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Integrating CRM and Social Media – Eight Tips on what to do and where to start!

Most of us involved in sales and marketing are increasingly aware of the power of Social Media and how this can impact the sales pipeline. Predicted growth in the adoption of CRM over the next five years is said to be driven by the ever closer integration of CRM with Social Media.

Recent research from Jim Keenhan, reinforces the benefits to sales teams of being active in social media and how for B2B businesses, the highest impact is associated with the use of LinkedIn.

MAS have been implementing proven CRM and Social Media techniques and have recently developed systematic processes for combining our CRM activity with Social Media.

However, the question we are most often asked is:-

“Where can I start to embed social media into our day to day activities on CRM?” 

So, here are our Top Eight Tips that your sales team can begin to use to integrate any CRM with LinkedIn usage:-

1: “Create a Killer LinkedIn Profile”. A great profile should be the key starting point and we coach this on our monthly Workshops. Another tip, make sure you have a good photo in your profile.

2: “Build Connections”. The more ‘personal’ your connections the better! We are not fans of connections for connections sake, since in our view, you need to know these connections for them to add real value. You should find it easy to build around 100 connections reasonably quickly, although a good target is at least 200.

3: “Learn to Fish in the right Pool”. This step is more difficult. Try to build your connections with people that can help you with your ideal target business prospect. For example, we tend to look to engage with companies with say, 10 to 3000 employees. These are our ‘on-profile’ prospect as experience shows we can add value to their sales, marketing and customer service teams

As you book appointments with your key prospects, our next tips are based around what to do when you have an appointment.

Your CRM system can store all the key data including data from Social media against your Contacts and add Attachments /Documents. Our final tips are:-

4: ‘Follow’ the prospect company on LinkedIn. Do this as soon as the appointment is booked, this will keep you up to with changes and what is going on. Take a screen print possibly of their Company page. Add this as an attachment to your CRM.

5: Who will be at the meeting? Find out who when you are confirming the appointment, i.e. “who else will be at our meeting’? Typically your CRM activity reminder could be “Confirm Appointment and all attendees”. No need to mention your use of LinkedIn here.

6: ‘Find’ these Attendees on LinkedIn. Ideally a week before find the attendees and you must click onto their profile, but don’t connect…they don’t know you yet and this may appear presumptive at this stage. This helps you in a number of ways:-

• Prospects can see you are serious in doing research before the meeting

• When they see their 'Who viewed your Profile’ in LinkedIn, they will frequently look at your profile. If the meeting is quite close, they will be aware of YOU and your company

• What you say in Your profile about your ability to help is critical, hence Tip# 1, creating a ‘Killer Profile’ is so important! It makes you stand out from the crowd.

7: Add their details to CRM and capture LinkedIn Profiles. Do this for ALL who are going to the meeting onto a single document. Add this again as a new attachment to your CRM. Most people have their photo on LinkedIn.

8 : Print your Meeting LinkedIn Profiles . Here is our final key tip. The hardest thing when meeting a number of new people at presentations is recalling who is who. With your printed off document, You now instantly know:-

• Who they are and more importantly, What they look like

• Typically what their role involves in their own words

• Possibly some common Connections; but use with caution this information, it can backfire!

Now that you are familiar with the attendee’s profile, you can talk confidently without the need to check so much for names or roles and sounding hesitant.

You are now better able to give complete focus to asking the right questions and in delivering your presentation.  This article is now available on Slideshare

by Gary Perkins

15th October 2013

What is Social CRM and does it matter?

The last few years have seen a massive increase in the use of Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn amongst others and this trend is now being embraced by CRM providers. Indeed, some new entrants are positioned as Social CRM only applications such as Nimble CRM.  Around four years ago, SAGE CRM and their developer community were one of the first to have focussed time and effort in developing solid fully functioning CRM integration for social media and this development has continued into SAGE CRM 7.2.

What is Social CRM?

Paul Greenberg, a CRM Guru of many years is often quoted, but for ourselves, a simpler explanation we use is that Social CRM “is the integration of CRM and Social Media applications and techniques to create relationships with customers and prospects using social media for marketing, customer service, research, networking and prospecting and using those social media channels relevant to your audience”.

Today, all mainstream CRM applications have fully embraced social media with links or views able to integrate Twitter feeds, LinkedIn, Facebook and other channels such as Yammer etc.

Why does it matter?

Social media for sales and marketing offers some great opportunities to develop ever closer relationships with your prospects and customers, in much the same way as when email marketing was integrated into CRM system around 7-10 years ago, but at a more personal, engaging level.

