Archives For CRM

In the first post in this series, we made the case for better alignment between two organizational teams, in other words, we focused on the people. Your feedback suggests that we are onto something here, which should be no surprise. The fun part about alignment is that people actually need to agree (be aligned) on something, right? The smart thing to do is to be aligned around the processes required to make money (too direct?) so that everyone is clear on who is doing what (and where the customer fits as well).

Starting with Vision

(Considering CRM like a Corporate Mission)

Unfortunately, very few organizations spend the required time to define a clear CRM program. When asked, most executives admit that a well-crafted CRM program must start with a vision and a roadmap. Even still, these efforts often stall and much needed organizational synergy does not have a chance to take shape. This is, in part, is about technology. But, it is really more about defining how technology should (or should not) be used. It’s also about data (as it should be), but it is more than data. It is really about data combined with process. One without the other is like lyrics without a melody. A well-considered CRM platform will support the company vision and will play a pivotal role in determining how teams can and should work together toward engaging customers across their lifecycle.

By supporting customers through their end-to-end journey with you will increase satisfaction and long-term loyalty. This requires a focus on process. The common thread is customer experience and the customer’s perception of their own experiences (not what you think they are). In a business-to-business context, the decision cycle is a series of interactions between individuals. Each interaction results in an experience; good and bad. Good customer experiences correlate to customer loyalty. Which, of course, is the goal because loyal customers are more willing to consider another purchase from a company, are less likely to switch to a competitor, and are more likely to recommend.

Designing the Process to Support the Journey

(Thinking through the journey one interaction at a time)

Lead-to-revenue success is dependent upon well designed and executed internal processes that support the customer’s journey. Process optimization is about using technology to define efficient, nearly procedural, processes for everything from resources and campaigns to generate leads, sales methodology, and sales performance. Managing the plethora of interactions and touchpoints with customers who jump from channel-to-channel requires extra attention. Especially hard is when a customer moves from a digital channel to non-digital. This is where the salesperson needs guidance.

The front-end of the journey is the purchase decision cycle. During a business purchase decision cycle, buyers control the steps of their journey far more than the seller. This is a sea-change from times past that companies (sellers) need to carefully consider. Buyers are engaging with sellers through a multitude of digital, social, and mobile touchpoints. This dynamic changes the role of each player within your organization in a fundamental way. It alters what they must do in order to meet the needs of each buyer. To be clear, this is more than just a journey mapping exercise, this is about diving in one or two levels deeper.

Think big, Start small in Designing the Journey within your CRM Platform

When building your CRM program and considering the vision, it is important to balance two forces: 1) top line revenue growth and 2) bottom line efficiency gains. Both are critical, and the common denominators between them is business process; efficiency and effectiveness. Yes, it is possible to spend time on process improvement that will lead to both cost reduction as well as top line revenue growth, but this is hard. The secret is to design processes that mirror the customer journey and their decision cycle. If your team is able to anticipate the needs of the customer and help them along on their journey, then you can save time along the way while increasing sales velocity and reducing costs.

Benefits of Process Alignment:

Strategic (Company Focused)

  • Grow Revenue
  • Increase Market Share
  • Increase Sales Velocity
  • Campaign Optimization

Operational (Departmental Focus)

  • Increase Efficiency
  • Execution Clarity, Lead Quality
  • Decrease Cost per Sale
  • Capacity for more Campaigns

Your job in 2017 is to articulate, communicate, and evangelize the CRM vision – focus on the process, not just the data. Make a list, prioritize that list and consider the rate of change while trying not to do too much in too short a period of time. With respect to process efficiency, introduce change and transformation properly with input from other teams. Finally, keep an eye on your communications, vertically and horizontally (do more than simply manage up), doing your very best to facilitate the change.

As a founder of SugarCRM, I am often asked the question, “how do you compete against Salesforce?”  After all, they have great buzz in the marketplace.  And because of their position in the CRM space, we must beat them at some stage of the evaluation process every time we sign up a new customer.  How do we do it?

I usually answer this question by talking to the strengths of our product and our company.  SugarCRM customers choose us over Salesforce because of 1) our application design (customers LOVE our user experience and our focus on building for the individual end-user first and the manager second), 2) our technology flexibility (we integrate with EVERYTHING and deploy EVERYWHERE), and 3) our best-in-class customer loyalty (winning the PC Magazine Business Choice award for CRM two years in row says it all).

But there is a lot more to building a successful company than just a killer product and an avid customer following.  How we engage with our prospects and customers is critical to how we beat our competition.  Yeah, that’s called CRM and we live it everyday.

