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CRM to Go
Corporate events represent substantial, untapped source of real-time CRM data.
Posted Dec 1, 2006
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Corporate events are on the upswing. After the post-9/11 era of decline, companies are again spending hefty portions of their budget on face-to-face events that unite them with partners and customers. It's not unusual for a large enterprise to spend tens of millions of dollars on events each year. In fact, market research firm Blackfriars Communications. estimates the 2005 corporate event market at $168 billion and 16 percent of a typical marketing budget. Organizations have also invested heavily in extensive CRM systems and are under pressure to maximize their investment. Yet, the majority are not seizing on one of their most meaningful resources for CRM data--their face-to-face events. These events represent generous wells of customer data just waiting to be mined for marketing and sales: Did attendees interact with company executives? What partner booths did they visit? What sessions did they attend and show the most interest in? Do they want additional information? All of this information, appropriately collected and analyzed, answers a more fundamental question--did their position in the sales cycle change as a result of the event? To answer these questions, companies need to incorporate CRM as a core element when planning events. Not only can they leverage the customer data gleaned from these events, but they can use existing CRM data to ensure that they create an event that achieves their customer objectives. To help, many Fortune 1000 companies are turning to event data management (EDM) systems, based on sleek, electronic badges for easy use by event attendees, and which wield enormous interactive and analytical power. In addition to importing CRM data, EDM systems can send valuable information back to the CRM database in real time--transforming events into CRM-to-go opportunities so that relevant customer interaction can begin immediately. Companies should consider the following CRM basics when planning corporate events:
  • First, mine CRM data to determine event objectives: Examining existing CRM data before an event can reveal trends or gaps that help to define overall objectives. For example, companies may find that a large portion of customers are "stuck" in the evaluation stage of the sales cycle. If so, a major goal may be to correct this with activities such as educational sessions to assist in decision-making, or networking sessions where they can meet customer influencers who have already passed through this phase. Or, data might show a strong pattern of technical support issues, in which case the company can proactively design solutions, such as interactive Q&A sessions led by senior tech support executives.
  • Use existing CRM profiles to tailor each attendee's event experience and to propel him in the sales cycle: Rather than simply hoping attendees connect with influencers, based on their CRM profile, attendees can be directed to meet with specific contacts. Also based on their profiles, companies can incent each attendee to visit specific partner booths and encourage him to attend sessions best suited to his needs. This improves the customer's event experience and makes it more likely that he leaves the event satisfied and open to future communications with the company.
  • Use real-time event surveys and quizzes to fill gaps in CRM data: Companies often find that important demographic fields in CRM records are left blank. Real-time surveys during the event provide a natural context in which to ask for this information to better understand customers.
  • During the event, monitor progress, and take action onsite to improve customer attitudes: Through real-time reporting and ROI analysis, companies can gauge whether customers are satisfied, attending the right sessions and making meaningful connections. If not, they can make immediate changes and send information to targeted attendees based on their attitudes and needs. For example, if surveys at the beginning of an event show less enthusiasm than expected about a major company announcement, key customers and prospects can be directed to a birds-of-a-feather session, introduced to ideal contacts, or invited to a breakfast with executives, to positively impact their opinion.
  • Send real-time attendee data back to the CRM system: Data may show that a prospect has become a hot lead. For example, he asked for more information in a survey, attended specific educational sessions, spent a long time networking with a key executive, or invested a lot of time at a partner booth. That data can be sent to the CRM system in real time so that an account manager can quickly follow up with relevant recommendations and offerings. Last, analyze CRM data for event ROI after the event. Analysis of event data provides important information on whether the event objectives were met, including revelations about customer networking, satisfaction levels, and their resulting position in the sales cycle. This data is invaluable for ongoing customer outreach as well as strategic planning for future customer events. About the Author David Goretski is the CEO of nTAG Interactive. Please visit www.ntag.com
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