Category Archives: CRM Software

Customer Relationship Management Failure in VARS, Solution Providers, and Consultant Projects

5 Secrets to Protecting Your Customer Relationship Management Project  

I read a great book a while back, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution“, which I highly recommend. In this book, the authors outline 2 principle things a leader can influence when it comes to producing results; your strategy (or plan) and your ability to execute that strategy. And, contrary to what is taught, the biggest challenge is not developing the strategy but rather getting your people to execute it at the level of excellence you need. In this article, I explore various reasons why CRM software may fail to meet objectives.

CRM for many is a “Wildly Important Goal”. The idea is that CRM helps organizations be more effective and efficient in their day-to-day tasks and assists them in reaching long-term business objectives and goals. However, good processes aren’t usually defined and therefore unknown when effective. They are in some cases nearly invisible. Yet, CRM must fit the organization’s processes, which are in turn driven by the customer life-cycle (Attract, Educate, Engage, Continually Delight). And, that’s the tough thing about CRM Software sometimes for organizations to comprehend. It has as much or more to do with people (before and during) than technology long-term.

CRM is short for customer relationship management, but it’s a whole lot more than those three basic words. From my perspective, it’s a combination of methodologies and software components which help companies (all industries) build relationships with customers through organization, automation, business intelligence, synchronicity, and—most recently—social media collaboration. In essence, when approached with strategy as your compass, CRM should tie together the customer life-cycle and distribute it across the integrated teams and every function of your business.

The Failure Points and Secrets for Consideration in Customer Relationship Management 

In 2014, just over half of executives felt their CRM changes were gener­ally successful. In 2004, 41 percent rated their CRM projects a success, according to the 2014 Merkle study “Custom­er-Centric Transformation: Five Ways to Leading Successful Change.” What’s disconcerting is that assessments of CRM initiatives haven ‘t improved much over the past decades. Having been in the industry since 1997, here are my brief thoughts on why this may still be an elusive goal for many.

1. Have the Leadership to Define Goals and Requirements 1st

Failure Point: I have been involved in hundreds of software selection projects over the years. And, this is common scenario. Organizations are so “fired” up about finding a solution to their problem “the easy button approach” that they do not take the time either internally or via an external resource to define what success means to them for this project. In other words, when posed with the question of whether or not you have achieved success no one truly knows what that means. A little secret, it usually means something different for each stake-holders because requirements were not defined, agree upon, prioritized, and executing the search focused on those goals as your compass.

Secret: It may seem contrary to popular opinion. But, software won’t solve the challenges you don’t know exist. In other words, failure is usually due to a lack of what constitutes success in the first place. If you do not determine earlier on what business problems the CRM system must solve and the requirements needed to achieve them you will fail. Requirements are the foundation of success. They should guide your choice and clarify the “best fit”.

2. Outline Technology Needs Today and Look into the Future 

Failure Point: Technology is always changing. In the last 5 years alone, we have seen a dramatic shift in how software is packaged and deployed. That noted, it is not possible to accurately predict the future performance of your business or organization due to the unpredictable market forces in the world today. CRM systems are designed and driven by technology today. Advancement in technology leads to development of new systems that are more effective than previous models. Businesses are usually caught off guard due to lack of long-term strategies and mechanism to align their operations with the CRM as technology changes. Example: Not factoring Social CRM into requirements due to the changing business to business buying process today.

Secret: A solid cloud based solution, product roadmap, & skilled CRM consultant should help overcome this factor. A CRM system must “jell” with the skills of the organization as a whole today and future. Understanding the CRM platform road map fully even before adopting it is one step used to overcome this problem. This will in turn help you to formulate and successfully implement long-term strategies as well as streamline the adoption process. Additionally, the CRM implementation team needs to go to the ground and interact with other employees. This will help them identify various unforeseen challenges that may hamper the implementation process. Furthermore, interacting with employees will help them determine suitability of the system to the organization.

3. Know the 1st Year but don’t Fail to Budget for Ongoing Support Costs

Failure Point: This is one of the most common problems facing small, medium and large business. The cost of buying and installing a CRM platform, not to mention the cost of training your employees on how to operate it (and the time lost as they are not working at fully speed and potential) is enough to make many companies hesitant to take on the risk.
Secret: First, it is important to consider the total cost of purchasing and implementing the system when preparing your annual or monthly budget. Compare and contrast the cost of using each system before making your final decision so as to choose one that is affordable and in line with your budget. For example, choose systems whose documentation is clear and easy to understand to save money and time during the training process. Budget to continually train your staff. This is huge!

