What a great CRM solution must do

By deploying and effectively maintaining a CRM (Customer Relations Management) solution, you can take your marketing to an entirely new level. In fact, with a great CRM tool, you can communicate with thousands of customers, prospects, and leads simultaneously – but rather on a one-on-one basis.

This means that you can communicate with each individual about the particular topics he/she is interested in, no more and no less. Imagine the level of engagement you are able to achieve, and of course – by default – the volume and quality of your potential business opportunities.

To accomplish the above and more, there must be thousands of options available to choose from. So which CRM solution is the best for you? Well, there’s no easy answer for that as each situation differs from another. However, here are some guidelines about which features and functions your CRM of choice should provide you with so your marketing is as effective as you want it to be.

A “Companies” Module

Many – in fact most CRM systems focus on records for individuals. These are of course the crux of the matter, but we for example would never consider a CRM that does not include a module to create and maintain records for companies, and to which records of individuals are linked. There are tons of functions that you can perform once you have that module, such as attaching documents that are related to the entire company (versus individuals), historic transactions such as invoices or sales orders, and so forth. You’d also want to keep track of each company’s particular industry classification, size, revenue, number of employees, and a host of other data that simply doesn’t go well under “individuals”.

A Sales Funnel

This is an absolute must; your solution must have a comprehensive module to create and maintain records about the business development (or sales) opportunities your team is working on. These records must of course be linked to their corresponding “company” record, and link to particular individuals within that company (and others) that are in one way or another involved in the sales process.

Productivity Tools

You may not want to rely on your CRM’s built-in calendar function, but it is important for your system to incorporate a “tasks” module that links your chores to individuals, companies, or business opportunities. The reason why this is so important is because each time you schedule something or mark a task as “completed”, a historic transaction will be attached to its corresponding record (contact/ company/ opportunity), and which will come in handy in the future when you decide to revisit that contact again. This means of course that even if you don’t use the built-in calendar function, you should still record the dates and times of meetings you held for future references. Attaching to that notes will of course provide you with all that more ammunition in the future.

Automation

There’s no point in repeating redundant tasks and chores manually. Any decent CRM system should provide you with tools to automate certain tasks, such as scheduling a follow-up phone call in three days after a proposal has been submitted. This will not only save time, but also make sure nothing is forgotten or falls between the cracks. Ideally, the system will allow you to schedule multiple tasks that are triggered in intervals over a prolonged period of time. An example for such a process would be to ask a prospect to complete an online evaluation form once an opportunity has been closed, with multiple follow-up reminders until the form has been completed.

Customization

Being able to create unlimited new custom-fields in all modules is an absolute must. The whole idea is to customize your marketing approach, which means you will require data fields that are specific for your business and industry. For example, our leads and prospects have a field that tells us in what area of our business they are more interested in. This then helps us in sending out content-sensitive information to specific groups of recipients who are now much more receptive to what we’re sending them.

Integration with other System

Although not really that critical, it will be great if your CRM system talks to others as well. For example, if your CRM data integrates with your accounting solution, you can benefit at both ends. You won’t have to re-enter customer data into accounting that’s already in CRM, and you can see sales-to-date and outstanding invoices from within your CRM before you call or visit a customer. The same applies to systems that send out bulk-emails, project management tools, and so forth. The more your systems integrate, the less data entry you and your team have to perform, and the more power (information) you will have at your disposal.

Social Media Integration

Social media platforms can provide you with an immense wealth in information, especially when they tie into your CRM records. Most systems allow you to connect to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other accounts, and then extract recent posts and engagements right into your CRM. This means that you not only get to see all the data you have acquired yourself over time, but also each contact’s engagements and areas of interest right from their social media pages. You may for example find out that a particular contact follows several Twitter accounts that talk about Guerrilla Marketing, and occasionally retweets posts or comments on those. You can now use this data to update your custom field (special interests) to make sure this individual gets more information from you about this subject in particular.

Accessibility

By accessibility, we refer not only to being able to access your CRM data from any computer, mobile phone, or tablet; what’s equally important is your ability to export all data “as is” down the line should you decide to move your CRM to another service provider. Over the years, you will build up a massive amount of data that you definitely want to retain, no matter what system you’re using. It would be a terrible shame and loss if you had to give up say three years of CRM data just because you find yourself in the position where someone decided to move to another system, and the one you’ve been using all this time doesn’t let you export your data.

There’s a lot more than the above your CRM system needs to be capable of, but as all else in life, each situation differs from another. If you need help in determining which solution is the best for your particular case, give us a call. We have used or otherwise experimented with lots of great solutions and will most likely have something very suitable readily available for you.


About the Author

Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.

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Legal Note

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