Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How To Define Your Needs Before Buying Crm

Like many other business trends, the pressure to keep up with the latest technology developments and hold on to your competitive edge can often lead to rushed and poorly researched decisions. Such is the case with Customer Relationship Management and its enormous industry growth and migration rates. Many CEO?s have been left scratching their head, wondering how to keep up and which CRM product is right for them?

The CRM market is packed with solutions that range from the simple contact management and tracking to the feature rich comprehensive solutions that can reach across you entire organization. However, the question for the interested buyer should remain, ?What can our organization/company/employees do with this CRM?? and not ?What can this CRM do for my company?? Approaching CRM vendors with this mindset will allow you to see past the over kill features and cumbersome processes inherent in most solutions. You need to see the value of their product as it relates to your business specific needs. Refining your company needs for a CRM solution based on your current business practices will help you find a suitable CRM solution!

By really analyzing your current processes and methods, flagging the procedures you want to enhance or areas you want to improve in efficiency, will better prepare you to test out CRM vendor platforms. As well as help you model your business processes to better benefit from a suitable CRM solution.

The majority of CRM software solutions are built on best practices in business, flowing from Marketing and Lead Management to Sales Automation; Account, Contact and Opportunity management to Sales tracking, reporting and forecasting capabilities. Furthermore, CRM vendors also offer simple customer service, support, and tracking features in the form of Case and Solution management. This base model is prevalent in many industry solutions and makes the first step on to a CRM platform relatively smooth.

However, the customer is left to do the drilling or the ?kicking of the tires? if you will, to really substantiate the value of the features embedded in the program and see if they will improve their current business processes, as well as enhance their employee productivity. In this case, finding the functions you need in a CRM will be just as important as the form it comes in. Acquiring a user friendly product will ensure your employees adopt the product quickly and continue to use it in the long run.

With step one accomplished, the goal should now be to review the extent of the product offered by the vendor. Can this CRM solution accommodate your growing company? Your need to manage key processes such as projects, billing and invoicing, contracts, quote management, product inventory, human resource management, etc. should all be met by the same CRM solution. There is nothing more disconcerting then having to procure services from multiple vendors to get close to the CRM functionality and organization you need.

By defining your needs in a CRM software solution, you will be better served when it comes to researching and evaluating the different products on the market, as well ensuring your company benefits from your decision on the whole. By knowing what you it is you need in a CRM, as well as what it is that will work for your particular organization, you will ensure your employees can adopt and use the solution you choose.

Colin Duffy enjoys writing about CRM subjects and on demand CRM and ERP software vendors such as Salesboom ( http://www.salesboom.com )

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CRM Business Relationship

A business relationship is different from any other kind of relationship, being a personal or a social relationship. However, to understand what a business relationship means, it is necessary to identify what a relationship is.
A relationship is according to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary a connection between things. A different definition is that it is a memory of past interactions. Both definitions say something about a relationship even though that they do not say exactly the same. However, the definitions do not differ between business relationships and personal relationships, which is important because there is a different objective between the two kinds of relationships. Therefore, a business relationship can be defined as: A bond based on a rational objective, which is to do business with each other.However, as the interaction between the two actors increases, a certain relationship evolves and the knowledge about the other part is increased. Together they create a combined understanding and view of reality. The more common output of the relationship is a decrease in transaction costs, as transactions becomes routinely and the bond between the two companies is strengthening.
When talking about a business relationship, trust comes to mind, because relationships build on trust. However, can a relationship survive without trust? It is possible for a professional relationship to exist without trust, though in most cases trust is a part of the professional relationship. Various authors, such as Paul Greenberg in CRM at the speed of light, 2000, has argued that relationships build on memories of past interactions, because on the first encounter you do not know each other, however, on the second encounter you build the relationship on the previous encounter. He believes that it is the previous encounter that counts in the eyes of the customer. It is true that a need can create a genuine relationship, however, a long-term relationship needs trusts to be able to survive. Furthermore, the better one get to know the other, the better conditions the relationship has to succeed, if there is a honest approach to build the relationship. To some degree the two approaches towards creating a business relationship agree, however, if the objective is to create loyalty both the successful encounter and trust must be accomplished in order to create a successful long-term business relationship.

Rasmus Nielsen has specialised in CRM for several years and been consulting to various companies in Denmark and Australia on the topic. Rasmus also holds a M.Sc. International Business Economics
Other Articles from Rasmus Nielsen
www.frejaweb.net

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Small business CRM: How to select the right CRM software for your company

You've decided that you need a better customer relationship management system ("CRM") for your small business. You need a good place to store and access your customer information just like bigger companies. You want to be able to generate meaningful reports and manage your marketing campaigns. But there are so many options in all price ranges.

So how do you choose the best CRM software for your company?

What is CRM, exactly?

In its simplest form, CRM is a database where sales and marketing teams store critical account data such as contact & account information, lead source, sales activity history, purchase history, and marketing campaign data and projections.

