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What to Look for in a CRM

Customer Relationship ManagementCRMs work by providing a central location for data to all departments on a single customer or lead. That can include anything from contact information to deposits to page views. CRM usage has been growing exponentially each year because of the increasingly difficult challenge of finding, nurturing and managing leads and customers.

The biggest and most commonly known CRM provider is SalesForce. They initially developed the 1st enterprise applications for CRMs through a web browser.  This was a monumental change for a lot of smaller businesses because it no longer meant that IT buyers had to purchase and develop a CRM from a large software firm, which could take months to implement and thousands of dollars in investment. Instead, with SalesForce, business owners were able to get a standard web-based CRM built on a skeleton framework they could customize to their own needs online. No need to wait for the IT Department to respond, just turn on the option and go!

Commercially available CRMs can, for the most part, be broken down into either a subscription-based web tool (using secure cloud computing technology) or a SaaS (software as a service) platform. The trend of the market seems to be favoring the web-based tool as it allows for easier integration of mobile applications as well as easier API connectivity to Social Media and other marketing tracking tools. This allows clients to access their customer information regardless of the device they or the customer is using on their site.

This technology helps Marketers, in particular, because it is great source for collecting lots of data on their potential customer base. Stored data on a lead, once they purchase, can be turned into a wealth of information for retention. This, in turn, helps with continuing sales and customer loyalty.

There are some challenges with the current CRM platforms available. One such challenge is that CRM systems are collecting so much data that most companies find that leads are expensive, mostly low quality and hard to maintain current data on. The expenses behind lead generation are mostly marketing driven with avenues of contact from E-mail Campaigns to White Papers to Direct Mailing, all which can take significant time and money to produce. The information you’ll typically receive back is a name, an e-mail or a phone number to call. One could consider this low quality data because it does not give you a true insight into what we, as a company, want to know. We want to know:

1) What are they looking for from us?
2) Are they a good fit as a client or customer?
3) How can I build a relationship and brand awareness?
4) What will assets will bring in more leads like this one?

What some CRM developers are thinking about to answer these questions is sharing data between companies on their customer bases. The current trend of companies (competitive or non-competitive) is to hold data internally on potential customers, which makes it very difficult for marketing to identify what may be good selling points to push, which leads are spam or what search engine optimization keywords to focus on. These causes a big data issue in a company’s analysis of the value of a lead because you are collecting a lot of data from only one source, have no way to correlate it or analyze it in a meaningful way. With multiple sources of data you can really dig deep, confirm the preferences of your client base and build a relationship and brand awareness with them so they become promoters of your product or service. The idea behind this movement is that by sharing data on your customer base you can benefit from a mutual relationship and build a fuller profile on a potential customer. With this level of insight and valuable data you can analyze it and target the right Case Study to those that will want to read it or focus your E-mail Campaigns to those looking to learn more in their niche.

According to Forbes, this is a solution that some CRMs, such as SalesForce are looking into solving. They talk about how in the future, with these mutual databases on clients that the CRM might be smart enough to recommend potential customers over others by providing a big data analysis, which will solve a lot of questions for your marketing department. You can check out the full article using the link below.

Kristin Schiff is a Project Manager at WriterAccess. Contact her on Twitter @KristinSchiff or by email Kristin (at)

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