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.


Nimble CRM is Social Selling at it's finest

Being Nimble in a Social Selling World

Since 1997, I have been involved as a software adviser and advocate for Customer Relationship Management Software solutions. To be sure, the aspirations of many Sales Executives were realized when they first came on the scene. Integration with Outlook, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s like the Treo, remember that one?), marketing, mobile synchronization, and sales forecasting were the drivers for demand back in the day.

Suffice it to say, CRM software is required to do different things now as a result of the recent paradigm shift in selling and marketing in the 21st Century. At SmartThoughts, we are constantly searching for software tools which can help facilitate the development of stronger and more impactful business relationships. And, that’s why we wanted to share some thoughts on an innovative software tool available now called Nimble CRM which shines among very few peers leading in this area today.

If you are not familiar with Nimble CRM, you should be. As the Nimble tag line suggests, “With Nimble, Building Business Relationships Has Never Been Easier” .  Social Selling is paramount in order to be found and to find new opportunities. Social Selling is not just the wave of the future, it’s a necessity for businesses to remain relevant. Sales advisers need tools like Nimble to remain viable.

What is Nimble CRM?

Nimble is the only solution to offer small businesses the best features of high-end CRM systems combined with the power of social media. Nimble CRM is used by small organization to handle the basic tenets of CRM but shines in helping define the right leads and improve relationships with future & existing advocates.

What do we like most about Nimble CRM?

  • Smart Contacts Widget: From your browser (in LinkedIn, Gmail, etc.) you are able to simply right-click a name to “Nimble” it and you’ll be prompted to find out more about them.
Nimble CRM is the leader in small business social selling software.

Nimble the person and you can take those 12 tabs of research down to just one.

  • Social Signals: On a contact or account, easily view all the social activity streams in one view.
  • Engagement: Nimble you can view and filter your social signals such as birthdays, job changes, and new connections to leverage these signals as engagement opportunities and start reaching out!
  • Rapportive:  With Nimble, your contacts now follow you into your most-used app, Gmail, with a new plug-in. When you are reading an email from a Nimble contact – or hover your mouse over an email address in a thread – the contact details appear in the Rapportive widget. If the contact isn’t in Nimble, you can easily import him with the click of a button.

Yes, Nimble is now joining the ranks of Google, Facebook and other companies who have become their own verb. Way to go Nimble!

Certainly, like all software, Nimble is a work in progress. It will never be completely done or complete. That noted, it would be great to have better reporting capabilities for activities and opportunities. In addition, it would be better if Nimble handled account and contact linking better. In other words, when you desire to have common data fields such as revenue which is present on both the account and contact records which are updated when either is changed.

However, in this day of “Social Selling”, Nimble excels beyond expectations. And, if needed Nimble can do even more.  Through Nimble’s API it can be integrated into systems like, Marketing Automation platforms like ACT-On, ERP systems like Netsuite, or potentially WealthEngine for development officers to gain insights into not only “Social Activity” of donors with Nimble but also donor giving history and capabilities (Awesome!).

Truly, it’s an exciting time to be a sales adviser, donor development officer, or business with tools like Nimble to help build stronger relationships.

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 Nimble CRM on TrustRadius here. Or, sign up for a “Free” Nimble Software trial today by clicking here.

I will be reviewing more CRM, Social CRM, and Marketing Automation Software solutions soon!


Marketing plan

In this article, we wanted to cover what a marketing plan should look like and what it is not.

Recently, I visited with an owner of a small software provider who is looking for ways to increase leads at his respective business. We began to discuss his goals and vision for the company and embarked on a conversation with regards to execution and planning by his organization thus far during his tenure.

I simply asked “where is your marketing plan”? And, I received a spreadsheet with some events and trade shows displayed on it. That was the extent of the “plan”.

I was not shocked. In fact, I knew the answer before I had even asked. Most small businesses today do not work off a fluid and dynamic marketing plan. In most cases, the “marketing plan” in the minds of many small business owners is the “business plan”. Which to be clear, are two very distinct and different items all together.

With that interaction firmly in my mind, I wanted to discuss what a “marketing plan” is and is not. First, let me tackle some of the items which it is not:

  • A marketing plan is not a spreadsheet of activities
  • A marketing plan is not an editorial calendar with pretty colors and trade shows listed
  • A marketing plan is not one campaign for emails, outbound calling, or blog content to be produced
  • A marketing plan is not just the amount of $ you have to spend on marketing for the year
  • A marketing plan is not, I repeat, not, something you conjured up one weekend to execute the following week
  • A marketing plan is not your business plan

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, a marketing plan, is the written document that describes your advertising and marketing efforts for the coming year; it includes a statement of the marketing situation, a discussion of target markets and company positioning and a description of the marketing mix you intend to use to reach your marketing goals.

Here are four critical topics that should be covered in your marketing plan before you embark with any specific marketing activities in the next year:

1. Situation Analysis

  • What are your assets? Focus on People, Technology, Dollars.
  • What does the market space look like?
  • What strengths does your team have now at this very moment?
  • Competitive environment?