Our own CRM strategy at SugarCRM is the result of some very thoughtful planning.  This blog post will point you to the resources we used to build our brand and define the programs that educate our prospects to choosing Sugar and becoming successful SugarCRM customers.

Let’s be clear.  I am opening the kimono.  This is the secret sauce.  You’re getting a very real view into how we operate behind the scenes.  If you are the up-and-comer in your market and challenging your industry’s status quo, pay close attention.  This is our formula for challenging the status quo in the CRM industry.  You can follow this exact same formula and become the next challenger in your industry.

To begin with, competing against the big boys takes more than just inspiration and guts.  It takes a focused strategy on building a brand that your potential customers will pay attention to and that your existing customers will love.  Every next market leader starts off with no brand recognition and must compete against a category leader that dominates their market’s awareness.  How to do that?

In 2009, Adam Morgan wrote the book “Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders” which describes how small companies can effectively compete against the brand of large companies.  This is good stuff.  Marketing jujitsu at its best.  Building a brand takes a lot of work and this book details your roadmap to disrupting your industry.

Quick Start #1:  I thank Adam profusely for recognizing that most business leaders like me appreciate the Cliff Notes version of business books.  He published an excellent 9-page summary of his book that I recommend to every CEO and CMO.  Read it.  It will change your worldview on how to approach culture, innovation and brand development within your company.

Now to the next step.  You must turn this brand strategy into how your employees engage with your customers.  Creating a sales and marketing execution based on the Challenger Brand requires a different perspective than what is outlined in “Eating the Big Fish.”

In 2011, a consulting firm called the Customer Executive Board (CEB) wrote a book called “The Challenger Sale:  Taking Control of Customer Conversation.”  Building off of the Challenger Brand idea, but focused much more on how to engage with potential customers rather than the market as a whole, The Challenger Sale has become a “must read” book for start-ups across Silicon Valley.

Quick Start #2:  Here is an excellent blog post summarizing the Challenger Sale book into a short 10 minute read.  This is good stuff.  If you have worked with a SugarCRM sales rep, you will immediately recognize how we turn this theory into practice.

But isn’t there a missing piece?  Some smart guys wrote about building a Challenger Brand and executing on the Challenger Sale.  However, a bridge was needed between the brand and the sale.  That’s called marketing.  Translating brand strategies into marketing tactics that support sales execution requires a unified framework for your product marketing, demand generation, field marketing and all other components of your marketing execution. Most importantly, you need a crisp “challenger” message.

The Customer Executive Board created a very thoughtful Challenger Marketing framework that does just that.  It enables your marketing team to tell a disruption story to the market built around the storyline of “the world is changing, old is bad, new is good, we deliver new.”  Challenger Marketing is a rich framework with several key concepts and approaches for building a multi-faceted challenger marketing program within your company.  It takes some time to digest all of the concepts and build them into your content and delivery.  This is where you have to buckle down, pay attention and really think through how to implement these ideas.

Quick Start #3:  Our friends at CEB created an excellent 55 minute overview of Challenger Marketing  in this YouTube video.  Presented by Brent Adamson, customer brainiac, co-author of the Challenger Sales book and co-creator of the Challenger Marketing methodology, this gives your marketing team the details they need to turn concept into reality.  I have to tell you.  Wow.  Mind.  Blown.

Now that you’ve decided you want to “challenge the status quo”, what’s the status quo you want to challenge?  This is where my company, SugarCRM, comes in.

SugarCRM customers have chosen to differentiate themselves in their marketplace by embracing digital transformation to build a killer customer experience.  Don’t you want to win the PC Magazine Business Choice Award for your industry?  I bet you do.  This is where we help you map out your company’s customer journey and translate that into an easy-to-deploy set of business processes built in a killer app called Sugar.  Gotta love that name.  Puts a smile on my face every time.

Quick Start #4:  Learn how to look at your business through the lens of your customer, by reading this short ebook on how digital leaders use customer journey maps to guide business transformation.

There you go.  A four-step recipe for success. And I do wish you the best of success.  I believe there is no better satisfaction that taking on the big boys and beating them.

Want to carry on the conversation we started here? Connect with me on LinkedIn.  I look forward to meeting you.

(Editor’s note: this post was originally published by Sandhill.com)

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is undergoing an evolution, thanks to demand for innovation in an industry that is ready for change. Case in point: Gartner reported that CRM software sales reached $26.3 billion in 2015 — up 12.3 percent from 2014. Now, combine this with recent data collected by Strategy Analytics, which points to an expected increase in the global mobile workforce — 38.8 percent of the total workforce in 2016 to 42.5 percent in 2022. The confluence of these two data points indicates one thing for 2017: greater expectations for mobile CRM — next year and beyond.

