By Peter Prestipino
A CRM is a vital system within today's digital enterprise and is most often used for managing a company's - and employees' - interactions with existing and prospective customers but, increasingly as you will see, the surrounding digital (and non-digital) experience too. A BRIEF HISTORY OF CRM
Solutions that are now often categorized as CRM have actually been around for a very long time, evolving from the database-driven direct marketing software of the 1980s, including such products as ACT! and Goldmine. The acronym CRM actually emerged in the late 1990s after large ERP vendors including Oracle and SAP entered the market, at a time consequently when its biggest future competition, Salesforce, made its debut (around 1999). And as you are likely aware, Salesforce in many ways redefined the landscape entirely.
Demand for CRM today, as a result of improved technologies and perhaps certain economic conditions, has never been higher and in great part that's due to the rather sophisticated initiatives users can now undertake with what these powerful software platforms and solutions have become over the years - and businesses are spending more than ever before to make sure they don't fall too far behind the competition.
A Gartner report released in early May 2014 reveals that the worldwide CRM market grew 13.7 percent from $18B in 2012 to $20.4B in 2013 - with 41 percent of all systems sold in 2013 being SaaS based. (Get the inside scoop on what your enterprise - and its competitors - are spending for licensing fees and per seat usage at prominent CRM vendors at wsm.co/crmcost14.)
Website Magazine interviewed nearly 20 Internet professionals to understand what they consider to be the top three, must-have marketing automation features. Don't miss this three-part series on the Web at wsm.co/maexperts. EXTEND CRM CAPABILITIES
CRMs have been used in the past to organize, automate and synchronize sales and marketing (and it's been very effective), but as consumers' digital behaviors and expectations changed and matured, so have the roles that these valuable systems play within the enterprise.
Vishrut Parikh, NetSuite's director of product marketing, believes today's enterprises are only using a portion of their CRM's capabilities, and suggests looking at ways to extend these systems' usefulness. "CRM is not for just for salespeople anymore, it's for the customer. It is (used) to manage the customer lifecycle, and companies can't be as limited as they have been in the past."
One of the ways that enterprises have been limiting themselves, suggests Parikh, is by not integrating CRM fully with their ecommerce systems. While CRM has been used regularly in relation to digital marketing, Parikh believes finding opportunities to more seamlessly connect with order management systems (recording transactions and interactions for example) will provide the data required to more accurately analyze a brand's performance in general. It will also help identify possible issues (e.g. shipping bottlenecks) before they spread across the customer user base.
By understanding more about the experience of users, marketers are better able to plan (and improve) future users' journeys with an enterprise and better leverage these systems to understand how each and every interaction directly impacts revenue.
CRM systems are evolving and this is evident most recently in the rise of marketing automation platforms, marketing-focused databases which focus increasingly on delivering an optimal messaging experience (often through automated email, and in some cases social media) throughout the customer journey.
In 2013, there were numerous acquisitions in the CRM space that relate directly to the rising interest in automation, the consumer experience, and brands' use of email specifically; the two most notable being Oracle acquiring Responsys and the Salesforce acquisition of ExactTarget. While these are important examples of how the CRM landscape is evolving, the best use case for CRM software may not even be on the radar of Internet professionals yet.
In many ways, the future CRM will be one component of a unified marketing platform whose purpose is to serve aa a warehouse of information about customers. It's going to be fast (real-time, rendering in milliseconds); it's going to access information from any and every touch point a prospect or customer has with brands (as well as every single attribute of the interaction); and then it's going to be able to assist in the recommendation for an optimal experience during the next interaction, regardless of the format or channel in which it occurs.
LiveIntent is perhaps one of the best and most interesting examples of this evolution in how CRMs are used today. The company is the only of its kind; a programmatic advertising exchange for email newsletters that taps into the data stored in a publisher's CRM in order to profile the user and deliver an optimal advertising format and message. (Read more about LiveIntent at wsm.co/liveintent14).
In the future, expect an increasing number of enterprises to adopt a more creative approach to transforming the customer experience -from the first touch to the most recent - and CRMs will be the single most influencing variable. The future of CRM is here, but your enterprise must decide how it will define its role in the customers' future.
For many enterprises, the CRM is the center of their digital universe. If your company has yet to take the leap into CRM, let the following serve as a high-level, step-by-step strategic guide:
1. Organize a CRM project team that will include an executive advocate, project manager, CRM administrator and additional key users.
2. Define the expected result which may include reducing the sales cycles, improving reporting or increasing leads.
3. Address potential enterprise risks and threats by identifying security issues and formalizing user controls/permissions.
4. Prioritize goals by setting short but firm timelines to ensure the initiative stays on track in the future.
5. Create a user adoption strategy to ensure that every department within the enterprise is contributing.
6. Review or redefine policies and processes associated with the CRM to ensure efficiency.
7. Identify important metrics by which the CRM initiative can be measured, publishing reports for key personnel.
8. Build out richer profiles by appending/importing data to CRM records fields including customer purchase history, support tickets, etc.
9. Drive additional value by integrating various applications from outside the core of the CRM's partner ecosystem.
10. Evaluate performance and explore new technologies that are continually emerging.