When you’re a smaller business, customer relationship management (CRM) product choices tend to lean towards the cheapest remotely-workable solution with a not-terrible reputation. Less ideal, more tolerable. In practice, early CRM adopters often use their CRM as a glorified address book with some additional tracking and records features. That’s all fine and dandy in the moment, but fast-forward 5 years, and the potential is there for a full-on data nightmare that reaches across departments, hurting sales, marketing, client relationships, and customer account management.
Plan for the Long-Term, Choose a Platform You Can Grow With
This is not a CRM comparison (if you are looking for that, here’s an overview of the key players from CRMSwitch and here’s some more detailed coverage from ZDnet about your options. I specialize in the Hubspot inbound marketing platform, which offers integration with Salesforce, and I’m speaking from that perspective. I’ve previously used Exact Target for email marketing prior to signing on with Hubspot, which also drew data from Salesforce account records.
As a marketer who has been a Salesforce administrator for a national company and used a number of marketing tools which integrated with Salesforce and used Salesforce data, I urge companies who are starting out to take a long-term perspective on their choice of CRM and marketing software. I don’t believe in buying more features than you need, but I do advocate spending a bit more if it means you will get in on the lower rungs of the right solution which will allow you to grown into it, upgrading as needed. I could probably write a book about being penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to marketing; there are some places it makes great sense to be frugal – your CRM isn’t one of them. Think best value, not lowest price.
Your Data is Your Treasure – It Will Be the Backbone of All Of Your Marketing Efforts Going Forward
Most businesses pick up a CRM first, and grow into marketing tools from there. Whatever your plans are on the marketing side, it’s smart practice to embark on your CRM selection and usage from the start with a long-term growth strategy in mind. I’ve written about CRM and marketing data integrity with the wisdom of hindsight here.
In business, you always have a 1 year, 5 year, 10 year plan. While technologies change and your plans may as well, you should have some type of map in place for managing your growth from a sales and marketing software/service standpoint. For example, start simple with MailChimp and Group-level Salesforce subscription; at X point (say 100 contacts), pick up and integrate Hubspot; then at X benchmark (500 contacts, etc.) upgrade Salesforce and Hubspot subscription levels accordingly.
I’d suggest a plan that sticks with reputable, top vendors (even at entry-level subscriptions) rather than just the cheapest option, because every time you switch vendors and platforms you risk a certain level of disruption, and potential loss of data and resources in making the transition. It’s much easier to grow with a scalable platform. If you know going in that you are probably going to want to change platforms at some point, you’re not choosing the right platform.
You want to work towards the goal of closed-loop reporting – integration of sales and marketing data to track your leads across their full life-cycle for the following purposes:
- to know what works and what doesn’t
- to evaluate metrics such as the actual cost of acquiring a customer (cost per customer, or CPC)
- to allow marketing goals to be set in terms of actual dollar amounts.
- to understand true ROI for all marketing and sales efforts
- to help prevent leads from getting lost in the cracks between disjunctured sales & marketing departments
Best Practices for CRM Implementation & Management
CRMs and other databases are only as useful as you make them. Garbage in = garbage out. Here is a useful article on best practices for CRM implementation and usage, and another one that focuses more on dangers and failures related to CRM implementation versus best practices. I suggest reading both to get a better understanding of bigger picture issues when getting started with your CRM.
- Think ahead and try to anticipate fields you may need as you grow (segmenting based on city, age, service, purchase history, prior vendor, etc.) and try to build those in and use them from the start.
- When you implement a new CRM, don’t skimp on training users about correct usage.
Here are some examples of questions you might want to consider early on in your CRM usage
- How are you going to assign ownership of leads- will it be based on territory, and if so will there be exceptions?
- At what point will an account be deemed inactive and fair game for other salespeople- is there a protocol for communicating that ownership transfer?
- How will you handle sales and marketing ownership for the same account- will it be the same person or two people and if the latter, how will they communicate about account updates?
- How will you approach client companies with name changes and/or which have been acquired?
- How will you approach contacts who leave your prospect or client companies- will you just close them out, or make a point to track them down at their new company and create a new opportunity for entry?
Dear “See notes” / Why Clean Data Matters
Here’s an example of the type of entries I encounter regularly in client databases:
This is precisely why your CRM decisions must be approached wisely. Clean data is more than a “nice to have.” Nowhere do you have a clearer perspective on the business impact of data than in marketing. If you think the above examples are far-fetched…..I wonder how well you know your data. I’ve covered data integrity more completely here, which further explores some of the mishaps I’ve encountered as a result of poor CRM management.
If you’d like to connect with me about data integrity, inbound marketing, or anything else, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.