Category Archives: CRM

Amazing CRM from Lenovo!

lenovo-laptop-ideapad-y410p-front-1Some time back I bought a Lenovo Z580 laptop for my son.  From the start he had problems with the mouse.  My son is pretty “tech savvy” — but he kept having problems.  Finally we agreed to mail it to Lenovo to replace the trackpad.

We mailed off the Z580 for repairs 6/24 and it never came back.

5 weeks in we were MAD and one day Lenovo customer support called US. They offered to replace the PC. My son if he could get one (same model) with a better graphics card and they said “Sorry, it is out of stock, would you like a different model?”

Well my son is a GEEK. He knew Lenovo had just come out (2 weeks earlier) with a new gaming PC that cost $800 more than his old one cost NEW. He asked if he could possibly get it.

They said YES!!!!

Yesterday at 6:00 PM UPS delivered his brand new Lenovo y410p gaming laptop! Woo hoo — way to go Lenovo! Thanks to Debbie on the Lenovo CRM team!  THAT is customer relationship management — do you think we’d consider buying a different brand any time soon?

Making Prospecting more Profitable

When you get right down to brass tacks making money means selling something PROFITABLY.   I capitalize the word “profitably” because far too many become enamored of acquiring new customers or up-selling existing ones, but they don’t keep the eye on whether they really are making money or if the cost of goods sold (COGS) means a loss of money.

The only time you should ever lose money on a sale is when you do so consciously.   It may well be that to garner a “marquee” name customer who can be referenced to encourage others in a given industry to buy from you sell something at a loss.  When and if you do lose money on a sale you should do so with eyes wide open aware that it is a sales tool itself to gain more profitable sales.

We’re all here to make money, and if you do not know the cost of making a sale odds are you are losing money.

Tools to keep you informed are many:  from financial software to manage your “books” which include ERP (enterprise resource plannng) and CRM (customer relationship management).    We’ve discussed a few of these tools in this blog — tools aimed at start-ups, mid-size companies all the way to the Fortune 100 — tools which can help you make money profitably if used appropriately.

Which brings me (finally) to the topic of this blog:  software that helps you optimize your CRM sales funnel.

A sales funnel is the concept that to make one sale you must have X number of sales “leads” (potential customers) who become  “suspects” (research shows they could use your offer) lined up that you can target and then winnow them down to “prospects.”  Prospects are qualified businesses who could benefit from your offers — whether they know it or not.  They have budget, they have a need and you can help them meet their own goals.  The key in funnel management is to turn those prospects into customers — and in each step of the sales process of many “suspects” you will find only a few “prospects” and even fewer of them will turn into customers.

Even in the age of social media you still have to identify potential customers and somehow you need to make them aware that you have a service or a product they will find valuable. . .  the methods for reaching them may be changing, but the fundamentals remain the same.

There is a very old saying in the computer industry — about as old as the industry itself.  Surely you have heard the term GIGO (garbage in / garbage out).   You must fill your sales funnel, but if you fill it with lots of names that do not have the potential to be a customer your “funnel management” is poor and your sales profitability will also be low.

To acquire profitable customers (new ones) or even identify what you can up-sell or cross-sell to existing customers you must have a way of identifying qualified leads from the very beginning.     Cisco (the leading communications vendor) credits a company named eTrigue with increasing their SMB (small / medium business) sales appointments by 25% through just such pinpoint targeting of potential customers.

Linda Fassig-Knauer, (a Cisco marketing programs manager)  is the one making the claim about eTrigue and  3Marketeers (advertising, marketing, and demand generation/lead generation) for better lead generation:

“eTrigue Intelligent lead scoring helps us determine which technology or offer the prospect is most interested in discussing with our sales teams and enables us to funnel those leads in a timely manner to our call center, who ultimately sends to our channel partners,” says Fassig-Knauer, “The information in eTrigue lead scoring gives us three times the information so our call center agents are much more prepared before a call. It also greatly increases the number of prospects we can identify as being interested in a solution because the system does not require the customer/prospect to register.”

Salesforce.com CRM users can view active prospects in eTrigue’s demand generation application within Salesforce — making it easy to use for sales reps.    eTrigue won an award from DemandGen for its work with Cisco.

Given the fact that the economy is still slow you need to find a way to do more with less.  Your sales reps need to be more efficient than ever.  Tools like the cloud based SaaS (software as a service) Salesforce.com teamed with a demand generation tool like eTrigue  can fill your funnel with  a higher number of better-qualified leads faster, less expensively and with fewer resources.

