal World With Sugar
Halfway through the Business News digital transformation plan, Charlie likes the results.
“We went from 23 years as a print business with events on the side, to being primarily a digital media company. We have seen digital go from 5 percent of revenue to 30 to 40 percent over the past three years. None of this was possible before,” explains Charlie. “Sugar helps us be much smarter, it stops us from dropping the ball, and we have been more customer centric and fluid as a result.”
- Business Intelligence Reporting Tool (BIRT), for additional complex reporting capabilities.
- Xero Cloud Accounting, using CRM Online’s Xero Cloud Accounting Connector.
- MailChimp, for email marketing using CRM Online’s Connector.
- Grinmark Exchange Connector to connect MS Outlook with Sugar CRM
- Opportunity management – quoting and ad-booking functions.
- Advertiser and Subscriber Billing controls with credit card payment function
Business News’ customised Sugar deployment was developed and implemented, and is managed by, CRM Online. CRM Online was founded in 2006 with the goal of leveraging cloud technology to provide real value to Australian businesses in the form of streamlined CRM and business automation systems. CRM Online’s operations cover Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Manila, and have provided numerous solutions to clients based in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Europe and the USA.
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