Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is all about building better, more profitable relationships with your customers. CRM solutions give you the tools to engage with prospects and existing customers so you can build a strong revenue pipeline. Not everyone makes the most of this powerful technology, though. Having worked with many companies on CRM implementation, we can suggest a number of ways to increase the power of your CRM.

What is CRM?

CRM refers to a combination of software and practices aimed at getting the maximum value out of your customers. CRM solutions offer a wide range of features, though at their core they comprise (or should comprise) your authoritative customer and prospect lists. From this central master set of customer data, the CRM solution enables you to track prospects as they convert into being paying customers. The solution lets you set up and track proposals and projects. It has sales forecasting tools, broken down by sales rep, department and business unit. The CRM solution usually gives different views of the sales pipeline by executive level. Some CRM solutions contain a customer support function as well.

First, just be really good at CRM

This may seem obvious, but we often see companies that don’t make the most out of their CRM solution. The software will only do so much on its own. To work, it has to be used consistently. For example, if you set a policy that sales representatives must enter any prospect they meet into the CRM tool, you have to make sure that your people comply with it. Reps may not want to enter prospects for a variety of reasons, including concern that they won’t “close,” making them look bad. Or, they could just be lazy. The problem with non-compliance is that it leads to junk forecasts. The first step in increasing the power of your CRM is to make sure you’re the basics right.

Align CRM with business strategy

CRM is not a standalone entity in the business, though it may get treated that way. The design and use of CRM should align with your overall business strategy. For example, if your major goal is to win customers away from a competitor, then your CRM data fields should include references to which competing products your prospects are using. That way, you can operationalize a win-back strategy with accurate information on whom you’re trying to reach.

Keep your CRM data clean

Low quality, duplicative data impairs effective use of CRM. Keeping CRM data clean is a great way to make CRM a powerful part of your business. In some cases, third party services can help. For instance, there are services that will automatically look up to see if a customer or prospect has changed addresses – and then update the CRM record.

Connect CRM with marketing automation

The CRM solution usually does not provide a complete marketing automation capability. For example, if you want to “nurture” your prospects with a series of emails, that is best done by a tool like Marketo. To increase the power of your CRM, it’s a good idea to integrate it with marketing automation. Then, you can leverage the automation to reach out to prospects and customers so you remain top of mind for their next purchases.

Integrate CRM with ERP

Your ERP solution has information that is helpful to users of your CRM. Useful data includes things like total purchase volume for a customer, the number of returns and refunds they’ve had and so forth. Sales reps and customer service people can handle customers better if they understand the complete picture of the customer.

Leverage analytics to get the most out of your CRM data

CRM data is valuable if you know how to analyze it. Consider the cost of ineffective advertising. If you track campaign response rates, you can leverage analytics to determine the optimal way to reach prospects in the next campaign. You might also learn about what products customers actually prefer, and so forth.

MIBAR can help you increase the power of your CRM. To learn how MIBAR can make CRM a key part of your success, click here.