Eventually, mobile CRM will become the most common use case for CRM, while desktop CRM will be more specialized and relegated to specific tasks. But before we get to that point, mobile CRM must become a more robust mobile platform, not just bolted-on mobile components or extension apps that are essentially “CRM that you bring with you.”

To date, only a handful of vendors provide a mobile application that not only truly fits the smartphone or tablet screen but is also linked to the core CRM. The complete mobile CRM experience via a real mobile platform encompasses three main features and capabilities: geolocation, machine learning and predictive analytics, and the ability to develop and deploy via mobile software development kits (SDKs). Let’s look at each a bit more closely.

Geolocation

Integrated into a mobile CRM platform, geolocation will enable CRM that “knows” where you are and how to organize your day. For example, when traveling, geolocation can suggest customers or prospects that are close by and forward their current contact information and account status. The geolocation-enabled mobile CRM application also should include notes from previous visits with the customer, how long they’ve been a customer, their level of satisfaction — in short, any information that will provide a complete picture of the customer or prospect. Armed with this information, the mobile professional is armed with everything he or she needs when walking into a meeting with a customer or prospect.

Machine learning and predictive analytics

The complete mobile CRM experience isn’t just about delivering critical information as it’s needed. It also encompasses advising the mobile professional on his or her next step. These “digital assistants” —powered by machine learning and predictive analytics — intelligently guide users toward deepening customer relationships by gleaning information from outside data sources such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. As part of machine learning and predictive analytics, natural language processing assists by turning voice files and text into actionable items, helping the mobile professional prioritize, complete tasks and close deals.

Mobile SDKs

The ability to customize (add, modify and brand specific features) per a company’s unique needs remains important, making mobile SDKs a critical consideration in 2017. Companies should look for mobile SDKs like SugarCRM’s that help them reimagine their mobile strategies in new, exciting and unlimited ways. Historically, there has been a lot of added expense involved in building an integrated mobile CRM application like this. But next year, companies should expect creating customer-focused mobile experiences to not only be fast and easy but also cost-effective.

Meeting customer expectations and creating a seamless user experience aren’t anything new in terms of goals for mobile CRM in the New Year — and let’s face it, countless companies across industries have those goals in common. What is new is the way forward-thinking CRM software vendors are using engineering, machinery, tools and computing to power features, functionality and capabilities for a wholly new mobile CRM experience. For 2017, companies shouldn’t settle for the status quo; rather, they should strive to find a purpose-built, mobile CRM platform that is intelligent, customized and primed to boost the mobile professional’s effectiveness and productivity.

Introduction

By 2020, customer experience will outweigh the importance of price and product. Are you investing enough in building relationship with a customer?

This is the first in a new blog series on the role of customer relationships and how Relationship Analytics can improve your key sales and business metrics.

Complex B2B Sales and Customer Relationship

There is a common notion that once you have developed a superior product or service with a strong value prop, you don’t need to invest a whole lot in the sales process. It’s the whole “good products sell themselves” fallacy. Top performing B2B sales leaders and reps don’t buy into this myth, they know very well that going into a deal and simply showcasing a badass demo or offering lower prices than the competition are not good enough to close. This is true especially for B2Bs with a complex sales model.

B2Bs win by building relationships. A relationship based sales approach is not easy, but it is what sets winning companies apart from competitors. In fact, a Gallup study shows that a typical B2B company has optimal relationship with just one in five of its customers. But those fully engaged customers deliver a 23% premium over average customers in share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.

Let us look at sales scenarios where relationship building has far better returns than other commonly used sales approaches and tactics; or even worse, the absence of sales systems and process.

Often, sales reps rely on cold calling. But stats from various studies clearly suggest that this may not be effective use of the sales leader’s budget or the sales rep’s time. Consider that only 1% of cold calls result in meetings. Or that a staggering 90% of B2B decision makers don’t respond to cold sales outreach. 84% of B2B leaders start their individual buying journeys with referrals. Nearly 3 out of 4 business execs say that they prefer to work with sales professionals who were referred by someone they know.

These stats all mean that sales teams must evolve how they engage with prospects. On the flip side, buyers expect consistent engagement during their journey.

Relationships play a crucial role even with your existing customers. A concerted effort to build relationships improves the lifetime value of your customers – better subscription renewal rates, more referrals, customer advocacy and higher conversions in upsell or cross-sell scenarios.