You need to identify suspects and then you need to pinpoint target valuable information to them (using CRM with integrated email campaign tools and social media tools as well as the good old fashioned telephone!).  Doing more with less in these times means working smart with inexpensive but highly valuable tools.   Take a cue from Cisco and from Codice Software, who saw a 225% increase in qualified leads, and a 50% increase in actionable sales leads when it used eTrigue.  Response rates went up by 160% versus the same period the prior year.

Another customer, Silver Peak, generated 30% more programs without additional staff.  The cost is much lower than hiring more people — although if you get enough good leads you may need to put more feet on the street!

If you are using Salesforce.com I highly recommend that you take a look at eTrigue and see if automating your sales funnel demand generation makes sense.

Yada Yada YaData

When it comes to making money with technology a key is knowing who your customers are, what they buy (and why they buy it) — so that you can then offer them the products and services that they need.   It is much easier to sell new products and services to existing customers than to attract a new customer — and a great new technology that allows you to discover unique customer segments one that does micro-segmentation.

Recently Microsoft acquired YaData, a company with a software tool that  provides advertisers with richer targeting capabilities than they could otherwise have — CRM business intelligence.  This software makes money for its users by more pinpoint targeting of what sells and how to offer complimentary offers.

Marketers for years worked with anecdotal information (a successful sale here being exploited in ads, or marketing what the competitors are selling.  With micro-segmentation science is now clearly identifying what sells.

One great thing about YaData is that it includes segment discovery.  Normally data mining (being able to make “what if I did this?” type of questions based on existing data) requires us humans to make the initial assumption.  The problem with this is that our assumptions may be wrong and we waste a lot of time going down a path that is not fruitful.

YaData has behavioral targeting tools within its online advertising platform, which lets marketers provide more focused and relevant advertising.    The benefit includes  better ROI for advertisers, higher yields for publishers and more on target advertising for consumers.  The software discovers and managemes market segments (rather than having people identify the segments as with traditional data mining). YaData uses a search engine, and the system is designed to discover consumer behavior patterns and then sort them into segments.  This actually has a name all its own:  segmentation relationship management (SRM).   The YaData engine can analyze companies’ quantitative databases on the basis of hundreds of variables, in order to create clusters.

Interesting enough, YaData originally received much of its funding from Oracle, only to be sold to Microsoft!  Strange world!

A Belated Congratulations!

Hal Howard has been promoted to corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics ERP Research and Development, from general manager.  Hal is an amazing person, who has overseen the four ERP solutions Microsoft acquired years ago Dynamics AX was Axapta, Dynamics GP was Great Plains · Dynamics NAV  was Navision, and Dynamics SL was Solomon. . . and the terrific Microsoft Dynamics CRM which is modeled after Microsoft’s email product, Outlook.

I’m very late on my congrats — as this happened in January.  Oops, sorry it took me so long to notice, Hal!  Still, no one deserves it more.

Speaking of the Dynamics family, there is news on that front from Convergence 2010 Europe.   Both the ERP products and the CRM offer have done very well, and the CRM product has penetrated the Fortune 500 — not its initial target.  It was initially aimed at small and medium sized businesses.   Unlike many CRM platforms, Dynamics does not cost a fortune to implement.  The “big boy” CRM suites cost at least $1 in professional services to integrate it and customize it for every $1 spent on the purchase.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM integrates with Outlook so most people can be productive on day one — it is not a huge learning or integration curve — although it can be customized and integrated if need be.   Now at Convergence 2010 Europe the long awaited cloud (SaaS — software as a service) version is said to be available very soon.

This aims Microsoft Dynamics CRM squarely at Salesforce.com — the leader in SaaS CRM.    Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will have launch events sometime in January 2011.   The beta of Dynamics CRM 2011 is currently available, having been released in September.  If you want to check it out, now is a perfect opportunity!

Since this blog is about making money (or saving money) with technology — which is the goal of good customer relations facilitated by CRM — definitely take a look at the beta of CRM 2011 and also consider the very attractive  promotional price for Dynamics CRM Online of $34 (31 Euros) per user per month for the first year of service.   This price is available to new customers and will start when Dynamics CRM Online is launched in January. The offer will end on June 30, 2011.

Again, congratulations Hal!

Two Ways to Make Money – Email and Social Media Marketing

The chicken or the egg?

Many Social Media pundits have stated that “email is dead.”    Social media applications like Facebook and Twitter have killed email.

With 500 million users on Facebook it may not be a stretch to understand why all the “Chicken Little’s” are going around the chicken coop yelling “the sky is falling!” on email marketing.   But Chicken Little was wrong, and so are the “experts.”

