by Kevin Craine | 3/17/16
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems have been widely used for years now. Solutions for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers range from hugely popular enterprise platforms like Salesforce to lesser-known small business apps like Zoho. The technology and approach is intended to help organize, automate and synchronize the sales and marketing activities of any business enterprise.
CRM systems are an excellent tool to help sales teams manage, track, and report on their sales process, but they have not adapted well to the rapidly changing, online-enabled buying environment that is prevalent today. In short, CRMs are good at managing the selling process, but not as good at managing customer relationships. In the past, sales organizations drove the customer buying process through tightly controlled marketing campaigns, but today’s control is in the hands of consumers who often make their decision on what to buy and from whom long before they ever make contact with the company.
Customers Don’t Buy Like They Used To
Consider the changes in how most people find, evaluate, and make purchase decisions today. The lion’s share of activities are performed by the buyer, with little or no interaction between the buyer and the seller. Advancements in online, social and mobile technology have changed how customers buy; they don’t call the company, they go online and research for themselves. Marketers must fill the gap by providing a consistent and educational presence that positions their product and company to be part of that customer evaluation process. Today’s buyers do their own homework and then interact with you only when they are ready. As a result, sales teams often wind up engaging much later in the buying cycle than they have in the past.
Automation Adds Value
A new breed of marketing automation software provides the missing ingredient by supplementing CRM systems like Salesforce and others. If implemented correctly, with enticing calls to action, targeted communications and educational and helpful downloads, marketing automation can help grow your business and boost your online presence while leveraging the value of your existing CRM systems. As a result, marketing automation has experienced the fastest growth of any CRM-related segment in the last five years and demand is expected to increase by 50 percent in 2016 alone. More and more companies are embracing marketing automation because it can shorten the sales cycle, uncover new upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and maximize the lifetime value of every customer.
Visibility is Key
While CRM systems provide a value platform to collect and manage customer data, marketing automation systems provide a key component by giving the sales team visibility into key interactions with customers and prospects. This visibility can be a real superpower that makes lead nurturing easier and can actually save you time and money in the process. Instead of sales reps simply cold-calling leads, they can see quickly what prospects are interested in and follow up with targeted, relevant messages and offers. Teams can see which web pages a prospect has visited, which documents they downloaded, and which emails they responded to – and when. This visibility into the response of their prospects inevitably boosts their lead generation and sales success.
When your marketing team has the tools they need to effectively nurture leads, your reps can guide these prospects through the sales funnel based on how they’ve responded to previous campaigns and communications. Look to developments in cloud-based multi-channel marketing automation and campaign management that work to drive deeper customer engagement through email, social media, and the web. The result is streamlined workflow, and more effective and efficient cross-media marketing that saves money while improving your overall marketing results.
Which approach is right for you? Whatever tools you choose, aim for a process that generates more and better-qualified leads who have displayed buying intent, while also uncovering those who should be dismissed. As a result, sales can spend less time with inefficient and unproductive cold calls and more time in front of prospects who are actually ready to buy.
Guest contributor Kevin Craine is the author of the book Designing a Document Strategy and a respected authority on document management and process improvement. He is the managing director of Craine Communications Group. For more information visit CraineGroup.com.