CRM and Relationship Analytics

Now that we have reiterated the value of customer relationships, you may be asking, “isn’t my CRM meant to help me with relationship building? Especially, when the CRM acronym stands for Customer Relationship Management!” (A fair point).

As a sales leader, you know the effectiveness of a CRM system depends on the quality, accuracy and integrity of your prospect and customer data. At the same time, you want your sales members to focus on sales activities and spend minimal time on CRM data entry or CRM administrative tasks. As a result, CRM data can become incomplete from time-to-time.

Enter a Relationship Analytics solution. Imagine having a software app that will dig out the relationships between your employees in the entire organization and your customers. It doesn’t stop there. The software then automatically enters that relationship data and insights into the CRM system. We will share more details in the next post of the “Building Solid Relationships with Customers” blog series.

CRM is a foundation tool for sales. A Relationship Analytics solution will extend and enhance your core CRM system.

Summary

In this post, we talked about why you need to invest in building customer relationships and a sneak preview of Relationship Analytics. In the next post, we will share more details of an out-of-the-box Relationship Analytics solution for Sugar.

 

 

Online business is gearing up for an exciting leap forward over the next five years as artificial intelligence really starts to take a run at some big hurdles in the online selling arena.

Our top business technology brands have been focussing on AI for a while now, and we’re becoming familiar with bots like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa. But what are the practical improvements we can expect in the near future?

Enterprise SaaS company Flamingo, supported by SugarCRM, recently led a survey that highlighted how the market is ready on all sides to embrace artificial intelligence online.

Send more Chatbots!

On the consumer side, just over three quarters of people surveyed said they’re comfortable using chatbots and think they would improve the online experience. It follows on the business side, 73% said chatbots are relevant and almost 60% are seriously considering using chatbots within the next five years.

So customers are already expecting to engage with AI as part of their experience. Customer experience is ultimately about loyalty and profitability – so it’s good to see that two out of three people surveyed said their customer experience program objectives align with their organizational mission. But how exactly do chatbots fit into the customer experience story?
robot-customer-service

 

What’s a bot to do?

One of the most vexing problems today is that potential shoppers frequently abandon online purchases or applications at some point in the process. A whopping 60% of consumers surveyed said they’ve done so in the last three months. So it’s clear that businesses aren’t successfully guiding even half of their potential customers through the online buying process.

There’s light at the end of this tunnel though. 77% of consumers say immediate online help would increase their likelihood of completing transactions, and 85% of businesses say it would improve online sales conversation rates.

So online AI should be well-received, but chatbot interaction has to be meaningful. Without meaningful help, potential customers will simply leave.

This is what the next generation of chatbots will tackle. They won’t just spit out pre-determined answers to customer questions, they’ll also examine customer and employee interactions over time to offer increasingly meaningful guidance.

Flamingo is already developing just such a chatbot called Rosie. According to Flamingo, “Rosie is knowledgeable and responsive, she is able to guide customers through any problem, and she learns as she goes.”

SugarCRM has also announced that its intelligent digital assistant named Candace is currently in development. Candace is, in part, being designed to remove the need for people to insert, add and modify information in their CRM manually. It will bring in data from outside sources to enhance the view of the customer and will call out important insights and make recommendations.

For now, we’ll need to compromise a little; with the next wave of chatbots there’s likely to be a practical approach where a human can be called in immediately if a shopper poses a difficult question – great news for the one fifth of consumers who are not happy with chatbots because they can’t always answer everything.

The question of just how “human” chatbots should be is still on the table: male or female? Young or old? Friendly and polite or just knowledgeable? There are some hints at general preferences but perhaps each brand should decide for itself, based on what’s best for their audiences – which makes it critical to understand exactly who customers are and what they want.

Flamingo’s survey shows there’s a growing appetite for meaningful AI from both consumers and businesses. Getting AI integrated with existing business systems and CRM is critical if businesses want to take customer experience to the next level with this new human-shaped technology.

The Flamingo Customer Experience Inc survey report is called “Conversational Commerce and ChatBots: Business & Consumer Usage and Attitudes (Nov 2016)”. The survey was conducted by Fifth Quadrant and sponsored by SugarCRM.

If you are interested in a copy of the full report, drop me an email at vmikhail@sugarcrm.com

 

Customer journey mapping is an important exercise that helps companies understand their customer’s perspective so they can meet needs and expectations. It also drives companies to reach all the business goals for individual customers – such as long-term engagement, buying additional products or services, or becoming a reference. The customer journey map itself is a visual diagram of the way your customers engage with you throughout the buying cycle. From the time they learn your company’s name or find you on Google, all the way to the time they purchase their first product/service from you, and even beyond that.

