If you’re spearheading a new CRM project within your organization, it’s important to remember you are not on an island. Your colleagues, presented the right amount of information, will likely be interested as well because everyone has something to gain from it.

In fact, “selling” project internally is critically important. If you don’t do this your whole CRM initiative will face an uphill battle right from the beginning.

There are some tried and tested outcomes that you can aim for when you first get started with a new CRM platform. It always helps to see see fast and tangible results to help get your CRM off to a great start.

These goals are designed to get a number of departments involved and motivated early on in the process, and they form a backbone to develop an organization-wide CRM strategy.

1) Help Sales to acquire new customers

New customers are something that no business would turn down. CRM is great for shaping sales behavior – giving salespeople tools, processes and information to boost their performance and win rate.

CRM helps salespeople prioritize opportunities and think smarter about working their pipelines – it’s about using a qualification process. Simple and effective!

2) Help Account Management  boost revenue with customers

One of the most important things you can do with CRM is more deeply understand your customers so you can better anticipate and serve their needs.

Getting account management features set-up from the start brings customer information together in a digestible way so you can profile customers and help account managers plan their cross-sell / up-sell activities.

3) Help Marketing to engage more effectively

CRM helps you understand your audiences and engage with them meaningfully. It can also measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

By measuring marketing effectiveness, CRM can form a closed-loop system that lets you track responses and attribute leads to specific campaigns – even when engaging offline.

4) Enable effective, efficient customer service

Streamlining customer service and giving agents better support reduces costs and boosts customer satisfaction.

Customer service reps can can tackle inquiries quickly and independently when they’re supported with the right tools, workflows and information in CRM.

5) Provide business intelligence that lets everyone act on fast

Practically everyone in an organization benefits from being able to monitor and measure performance. CRM helps you keep an eye on anything that’s meaningful, from headline figures to granular detail.

By setting up dashboards looking at leading indicators and how they affect outcome goals, helps you improve as an organization.

We are in the era of digital disruption and it’s not just about companies like Uber and Airbnb. Organizations in every industry, because of the ridiculously fast pace of technology innovation, are dealing with disruption. They must develop digital transformation strategies that focus on utilizing new technologies and business models to more effectively engage with customers at every touchpoint.

Furthermore, there is clear evidence that companies that embrace digital transformation and offer a superior customer experiences are outperforming their competition in terms of attaining and retaining customers.

Disruption comes from innovation. Often, innovation is the end result of viewing things differently, recognizing patterns and trends before your competition, and then being agile and courageous enough to act before the rest of the world catches up. In our latest disruption series video, we had the chance to talk with one of the most innovative companies in the world. Dale Price from IBM talks with SugarCRM’s Martin Schneider about how marketing automation paired with IBM Watson analytics drives better engagement by bringing more intelligence and insights throughout the marketing and sales process. By bridging the gap between marketing and sales, IBM & Sugar accelerate your ability to close more business.

SugarCRM has hired a robot to help it answer the most pressing question in the CRM industry: “Is this the year of artificial intelligence or not?”

Over the past year, SugarCRM has fallen on both sides of the argument in press interviews, contributed articles and company blog posts. Enter SB17, (SugarBot17) which will work with the company’s leadership, industry analysts and a secret cabal of world-renowned science-fiction writers to help determine if AI is real or not. SB17 was previously employed by Epicom, a SugarCRM Elite Partner, that developed the robot as a Slack integration tool that retrieves information from Sugar. SB17 has since made claims to now be alive like its predecessor, Number 5. These claims have subsequently been validated by third-party experts.

“We are thrilled to add SB17 to the SugarCRM team,” said Larry Augustin, CEO of SugarCRM. “Artificial intelligence is all the rage right now, but I’m planning to rely on the remarkable intuition and intelligence of this robot to help us determine if there is something to this hype.”

On the one hand, the handful of companies that are truly capable of developing AI finally have large enough datasets to go along with enough computing power and resources to push AI-related technologies into the mainstream. However, in spite of the promise of the technology, the argument can be made that users will determine if AI truly takes hold in the CRM space. People still like talking to other people, and they are better at it than any intelligent digital assistant is (despite vehement claims to the contrary by SB17).