CRM can also be an important reporting tool. For example, you can use it to

  • Generate revenue projections for a product, a sales rep, and your company as a whole
  • Tie revenue to the original marketing campaign
  • Pull up lists of leads and activities by sales rep
  • View the number of leads you have at each step in your sales process
  • Track your progress against your goals
  • Manage marketing campaigns
  • Capture leads from your website
  • Minimize the time your team spends creating manual sales & activity reports

Choosing the right CRM

When you choose the right CRM software, you gain knowledge and power to keep your team on track and measure progress against goals.

  • Best case: Your CRM matches your marketing, sales, customer service and retention strategies. It's easy to use and provides reports that eliminate the need to generate tedious manual reports. It may integrate with other software like accounting and inventory, enabling your entire team to view important data and reports in real time.
  • Worst case: You don't have a solid system for managing customer information; it's kept in various files or databases that aren't linked. It's difficult and time-consuming to create revenue projections, sales reports and marketing campaign reports. The result: lost revenue, productivity and opportunity. Even worse: you use paper files.

How to compare CRM software

The key to selecting the right CRM is to analyze your needs.

  • Decide what information your team should be able to access and how they'll use it.
  • Identify who needs to use the system and where they're located (i.e. in different offices).
  • Determine what reports you'll want to generate, particularly your revenue and pipeline reports.
  • Identify the marketing programs you'd like to be able to run and how that information can help you better manage your accounts.

If you've outgrown your current system, you may be able to purchase add-ins to give your existing system more power. You may also decide to evaluate new systems to give you the true functionality you need.

Select a CRM vendor

Once you've defined your requirements, look for a CRM package that meets your needs. Remember that many systems come in several versions; you can start with a basic version and upgrade as you grow, but make sure the upgrade process is seamless.

Manage CRM implementation

When you're nearing the end of your selection process, get ready for implementation.

  • Create an implementation team.
  • Develop a schedule for key tasks: configuring fields, migrating data, creating reports, training users.
  • Create a solid training plan.
  • Launch the software.
  • Do followup training to ensure that your team uses the software as planned. Most implementations fail because employees don't use the software properly.
  • Gather feedback and modify the software configuration as needed; make it as intuitive and powerful as possible.

There are plenty of consultants who can help you through this process. But you can save a lot of time and money by educating yourself. We've created a free CRM selector tool to help you define your needs and narrow your vendor list -- just email us now and we'll send it to you.

James Sagar is one of the creators of the Marketing M.O., web-based software that delivers marketing strategy, guided best practices and interactive templates in 29 business marketing subjects. Entrepreneurs, executives and marketers use the M.O. to solve the challenges they face each day.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Marketing Automation - A critical segment of CRM

Every business defines a marketing system, either manual or automated. Some emerge as giants, while others, either give up on business or constantly struggle to keep their heads above the water. So, what are the variables that make or mar the success of an organization?

The successful enterprises have the capacity to address the market needs by using right marketing automation tools and analytics, which enact as time and money saving mechanisms and help in making good business decisions.

Marketing automation, an integral component of customer relationship management (CRM) involves using a software application to automate marketing processes such as customer segmentation, customer data integration (CDI) and campaign management. Marketing automation allows manual processes to be performed much more efficiently and conceiving some new ones.

It's Functions

Most companies have taken to marketing automation tools in order to tune their customer marketing efforts to acquiring and retaining customers and generating new sources of revenue. Marketing-automation application allows you to: -

1.Perform critical, real-time market analysis that lets businesses gauge the effectiveness of marketing initiatives. 2.Build, execute and measure their marketing campaigns. 3.Update information on customer segments and profiles based on the constant input of new data. This information can come from click stream analysis of customer behavior on a Web site or from response patterns across multiple campaigns such as direct mail, conferences and training initiatives. 4.Collect, analyze, disseminate and act on a wide range of data, with greater speed without greasing your elbows.

The core of this technology lets you streamline your data as per categories such as - which information goes where, which messages are sent to whom and likewise. From the very first step, marketing automation allows you to carefully segment your in-house list. Accordingly, no entry can be made without being classified. Thereon, every single action taken by an individual, from every clickable link to slightest piece of information, all gets recorded under one central database. Whether you're sending out your first email or fifteenth, every person's record is updated instantly.

Knowing the Answers

By analyzing the volume of data (open rates, clickthroughs, form completions, expressed and implied preferences...) accumulated by your data marketing automation system, you as a marketer, can find answers to some of your most persistent queries such as:

1.By the designated category, which prospects are the most and least active responders? 2.What has been your response rate over the past 6 months for one email type communication versus another? 3.What number of prospects responded to the current month's product promotion compared to the one executed 2 months ago?

Knowing your Prospects

You can better understand your prospects by letting them choose the type and level of communications they do / don't want to receive from your end. Such communications might include:

1.Product announcements 2.Corporate press releases 3.Event announcements 4.Broad informational resources

Once your prospects have expressed their preferences, the information gets stored in the centralized database, supported by your marketing automation, which further lets you capture your prospect/s professional interests.