Recent research has shown that those Reps using Social Media and are on the whole better able to close sales and improve sales conversions and a great article from Jim Keenan published in Forbes.com demonstrates how sales people using social media for networking, prospecting and research were up to 72% better performers and exceeded sales targets or quota 23% more often.

In all the studies, LinkedIn was found to be the number one source for B2B sales performance improvement and the keystone for sales success. The reason most quoted for not using Social media was not understanding and lack of training in 75% of cases. This is where MAS are at the forefront of this new move to enhance CRM users and use Social CRM productively.

By Gary Perkins

How MAS can help?

MAS have formed a Strategic Alliance with BizLinks and are offering our own monthly CRM and LinkedIn Workshops in Worcester and London together with supporting Social Media and CRM Coaching Programmes for our own clients.

If you want to find out more on how you can help to maximise your CRM and Social media contact MAS on 01905 380920 and mention this blog...

10th July 2013

Key Criteria for choosing a CRM system

What should you look for when choosing a CRM system? As with everything, the choice can be bewildering and frankly, sometimes incomprehensible. By asking some simple questions, you can make the selection process much easier.

1. Do you want to own the software or rent it?

2. Do you want your data to be hosted on your own network of PCs and servers? Or are you relaxed about this being hosted on the Cloud or other 3rd party provider. Pros: with Cloud based, you can be up and running quicker, often in 24 hours. Cons: with Cloud based, there may be some constraints, as the data is hosted externally and you are likely to have on-going subscription costs for the life of your contract.

3. What functions come with the CRM system? Do you need them or will you use all of them? Make sure you ask what each function does and how potentially it could help you. If you are never going to use it, then don’t have it. If, however, you might consider it for the future, check to see if you can add it on at a later date. Look at your core needs and stick to them.

4. How many people will access the system and what skills do they have? Training is often a critical but overlooked or compromised item in any CRM Project. Make sure you have a core project team who are well trained and understand the system and objectives. Do you have your own trainers or do you require full training?

5. Consider remote users, how often the team will access the CRM system and from where and How. If the system is to be accessed remotely, do you need a different internet connection? Can your internal server cope with demand? Do you have your own IT department? If so, what do they need to be proficient in (e.g. MS technologies such as SQL skills).

6. What do you want the CRM system to be linked to? Do you need to integrate the system? You may, for example, use it simply as a CRM system and just need email such as MS Outlook linked. However, you may want to link it to a finance system or even your ERP system or just an ability to show or view core information. Check how important this is and if it is worth the extra costs, especially in any initial phase.

7. How can you measure success? This is a very important consideration. If you previously haven’t been using a CRM system, then the chances are that you won’t have a benchmark to measure ROI. So in order to get accurate information that you can act on, consider what data you put into the system from existing sources or spreadsheets. How old is the data and how accurate is it … basically, streamline and update any data that you input initially and assess regular weekly or monthly reports for optimum feedback.

This list is just a quick snapshot for consideration, but as in any IT project, planning is the key to success as well as having a competent and enthusiastic Project Team. For more help in choosing and advising you on the best solution for your business and to leverage 15 years CRM implementation experience, please contact us.

By Gary Perkins

2nd May 2013

CRM – Back to Basics

We hear a lot about CRM and how it’s the latest must-have – but what exactly is CRM and how can it help you?

What’s CRM?

CRM stands for ‘Customer Relationship Management’ and is a software system and importantly a culture that helps track customers and prospects and keeps these at the forefront of the organisation. Effectively, this system is used to manage any or all customer facing activities, including pre-sales, sales, post-sales, and customer service. Another name for CRM is ‘Contact Management’ which is still the core function of a CRM system. Key abilities include:

• Following up leads

• Tracking progress on sales opportunities

• Tracking progress on customer issues or cases

• Accessing marketing campaign performance and tracking the source of leads

• Giving management visibility of all customer interactions and ensuring most importantly information is up to date

• Ensuring staff are more targeted in their customer interaction.

• Giving management clear reports on customer and prospect activity to enable decision to be made and core metrics developed for measurement.

The CRM software is particularly helpful for marketing, as it can help with email campaigns, mail shots and mail merges. The primary aim of a CRM system is to give a single view of a customer, replacing old legacy systems where data is often held in different ‘silo’ by department. For example multiple Excel spreadsheets being used to track leads, sales opportunities or indeed customer issues, none of which are connected or indeed sharing the same core data.

Manual v CRM

Imagine that your old excel spreadsheets are not updated or are outgrown: sometimes staff simply do not have the time or resources to concentrate on simple yet boring admin. CRM helps you to manage and update information, and enable more visibility of how a customer account works. This includes the interaction between key front facing staff, such as sales, marketing, customer services and sales engineers.