2. Marketing Strategy

  • What is your business vision and mission?
  • What are you business objectives at this time?
  • What is your value proposition today?

3. Craft your marketing program

  • What is your Product Messaging?
  • Should you review or alter your pricing strategy?
  • What communication channels have you used? Should you explore?
  • How about some fresh and new promotion activities?

4. Determine your Controls, Measure of Success, & KPI’s

  • What kind of budget do you have this year? Increase it!
  • How will you know you have achieved? Name your Success Factors.
  • How will measure your KPI’s? Top of the Funnel, MOF, BOF? Conversions? Sales?
  • Is this the year for a Marketing Automation help to help enable the mission

The Marketing plan should not be viewed as a “one and done” event. Rather, the Marketing plan should be kept front and center. We encourage clients to pull it out at least monthly but at the very least at your quarterly meetings. I would be remiss if I did not state that this shouldn’t be devised and implemented in a vacuum.

If you are a small organization where there is one “sales and marketing” person, you will have your work cut out for you. You must enlist the entire team (consultants, developers, executives) etc. in this effort. Otherwise, it’s your plan. And, your plan will mean nothing unless it’s shared with the rest of the organization.

Using the plan in a positive ways will provide “Cheering” material for everyone to “Rally” behind. In other words, fire the team up with what everyone has accomplished and what’s left to do.

Certainly, after you secure that first small business loan. Marketing plans are not required. However, they should be mandatory to ensure that you will have a viable business long term.

If you would like to discuss your current plan or would like to discuss best practices for preparing one, please give us a call.

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.


marketing automation will make your organization be a man

In this article, we will discuss the importance of having a “Social Selling” methodology in place and using “Marketing Automation technology”  as necessary components in “becoming” an organization in the 21st Century.

You’ll be a man before your mama is! This is an expression which my father used to say quite often to many of my friends growing up as a youth. In a joking and playful manner, it usually happened with good friends which he had known for years or younger relatives at the close of visiting with them. You could say that it was one of his “Signature Expressions”, “Tag Lines” or “Parting Words” that got a chuckle out of the guys growing up.

After recently enjoying Fathers Day, I found myself thinking about that expression a bit. And, it was interesting to note that not once through those years (which I can recall) did any of my friends or relatives ask my Dad, “What in the heck does that mean?”. It’s a legitimate question, right? Anyone in their right mind knows that no one is going to be a man before their mom. It’s ridiculous. And, that, in and of itself is what makes the expression funny.

Honestly, looking back , I didn’t think much of the expression growing up. I simply thought of it as a funny way for my dad to play around with my friends and possibly add some humor as we departed. I shrugged it off as just something which made my Dad, well, my Dad. A very hard working affable man, who does his best to do his best. However, on this past Fathers Day, I began to contemplate the meaning a bit.

What does this expression actually mean? Where did the expression come from? And, is there more to this expression than just a lighthearted phrase expressed by my dad throughout the years?

After some searching, Nietzsche, the well-recognized German Philosopher, believed that we were all in a state of “becoming”. In other words, Nietzsche believed that there is no final state of “being”; that we are always evolving & changing.

Hmm? Could the expression actually have merit?  Was my Dad capable of actually coming up with something quite profound? If so, please don’t tell him is all that I could think about! However, after some thought and some deep down humble pie, I have come to conclude that the expression was a way to say that we are always striving “to become”.  Albeit, a little backwards way of bringing a point across, but the expression is quite prophetic. Wow!

The point of my Dad’s “Signature Expression” and “Nietzsche” philosophical belief (wow, never thought those two would ever be in the same sentence) is that whether one is a sales or marketing professional, a sales or marketing department, or for profit or nonprofit organization, we will never become the final entity which we believe we want or can possibly be. One is continually changing, evolving, and becoming. And, whether we focus in one concerted fashion to achieve some level of significance or simply fall into whatever we have become, we are never going to be “finished”. We will always be in a state of “becoming”.

Today, organizations are faced with many challenges but Sales and Marketing is a big one. What once worked in marketing and sales isn’t effective. We live in a “buyers” market now. No longer are the days of “sellers” being in control of the way their audience “sees them”, “connects with them”, and “chooses” to do business with them.

Today, your sales and marketing unit along with your entire organization has a chance to be different from your competition. As an executive, you have a choice now to “become” on the leading edge and embrace the “new” norm or “become” different by remaining the same. We have a choice in how we “become”.

In our mind’s eye, “social selling” is a major shift from old school conventions.  Your sales professionals must embrace the new paradigm. Transparency is the order of the day. And, truly caring about your audience and being authentic is expected and requirement of your “buyers”. In order to perform, sales professionals must be armed with the right tools and skills to be able to provide your constituents with information they need, when they need it, and how they need it. Are you and your organization prepared to do this today?

