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August 24, 2007

Educating Marketa

A recent article in CRM magazine postulated that marketing professionals have been educated for communications and creative content, but not adequately educated on managing marketing operations. When it comes to CRM automation this is precisely the benefit that the technology brings to the business – improving the ability to manage operations. However, to get the most out of the technology it is still important to have an educated process. Acquiring the ability for campaign automation, while campaign management processes remain immature, will likely lead to little gain.

Beer Rule #9

I have recently encountered several clients that spent considerable sums on marketing automation, bundled with other CRM functionality, which has morphed into virtual shelfware. So, what causes this? It is primarily a factor of believing that campaign automation will autmagically lead to new processes for conducting campaigns. But, when push comes to shove, if you don’t know how to manage a solid campaign, the software won’t do it for you.

Some of the best CRM ROI comes from the ability to target customers with appropriate offers and push leads from these campaigns to the sales organization. Small marketing functions that don’t contain sufficient campaign management skills should seek external help to get campaign processes built. The automation will provide a lot of muscle once this is in place correctly.

Getting campaign management correct can make the difference between a successful CRM program and one that just plods along. It can also help a small marketing function transition from obligatory staff function to strategic business contributor. I think the latter is more desirable

August 17, 2007

Hedge Fun

One of my bigger challenges as a consultant is convincing my clients not to think too small. When I am approached by a business that is looking at the possibility of buying a new SFA tool there is often an expectation to keep things fairly narrow in scope. Typically the interest will focus on a primary capability such as better forecasting or more sophisticated contact management. But, while the desired scope of effort may be small, the expected outcomes are disproportionately big. This is where the problems arise. Spending a few hundred grand on better forecasting or contact management may not ever see a positive return.

If you were to pour through the different research reports on sales effectiveness, especially those utilizing CRM and SFA software, you will find trends that help to resolve this problem.

Viva Las Vegas

First, one of the big limitations of SFA as a stand alone solution is that it tends to be best at lowering cost of sale, but less effective as a sales growth solution. This can be a big disappointment for those sales VP’s who were making the investment in order to drive higher sales volume. However, further digging into the research indicates that this potential disappointment can be abated with the correct additional investment. The best chance of improving sales growth is to combine sales force automation with marketing automation, particularly lead management solutions.

The irony for me regarding this significant benefit of combining sales and marketing as an integrated solution is that I often have to push to get marketing invited to the table when it comes to planning for these CRM programs. The push back is often centered around wanting to contain scope in order to maximize results. Buddy, if you want results, don’t think so small.

A similar inappropriate scope limitation involves the idea of containing the reach of SFA. This next problem is often disguised as a desire not to burden the field with unnecessary admin. It goes something like this. There is a recognition that the customer data base is patchy. Too much contact information resides on PDA’s and rolodexes. So, the request is to implement SFA for the resolution of this problem but not to overtax the field with unnecessary tasks such as sales call reporting. However, when you look further at the results of the research we find that these programs have the least ROI. You want results, then you need to build a sales methodology into your SFA – these initiatives show the best returns.

The added discipline of the sales methodology drives better account targeting, facilitates coaching, enables collaboration, and reduces the risk of leads falling through the cracks. It does take more effort to get right, and it does increase the scope of the program, but it also delivers better results. Is that not the reason you were making that CRM investment in the first place?

Now, you may be thinking, “wait a minute, the research also indicates that keeping project scope small also improves the likelihood of success!” This is very true, but the studies specifically point out that chunking programs into bite size project pieces is the best way to implement. This is not intended to imply that keeping the span of the overall program small will lead to better results. To the contrary, the integration of multiple initiatives spanning functions like sales and marketing leads to the best results - according to the research.

Hedge your bets. You don’t have to do it all at once. Start with sales then add marketing, or the other way around. Just don’t think small.

August 10, 2007

Two by Two

I ran across a blog on the SAP blogsite the other day that shared some good ideas for managing change within technology projects. - check it out.

Back Seat Drivers

I use a tool for identifying the change management risks for project work that include similar factors as discussed in the recommended blog above. I’ll share those in another posting. How do you determine what is most critical for addressing? Use a similar tool to audit where you are and forecast what is going to get in the way. Put actions in place to proactively address the suspected issues, but also reactively address as well. Make sure you have consensus about project outcomes with your sponsors. Involve your users to maximize adoption – that kind of thing

Most of the time management commitment is the factor that bites the hardest. Without strong management sponsorship the likelihood for success is poor. In the aforementioned SAP blog it is suggested that the building of the Tower of Babel is history’s first project – although a failed one. I’ll propose that the first project was successful, and it was due to strong executive sponsorship. Go see Evan Almighty for your proof.

August 03, 2007

Handheld Miracle Cure

Can you make CRM work for a salesforce on a handheld if you were never able to get them to use CRM in the past? Is a PDA the one factor that will drive adoption when all else failed before? I think this is a pretty interesting question. A few years ago, I would have said that believing that this technological silver bullet will succeed was a mistake. Today I have several clients betting their CRM budget on this one tiny device, and I am going along with it. Am I crazy?

Road to Recovery

I think there are a couple of key reasons to believe this will work. Today, CRM platform vendors, and their partners have made it possible for functionality like SFA to actually function with your two thumbs doing the work. On top of that, the adoption of the PDA as primary communication device is gaining ground. I have clients who have ostensibly stopped traveling with laptops. If tools will work on a Blackberry that make it easier to capture and share customer information than the effort to type an e-mail, they will get used.

It is going to be an interesting experiment. I’ll keep you posted.