4. Realize Disruption is a huge factor in failure 

Failure Point: Not all employees will embrace the change of adopting a new CRM platform. This resistance may hurt the overall performance of your business. For example, some of the employees may feel that the system will expose some of their bad habits to the managerial team.

Secret: A project needs the right leaders to guide the project and keep it on track. Those leaders need to communicate their plans both with executives and end users.Enlightening the employees on the benefits of implementing the CRM system will help to significantly counter the passive resistance and increase employee-adoption rate. Strive to not only convince the team to embrace the change but also create and maintain their enthusiasm and desire to learn more about the system. Communication is key here. When choosing a CRM system, make sure that you not only consider the benefits but also the challenges that you might face during the adoption process. This will greatly help you choose a system that’s easy to adopt and effective in improving service delivery.

5. Right Size Your CRM To Your Needs, Don’t Over Buy 

Failure Point: CRM solutions have been on the market since the 90’s. Through the evolution from contact managers to salesforce automation many features are commoditized. It’s amazing because today new vendors are continually pushing the limits of CRM capabilities. The tribal elders of CRM are working on capabilities that differentiate them from others – like verticalized offerings such as nonprofit CRM or Real Estate CRM, offerings tuned to mobile user first like Salesbox CRM, & others tuned to Social Intelligence like Nimble CRM.

Secret: Make sure the user experiences that come “out-of’the-box” from your CRM vendor are highly intuitive; that they work on the devices and platforms used; and that they don’t impede your productivity in any way. CRM buyers need to remember that more may not be the answer. In fact, more may be detrimental to usage. What I have seen is that extra functionality without merit causes confusion and leads to lack of usage. You need to carefully evaluate vendors which are right-sized for your needs. And, you can’t do that without defining your requirements as they relate to your mission. For more elaborate information on the idea here, please read “Right Size Your CRM by Kate Leggett’s blog on Forester“.

Finally, a bonus. It is critical to monitor and measure the success of the CRM implementation on an ongoing basis. This isn’t a one and done event, but rather an ongoing process, from pre-sales through the many phases of the CRM implementation. Measuring ROI is crucial throughout the usage of CRM. In today’s increasingly competitive market, every size company and almost all industries are becoming increasingly aware of the need for CRM software to help refocus on individual relationships and maximize profitability.

Keeping all of these important secrets (not a secret anymore) in mind may improve your chances of achieving a successful CRM strategy. And, hopefully marshall your team effectively in order to avoid failure of execution. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Social CRM is about relationships and keeping abreast of Social Signals provided by ones digital footprint.

From a business development perspective, most experts would agree that curating relevant information about potential and existing customers is a key aspect of doing business. However, integrating social signals and finding insights from them will be increasingly important in forging relationships with modern consumers. In this article, I wanted to dig into the benefits of social signals in business development today.

What is Social CRM?

Social CRM Software (Customer Relationship Management) is a strategy which utilizes social media services, techniques and technology to enable organizations to engage with their customers.

Today, being successful in business takes a true service mentality. I believe that most people buy from people they like. And, they like people who know them. Social CRM uses social media services to understand and decipher the digital signals of customers in order to help with engagement. You can’t know somebody without doing your homework and background research to get to know who that person is. The more you know the better chances you will have to serve them.

The Importance of Using Social Intelligence

Monitoring what your contacts are doing on social channels is every bit as important as reading their emails in Selling 2.0. In my opinion, if you are not using Social Intelligence to grow your business or territory, you are not playing on a level field with your counterparts. Social Intelligence, if used appropriately, will enable users to see events in people’s lives and to use that data to make stronger and faster connections.

I read recently a great book called Pick up the Damn Phone by Joanne Black (which I highly recommend). In it, Mrs. Black cites a staggering Aberdeen study which shows that those who leverage social intelligence get some pretty impressive results, including:

  • Dramatically greater improvement (21.4 percent) in top line revenue each year, compared to 16.4 percent for all other business
  • A 9.5 percent annual increase in the number of salespeople who make quota, vs. 3.4 percent increase for other companies
  • A customer satisfaction rating that improves at nearly twice the rate (5.8 vs. 2.1 percent) of other organizations

All the data signifies the importance of using social intelligence in your day-to-day professional sales and marketing life. But, it’s hard for most to do this, right? That’s why Social CRM tools are exciting to me. Most organizations need an intelligent relationship platform that will look at the digital foot print of a person, be able to read their social signals, identify ones that matter,  pull them into complete records and relevantly use the information. Then, as Mrs. Black proclaims, “Pick up the Damn Phone to call them”.