It’s a fact, “Buyers”  have more information than they have ever had before. As an organization, you have to be able to attract, educate, and continually delight your “future advocates” with information on how your firm understands how to solve their business challenges. In order to “become” able to do this, you must have the right tools found in Marketing Automation software in order to provide your “future advocates” with what they need at the right time throughout their buying journey with you.  Organizations must be capable of nurturing buyers with multiple opportunities for engagement, as opposed to the old philosophy of “show up and throw up” of your content and information.

Social Selling and Marketing Automation is the key

While the expression may be a bit odd and provide a chuckle, the point adds verisimilitude ( I never thought I would be able to use that word, thanks Dr. Hall!).

So, “Will you be a man before your mama is?”

If you would like to discuss how you may embark on a new path or simply would like to chat more about the various software tools available today to help in the area of “social selling” or “marketing automation”, please contact us. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.



Hunters are old school

Sales Missionary for Hire!


In the course of discussions with several small to mid size businesses clients on sales strategy, there seems to be a lot of uncertainty about what type of personality an organization should hire today for sales. In this article, I wanted to explore the general terms used in describing selling mentalities and how semantics and terminology used inappropriately may set the tone for the sales and marketing persona at your organization.

More specifically, I have heard several repeated questions which I wanted to highlight below:

“My sales people aren’t finding new accounts”. “Who should we hire today?” “Can you help us train our team to be more like hunters rather than farmers?”

If you have been around the sales and marketing profession for a while, you have no doubt seen these terms for addressing the type of personality profile needed for a particular sales job. If not, I have described both below:

  • The Hunter is the person who gets their sales energy off of the “hunt” for the new opportunity. They are independent. They can come in very quickly into an environment generate buzz and excitement. They can close the deal. Ex. Title: Account Executive.
  • The Farmer is the sales person who builds and cultivates relationships and opportunities, typically within existing accounts. Historically speaking,  they are not always good at prospecting. Ex Title. Customer Service Rep.

Suffice it to say, I despise the reference to a sales person being referred to as a  “Hunter”. Why? In my mind, it implies that the person charged with a respective sales job is out to “Kill” the prey, eat them, spit them out and then leave them for dead.

In this day and age of social media sites and information chaos, can you imagine a future customer advocate seeing this on your “Linkedin” profile page? Or, even worse seeing this on the company career section of your website? In fact, even more far reaching I believe that the term “Hunter” when used in the social selling environment today may actually turn off your potential buyers if seen in various social media outlets.

In today’s buyers market led environment, where the buyer has taken control of the sales cycle, I believe organizations should consider hiring someone who is a “Missionary Evangelist” rather than a “Hunter”.

I have defined how this applies in the context of sales below:

  • The Missionary is a member of a organization who works tirelessly to convert by education and purpose. In fact, those people who come into contact with the Missionary who do not share the Missionary’s belief (CRM, Marketing Automation, ERP Software, Cloud) is the primary target of the Missionary. We need an Evangelist to convert people to a particular product or brand (ACT-ON vs. Eloqua, vs. Nimble CRM) based on the beliefs, knowledge, and merits of the service/solution provided by the respective organization.

The combined terms, Missionary Evangelist, represent the type of person I believe is necessary in the art of attracting new business today. In other words, your organization requires someone today who embodies some of the following traits:

  • Caring: You need someone who cares, bottom line.
  • Passionate: You need someone who will go to great lengths with passion in order to find those he or she can help.
  • Intelligent: You need someone who knows his or her stuff with regards to your product or service. At the right time, buyers want to be delighted by what you have to offer them.
  • Listener: You need someone who will take the time to listen and provide an empathetic and caring ear.
  • Communicator: You need someone who can go the mountain, so to speak, and communicate your message eloquently. This needs to be verbal and writing abilities. 

To be sure, I get the Hunter analogy. I have heard it countless times over the last two decades involved in sales and marketing. In years past, it may have been fine.  And, with profitability on the minds of every business owner, you want and need to be able find new business. It’s basic economics. However, in order to be successful today, we need to be mindful of the message we are sending to our audience  of advocates. Your buyers are more sophisticated than ever before and have information at their finger tips.

As a small midsize business owner, you have to face the facts today. The role of the professional sales person has changed. Sales and Marketing must co-exist with one another. Smarketing reigns (or whatever you call the combined enterprise of sales and marketing). Frankly speaking, today more than ever it’s Marketing’s role  to attract, educate, and move the buyers down the funnel.The Sales person’s role is to piggy back on top of the marketings education and awareness campaign to sort through the options. And, once the buyer is ready, have your Missionary, Evangelize your offering relentlessly with passion and conviction.

The term “Hunting” in the traditional sense is an “old school” way of thinking which needs to be changed in light of the new methodology of #SocialSelling and #MarketingAutomation.

You must demand and require that your organization find opportunities. But, the method and manner of doing this has changed dramatically.

With that, we must kill the “Hunter” analogy. You can begin by changing the reference in your inner circle which will begin to set a tone in your sales and marketing culture today.

Indeed, we all want to hire good people. But, you need to hire people who truly care about what you provide, can walk the talk, and have a burning desire to “help” others.

If you get that person (s) your first mission has been accomplished! Praise the Lord.