With CRM you can measure the number of leads, monitor the number of lost opportunities and the amount of customer issues or cases you have.

Importantly, CRM enables managers to maintain a good view of what is current, rather than having to wade through mountains of information that tend to build up with manual spreadsheets etc. This enables better decision making and more instant and up to date reporting.

Who Benefits from CRM?

So who benefits most from a CRM System? The simple answer is the whole company! Once implemented, everyone has a single and consistent view of the interaction and journey of a prospect through to a customer and then after-sales saving valuable time.

Once the system is implemented, then the process is easy to maintain, with MAS on hand at all times should any further assistance be required.

The fact is that companies who install CRM perform better than those who don’t, but bottom line, what is the payback time of installing a CRM system? As always this is difficult to judge but on average, once installed, CRM systems stay in place for about five to eight years before being changed.

So in all, it makes good business sense and a good return on investment to have a CRM installed. 

By Gary Perkins

11th March 2013

Our Top four reasons on Why using “Partner Hosted” MS Dynamics CRM 2011 is a cost effective solution

In our last blog, we spoke about the three different variants of Microsoft CRM Dynamics and how we considered the Partner Hosted (also known as a Partner Managed Service) to be in our opinion probably the best option for most Start ups and small businesses. Typically, this solution suits those organisations with from 5 (or less) users and up to say 30-50 users who may have limited IT internal resource and infrastructure and funds.

The rationale behind this blog is we are often asked to explain why we favour this service for many of our SME Clients. This is because we believe that the Partner Hosted option is great for business ‘Start Up’s or indeed for larger organisations looking for a full rollout or often to establish an initial Pilot or Trial as ‘proof of concept’ testing and to help to embed and measure how a CRM system improves sales and marketing teams processes, effectiveness and reporting.

Here, we have listed what we think are the key factors in using a Partner Hosted service for your MS CRM implementation:

  1. Pricing and Cash flow. No upfront investment is needed for either software licences or indeed in any new IT hardware. The MAS Partner Hosted service is a ‘pay as you go’ service with the flexibility to add or decrease your licences based on a known price per month per user. With only a monthly charge to be agreed, then cash flow is enhanced and no capital expenditure is required for example on new servers or licences.
  2. Fast Start and Rapid Customisation. You can start with a 14 day trial which can be set up in a few hours and this enables you and your team to start using the system almost the same day you decide. You are then able to understand CRM and decide what enhancements or customisations you need after getting a feel for the system and feedback from your team. MAS can also provide our Fast Track customisation and training service as well.
  3. IT investment is minimal with either Hosted or Online since there are no servers to upgrade, maintain and ensure that any extra software such as Microsoft SQL Server are not needed. Upgrades are included as part of your package and again with a Partner Managed Service solution, it is likely that upgrades will be applied quicker giving you maximum functionality as it is released.
  4. Speed of Service. Our research shows that the MS CRM Online option typically has some additional latency as the Data Centre is not in the UK and the ‘page load’ times can sometimes be up to twice that of our Partner Hosted offering.

There are also four additional reasons which are worthwhile mentioning and these are outlined in the full blog article - click here to request the full article.

Overall, in our opinion, the Partner Hosted service for MS Dynamics CRM 2011 offers great value for a fast and easily supported implementation, plus it helps to free up your own IT resource and reduces any possible capital expenditure. All this without any lengthy fixed contract, just a notice period of 60 days. This gives you the time to embrace and measure the effectiveness of using MS CRM within your business as well as the ability to train up key user champions, often one of the key factors in any successful CRM project.

By Gary Perkins

For more information on how we can help, call 0844 745 4588.

18th January 2013

Explaining MS Dynamics CRM 2011 Different Licence Options

We are often asked to help clients to choose between the three versions available for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. These differences can be difficult for clients to understand since the differences can appear minor and clients look at functionality differences first.

A brief note on ‘the Cloud’ or ‘SaaS’ (Software as a Service). As we all know, the IT industry is full of jargon, but ‘the Cloud’ and ‘SaaS’ are really interchangeable terms and just really mean that your data/information and software is hosted on the internet on someone else’s servers and you access over the ‘net.

However, all these versions can be accessed via an internet connection currently using only Internet Explorer (at May 2012) or by installing a plug-in solution for Microsoft Outlook directly from within MS Outlook as additional folders. Typically, Microsoft CRM 2011 works best with MS Outlook 2010 since it shares the same 'look and feel', but Outlook 2007 is fully compatible and supported.

