99 ways to get more from your CRM software in 2013 – part 3 – ideas 51 – 75

by Richard Boardman on January 23, 2013

How can your B2B CRM system do more for you in 2013? Here’s the third installment of ideas (the previous two can be found here and here):

51. Customer portals – the CRM system doesn’t have to be just for your own staff. Providing access through a portal to customers and other stakeholders, such as channel partners, can improve customer service and reduce the overhead of updating the system in-house.

52. Booking rooms and other resources – with many users managing their diaries within the CRM system, using the same system to book resources, such as meeting rooms and demonstration equipment, can help improve productivity while making more efficient use of existing facilities and reducing the cost of external room hire.

53. Review third party tools – most CRM products have a wealth of third party developed add-on modules often available through on-line markets such as Salesforce.com’s AppExchange. It can be worth researching what’s available to see if they can fill gaps in out of the box functionality, or cost-effectively give you new capabilities.

54. In jeopardy accounts – the CRM system can be a very effective place to track customers who are considered to be ‘at risk’.  Providing visibility in the system can alert customer-facing staff, and help focus efforts towards turning things around.

55. Integrate lead capture forms – integrating your CRM system with your lead capture form on the web site can reduce the need to re-key data and increase the speed with which leads are distributed and responded to.

56. Retention alerts – for many businesses there are early indicators that a customer relationship may be winding down. For example, use of the product or service might suddenly dip, or the number of service calls may escalate. A timely prompt though may allow the situation to be successfully rectified. Setting up automated alerts within your CRM system, based on defined conditions, can be an easy way to get the early warnings you need to help you retain more customers.

57. Develop a usage manual – does everyone understand how they should be using the system? Often different people will use it in different ways, and that impacts key outputs such as reports. Creating a usage manual will help define how the system is to be updated and provide the foundation for more consistent usage patterns.

58. Develop a lead nurturing strategy – most potential customers are not ready to buy when they first make contact, but staying in touch can be tricky over the long term, particularly as salespeople focus on short term targets. Developing a communications approach, supported by the CRM system, which nurtures and develops a lead over the long term, can have a huge impact on lead conversion rates.

59. Are you ready for when staff leave? – inevitably people will move on. This can be disruptive, but the impact can be minimised depending on how much information you’re able to retain, and how quickly you can get their replacement up to speed. In this context, it’s often worth reviewing if there’s additional data you could capture to cut the lead-time to replacement staff members becoming effective.

60. Sharing finds – most CRM applications allow users to develop and save pre-defined searches, for example, my sales opportunities due to close in the next 60 days with a value in excess of £x. Rather than each user independently spend time setting up their own, try and share the best examples with all users. This improves the availability of information and reduces duplicated efforts.

61. Integrate with your email campaign marketing application – many organisations use a separate service like MailChimp to manage their email marketing campaigns. Most of these applications have pre-existing integrations to CRM packages, and these will reduce the time involved in managing two databases and increase the visibility of campaign data in the CRM system.

62. Are you making best use of the data you gather? – a lot of potentially useful data gathered about customers and prospects never makes it into the CRM system, but ends up hoarded away in spread sheets. This often reflects a lack of confidence in using the data import tools that come with most systems. While it’s true you can do a lot of damage with a poorly executed data import, building up good internal proficiency with these tools can help you improve the depth and quality of your data.

63. Track competitive activity data – you’re inevitably running into competitors, but few organisations fully use the competitor intelligence they gather to their benefit. The CRM system can be used both to record competitor data such win/loss information, pricing, key features etc., but also to ensure this information is made available to those who need it.

64. Go agile – if you’re struggling to introduce new capabilities using the traditional waterfall approach to development, where requirements are defined and documented in detail up front, experiment with more agile approaches where users are more heavily involved in the development process. This may cut development time-lines, costs, and the deliverables may more closely meet users’ needs.

65. Issue management – I covered complaint management in idea 41, but there are an array of issues that fall short of a formal complaint. A lot of organisations will shy away from tracking these for fear of over-exposing mistakes, but if a company has an open culture geared towards learning from errors and failings, rather than punishing them, recording them in a system can be a very effective way to make big quality gains.

66. System consolidation – the flexible design of most modern CRM systems means that they can cost-effectively address a wide range of needs. Using these technologies to replace and consolidate existing systems – even if they don’t add value from a customer data perspective – can be an opportunity to significantly reduce IT costs.

67. Account planning – a lot of businesses have a major account planning process, but the outputs of these are often filed away and only dusted off at the start of the next planning cycle. Managing the account planning process within the CRM system can provide much better visibility of the agreed plan, and increase the likelihood that the specified objectives will be met.

68. Improve internal support – the easier it is for users to get help and advice, the better their use of the system. Improving the skills and knowledge of the help desk staff responsible for the system can have a big impact on how well the system is used.

69. Review your processes – analysing your existing business processes can be extremely insightful. You may find they don’t work quite as well as was thought, and there are often opportunities to improve them. Managing the revised processes within the CRM system can help create efficiencies through automation as well as providing better monitoring capabilities.

70. Workflow tools – many CRM systems have built-in workflow tools that allow for automated actions and activities when defined conditions are met. These are generally easy to set up and can be used beneficially in many different ways, from improving productivity to ensuring that staff are alerted to situations that they need to be aware of.

71. Tracking cost per lead – using your closed loop lead management process (see 25) to log the source of each lead, while also tracking marketing campaign costs, will potentially improve the visibility of cost per lead. This data will allow you to double-down on the marketing campaigns with the highest return on investment and scale back on areas with lower returns, enabling you to get a lot more from your marketing budget.

72. Tailor views to the needs of each team – many CRM systems allow you to have different views of the system depending on the role of the user. This can be important if the system is supporting multiple areas of the business with differing data capture requirements. Using the views functionality to just display the data each user needs can significantly increase productivity.

73. End of life marketing campaigns – do your products or services have a defined life-cycle? For example, a piece of equipment might become uneconomic to use after a certain period, or there’s a specific contract end date. Consider how the CRM system can be used to coordinate your sales, marketing, and service activities as the end date approaches in order to increase the percentage that purchase from you again.

74. User groups – user groups can be a very useful source of information and new ideas to help you get more from your system. Explore if there are existing groups that you could join, and if not consider if it might be worth creating one.

75. Integrate survey data – many businesses use online survey tools to track customer satisfaction and gather feedback. Most of these applications have integrations which will store survey results against the relevant record in the CRM system. This enables you to enhance the depth and quality of stored data, and will allow actions to be triggered based on the survey results, for example an alert to the relevant manager if a satisfaction score is below a defined threshold.

That’s the third batch of ideas, the final set will follow later in the week.

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