Email marketing still makes money in a relatively low cost way.   There are numerous online vendors for small and medium size businesses which offer free or low cost email marketing tools that include analytics (so you can see what works and what does not work).  I use MailChimp which promises it is always free for less than 500 email addresses, and I’m quite impressed with its abilities and the staff’s responsiveness.   One great thing about MailChimp (and a competitor, Constant Contact) is that both have recently integrated Social Media into their offers. Constant Contact announced Social Stats which tracks Facebook “Likes,” tweets, Linked In posts and such.  Social media statistics are shown on the email analytics report.  With MailChimp their social sharing tool lets you post your email marketing campaign on your social  networks with one click in your campaign dashboard.  Be careful, though.  Social Network users HATE “sales pitches” and you can destroy your credibility.   Like Constant Contact, MailChimp lets you you can track the activity on those networks, too.

I’ve mentioned Constant Contact and MailChimp which are great for small and medium size companies, as is iContact.  There are even more out there:  AWeber and Vertical Response are two more.

According to Forrester Research, email marketing is growing, not dying. 

Considering that you can email for free (MailChimp) then Forrester’s research should impress you that you can indeed make money via email marketing.  Their research shows that ROI is two to three times higher with email marketing than with any other form of direct marketing.   Two thirds of the marketing executives interviewed concurred that email marketing is the most cost-effective marketing tool they have.

So much for the death knell!

Far too often techno-geeks (and hey, I like to think that I AM one) decry the death of a technology when something new comes along.  Fact is that it takes a while to kill things off.   There are still people using land line telephones, TVs with picture tubes, and even horse buggy whips.   Direct mailers still “snail mail” catalogs.  Billboards still blight our nation’s highways.  Newspapers still get printed.

So, no, email is not dead.   When it comes to making money with technology, email (with opt-in permission so that you are not SPAMMING) is a very efficient way of communicating sales or new offerings to your customers.

Social media is a fantastic communications media, but it is not meant to be a sales tool (well, not directly).  If you pitch a sale on Facebook you are likely to get flamed and slammed.  Social media is all about conversations, and if along the way people come to hear of a great new product, and buy it — terrific!  Yet, Facebook and others are more likely to be a passive, indirect sales channel rather than an immediate one.  The only difference is an entity like Dell Outlet who may tweet a special sale on Twitter — but most of us are not Dell.   You have to be in a unique position to be able to use Twitter or Facebook as a sales platform directly.

Email marketing and social media are not an “either / or” decision of email OR social media for making money.  Email marketing is still a very strong approach for staying in touch with customers and cross-selling and up-selling into your base.  Social media is a wonderful way to stay in touch more often than you can via email (without irritating your base).  Both are complimentary if used properly, and the email marketing tools with their integration efforts can help you do that — as long as you abide by the “rules” of both email marketing and social media and enhance your customer’s experience.  Don’t over stay your welcome in either venue.

The blog is moving.  If you like the blog, please visit us at http://www.it-sme.com/blog .

Three Ways to Make Money with Web 2.0

I do my best to post every few days, and it has been more than a week since my last blog.   I have a good reason.  I’ve been busily creating a new website for SME, Inc. — Social Media Excellence in Orlando, Florida.    I’ve also moved my blog to the site, and the new address is http://www.it-sme.com/blog .   If you’ve been reading this blog, or my blog in IT Toolbox or Blogger, hopefully this will be the new “permanent” home for the blog.

I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into social media (Facebook, Twitter, and other methods of online conversation) and have found mostly anecdotal assurances that companies can reap much higher new sales revenue with much lower investment by using Web 2.0 tools such as these.

Believe it or not I actually am from Missouri, the “show me state” and it is hard to believe these claims without some sort of proof.   We’re pretty graphic “down home” and an old saying comes to mind:  “With all this manure, there must be a horse in here somewhere.”

McKinsey and Company is considered a top notch consulting company and they recently did some research on the topic of ROI with Web 2.0 efforts.  The results are pretty surprising.

69% percent of companies that have made some sort of Web 2.0 investment reported real and substantiated business benefits, including more effective marketing, better collaboration and a reduction in the cost of doing business.

“How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0: McKinsey Global Survey Results.” is the source.  This survey examined 1,700 executives from all over the world.

The top three ways to make (or save) money using social media were:

  1. Faster job completion by improving the speed to access information (68 percent of respondents averaged a  30 percent improvement, which is substantial);
  2. Lower communication costs (54 percent of respondents with an average improvement of 20 percent);
  3. Faster access to internal experts (43 percent of respondents with an average improvement of 35 percent)

20-35% improvement is pretty impressive.