Success with Social Signals in the New Age

There is clearly a new buyer journey which has transpired in the business community today which some call Buyer 2.0. This is not a news flash for most. However, whatever you call it, in order to be relevant in the business world today you need to be a social evangelist too.

Today, customers are doing their own homework. They are having conversations among themselves on what they’re going to buy on Twitter and then they’re deciding early on who they want to spend time with during the “Sales Process”.  Then, when they’re ready, they reach out to a vendor to find a solution. Unfortunately, most small to midsize companies’ idea of dealing with that is to hire a “Young Guns” and have them embark on the “Old Way” of doing business. Or worse yet, to have the marketing departments bombard them with how great their price, product, or service is. Smart “Young Guns” won’t put up with it, and Sage “Old Guns” will flame-out of existence.

Today, the new social salesperson must be altruistic and authentically desire to assist in the buyers journey. He or she needs to participate in the buyer journey by being a trusted advisor who is paying the relationship forward by educating them. So that when they do make a buying decision or are considering buying something, they think about that person who was there along their journey.

Speed is your servant but being prepared is king

When somebody is ready to make a buying decision, if you are not part of that conversation during the moments where they’re considering it, you’re done. However, faster does not always mean better. Social Intelligence should be used to allow us to be prepared. Today, it’s important to know what your customers are liking, commenting, retweeting or otherwise engaging in the digital universe. It may not always be necessary or pertinent to utilize, but it’s mandatory in today’s market. And, Social CRM tools assist in this very well.

In my business, I review a lot of different technology which often gets me excited about the possibilities. I admit with no apologies that I am fan of technology. But, Social CRM, Marketing Automation, and Sales intelligence are all pertinent technology which are critical in helping your organization help others in succeeding with your product, service, or mission.

 

Free CRM Software List for SMB to download

 

 

SmartThoughts provides Nimble CRM and their new Smart Contacts app for small biz

Another Exciting Release for the Smart Contacts App

The momentum keeps on going at the Social CRM Social Intelligence headquarters. Nimble CRM took all the feedback they received from their valued customers & partners then combined that with the latest designs from their new Nimble mobile app and completely rewrote the browser extension. Now that’s responsive design! As a result of the news release, we wanted to let our community of small business owners know about the news about this update to the Nimble Smart Contacts App.

 

What does it do? 

The updated Smart Contacts Widget for the Chrome Browser, now lets you add, view, update and message contacts to nurture relationships in every App in your browser with the click of a button. This save tremendous amount of time. If you recall, you had to go into Nimble to perform some of these aspects, now you can simply stay put and take action right in the browser, anywhere.

The Smart Contacts Widget has been updated.  SmartThoughts provides the #UnCRM to  #smallbiz

The Power to be Nimble

Nimble reviews information from dozens of sources around the web, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, AngelList, Instagram, Foursquare and more to collect public information into an invaluable resource that helps business professionals be better prepared for sales calls, meetings and interviews. With Nimble, business people are always ready to connect in smarter, relevant and authentic ways with their contacts, prospects and customers powered by intelligent insights.

Nimble Delivers Smart Contacts Everywhere You Work

The new Nimble Chrome app is the latest release of Nimble Smart Contacts Insights that has been announced over the past few months. Nimble has extended its pioneering Relationship Manager to work everywhere their customers work. Nimble now delivers critical contact context and intelligent relationship insights in Chrome, Gmail, Google Apps, Outlook, Safari, Firefox, Hootsuite, Native Mobile apps for Apple iOS, Android and soon Salesforce.

Key Features of the new Chrome app include:

  • Smart Social Relationship Management: Nimble combines your contacts from Google Contacts, Outlook and Apple Address Book. It then maps and discovers the most important contact information on the web (Twitter, AngelList, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, FourSquare, Instagram and more), connects your email, calendar and social interactions and then keeps it up to date and in sync on a daily basis.
  • Easily Import/Update Social Contacts: from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Foursquare, Angel list or any browser-based app with our new one-click Nimble Browser button and smart sidebar app.
  • Nimble Automagically Matches Contacts Social Profiles: Nimble removes the detective work required to find contact details by auto-magically mapping your contacts social profiles and consolidating the key background information you need into a digital dossier, giving you all the relevant information you’ll need before reaching out.
  • Get Intelligent Relationship Insights: Nimble searches the web and social networks to deliver insights to provide context about your contacts: mutual interests, shared passions, and important moments making it easier to be prepared for the people you’re meeting with.
  • Stay top of mind with Stay In Touch Reminders: Since Nimble automatically logs email conversations and social connections it’s easy to set a Stay In Touch cycle and let Nimble remind you to Stay In Touch.
  • Simply Organize Contacts with Tags, Tasks and Notes: Effortlessly organize contacts with tags, log details about the people you meet with notes and remember to follow-up with tasks.
  • Enjoy a Completely Redesigned User Experience: We took the design concepts we learned from building our mobile app and completely re-wrote our widget to be more intuitive, smarter, and faster.
  • Take Action Within the Nimble App: Send emails, Twitter DM’s and Facebook messages to key contacts from the app.