SB17 will start at SugarCRM on April 1 and report to SugarCRM Chief Product Officer Rich Green. Though, in an interview, SB17 stated that Rich Green would be reporting to him.  

We are in the era of digital disruption and it’s not just about companies like Uber and Airbnb. Organizations in every industry, because of the ridiculously fast pace of technology innovation, are dealing with disruption. They must develop digital transformation strategies that focus on utilizing new technologies and business models to more effectively engage with customers at every touchpoint.

Furthermore, there is clear evidence that companies that embrace digital transformation and offer a superior customer experiences are outperforming their competition in terms of attaining and retaining customers.

Sales is hard. Especially when attempting to build a relationship with someone you don’t know. That’s why a warm introduction is a huge advantage. TrustSphere’s “Links Within” is a relationship analytics application that helps you find the prior communication your colleagues within your organization already have had with customers and prospects. In the latest installment in our “Disruption” series, Martin Schneider and Brian Lebahn, SVP and GM of the Americas at TrustSphere discuss “Links Within” for Sugar and how TrustSphere is disrupting how companies engage with prospects and customers.

 

You may have heard, United Airlines failed in a big way yesterday. Here’s what happened: the airline barred two teenage girls from boarding and required a child to change clothes after a gate agent decided the leggings they were wearing were inappropriate. That set off waves of anger on social media, with users criticizing what they called an intrusive, sexist policy.

The airline has been in PR damage control mode ever since, while still oddly defending their decision. They noted that teenagers were “pass riders,” meaning they are relatives or friends of United employees and held to a different dress code standard than regular passengers – who are allowed to wear leggings.

So, while the gate agent might have been technically correct in enforcing policy – how is this sound business strategy? Air travel is an incredibly competitive industry, which means the customer experience is what determines success and failure. Customers are more than willing to jump to a competitor if you don’t provide the best possible experience. In this case, United’s competitors smell blood in the water:

 

Customer-facing employees need to feel empowered to provide a best-in-class experience for customers. Yes, rules and policies are in place for reason, but there are also reasons employees at airlines and hotels are given latitude to make things just a little better for individual customers (without harming the experience of others) when they have a chance. In fact, it’s a key strategy to build brand loyalty and the success of the organization depends on it.

Finally, if we are that concerned about what people wear on a flight, let’s start with this guy.

We are in the era of digital disruption and it’s not just about companies like Uber and Airbnb. Organizations in every industry, because of the ridiculously fast pace of technology innovation, are dealing with disruption. They must develop digital transformation strategies that focus on utilizing new technologies and business models to more effectively engage with customers at every touchpoint.

Furthermore, there is clear evidence that companies that embrace digital transformation and offer a superior customer experiences are outperforming their competition in terms of attaining and retaining customers.

Think about the end of the quarter, when sales people are rushing around to secure all the final details and signatures to close a deal. It’s often stressful and time-consuming. Enter PandaDoc, which makes it easy to create, send, track and eSign quotes, proposals, and contracts right within SugarCRM. For part five of the disruption series, SugarCRM’s Martin Schnieder talks with Jared Fuller, the vice president of sales and business development at PandaDoc about how the company is disrupting how organizations close business.

Marketing teams are charged with building extraordinary relationships with customers. With this much responsibility, it makes sense for the marketing department to become power users of CRM. However, many marketers view CRM as a tool for sales or customer service and may struggle to see how it can become a critical tool that helps them do their jobs better.

Recently, I had the chance to sit-down and talk with Clint Oram, SugarCRM’s co-founder, CMO, and frequent contributor to this blog to discuss how marketers can best use CRM.

Q: What’s one opportunity for using CRM that marketers often overlook, but has the potential for making a significant positive impact?

