Maximize Customer Relationships

It was a gray day in Boston, but there was a sunny outlook inside Hynes Convention Center as industry experts offered insight and advice on achieving CRM success. In their keynote addresses DCI cochairmen Barton Goldenberg and Tim Bajarin updated rapt audiences on trends in the real-time enterprise and mobile CRM, respectively. Goldenberg, president of consultancy ISM Inc., explained how the real-time enterprise enhances such CRM functionality as customer service, analytics, and field sales. He gave examples of how companies like Best Buy, Dell, FedEx, and Morgan Stanley are already benefiting from real-time CRM strategies by reducing costs, improving productivity, and creating "customer delight" to such an extent that they have "sustainable competitive leadership." Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, discussed how mobile CRM is now "mission critical" to CRM. Bajarin explained that as knowledge workers are becoming more mobile, there is an increased need for current information any time, anywhere. "Companies must carefully integrate mobile and field force applications and technology into their overall CRM programs," he said, "because these technologies are becoming a strategic weapon in all levels of CRM deployments." Rounding out the morning keynotes, Phillip Kotler, Ph.D., professor of international marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, discussed trends in marketing. Kotler opening by opining that there is a need for more marketing accountability and precision. "Marketers have been negligent by not being financial," he said. He suggested that companies appoint someone from accounting to be a "marketing comptroller," responsible for reviewing marketing budgets and expenses. With today's strategies and technology tools, he added, there is no reason to accept the abysmal direct-mail response rates and new-product failure rates of the past. Sales, he said, should no longer have to play the numbers game to win deals. "We need to move to targeting the right customer at the right time with the right message and the right offer," he said. By taking this approach, companies can maximize customer relationships, Kotler said. He advised attendees to use what he has dubbed precision marketing: "building a customer-centric organization and aligning hardware, software, and analytics to run the marketing process." "If your company is not customer-centric, you'll lose to the companies that are," he said. While Goldenberg, Bajarin, Kotler, and others offered advice on current CRM strategies, a number of vendors were creating a buzz on the show floor. Microsoft's booth was standing-room-only during its product demos; while Oracle, NetLedger, Salesnet and others made product announcements. Oracle has released an updated Oracle Marketing, which the company says shifts the focus away from creating marketing campaigns aimed at generating leads and focuses more on closing the deal. Oracle offspring NetLedger also released a new product at DCI, its Sales Compensation Manager, a tool that allows mid-size businesses to design, track, and pay sales commission plans. The solution will be packaged along with NetCRM and NetSuite, the company says. Salesnet has introduced wireless CRM instant messaging. The tool allows field salespeople and other users to query Salesnet for information like customer data, as well as to update contact or opportunity information during a sales call via a wireless handheld device. According to Salesnet, the instant message capability eliminates the need for users to navigate through a Web browser to obtain critical information, which speeds the process and simplifies the use of Salesnet Wireless CRM. "The product has to offer ease of use and be powerful, but not complex, otherwise salespeople won't use it, says Michael Doyle, Salesnet's chairman and CEO. Data-integration systems provider Journee has made advancements to its Enterprise Data Hub. Version 2.4 uses Web services, creating a "virtual database" for companies that Journee says is easier to integrate with disparate applications across the enterprise. Journee has also teamed with Computer Sciences Corporation to offer integrated software and services designed to optimize operational CRM systems and customer processes. --additional reporting by Martin Schneider
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