Don’t take their word for it! The CRM experts say:

“I am addicted to Nimble’s Chrome App! It’s is my favorite social selling tool for nurturing my core network of business relationships everywhere I work!,” said Zachary Jeans, Analyst at Tourizing, a noted Social, Mobile and Salesforce consulting firm. “I love how Nimble’s New Chrome App gives me contact insights and social Smart Summaries directly inside the places I need it most like my inbox, Twitter, LinkedIn and even in my Salesforce CRM.”

Feedback on the Smart Contacts Widget by other Social Selling Experts:

Why Social Sales People Need to Stop Googling & Start @Nimble ing – http://bit.ly/1tNXjjR via @ShaneGibson

Managing Disruptions in Customer Acquisition Strategy w Social Relationships http://bit.ly/1jYFBrP #SocialSelling #CRM via @samfiorella

New Contact Widget from @Nimble Makes Management Of Your Contact’s Easier http://bit.ly/1iZVxXc #SocialSelling #CRM via @shashib

How @Nimble is Your #SocialSelling Network? http://bit.ly/1jYOpOo #CRM via @barbaragiamanco

Still Googling Your Contacts? @Nimble Says Kiss That Goodbye http://bit.ly/1or4LBq #SocialSelling #CRM via @smallbiztrends

 

 

Would you like to take a quick view of Nimble Smart Contacts App? 

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Our Thoughts, we hope you find them Smart: 

Back in 1997, I was first introduced to the concept of Customer Relationship Management. During the early days, I provided many seminars to small business owners in order to explain what the concept or strategy of CRM was and how to take advantage of it with new technologies on the market. Today, there is a new way to do business. And, our old ways must die.  Small business owners must embrace the pendulum shift to a new Zeitgeist. It’s time to get Nimble! CRM is fun and exciting once again.

Want more hands on experience? Sign up for your social intelligence CRM manager review now. 

 

Training on CRM software is essential to your business success!

 

 

 

Looking for a Small Biz CRM tool, a SmartThought review of SwiftPage ACT! Since 1997, I have been working with Customer Relationship Management software. In fact, I remember a time before the term Sales Force Automation, Customer Relationship Management, and even Salesforce.com! If you remember the Rolodex you likely recall the early days as well! We all needed a better way and thanks to many of the pioneers  like Pat Sullivan, the founder of SwiftPage Act!, and Jon Ferrara, the founder of Goldmine, we all have a better way to handle our customers today! In this article, I wanted to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit an oldie but goodie, SwiftPage ACT! Looking to replace this with CRM Software? Yes, I recall with great clarity the day when Act! Software and Goldmine Software ruled the roost in the small business software space. Knowing this, I wanted to take some time to share some thoughts on one of the oldest contact managers in the market, SwiftPage Act! which has grown into a mature sales force automation tool for small business users today. Indeed,  Act! is still considered one of the best-selling contact & customer Manager, trusted by individuals, small businesses, and sales teams to get organized and take the guesswork out of marketing to drive sales results. If you are not familiar with Act!, Act! by SwiftPage helps organize all your contacts, leads, prospects and customer details in one place. It helps market your products and services more effectively, driving sales results while creating customers for life. While it is not the right fit for everyone, I believe that SwiftPage Act! still excels in combining many features which are difficult to find in even some upperclassmen in this space.