A: CRM can, and should, be tightly integrated with top-of-funnel marketing tools like marketing automation and the website. Building on that, CRM is the starting place for segmenting your customer base for install base campaigns. Rather than just blindly running marketing campaigns to your entire database, segmenting your customers and prospects by size, geography and industry helps you be more strategic and efficient. For instance, you will want to run a financial services campaign in New York and a manufacturing campaign in Detroit. CRM helps you do that.

Q: What about challenges with CRM tools? What’s the most common challenge you come across and how can marketers get past it?

A: For marketers, CRM user adoption is a challenge. Marketers are smart people, and unlike our friends in sales, there isn’t quite the same mandate to use CRM from management. So, if the CRM doesn’t provide an easy user experience that makes their job simpler, marketing folks just won’t use it. As an organization, it’s on your CRM selection team to not forget about their users when they select and deploy a new system. At SugarCRM, we have some wonderful examples of customers setting up creative onboarding programs to make sure employees are comfortable and understand all the benefits of the CRM.

Q: Marketers can use CRM tools to support initiatives across the customer lifecycle—from generating awareness to maintaining loyalty. Where are marketers currently under utilizing CRM tools? And what can marketers expect from increasing its use in that area?

A: Building loyalty by running marketing programs for current customers is underutilized in many companies. All the data tells us retaining and expanding relationships with current customers is much more cost-effective than turning leads into new customers. Marketing teams should ask themselves, “What else can we do to build loyalty, turn our current customers into advocates and offer additional products to increase revenue within the current customer base?”

Q: There’s no escaping customer experience as a hot topic today. Marketers can use CRM to enhance many aspects of CX; some areas more than others. Where should marketers focus their use of CRM technology to make the biggest positive impact on CX?

A: Here’s why the customer experience is so important today: with a few exceptions, different companies in the same industry usually offer just a variation of the same services or products. And every one of those competitors are just a simple Google search away from each other.  How you win customers is now based on how you treat customers as much, or more than, as what you sell.

That means the need for an exceptional, and unique, customer experience is more critical than ever before.  Think about it, I’ve stayed in many business class hotels all over the world. There are some minor differences, but they all offer a comfy king-sized bed and a bathroom. The list goes on: airlines, rental cars, even Uber vs Lyft. How do you differentiate yourself when you offer similar goods or services as your direct competitors?

The answer is your customer experience. The companies that win in this era of empowered and intelligent customers win because they create better relationships with their customers. That makes sense, but a natural follow-up question (and the key question to this whole blog post) is: How can you create a better customer experience when you are using the same, uninspired CRM system as your competitors?

Q: Let’s get into the weeds a bit. One benefit of a CRM tool or platform is the efficiencies it can bring to marketing and related processes. Where do you see marketers stumbling here? Where are they getting it right that others can learn from?

A: Automation does bring a lot of efficiencies to marketing. But, to me, the key is building processes that match the way you work – not the other way around. I see too many examples of marketing teams running their campaigns based on what the technology can do. It should be the other way around. A flexible CRM tool adapts to your unique business; you don’t adapt to it. With our advanced workflow capabilities in the Sugar platform, we’ve made it so anyone can redesign and deploy these business processes with a visual design interface. Our advanced Workflow can also be integrated with external systems

Q: Let’s wrap with a look forward. What’s coming up that you’re excited about in two areas: in the market in general—perhaps a trend or tool; and within SugarCRM—any new features or upcoming upgrades?

A: Artificial intelligence is hot right now; you may have heard. There is a lot of noise about AI, and quite frankly the technology industry has overhyped it a bit. We won’t wake up one day and be in era of artificial intelligence. Instead, it will slowly creep into the marketing industry just like most other technologies.

I will say this, adding cognitive intelligence will free up CRM users from tasks like searching for and organizing data things that machines are better at than humans. This will allow humans to focus on what they are best at, which is communicating with other humans. Marketing people, in general, are creative people and they are going to love when AI frees them from the tasks they don’t like, and allows them to unleash their creativity.

Along those lines, look for some really interesting announcements from SugarCRM related to our Sugar Intelligence service. We’ve heard all the AI hype, but we think we are building things the right way in a way the market will accept.