It’s no secret that companies today are absolutely inundated with data. Ultimately, that’s a good thing. Data has the power to generate better leads, increase customer loyalty, optimize marketing, and increase sales. These good things only happen when a company’s data is managed properly though, and that’s where Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management systems come in.
Marketing automation and customer relationship management systems help small and medium-sized companies keep the customer and prospect data clean, organized, and most importantly – actionable. When small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) have actionable data, they increase sales rep productivity by upwards of 41% and improve customer retention by 27%. In short, marketing automation and customer relationship management (MA and CRM) systems help businesses of all sizes execute sales and marketing on a scale that is comparable to much bigger competitors.
Three Reasons You Should Be Using Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management
The complexity of B2B sales is increasing
When it comes to Business-to-Business (B2B), there’s more data than ever to deal with. That’s because there are more people and steps involved in B2B purchasing than there were in the past. The number of decision-makers involved in a sale has grown from an average of 5 people two years ago to almost 7 people today, according to the Harvard Business Review. For sales and marketing, that means many more people and actions to track in order to know what message to serve and when in support of progressing a prospect to a customer. Without a CRM system and marketing automation, it’s almost impossible for any company or sales rep to keep track of their prospects and communicate in a timely and relevant way with them.
Your prospects expect you to know and understand them
Customers increasingly expect the vendors they contact to have knowledge of their business, and certainly their sector. Just as buyers have a wealth of information available for their questions, they know that sellers – if they’re willing to do the work – have access to a wealth of information about their prospects. 75% of B2B buyers use social media contacts as part of the purchasing process, and they expect that B2B sellers do the same about them. CRM systems and marketing automation allow sellers to collect and organize information about prospects so that it’s available at a moment’s notice. This means they can engage in a meaningful way with prospects and deliver value with every interaction.
Your competitors are already doing it
Over 90% of companies with more than 10 employees use a CRM system and 51% of businesses use marketing automation. That means that if you aren’t using these technologies, you’re now in the minority.
But fear not, because many of the businesses who report they use CRM and MA aren’t really doing the technologies justice. Only 49% of firms believe that the data they collect is complete and accurate, and as many as 80% of firms struggle to manage the volume, variety, and velocity of their data.
How to Do Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management Right
There’s a big difference between having CRM and marketing automation and using CRM and marketing automation. That’s where the next four steps come in – to get you going in the right direction, or to help you course-correct if you’re among the 80% of firms struggling to manage data.
Step One: Clean the data that you already have
When was the last time you updated your customer and contact lists?
It’s probably been a while. You’re not alone – cleaning a database isn’t a job that most people relish – even data scientists say data cleaning and organizing is their least enjoyable task. But it’s necessary. Data management challenges create issues throughout sales and marketing, so it’s important to keep the data clean in your CRM and marketing automation portals.
How to do it
First, perform a simple audit to correct typos like email@example.com. At the same time, remove any generic addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org and clean out duplicate contacts.
Then ensure the data you have is valid by assessing your bounce rates. You don’t have to decipher all those cryptic bounce codes you receive, just manage them at the hard and soft bounce level. A soft bounce means there’s a temporary problem with delivery such as a full mailbox. A hard bounce indicates a permanent delivery problem. A good rule of thumb is to keep the soft bounces on your list in the hopes that any delivery issues resolve themselves and remove the hard bounces.
In fact, removing hard bounces is critical, because ISPs track your hard bounce numbers and may block your messages as spam if your bounce rates are high. Also, monitor customer requests for removal and unsubscribe them immediately. ISPs track that as well.
And finally, remove your inactive subscribers. This will improve your email ROI and ensure you only reach out to subscribers who are actively engaged. It’s important to note here that you should first try a re-engagement campaign – using an incentive or simply asking if contacts wish to remain subscribed – before removing inactive contacts.
Step Two: Segment your lists
If you’re like most companies, you have one big, bloated list of old and new customers and prospects. It’s great to have a big list, but you likely aren’t getting much out of it if you haven’t segmented it. Segmenting your list enables you to communicate with customers and prospects based on their specific needs, such as industry or function – this is essential in order to show them that you understand them.
How to do it
Segment your list by using these parameters:
One of the best ways to start a list segmentation is to identify who’s bought from you previously, and what they bought. You can then use this information to introduce new or add-on products or services, including upgrades, maintenance packages, and/or extended warranties Since it’s much less expensive to sell to past customers than to acquire new customers, this is among the highest-ROI activities a B2B company can do.
Calls to action
Another effective way to segment your database is to identify what prospects have asked you for. You can do this through CTAs (Calls to Action). CTAs should be on your web pages, in online brochures and content, in emails and newsletters, and in social media posts. A CTA will do many things for you. It can spur people to contact one of your sales people, fill in a form requesting more information, or signing up for a webinar. All of this information is gold when it comes to segmenting your database, because it tells you what each individual is interested in – and allows you to respond to those specific needs.
Use the length of a customer’s or prospect’s history with your company to further segment your database. For example, a newcomer to your website should be getting messages that will help build an understanding of your company, whereas you wouldn’t want to send the basics about your organization to someone who has been doing business with you for a decade. Similarly, don’t begin by sending highly technical specs to a ‘green’ prospect before they even understand the basic benefits of your product. Start slowly, and dole out information as appropriate.
If you’re using marketing automation, the software does the heavy lifting of sequencing this communication for you.
Step Three: Personalize your marketing
Once you reach this stage, you get to start doing the exciting stuff. By keeping your database clean and updated, you’ll be able to accurately personalize your marketing to individual recipients. This is where the powerful ROI starts to happen. You can offer specific products and services to your contacts based on what they’re most likely to need. And you can serve up the offers in such a way that they appear to come from one individual directly to them – allowing you and your sales team to accomplish much more than if they were operating without a CRM and marketing automation.
One thing to remember at this stage is that ‘bigger is better’ isn’t correct when it comes to company databases. Inflated lists and bad data management lead to unwanted customer contact and spamming. That will only hurt your sales opportunities, not help them.
Step Four: Keeping your data marketing-ready
After dedicating effort and investment to cleaning your database, you may be tempted to move on to other projects and let your database ‘coast’ for a while. But keeping data clean on an ongoing basis will help you maintain the benefits of what you’ve just accomplished, and ensure you avoid a painful clean-up project a year down the road.
The big picture of Customer Relationship Management and Marketing Automation
Setting up customer relationship management and marketing automation systems takes time. But the payoff is huge if you do it right. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so consider your journey to effective data management in your sales and marketing function as a journey, not an event. You don’t have to complete all of these steps in a single process, nor do you have to do it all on your own. Sales and marketing companies like the Mezzanine Groupimplement CRMs and marketing automation for small and mid-sized B2B companies. This helps smaller companies compete effectively against bigger rivals by giving them the same access to technology for better and more effective operations. This accelerates theirrevenue growth and enables SMEs to scale sales and marketing efficiently.
About the author
Lisa Shepherd is the founder of The Mezzanine Group, a sales and marketing company that specializes in business-to-business (B2B). Lisa has been working with small and mid-sized companies on issues of revenue generation for over 15 years.Lisa was the youngest woman CEO to be named to the Profit 100 and has been a nominee for the Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award.. She’s written three books on B2B sales and marketing – The Radical Sales Shift, Market Smart and Walking on the Moon.