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CRM and the economy: Tips for streamlining marketing, sales and service operations

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Welcome to the economic downturn. Now, what can you do about it? Just as in boom times, during a downturn companies can effectively use customer relationship management solutions to enable and sustain high levels of growth.

With the cooling economy, companies have traded growth for cost-savings and are focused on increasing the efficiency of existing business processes and resources. In effect, they want to realize more from their existing investments.

That’s where customer-facing best practices come in. Not unrelated to growth or realizing efficiencies, your customer-oriented practices can help augment the following:

  • Capture correct data for tracking
  • Segment and manage prospects and customers
  • Optimize marketing campaigns
  • Introduce self-service tools and call center automation
  • Design optimal sales territories
  • Match correct channels and segments
  • Manage pipelines and forecasts to measure sales and predict future trends

CAUTION CALLED FOR
Of course, difficult times call for caution and, not surprisingly, many companies are now focused on modernizing and refining their existing sales and marketing, making marginal investments to increase overall efficiency and cost savings. But perhaps the greatest returns result not from making point improvements but from focusing on the links between sales, service and marketing.

This is where strong customer-facing technologies come in.

For example, optimizing in-progress marketing campaigns returns higher quality leads, making the sales team more effective and efficient. At the same time, improving e-commerce and partner relationship management (PRM) programs and creating a single view of each customer will also create numerous opportunities for refining business practices, reducing costs and increasing efficiency, again with only minimal investments.

Accordingly, now is the time for companies to revitalize existing CRM processes and derive more from the technology and business practices in which they have already invested.

Historically speaking, the ability to use actual customer data to drive decision-making during a downturn is a first. During the last recession, which peaked in 2002, companies generally lacked CRM practices or possessed only fledging sales force automation tools that had not collected substantial amounts of data by the time of the recession.

Since then, however, companies have developed more mature and successful programs, refined their call center and sales practices, and amassed untold amounts of customer data.

Recent technological advancements also have driven CRM further into the enterprise, improving customer-facing efficiency while generating even greater insight into customer behavior. Meanwhile, social networking tools, portals and Web 2.0 technologies have created low-cost sales, marketing and service channels.

New automation capabilities and raw application speed improvements enable call centers to maintain peak efficiency. Furthermore, new business intelligence (BI) and analytics capabilities built into modern CRM applications help direct customer-facing employees and management to target the right accounts at the right time and for maximum revenue.

On top of these benefits, software-as-a-service CRM applications now enable business groups to benefit from CRM in weeks, not months, and with few upfront costs.

GAINING DEEP INSIGHT
During difficult times, companies want to get more from what they already have and ensure that they reach customers in the most cost-efficient manner. Companies then must use CRM to provide deep insight into customer behavior, improve account management practices, increase sales and marketing effectiveness, successfully resolve call center and service interactions, and manage partner programs.

Through CRM-based activities such as marketing campaign optimization, customer segmentation and targeting, lead management, PRM, customer self-service, call center automation, BI dashboards and maintaining a single view of each customer, companies will gain the operating intelligence they need to not just survive the downturn but to flourish in the future.

Adam Honig is president-CEO of Innoveer Solutions (www.innoveer.com), a customer strategy and solutions consultancy with offices throughout the U.S., Western Europe and in India. Honig can be reached at ahonig@innoveer.com.

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