Implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, particularly for small businesses, is not always easy. It’s a comprehensive process that, while ultimately benefiting your operations and customers in a variety of ways, can quickly become frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be. If you approach your CRM implementation strategically, you can ensure a successful process that ultimately benefits both your business and your stakeholders with minimal friction. To help in that process, here are 6 ways to prepare your small business for a CRM implementation. 1. Understand Your Goals As any strategic process, planning your implementation has to begin with goal setting. Exactly what do you want to get out of the new software? Try to stay away from general answers such as improving business practices, and get specific instead. Which processes could and should be automated? Which current problems do you face in interacting with current and potential customers? To succeed in this step, we recommend following the SMART goals framework. Each objective of the CRM implementation should be specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and set within a specific time frame. Only once you understand exactly what you are looking to get out of the software should you proceed with the implementation. 2. Examine Your Current Processes Implementing your CRM will likely include at least some process automation. A core reason why businesses take this step is to move away from manual outreach to potential and current customers, or hand recording of relevant information about this audience and their interactions with your brand. To ensure lasting success, examine what exact processes you are currently undertaking, and how they are structured. For example, you may send a weekly email newsletter to current customers with coupons and other loyalty-based promotional items. You may also have a lead nurturing strategy in place that helps you increase your contact-to-customer conversions. In the course of your CRM implementation, you can automate these processes, but only if you know exactly how they are constructed. Examine the processes you look to implement, in order to smoothen the project as it occurs. 3. Strategize Your Timing There is no perfect timing for a major software implementation. The long-term benefits of a CRM are significant, but that doesn’t take away from the resources and efforts you will need to get it up and running. There is, however, a least bad time for your implementation. Don’t start your project without first understanding when that time would be. For example, you would not want your employees occupied and sales systems down during the holiday season. Most businesses experience lulls in revenue, which tend to be great opportunities to divert resources that may be difficult to give up in the short term, but encourage long-term growth. You should also keep in mind the employees who will need to spend time on the implementation, and whether their time is needed elsewhere during your suggested frame. 4. Choose the Right Product A large part of your implementation preparation should be dedicated to finding the right […]
You need marketing automation. But why? It’s easy to make that claim; backing it up, however, is more important. Especially if you are looking to grow your business and connect with your customers, automating your digital communications with interested members of your target audience should be a key part of your marketing efforts. What is Marketing Automation? Put simply, marketing automation describes the process of setting up automated workflows that send out regular messages on your behalf. Here’s how HubSpot, a leader in the field, describes the concept: [Marketing automation allows companies] to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required. Typically, the process depends on emails that are triggered by audience actions. For example, a lead entering your database may trigger a workflow to send them a set of automated emails designed to guide them through the sales funnel and become a customer. Similarly, a customer’s purchase may trigger emails that encourage them to return. As business communication has increasingly moved into the digital realm, marketing automation has risen in importance. It can be a crucial part of helping your business grow, and here are statistics that back that up. 1) Email Marketing Continues to Succeed Marketing automation, as described above, relies heavily on mass-customized emails to reach your leads and drive them through the sales funnel. Its success relies on the continued prevalence of email marketing as a whole, which is why it’s comforting to know just how powerful commercial emails can be in today’s digital environment. A study by the American Direct Mail Association, for example, showed that emails had an average return on investment of $38 for every $1 spent. Especially compared to other digital marketing opportunities, email is relatively affordable; but its continued preference by audiences everywhere continues to drive that success. Research firm MarketingSherpa found that 72% of customers prefer email as their prevalent source of business communication, far ahead of second-place direct mail. Marketing automation, in other words, works because the medium it uses continues to be successful. 2) Audiences are Cutting Out Ads Part of the reason email marketing has continued to be so successful across industries is the decline which many digital ads have seen over the past few years. Ad blocking is on the rise, in large part due to the fact that audiences are becoming increasingly cynical toward banners and other types of paid advertisements. The outlook is bleak. This summer, eMarketer found that almost 70 million Americans use an ad blocker, a 35% growth over 2015. In 2017, the research firm projects another 24% increase. How do you reach an audience that does not want to see your ads? Simple: through more relevant content that reaches them in a more effective spot. Marketing automation builds on leads who have already expressed interest in your company, and will be receptive to more […]