When just asked to look externally, the 1,700 executives reported:

  1. More effective marketing (53 percent; average mprovements ranged from 17 percent for conversions up to 25 percent for awareness activities);
  2. Increasing customer satisfaction (43 percent with an average  improvement of 20 percent);
  3. Reduced cost of marketing (38 percent with an average improvement of 15 percent).

Again, not bad.  #2 is particularly interesting since social media is all about communication and conversations — your customers talk to you and to others, as compared to traditional marketing where they passively view a commercial or read an ad.

All in all an interesting report and the beginnings of something to show your management when arguing for the use of social media.

37% of employees using social media w/o IT permission

We make money or save money by providing value to others in a cost effective manner.  Pretty simple, really.  Technology can streamline the process and make us more efficient at a lower price point — but just as easily technology can be a massive time waster that actually costs us money.

Think of all those apps on Android and the iPhone that are games like Zombie Farm.     Loads of fun, but not exactly productivity enhancers!

Which brings me to a recent blog on the Harvard site.   The article discusses a study by Harvard which shows that employees are using social media including mobile technologies and video to improve how they do their jobs.  These employees are solving your customer and business problems without permission from the information technology (IT) departments:

“In a survey of more than 4,000 U.S. information workers, we found that 37% are using do-it-yourself technologies without IT’s permission. LinkedIn, Google Docs, Smartsheet.com, Facebook, iPads, YouTube, Dropbox, Flipboard — the list is long and growing.”

Forrester Research even gives this trend a name:  Technology Populism.

In a sense all this end user “power” is a good thing — people are not waiting for IT to solve problems.  Technology like Facebook and other social media proves that if companies don’t take advantage of new technologies then customers WILL and this is not always good for companies.   Many a corporation has been blind sided by consumers angry at faulty equipment or mishandled customer “service.”

Yet picture a large company with employees each “doing their own thing” technologically speaking.  Fairly soon will we not have misinformation from our own employees with videos on YouTube giving out erroneous “facts”?   Will we have “stuff everywhere” and a common corporate value proposition (aka the corporate position) totally destroyed and misinterpreted by people who only see part of the picture?

I am reminded of the story of the blind men and the elephant.   In this parable by Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi we are told that a group of blind men touch an elephant  and then must describe the elephant. Each man feels a different part, but only one part and the result that no one describes the elephant as a whole, but each describes the animal differently based on one piece.  One describes an elephant as long and thick like a boa constrictor — he feels the trunk.  Another describes the elephant as long and skinny — he is describing the tail.  Another says the elephant is flat like a stingray — he describes the ear, and so forth.

If our employees are using social media and other technologies to help “describe” our companies and our products / services are they knowledgeable enough of the whole —  the goals and true strengths — to be helping the corporation, or is there wholesale chaos as each is so focused on one small part that they miss the elephant for the tail?

True enough there is no way to put the genie back in the bottle.  Technology, particularly “Web 2.0” with smart phones and social media is here and will be part of our future if we deal with it or ignore it.   Should we allow our employees to go off willy nilly and be empowered to “do their own thing” or should we try to build some rules around this wild west of technology?   My contention is that in the end we will all meet somewhere in the middle.  We cannot truly control all of our employees any more than we can control our customers (or our children).  Yet, we must put some structure into place or we will face wholesale anarchy.  Welcome to the new, brave new, world of technology.

66% of marketers investing in Social Media

66% of marketers plan to invest in social media over the next 12 months.  This is from a study by Alterian.    20% of traditional marketing budgets are being funneled into social media by 40% of the marketers questioned in the study.

When we think of making money with technology our minds may drift to software, but in the very rapidly changing world we inhabit,  Web 2.0, aka “social media” like Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube is becoming a key place to not only find our customers and target them with enhanced customer service or cross-selling (offering them a product or service that compliments what they already buy from you), it is simply the fastest growing way to reach new prospects and stay in touch with your current customers.


Making Money with Facebook?

Social media (the latest “techno-buzz term”) simply refers to people having conversations online.  In the far away land known as “Web 1.0” the internet was one-way.   You threw a website online or sent out emails and things were pretty simple.  Customers would check out your website for information, and might call your contact center or send you an email.  Ah, the good old days!

Social media (Facebook, Twitter. . .even YouTube) makes this seem quaint and old fashioned.  In the world of Facebook a short comment is followed by other comments and pretty soon you have a town meeting going on.    The vendor does not control the conversation — in fact no one controls it, not even the person who begins it!     With 500 million users now on Facebook it is larger than the United States of America — and perhaps just as powerful in its own way.