Broadly, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 in IT terms can be deployed or accessed three ways:

  1. ‘Microsoft CRM Online’ has been available in the UK since January 2011 and is the version hosted on Microsoft’s own data centres which comprise of three managed centres in Dublin, US and Asia. Further additional components like email routing and or SMTP services will need to be provided separately, incurring additional costs, along with a 12 month commitment under contract with early exit clauses. 'Online' tends in our view to suit businesses that are start ups and possibly from 1-10 or more users, although this is not a restriction. Other factors need to be accounted for.
  2. Microsoft CRM ‘On Premise’ is the same software, but is purchased as a business asset and deployed on your own internal architecture which is either owned or rented by an individual organisation. MS SQL Licences for the back end database are purchased separately. On-going Maintenance or software assurance needs to be built into any comparison to ensure upgrades are available. In theory from as little as 1 user up to many thousands are catered for, although we tend to find that due to the investment involved, then really from 25 users up is where this works best. Since IT involvement and infrastructure investment overall tends to be heavier, a dedicated IT team or department is usually in place within the company to help to support this level of investment.
  3. Microsoft CRM ‘Partner Hosted or Managed Service’. Where a specialist CRM partner acts as the host for your CRM and your data on a managed set of Infrastructure / Servers, This type of service offers a higher level of support for end users along with system and web integration, giving organisations much of the flexibility of 'On-Premise' with a similar price point of MS CRM 'Online'. Again, from single users up to large numbers, although again over 50 users is where we tend to find a 'On Premise' comparisons also needs to be considered.

MAS favour for the majority of our own clients the Partner Managed Service as we find this offering is then delivered as a one stop provision and for many of our clients this offers the best of both options since there is no internal hardware to support or install, plus there is the flexibility of the On-Premise solution to link to other systems, but no need to worry about upgrades or maintaining the server. In our view, for organisations with say between 5 and 100 users they will benefit greatly from a Partner Managed Service which delivers not only a single point solution to the organisation but enables an organisation with limited CRM support knowledge to get on doing what they do as a business and not have to worry about IT implementation and IT support as it is already handled.

For more information and to discuss which solution best fits your organisation since here we can only talk in broad terms, then contact us or visit our Software page.

Next time, we will look at some of the factors in this decision.

By Gary Perkins

9th October 2012

Four Reasons why using a multi-CRM advisor can save you money!

Over the last few months, we have been asked why it is best to engage with a multi-CRM reseller such as ourselves and up until now, we considered this a benefit without really delving into the reasons why our clients come to us. There are a number of key reasons which in my view help to explain why using a multi-CRM reseller such as MAS can help.

The first real reason is independence. –you only pay for what you need. With a portfolio of products we are not tied into any one solution and can match the best product to our client needs. Now this also means we need to choose our clients carefully to ensure the CRM portfolio we have chosen can meet these requirements, hence most of our clients requiring this type of advice may have between 5 to 25 users of the system, sometimes up to 50 users. Above this user range, then higher end products are normally considered.

Strong portfolio of pedigree products – we save you time by having searched the market for you. Having spent 16 years in the CRM industry, we have seen many products come and go and whilst we cannot cover every CRM product, we are continually approached to take on new products. Again, like our clients we are wary of new entrants who may be unproven or not have adequate resources. Often these are country specific products and we have found that over the years, international exposure is one true test of longevity in our view, having seen many localised only products not gain the required client base to sustain their developments. All the products we take have either some special advantage or have a proven pedigree in the industry. Of course, we have to choose, but our portfolio is continually being reviewed. Broadly, we consider mainstream proven CRM products with a good development history, financial resources and a good network of other resellers able to support your system.

Third party product knowledge and experience – helping you to source the incremental solution components you need reduces the need for bespoke development, in many instances, the CRM system may form the core system, but often for example, marketers may want E-mail marketing, SMS capability and this is also available since we have been involved with e-mail marketing including our own chosen tool since around 2004. With third party add-ons, a ‘Google’ search doesn’t give you that extra industry in-depth knowledge and experience. We maintain strong contacts with other resellers, partly as a result of our history in the industry and can review many products with a simple call as well.

Consideration of the many client factors involved in choosing CRM. Our extensive customer experience enables us to anticipate requirements you may not have considered. Our portfolio has been chosen and is reviewed to offer two core, sometimes overlapping user and functionality ranges, this capability means we can maximise our experience and knowledge to help our clients find the best fit. We are confident that with the two entry-level CRM system - ACT! and GoldMine together with our two mid-level CRM applications - SAGECRM and MS CRM, available in different deployment options such as hosted, online or on your own IT system, then together with their respective approved add-ons we can cover around 85% of our mid-market client requirements for their CRM systems at an affordable price.

By Gary Perkins

For more information on how MAS can help you, please contact us at Marketing Answers.

16th June 2012