In 2017, leading organizations will extend the value of customer journey mapping initiatives by doing two things:

1) Operationalize them

Customer journey mapping is a common exercise, but the real challenge is turning the customer journey map from a theoretical framework or tracking mechanism into a practical tool that proactively guides customers throughout their journeys. Many companies have tried to capture every aspect of their business with customer journey mapping, and as a result, created beautiful documents that did little more than sit on the shelf. Operationalized customer journey maps are used, not just by marketing to shape the entire customer experience, but also by every customer facing individual in every customer interaction. That means baking customer journey maps into the CRM tool used by sales and service. By doing this, those customer-facing individuals know exactly where their customer is in the journey; and are also given prescriptive guidance that tells them what they should do next. And, the resulting CRM data can them be mapped back to customer journey analytics and reporting.

At SugarCRM, we now have a Customer Journey plug-in that shows an individual customer’s progress through the journey, and an advanced customer decision workflow panel, which quickly describes every task or action that a customer-facing professional like a seller must complete in order to help a customer advance to the next decision stage. This helps operationalize the customer journey and bake it into the day-to-day work process of a sales or service person.

2) Add cognitive capabilities throughout the customer journey

Engagement throughout the customer journey, and across all parts of the organization delivering that journey – marketing, sales and service – can benefit from cognitive technologies. As one example, SugarCRM is working with IBM Watson and other technologies to add cognitive insight and enrichment for CRM users. You’ll hear more about this shortly.

Here’s an example that illustrates both points, taken from the SugarCRM and IBM Watson “Cognitive Customer Engagement for Banking” solution. A banking customer receives personalized interactions from their bank through the use of marketing automation, behavioral scoring and nurturing. Prompted by those interactions, they log on to their bank account, where they engage in a dialog with Watson about potential retirement funds. After gathering information about age, risk tolerance and investment goals, Watson recommends a specific fund, and then engages a Financial Advisor. The advisor can then continue the dialog in a very personalized and targeted way, and is guided via their CRM with a set of recommendations to propose to the customer. The end result? A more satisfied customer, more revenue for the bank, and lower SG&A costs.

To learn more about this solution, click here.

To read more about other top marketing trends for 2017, check out IBM’s paper on “10 Key Marketing Trends for 2017”.

(Editor’s Note: the following is a guest blog post from Katie Liesmann, the marketing coordinator at Epicom. It originally appeared on the SugarCRM Community).

When the Customer Journey Plugin was released in August earlier this year, our tech-savvy customers and friends within the Sugar community quickly jumped on learning about the tool and how they could apply it to their business. While the general consensus was that it was a really cool tool, many businesses felt it didn’t apply to them since they hadn’t built out a customer journey yet. In response, Epicom took the time to dive deeper into the product from Addoptify and find out where it would be most useful for our customers.

We sat down with Krisitian af Sandeberg, the CEO of Addoptify, to learn about how businesses are successfully using the product. What we learned is that the Customer Journey Plugin should be thought of as much more than just a “customer journey tool” because it can be used to manage ANY process in your business. So today, we look at the Customer Journey Plugin in a new way – as a process management tool.

What processes do you have throughout your organization that have multiple steps? Here are some ways to identify processes that could be managed using the Customer Journey Plugin for Sugar:

  • Think of processes that not enough people follow or abide by. Some examples might be the lead qualification process, the process for hand-off of accounts from account execs to account managers, or the quote approval process.
  • Identify processes that your organization’s leadership needs even further insight into. Examples might be lead assignment processes or opportunity creation process.
  • Brainstorm a list of processes that vary between different regions, different product lines, or existing vs. new customers.

Processes can be very complex, hard to keep up with (especially as they change over time) and it can be difficult to have insight into whether users are actually following them. This is where the plugin comes in. To demonstrate how any process can be visually created and managed via the plugin, here’s a fun example we built out of the process for building a PB&J sandwich.

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On a more serious note, we also created examples for Sales, Marketing and Support processes. In the example below we built a customer journey for the process of creating opportunities in the sales department.

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There are several benefits of using the Customer Journey Plugin to manage processes. The graphical view allows users to quickly glance and see where each record lies in a process assigned to them. Management also has additional insight into the workload and forecast of each rep because they can report on the Customer Journey Module. Overall, the plugin enforces more consistent following of processes throughout your organization.

Now that you’ve learned about a new way to think about the plugin, you probably want to learn how to use it.