Ten Things You Can Learn from Your CRM System

Wednesday Feb 9th 2011 by Jennifer Schiff
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Business owners and managers reveal what business-critical information they glean from their CRM systems.

Customer relationship management (CRM) vendors often claim that their software can do practically anything, from revealing which leads work (and which don't) to who your best customers are to which products are the most or least profitable. But what do business owners have to say?

To find out if CRM systems really deliver on what they promise, eCRM Guide spoke with dozens of business owners and managers.

Herewith are 10 things you can learn from your CRM system.

You can learn which leads work (and which ones don't). Like many busy businesses, video production and marketing company Pixability wanted to know which leads its salespeople should pursue or concentrate their efforts on. By tracking leads via Hubspot and Salesforce.com, the company was able to do this.

Pixability discovered that "leads that eventually bought from us filled out twice as many forms as leads that didn't buy," said Bettina Hein, the founder and CEO of Pixability. Similarly, "leads that become customers come to our website an average of five times," she said. As a result, the Pixability sales team was able to be more productive, with their efforts resulting in increased sales.

You can learn how much you are selling of a particular product and what your profits are — in real time. "Thanks to our CRM system [NetSuite], we can easily tell, in real time, how many headsets we sold, for how much, and what our profit was," said Mark Pelley, manager of finance and administration at TPC Healthcare.

You can see which trade shows are the most profitable — and tailor marketing efforts accordingly. Like many businesses, Distribution Audio & Video (DVA) attends trade shows to help drum up sales. And, like many business owners, CEO Brad Kugler was curious to know if they really needed to attend both trade shows (which were very similar, just held at different times). So he decided to track trade show performance via his NetSuite CRM system.

"Through the CRM/marketing codes we put into the CRM system, we could determine which show was generating more revenue long term and made the decision to drop the other one as a result," he said. Not only that, DVA's CRM system helped the company "to isolate customer preferences in terms of types of products and further refine our marketing campaigns to those customers."

You can better segment and target customers. "Using CRM, I discovered that over 75 percent of the makeup products browsed/purchased by the makeup customer segment were on sale!" exclaimed Erica Davis, Director of Marketing Strategy, Quaero Solutions Group. Not only that, she discovered that those customers that bought sale products were the most active customers.

"This revelation provided enough justification to review and redefine our customer segments beyond product category affinity," she said. So, using her CRM system, she created new customer segments, such as responsiveness to discounts and promotions, recency and frequency of purchases, referral and influencer activities, marketing channel origin and affinity and gifting activity. "The results of this new segmentation? More meaningful marketing to customers and double-digit improvements in all marketing KPIs."

You can learn when is the best time to contact prospects and existing customers. For HR outsourcing company TriNet, analyzing CRM information (via InsideView) led to being able to figure out the optimal time to contact prospective customers. Specifically, TriNet found that talking to prospects at times of change (such as new management, new funding, a business expansion, significant changes in hiring) resulted in greater sales — with an incredible 70 percent conversion-to-appointment rate.

 

You can pinpoint the most effective marketing strategies. "At one time I thought of [our] CRM system as a sales tool, but it is the secret weapon in my marketing toolkit," said Carissa Newton, the director of marketing at Delivra. "It not only helps me track leads from inception to close, but it lets me demonstrate the ROI that each of my marketing efforts yields. I know the source of each lead and how much it costs to convert that lead!"

You can learn how often you really need to call prospects. "The right CRM system can provide terrific insight into what's working in your lead generation effort," said Jenny Vance, the president of LeadJen. "For example, call history can be analyzed to show which call and which message generated the most appointments, opportunities and sales wins. From there, you can determine how many call attempts are needed to get the best results. This varies by industry, so having access to call history data is valuable."

You can discover what your closing cycles really are. "Our CRM surprise [using ServiceTycoon] was the ability to track the closing cycle with customers," shared Stuart Reisch, the co-founder of Transform, which designs, manufactures and installs custom cabinets. "From the initial customer contact to the number of appointments required to close the deal, we learned what percent of purchases were made at 15 days, 30 days, 45 days, etc. This revelation helped us in the down economy as were able to educate our design force as to the change in closing trends."

You can improve the quality of communication with your customers. For Jean Heaton, marketing manager at Citrin Cooperman, one of the most valuable lessons she learned via CRM was the importance of interacting with customers. Instead of just sending out automated replies or form letters, take the time to chat or email with your customers, she said. Find out what their concerns or problems are, and do your best to resolve or address them. Not only does that build good will, it builds customers for life.

You can learn about outstanding customer issues and resolve them faster. "Imagine closing a large deal and then having it held up because of a dispute over a relatively small invoice," said Niranjan Samant, vice president of Sales and Client Services at Equilar. Thanks, however, to Equilar's CRM system (Salesforce.com, which is integrated with the company's financial system), "now Finance can alert reps to credit issues in advance, so they can reach out to the customer to push it through," he said. As a result, "deals are signed quicker, customers are satisfied, repeat business improves and forecasting becomes more accurate and valuable. It avoids any hold ups at the end of the quarter and keeps my team happy." It has also improved Sales' relationship with the company's Finance department, an added bonus.

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to eCRM Guide and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses.

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