Advantages

With marketing automation application, you enjoy a number of benefits:

1.You spend more time on the tasks that you like to do, which usually are those that got you into the business in the first place. 2.Instead of you having to chase clients, they come to you already knowing about your products / services. 3.While you are occupied entertaining existing clients, you're still getting the word out about your services allowing you make informed decisions about your company' 4.You get the leverage to accelerate your business growth.

Most marketing-automation applications let users design, schedule, execute and evaluate multi-channel marketing campaigns. Major components to be considered under marketing-automation are: -

1.Marketing analytics is important for companies that do not have a sophisticated data-management infrastructure. Companies that are new to data analytics might want a marketing-automation tool that can generate data models. 2.Campaign management is another key piece of marketing automation that supports campaign design, scheduling and execution capabilities across multiple channels, including direct mail, E-mail, Web, phone, fax and events. 3.Real-time decision support helps marketing managers track campaigns and make tweaks on the fly in response to customer activities. 4.Learning algorithms track and predict customer behavior. 5.Finally, response management and reporting lets business managers review the results of their campaigns.

Any major marketing automation project must be initiated with a strategy and process evaluation. Many companies attempt to redesign processes in the middle of an automation effort. This is can significantly increase costs and induce delays. Strategy, process and automation - in that order - deliver the best and most predictable results.

Selecting the best product is often a matter of aligning with a company's CRM infrastructure or selecting the most viable software vendor. While functionality is important, products should offer maximum support for most marketing processes. A number of CRM vendors offer marketing automation as part of larger offerings that may include sales-force automation or customer-service capabilities.

Get winning results with Salesforce.com

As a global leader in on-demand customer relationship management (CRM), Salesforce.com provides closed-loop marketing automation application. Understanding the importance of integrated sales and marketing, Salesforce Marketing Automation helps you advocate multi-channel campaigns. Real-time analytics and reporting tools help marketers to evaluate campaign results and make necessary tweaks to enhance their performance.

Salesforce.com's comprehensive on-demand marketing automation offers you: -
Integrated marketing and sales application with automated lead conversion. Real-time analytics to measure and optimize campaigns for positive results. Multi-channel campaign management and analysis. Simple-to-use and rapid deployment encouraging better and faster user experience.

Want to get quality results? Choose Salesforce.com for award-winning functionality, proven integration, point-and-click customization, global capabilities and more. Free Trial & Demo - Apply Today!

For more information contact us at: Sales Force

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Monday, July 6, 2009

How CRM Software Helps in Account Management

The increase in competition in all business fields positioned customers at the top most point. Customer Relationship Management or CRM practices have thus became mandatory for all business enterprises today to satisfy their customers. Companies use standard and customized CRM software tools to enhance their customer relationship management activities. All these software programs are capable for automating each and every business processes from customer tracking to business undertakings, including account management practices.

Account management as the name implies is the storing, sharing and reviewing of all business accounts. Account management practices are so important to the business enterprises that they act as the chief resource for all customer and company related information. The introduction of CRM software solutions and sales force automation (SFA) practices made account management including data collection and data integration easy. These software programs eliminated traditional account management activities that need lot of paper works and manual labor.

The account management CRM software programs are capable of maintaining complete history of various accounts. They automatically track all small and large interaction of accounts such as customer contacts, money transformations, partnership programs, employee payment etc. Account management activities through CRM software solutions help the companies to store account and customer information in a centralized database connected to different data processing devices. These account management application software programs are capable of providing timely reviews and analytics about the financial health of an organization.

CRM account management software programs track each customer interacting with the company. These software programs store all customer information like customer name, customer visits, contact information, number of visits, visiting intervals, how much money spend on products/services etc in appropriate CRM databases. Timely these data are retrieved and integrated to find good customers. This CRM account management software feature helps organizations to design and develop suitable marketing and service plans for each customer. The built-in communication devices of the account management software help in marketing of products/services through direct marketing, e-mail and phone.

The standard features of modern account management systems include single database having links to all data resources of the organization, multiple modularity for receiving all data, capability to cope with any data format like work, excel sheet, images, graphs etc, adaptability to any operating system, web-linked communication devices for fast data tracking and recovery, the capacity to work both online and offline, and the capacity to carry out multiple functions like contact management, product management, lead routing , custom reporting , partner tracking and sales forecasting.

Customer relationship management software assisted account management guides employees to effectively provide appropriate services to their customers. Account management software enables the sales professionals to schedule and track activities related to accounts, tracing the delivery and to launch innovative business opportunities. The sales force automation and effective communication also help employees, especially sales representatives, to easily coordinate different activities. The company management can also monitor and regulate their employees more effectively. CRM software solutions also ensure flexibility of business in changing climates.

The other advantages of account management through CRM software include -time and working capital saving, elimination of manual data entry and paper works, timely warnings about inadequate data and deadlines, proper organization of data, easy data tracking and sharing, elimination of duplicate data entry and false data entry, helps in designing customer service plans, better trouble shooting and above all less mental pressure on company management and workers.

This article has been provided by eSalesTrack.com , a US based provider of on-demand CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and other application software such as Sales Force Automation. To learn more about CRM visit CRM Articles.

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