Why I chimed in.
In the Q&A portion of a webinar I was attending the other night someone asked the folks assembled what CRM they used.
I could tell by the answers that there were several different understandings of Contact Relationship Management.
I’ve spoken on the subject on three continents and what I heard caused me to chime in.
Confusion is natural
Not long ago and not so far away business people kept track of their contacts with a rolodex. More sophisticated operations had card files on clients that could be accessed by the sales staff. A friend that was in the jewelry trade told me how they used color coding of the cards to visually differentiate the gentlemen’s purchases for wives and “lady friends.”
Direct marketing operations used master files to have data on purchases, recency and frequency.
Even back then the difficulty was in the multiplicity of processes in use. It is the same today. With the advent of the computer, accounting programs were drafted into use to keep files. Today, it is not uncommon for businesses to keep their customer records in Excel.
Software for salespeople
The granddaddy of software built specifically for the purpose of managing all the contact data a salesperson or a company could muster is ACT!. Initially it was a flat file rather than a relational database and offered limited capability for sending letters. (The internet and e-mail were in the future!)
Over time the product came to offer 15 special fields to enter data that was not “standard.” It became more and more robust and is still in use in a relational database form today.
The man that introduced ACT! is responsible for the top selling CRM product in the world today, Sales Force.com a cloud-based product.
Contacts vs Prospects vs Customers
Products originally built to track customers or clients started to get used to follow the actions of prospects who were people that had been contacted and established as a “sales lead.” Of course, none of this could work without input from each of the salespeople. Therein is a huge problem. Sales folks don’t like doing that detailed kind of data entry. So I developed a 3 step mantra that they could apply after each sales call:
- Note what happened in the prospect or client file
- Decide your next action
- Put a follow up date on that action and when it comes up just do it.
(Incidentally you can use this process in a paper-based CRM, any software CRM and it works in Outlook as well.)
It worked when sales managers encouraged it and let the rest of the sales force know about the results.
I start where the software stops
That’s when I honed my expertise in the CRM arena. It was difficult enough to get salespeople to use the systems let alone purchase lists of suspects, do the mailings and phone calls necessary to assure that it was really a lead worth pursuing and then maintain the contact over time. I showed companies how to go beyond CRM software to what I termed Automagic Marketing kluging automated e-mailings, data capture and timely automated sales follow-up as well as prospect qualification.
E-mail became a universal cure but if you didn’t automate it the costs were too much to bear. Solutions like Constant Contact appeared on the scene providing the ability to use graphic e-mail rather than text alone. Organizations started using these products for Newsletters and on-line magazines. Mail Chimp is a good option these days. These programs operate from lists loaded into them, require proof that the folks on the lists opted in and have no CRM capabilities. For that you need to connect them to your CRM system.
Autoresponders The first were part of e-mail transfer agents. They created bounce messages such as “your e-mail could not be delivered because…” Today’s autoresponders can handle if-then branching sequences as well as time delayed responses and even action-based triggering. Responses can be automatically entered into your CRM system with the right hookup. The best available at the moment in my view is Active Campaign. Visit their web site to see how this sophisticated kind of product works. (Note that Active Campaign is introducing a CRM linked to their Autoresponder capability.)
The first “complete solution” software that became a market dominator was Infusionsoft. It included a store, upsells, downsells purchase tracking and the ability to accept payment (with a link). More importantly it was a fully functioning CRM with individual and bulk, text or graphic e-mail capability, autoresponder with linkage to telephone as well as snail mail. Today there are a host of systems available. Here are some to consider if you intend to sell from your website:
- Click Funnels
- Active Campaign (with a store integration)
Pricing for these ranges from under $20 to $300/month
Before you leap be sure of what your real objectives are.
Need help with that? E-mail me.
Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and Grand Poobah of www.BrandBrainTrust.com
His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for Trust-based Brand development, Positioning and business development for independent professionals on and off-line.