....I just don’t know which half!”     If that sounds at all familiar to you, read on!

If you're not already using a customer relationship management (CRM) system we believe  you should be. If you are using one and it’s not easy to use, function rich and designed to drive your business forward, perhaps you should be using a different one?

Most of us will have heard of and even be familiar with CRM systems, they hold key data such as names and addresses, contact information and some elements of categorisation of the data. If that was all they can do they would be little more than a fancy database.

However, it's when they are used beyond storing simple contact info, that CRM systems start to really show their value. CRMs can log the various touchpoints with prospects, including emails, phone calls, voicemails, and in-person meetings; offer the ability to track the stages of a deal and identify the reasons for closed-lost and closed-won deals. They can take a place at the centre of managing our businesses, they become even more important when they plug into our marketing efforts, tracking everything we do and providing a true measure of the effectiveness of your marketing tactics. They can show us which half is working!

Marketing is rapidly losing its 'black box' position in business, no longer do you need to throw money in and hope some sales leads fall out of the bottom. Connecting a competent CRM system to a marketing platform will show you how every marketing pound is spent and what it returns to the business, (we recently tracked a £200K order back to a single tweet, imagine rolling that level of detailed measurement across all your entire marketing spend!).

But let's not sprint before we've even got up to a jog. If you are not using a CRM system now, here's our 4 top reasons your business needs a CRM asap.

1) “Where did I put that business card, the one from the chap I met last week?”

We've all been here, numbers on the back of beer mats, cards passed over in meetings, on show floors and at industry events. If you exhibit then there's the list of contacts from the show, be that from a lead capture system or just another pile of business cards! And, unless you can identify why you are contacting the person - opt in or legitimate interest - you could wind up with a problem.

A CRM system provides a single, central place to keep all that data. Ok, you still need the discipline to enter the data and mark and tag it properly, but if it’s easy to do and intuitive (or even automated!) it’s much less of a burden. And, with data capture apps etc, the data can be sucked straight into the CRM. This also means that follow up can be quick and easy, the data can then be enriched by adding context and supporting information.

As your relationship with the prospect develops, your CRM will provide a full, accurate record of your organisations entire interaction history with a prospect, across multiple users, that’s all accessible with just one click.

You can also use a CRM to view your sales pipeline and opportunity queue, which ensures that you will always know where you stand relative to your sales plan. If you have multiple people engaged with the CRM, you may choose to show them only their own contacts and pipeline but provide a management overview or you may want everyone to see everything - it’s all determined in the set up.

2) Leads and prospects stay with the company.

In addition to making life easier for sales personnel, CRM systems also improve communication at the organisational level. What if a key member of staff is working on a lead that their colleague has already spoken to two years ago? What if they’re taking over someone’s role and have only been given an indecipherable Excel spreadsheet of prospects? What if a key person leaves the organisation and there is no opportunity to handover their prospect or account status? Do their leads belong to them or the business, and how do you protect yourself?

With a CRM, it is possible to immediately assess what’s already been done with any given prospect and what’s due to happen next. New starters don’t need to spend time trying to work out interaction history, because all of the information they need is already in the system. And, if any data is downloaded it quite obvious who has done so and when.

3) It will make your life immeasurably easier.

Your whole business will benefit, it’s a bit of a change in culture and we know that can be challenging but using a CRM standardises  the way you log your prospects’ and customers’ touch points with your business, it streamlines reporting and makes sure that you can see exactly what's happening. All your sales and marketing information at your fingertips.

Not having an intuitive CRM encourages (and we have seen it happen, a lot!) everyone to use and manage their own systems, doing things the way they want or think is right. Eventually you end up with ‘sales spaghetti’ strands and threads all intertwined and none of them leading anywhere. It can take a master data chef to untangle the strands and make sense of it all, and that burns time and money.

A consequence of individual ‘systems’ is that it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for you to piece data together to form a coherent picture, which means you are always behind the game. We’ve all head the phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ and this is never better exemplified that keeping track of sales.

Using a nice CRM makes data entry uniform, everyone is doing the same thing in the same way so rather than ‘sales spaghetti, you have sales lasagne - lovely defined layers of information, clear and easily distinguished in a sequence you see and understand. (I think we’ll stop with the Italian food analogies now!).

4) It’s a sustainable, scalable tool for growth.

You might be asking yourself, “Can’t I just do this all in an Excel spreadsheet?”

With one or two, or even five customers, manually tracking every interaction is possible. But think ahead to having 100s with multiple interactions with your business, at different times with different people. Not one to miss a good analogy, it’s similar to how David Tennant’s Dr Who described time:

"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually — from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint — it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly... timey-wimey... stuff."

The Tenth Doctor, Doctor Who, "Blink"

Well marketing and sales is pretty much the same, touchpoints are many and varied over time, contacts may be numerous through the business. To understand this, to manage it and to control it is amazing to watch and even better to do. It’s like having your hands on the levers of a lead generating engine whose performance you can tweak, tune and make hum like a sewing machine.

Assuming that you're still wanting to grow your business (if not and you’ve got this far, we hope it’s been informative anway) and, if you’re seeking new clients, the time and energy your team will spend on sales and recording prospect and customer information in all of their ad hoc, oddball and spaghetti systems will, eventually, take up most their days, or it won’t get done at all.

Leaving the best bit to the end, if you want to focus your marketing and sales energy on strategies or those touchpoints that work best in your target markets? Pulling consistently tracked data from multiple sources will be efficient and will provide a clear picture of where your spend of either money or time, is the most effective.

Ultimately, there’s a very simple question you should ask yourself if you’re considering a CRM:

“Do I really want to grow my business in a controlled and managed way.”

Contacting your prospects at the right time, with the right information, when they are ready to receive it, and using a good CRM makes it a breeze.


Eccles House, Eccles Lane, Hope ValleyDerbyshire S33 6RW

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The views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ESSA, its members, board or staff. Our members represent a broad range of views within the event industry, and we have provided this section of the website for their opinions to be openly heard and discussed.

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