The CRM Elite: Sweetening the Deal

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For Fairfield, Calif.–based candymaker Jelly Belly, things are pretty sweet. When salespeople aren’t in the field marketing the company’s latest confections, they’re networking at “candy conferences” and promoting Jelly Belly Sport Beans at athletic events. In 2007, however, the company had a serious headache that threatened to put its technology team into sugar shock. Despite a great start with a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, the accompanying CRM solution never got off the ground, according to Joe Coulter, Jelly Belly’s project manager for CRM. 

“The onset of this new ERP application brought a new culture saying, ‘Let’s put everything under one big umbrella and tie everything together,’” Coulter says. But the reality left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, with Coulter spending as much as 70 percent of his time trying to get the CRM system to support the firm’s sales and service needs.

Jelly Belly yearned to empower mobile reps with easy-to-access data and easy-to-input fields, and to support proactive sales efforts within customer service by integrating the two units. After 18 months spent trying to make the CRM solution work, Coulter says, the company decided to make the most of being a predominantly Microsoft-based operation and see what that vendor had in terms of CRM.

In March 2009, Jelly Belly signed on with Microsoft Dynamics CRM (MDCRM) and was up and running about two months later—ahead of schedule and under budget. Coulter says his team was shocked by how easy MDCRM was to implement, and that users began adopting without a hitch. “The key is that it integrates with [Microsoft] Outlook so well, and that’s what our salespeople live in,” he says.

Soon after, Jelly Belly discovered that new sales efforts and added visibility into customer accounts was adding $60,000 in monthly revenue. Salespeople, who travel to conventions on a regular basis, had a better place to manage leads and input notes about contacts and accounts. Before MDCRM, Coulter says, Jelly Belly didn’t have a formal lead system. “We have visibility to stuff we’ve never had before,” he says. 

Jelly Belly also cooked up an outbound-calling program with MDCRM—a program that had lacked accountability when the confectioner had attempted it in the past, Coulter says. Now, customer service reps, in their spare time, reach out to repeat or one-time buyers who haven’t purchased in a while. Service reps, armed with customer data and working within the same solution as salespeople, try to generate new business and introduce new products to the customers. Coulter insists the program has had a direct impact, but emphasizes its soft benefits. “Keeping customers engaged, particularly in hard economic times…has been critical,” he says. Soon after implementation, one specialty retail division saw a 34 percent drop in customer churn.

Maintenance demands have been extremely low. “I get fewer than a dozen emails per week,” Coulter says, “and most of those issues are data issues, and not about how the application itself is performing.” Freed up by a solution that actually performs, Coulter says he’s now able to see what employees need and deploy technology to help them solve business challenges. One recent project is an integration between CRM and Jelly Belly’s enterprisewide Microsoft SharePoint portal. Introduced in May, the integration allows employees inside and outside of CRM to view and collaborate on customer documents and have access to images of retail stores as well as other information. And employees, he adds, continue to be thrilled: “They’re already doing this work. We’re just asking them to do [it] in a different way.” 

MDCRM also enables Jelly Belly to track the candy dispensers deployed in retail locations, enabling the company to see why a store might choose to return its dispenser, or if there have been problems with theft. Additionally, the CRM system monitors how long candy has been on display and can notify stores when they need replacements. Overall, Coulter says, the solution has strengthened relationships with retail customers, allowing Jelly Belly to demonstrate its keen product awareness and its desire to ensure that only the best candy is sold. That’s a flavor of relationship that tastes great to everyone. 


  • Reduced churn in one retail division by 34 percent from 2008 to 2009.
  • Increased monthly revenue by $60,000.
  • Crafted an outbound calling program to reach inactive customers, renew deals, and introduce new lines of business.
  • Introduced organizationwide lead tracking.
  • Began to track store-display units, working proactively with retailers to identify trends and reduce waste.
  • Freed up 75 percent of the CRM project manager’s time—previously spent on support issues—to spearhead new projects such as a Microsoft SharePoint integration with CRM.

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