Let’s Talk about CRM Systems

It started as a massive panicked effort by many large companies to get local client contact data into a more centralized location so that organizations couldn’t be held hostage by salespeople, relationship managers and others who were protecting their respective books of business.

First, the push came to move contact information from rolodexes and napkins to email systems like Outlook. Then, from C-drives to shared drives, and finally to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system driven by a corporate mandate to ‘institutionalize the client’.

Big name CRMs like Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics have established themselves as front runners for organizations that are serious about optimizing performance through the alignment of sales, marketing and operations. There are many others that have emerged over the past five years, signalling a more pronounced demand, but it’s really becoming difficult to have a conversation about revenue without acknowledging that CRM is quickly becoming a critical success factor. Once a ‘nice to have’ is now a ‘you better have it’ consideration.

While many organizations already have a CRM, just as many still only engage or use a fraction of its capabilities and functionality. CRMs are much more than contact databases of names, addresses and emails.

Sure, it’s still useful to have all of that information in one place, but when you consider that a CRM unlocks the ability to automate segmentation, personalization, and customization of content across multiple distribution channels, forward-thinking marketers should start to get excited.

Young adult man and woman in business dress with square border on each of their faces and targeting statistics for each listed below the square

When you consider the ability to manage probability-adjusted pipeline forecasts, develop penetration models by segment and strata, and create an ability to know in the middle of Q2 whether or not your target for Q4 is in jeopardy, a fully-integrated CRM  should get the attention of performance-driven salespeople.

As well, when you can start to count on a return created by the efficient alignment of sales and marketing, and conversely understand how much a lack of it is hitting the wrong side of a P&L every year, entrepreneurial spirit and the freedom for everyone to do their own thing and keep data close to the vest instantly loses its appeal.

The bottom line: a CRM should deliver a return on investment. Like real money in the bank, it can and should deliver actual dollars you can count on from an acquisition, retention, and penetration perspective. If you consider CRM as an expense or a cost item, you’ve missed the boat.

CFOs and COOs should also get excited because it means KPIs like cost to acquire and cost to retain go down because the organization is becoming smarter and is operating more efficiently. And organic growth isn’t just corporate boardroom slang; it’s a metric that’s tracked quarterly.

But CRMs are really designed for marketers. And yes, I’m a marketer, but that also means I’m a hunter and a farmer when it comes to prospecting; if a CRM gets me closer to the prospects I want to acquire and helps me better understand the existing customers I’m trying to engage with and retain (who they really are, what they like, their behaviours, patterns and preferences), well, then unleash the hounds!

If you have a CRM and aren’t doing some of the stuff above, it’s worth spending some time to get that sorted. Taking steps to optimize how you’re using your CRM will not only make you money, but also save money in the long run because you’ll be using a system that is finely tuned to your teams’ unique needs.

If you don’t have a CRM, look into it because you are in for a fantastic ride.

Either way, an investment in a CRM platform is just that: an investment. It’s a tool that needs to be configured and adapted to deliver a strong ROI – you can’t set it and forget it.

Like that trusty swiss army knife, a CRM can quickly become one of the go-to tools you’ll actually use for almost every facet of your business.

Article by Dave Cliche, President & CEO at TMD