Here the top 10 features which make SwiftPage Act! still relevant:

  • Integrated email marketing solution
  • Easy to use interface
  • No limits on the type of data that can be stored
  • Easy to use integrated word templates for communications
  • Opportunity Management is capable
  • Linking between accounts and contacts data
  • Tailoring of the system is easy
  • Integration with Word, Outlook, Gmail clients
  • Business automation with Smart Tasks
  • Your choice of deployment options (Web, Local, Hosted, Synchronization)

Certainly, there is always room for improvement! For example, it needs to incorporate more social selling signals and feeds like Nimble. I have written a review on Nimble and Nimble clearly shines in the area of social selling prowess. However, outside social selling area, it lacks the ability to handle account centric selling needs for the B to B selling environment. It does well with dealing with the “contact” centric nature of the design with the linking of fields but still isn’t the best “account” centric selling tool. These two items may or may not be applicable to you so you will need to decide. In this day of “Cloud Software“, I believe that Act! has still earned the right to be at the table if you are a small business embarking on a journey to find your first sales and marketing software tool. To be sure, SwiftPage Act! still delivers value in the age of the Cloud.   My review of Swiftpage ACT! on TrustRadius If you would like to learn more, I am a contributing author on TrustRadius. And, you may find a full review by clicking My review of Swiftpage ACT! on TrustRadius here. I will be reviewing more soon! Looking for a Small Biz CRM tool, a SmartThought review of SwiftPage ACT!

Relationships are the most important aspect of CRM Software

CRM Software is all about Relationships!

One of the oldest business adages in the book is that the customer is king. The focus on the customer is for important reasons. They are the engine that propels any company forward. Without interest from customers, the whole business falls apart. In this article, we wanted to explore several facets of CRM Software today which ultimately should help establish and maintain excellent relationships with your customers (particularly repeat customers).

The Many Flavors of CRM Today

Since 1997, I have been working with Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM). Today, the use of customer relationship management software has become even more popular as more businesses realize the usefulness of these tools to develop relationships. There are various flavors and terminology to describe CRM. For example, Social CRM led by Nimble CRM, full featured CRM for Mid to Large Organizations like Pipeliner CRM, & Customer Support Software  from firms like Zendesk are all considered customer management tools.

The Core of CRM 

But, at the heart of all of CRM options should be one basic element. And, that is developing and maintaining relationships with people! Primarily, what CRM should do is allow for businesses to create relationships, nurture them, and help their customers grow. The basic features of CRM should keep track of the interactions throughout all phases of a customers journey with your firm. It stores all of the data about those interactions and helps you to better understand the relationships that you have with your customers. In essence, contact management should begin with a single view of the past, present, and future of your interactions with your contacts.

Social Media

Beyond the basics, Social Media has required CRM to adjust and adapt a bit in recent years. As a result, Interactions with customers via social media platforms is another area for CRM software which enhances relationships. The multitude of social media platforms that are available these days may make it difficult in some respects to track every interaction with customers, but systems like Nimble CRM do help make this process easier. Interacting with customers on social media is now considered the proper way for business to use this medium, so why not log what happens with those interactions? Today, keeping track of a persons digital interactions and “social listening” to your clients before and after they buy is all capable with CRM Software. Here are a few real life scenarios:

  • A Customer Advocate representative looks up a client on LinkedIn while staying right in their web browser session, looks up their respective contact information, calls them, notices that they have been working at the firm a short while, just had a birthday (turned 45, so sad), and then begin to take copious notes on a phone call interaction about a new product inquiry to pass over to sales. They then send out an email to thank them for their time and provide the future client advocate details on your flashy new product. All of this can be done while staying on one screen! Wow!
  • Another example would be recording and viewing the types of products that a particular customer has ordered in this past. And, knowing by looking at their Social Streams that they are asking for advice on twitter about similar products you provide. You engage with them online while working in your CRM tool and connect real-time to address their concerns. You are able to solve their issues in real-time! Wow!

Certainly, this is helpful for sales and marketing opportunities, but also helps with customer service as well. The possibilities are exciting!

Predictive Marketing

As was alluded to above, Customer Relationship Management software can help with marketing as well. Some businesses have automated the process of marketing to customers entirely based on the previous experience they have had with those customers. What does this mean? Simply that the businesses allow for their software programs to tell them what the most likely next purchase is for any given customer. The programs choose this based on the data logged about that customer already.

For organizations that want to go beyond CRM and Email Marketing, you may add in marketing automation software like ACT-On or HubSpot . This additional functions will allow you to be able to enhance your capabilities even further. Rather than trying to guess what a customer may want to purchase next, these software programs allow for the possibility of predictive marketing and progressive profiling that can take the guesswork out of marketing efforts for you.

There are so many ways to use CRM today. And, these are just a few ways in which CRM may play a role in your business today.

Are there other areas you use CRM Software for today? Let us know below. Until then, please keep SmartThoughts in mind.

If you are interested, below you will find an interview with Jon Ferrara of Nimble CRM, a leader in Social CRM today.

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