The 2012 CRM Elite

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Though the economy has rebounded since 2008, smart businesses continue to seek inventive ways to improve their customer relationships and fill their corporate piggy banks. Our four winners have done that and more. The first increased its conversions from incoming leads by more than two thirds; its improved efficiency has led to 90 percent less customer complaints. With sales and marketing automation software, the second increased its net profit by more than 300 percent in less than a year. The third saved $200,000 following a CRM implementation, and the fourth saw marketing revenue jump 187 percent with a new email campaign. Our winners' accomplishments are impressive, as are their goals for the future. Their stories prove that smart implementation investments are still worth money in the bank.

Downtown Decorations:

Shining a Light on Efficiency

Since installing Microsoft Dynamics CRM, this festive firm's conversion of new leads has increased by 67 percent.


Downtown Decorations is a Syracuse, N.Y.–based firm that designs, installs, and maintains holiday and seasonal decorations for municipalities, college campuses, shopping centers, office complexes, and event venues in all 50 states and a few international locations. In addition to offering a full range of traditional products, the company has an in-house design team that can customize products as needed.

The company had been using multiple CRM systems, including Sage ACT, FrontRange Solutions' GoldMine, and Intuit's QuickBase. "They were all out-of-the-box solutions without any customization," recalls Thomas Martin, director of corporate development at Downtown Decorations. "They weren't driving efficiency or helping our bottom line."

Downtown Decorations has five or six competitors. "We all have price points that are very similar because we use the same factories, suppliers, and distributors," Martin says. "Our differentiator is customer service, and we needed a CRM system that allowed us to do more."


In May 2011, Downtown Decorations began working with Microsoft and Zero2Ten, a Microsoft partner and integrator, to migrate to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. It began the implementation in two phases: The first part of the project involved sales and marketing; the second involved a customer service component.

Since the company installed Microsoft Dynamics CRM in July 2011, account executives have been able to focus more of their efforts on demand creation and lead generation and spend less time generating lists of the best-qualified prospects.

Between internal decisioning, onboarding, customizations, equipment upgrades, and staff training, it took Downtown Decorations about two months to get its Microsoft Dynamics solution up and running. "The only challenges were in user adoption," Martin says. "We had a few older account executives who did not want to change."

To get them on board, Martin highlighted the increased sales process efficiencies that could be achieved, which in turn would lead to higher sales and higher commissions. "Once they understood that, they were eager to jump right in and start using it," he explains.

The sales team now more efficiently manages prospects and clients by staying within Outlook to manage their interactions and CRM activities. For Martin, that capability was a primary factor in choosing Microsoft Dynamics. "A key value proposition was Microsoft's ability to integrate seamlessly into Outlook," he says.

Microsoft Dynamics lets users track their email, appointment scheduling, and calendars in Outlook without having to leave the application. That has helped Downtown Decorations generate mailing lists and targeted email marketing campaigns. The amount of time required to create those lists and campaigns has been cut by 57 percent.

As a result of the implementation, the company's management team now has better visibility into the sales pipeline and is able to provide better coaching and support to the sales team to improve close rates. Since the solution was installed, total sales conversions have increased by an impressive 67 percent, and outbound prospecting has increased dramatically as well: Prospecting phone calls are up 40 percent and prospecting emails are up 94 percent.

Downtown Decorations plans to build out the customer service capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics, but even at a low level of adoption, it has already reaped impressive rewards. Its Net Promoter Score has gone up 64 percent; NPS promoters have increased by 48 percent while detractors decreased by 50 percent. "Our customer service [key performance indicators] continue to rise," Martin says.

Martin also wants to expand the solution's project management capabilities and roll it out to more users. Currently, 11 sales, marketing, and customer service reps are on the system, and Martin expects to double that number in the next few months.

"It's a great out-of-the-box solution, and we've really built out and customized it," he says. "Any CRM system is only as good as the data it contains and the stakeholders' willingness to use it. We've got both."

Real Results

  • Conversion of new incoming leads from all channels increased 67 percent.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) "promoters" increased by 48 percent.
  • NPS "detractors" decreased by 50 percent.
  • Overall NPS went up 64 percent.
  • Complaints for failing to follow up fell by 90 percent.
  • Outbound prospecting calls increased by 40 percent.
  • Outbound prospecting emails increased by 94 percent.

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