Your choice of business intelligence platform is a major factor that affects the efficiency with which your data is analyzed and used in order to make better business decisions. The proliferation of business related technology and data solutions is at an all-time high, so finding the platform that meets your needs and budget can admittedly be challenging. Small and medium-sized businesses are especially at odds with the BI (business intelligence) market, since their needs are not quite as complex as major enterprises. While companies of all sizes make better decisions when they can see and understand their data, smaller businesses generally don’t have the staff or resources to afford the complex data environments and in-house data expertise that enterprise solutions often require. Instead, they need smaller-scale, specialized platforms that can offer personalized user-experiences without requiring data scientists, database administrators, and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of server hardware. Basically, these businesses want platforms that are effective while being priced for a smaller budget — investments in BI should enable the company to increase revenues and profits, not become a new cost center. Pricing, experience, and flexibility are just some of the factors that make it difficult for smaller businesses to find data solutions that present a truly effective business tool. With an overwhelming number of options available and very few BI providers offering trials long enough to make a lasting impression, some businesses may be settling for subpar or overly complicated products. INTELLAM delivers BI solutions for companies of all sizes by always maintaining the same high quality deliverables, regardless of the size of the client. Part of the way we are able to do this is by selecting the appropriate platform for the client — especially in the area of BI, one size does not fit all. For small and medium sized businesses, we typically recommend a tool offered by Dundas Data Visualization, as its analytics platform ranks very high on the Business Analytics Leaderboard of 2016 and its product is one of the most customizable platforms on the market without becoming unnecessarily technical. Here are the top six reasons we’d recommend considering Dundas Data for your business: 1. Reputable and Experienced Dundas has been a leading business intelligence provider for over twenty years. Since its beginning in 1992 it has accumulated an impressive roster of clients across many industries, including major enterprises such as Citibank and Microsoft, as well as tech startups and smaller organizations that benefit from their flexible platform design. Dundas Data Visualization has a long, successful history with a range of products that work well on their own and seamlessly when used together. Dundas has been an innovator in business intelligence and data visualization, providing deeper insights with greater speed and accuracy than most BI platforms can claim. 2. Adaptability One of Dundas’ greatest strengths is the flexibility of its platform. Full customization allows you to extend the platform beyond your Dundas programming and integrate as much support as you need. The programmable platform supports data preparation, reporting, analytics, and dashboards according to your needs. There is no reason to be stuck with features that you have no use for. With Dundas you control […]
Small/Medium Sized Business Data provides actionable intel. The use of data to create more targeted advertising continues to grow and become more sophisticated. Big-name companies have been utilizing it for years, but there is an uptick in small to medium sized businesses that are embracing the concept and see the undeniable benefits. Many small to medium sized businesses think that they simply can’t afford to invest in data about their customers. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. As a small to medium sized business, you can’t afford not to invest in data. Without solid information about customers, their purchasing patterns and potential to purchase, any investment in marketing is like shooting an arrow in the dark and hoping it gets somewhere near the target. Utilizing data is essential to growing your business. Here are several reasons why: Data is a good predictor of future buying habits: Utilizing data can provide a specific customer profile that not only defines demographics but also psychographics. It can paint a picture that enables you as a business owner to develop promotions based upon past successes and not mere assumptions. Data increases profitability: The use of data can provide an overview of a companies busiest times or highest volume of sales. This information can be used when scheduling employees so that payroll is not being wasted. Data provides the competitive edge needed: As a small to medium sized business, understanding competition is crucial to success. Data can provide the competitive edge needed to survive as a small to medium sized business. It enables businesses to be able to view the effectiveness of particular marketing efforts and provides information for future promotions. Data enables businesses to offer personalized solutions for consumers. Data enables you to really understand your customer: It’s not enough today to know basic demographics of your customer in order to stay ahead. Understanding why customers make their buying choices is essential. Data pulls together information from multiple sources and tells the story of the customer, their buying habits, likelihood to buy in the future and where to reach similar customers. Data not only maintains current customers, but helps target potential customers: Customer retention is key to success. Remember the old adage: 20% of your customers produce 80% of your business so understanding them and being able to retain them is absolutely essential. Data helps solve problems: Data provides insights as to what a business is doing right as well as what they may be doing wrong and enables them to tailor specific solutions to address these issues head on. Approximately 23 percent of small to medium sized businesses are utilizing data in some manner. Of that 23 percent, 73 percent report positive outcomes. Following are benefits that these businesses are reporting: 67% report that it helps them retain existing customers 65% say data helps improve the overall customer experience 44% report the benefit of being able to segment their small marketing lists This infographic provides great insight into how data provides key information about the customer […]
It’s here! The first look at Microsoft Dynamics 365 — the next generation of intelligent business applications in the cloud. Dynamics 365 uses artificial intelligence to re-imagine what’s possible for your business. Microsoft Dynamics 365 unifies CRM and ERP capabilities into applications that work seamlessly together across sales, customer service, field service, operations, financials, marketing, and project service automation. Start with what you need, add applications as your business grows.