This new phenomena of social media can be a power for good or for evil.    It can help your business, or it can destroy you.   Businesses today must learn to deal with it one way or the other — and to try to find a way to use it as a way to make money.

The first thing to realize is that if you take a used car sales approach to Facebook or its ilk you will fail miserably.  Social media is all about the conversation and nothing turns people off faster than a sales pitch in the middle of a party.     To get fans who “like” you and read what you post you must provide valuable information, hopefully in an interesting way!  Doing this must be consistent — you may well have to hire an employee to manage your social media presence.   My company provides training, consulting and even provides the social media “presence” for companies — but be forewarned that if you outsource to someone like me they still need to learn a lot about your company and stay in close contact with you.    Why?

Because it is all about the conversation — and if there is no meat, no “there” there, you will quickly turn off anyone interested in you — and far from making money, you will soon start losing it to your competitors.

Content is king.  To make money on Facebook, Twitter and the rest you must have content of value and you must provide this in a succinct fashion.  You must post often (2-3 times a day on Twitter, at least daily on Facebook and 3-4 times a week on your corporate blog).   Since this is a conversation, you must encourage “fans” (find them via your email databases and by posting in places your customers visit online).    Respond to comments, good and bad — and do not be defensive.

Remember it is a CONVERSATION.

Some of the keys to success in Social Media are:

  1. Build a large and legitimate following by being informative and interesting;
  2. Respond to comments quickly and with substance
  3. Blog, Tweet and post frequently — but again it must be USEFUL information
  4. Monitor your social media communities — know what is working and what is not working

There are some great tools to help you manage multiple social media efforts, and to analyze how successful they are.  You will most likely not see “over night” results, but over time your base and your sales will increase.

As social media grows (and the largest growth is in women 55-65!), the traditional marketing bases of newspapers, radio and television are losing customers and advertisers.    Social media is a revolution.  There are ways to thrive in the revolution, but it is not by playing the game the way you might have historically with press releases, TV ads and the like.   The new world is all about loss of control and “the conversation.”

CRM Shortcuts – Faster Ways to Customer Relationship Management

Years ago, I ran product management for several  industry specific CRM data warehouses (in other words, business intelligence) for Teradata .  My team worked with large Teradata customers including Wal-Mart, Bell South (now AT&T), Delta and Continental Airlines and other household names who were using Teradata to locate all their customer data and compile it in a system capable of analyzing customer buying trends.  The goal was to increase cross selling and up-selling to existing customers as well as to retain them (at least the profitable ones!).  Data mining (“what if I did X instead of Y”) type analysis could help target new customers as well.

It was interesting, and profitable.  The customers targeted in different market segments (like Retail, Banking, Telecom, Travel, Hospitality and Healthcare) saved money because they did not have to “tweak” generic systems to their industry variances.  It was profitable for Teradata, because a good chunk of development could be spread over multiple customers instead of starting from “scratch” each time.

No CRM solution can be 100% “off the shelf” — even for small businesses.   There are certain things that are unique to the way a company does business.   Yet, the more that can be “out of the box” and functional, the faster the rewards and the easier to get it up and running.

The reason I’m traveling down memory lane is because last week I received an email from Lauren Carlson, a CRM Market Analyst.  She wondered if I’d be interested in blogging on the topic of industry specific CRM applications built around Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile you may know I am a big fan of Dynamics CRM.   My curiosity was raised so I check out her blog, “Microsoft Dynamics CRM Industry Solutions:  Our 15 Favorites.”  Since there are over 750 industry solutions built around Dynamics CRM this was quite an undertaking!

For easy navigation, the article links each industry to its corresponding solution:

Advertising
Financial Services Non-Profit
Agriculture Healthcare Pharmaceuticals
Automotive Hospitality/Travel Public Sector
Construction Insurance Real Estate
Distribution Legal Retail

If you take a look at any of these solutions for your industry segment heed these warnings:  check out the vendor’s track record for keeping up to date with Dynamics CRM.   Any time you have a third party “adding value” to another vendor’s product they can begin to slip behind in updates.  Suddenly your third party application may not work with newer releases.   Also, in your contract with the third party ask what happens if they go out of business.   Any customer / vendor relationship is a bit like a marriage — so go into your relationship with your eyes wide open, and a pre-nup in hand!

It also behooves you to check some happy users who have been with the third party independent software vendor (ISV) for a few years, to make sure the customer support and “bug fixes” are fast and relatively painless.   Keep in mind that you are paying a premium for the value add of the industry specific application (although you may get a discount on the CRM software) — do your due diligence to determine if the value you will get makes the additional cost of the third party application cost effective for your business.

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