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Brian Beirl, DDS

Kingery & Crouse PA

TZDesign Group

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Strategies for Post-Recovery Growth in 2010

By Eleanor Mullaney

With the right technology, companies can outperform rivals and experience a 'sling shot' effect going into the eventual economic recovery.

Many CEOs, CFOs, company presidents and business owners are concerned about a stalled economic recovery. As each day passes, business leaders are reading news headlines like Economic Recovery? What Recovery?; Slow Bank and Economic Recovery; New Signs Emerge That Recovery Will be Shaky and more. Such articles describe additional bank failures, stock market fluctuations, the rising U.S. jobless rate, more well-known national companies going out of business, sharp inflation and interest rate increases, a weakening US dollar and declining international sales growth. Unfortunately, the ongoing signs of economic distress and gloomy forecasts from economists tend to prevent consumers and business executives from regaining the confidence to spend money again.

A recent Wharton Knowledge Base article entitled Economic Recovery: Are Happy Days Here Again? described how even some economists who predicted financial gloom a couple of years ago are now seeing a few early signs of optimism. Signs of economic optimism have provided hope to business leaders who've endured tremendous anxiety concerning business recession survival for the past two years. In order to survive the recession, company leaders have devoted an inordinate amount of time to business management issues like: overhead reduction, sales forecast revisions, expense budget modifications, financial statuses, cost structure controls, inventory liquidations and cash-flow conservation. Now that the economy has shown some small signs of recovery, savvy leaders have turned their attention to post-recovery growth.

A recent press release entitled Gartner Highlights Five CRM Strategies That Cost Little to Nothing, but Will Generate Positive Results described how companies using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies during the recession will fair much better than those not utilizing a software system for customer management. According to Gartner Inc., "Companies that fail to invest in CRM strategies because of the tough economic climate will delay perceived benefits by at least 12 months once the economy recovers, giving rivals an advantage in the market." Regarding the companies who focus on investments that promote customer retention and enhance the customer experience, Scott Nelson, Gartner's managing vice president stated, "CRM is a journey, not just a one-time and done strategy. If the right strategies are employed now, then companies will get a 'sling shot' effect going into the eventual recovery, putting them well ahead of the rivals who chose to wait and who equate CRM success with spending more money on technology."

Within Wikipedia CRM is described as: "methods that companies use to interact with customers." Many businesses have implemented CRM software systems to facilitate customer interactions, but have failed to devise strategies and operational plans to manage virtually all forms of communications. Further, many CRM systems were not designed for integration with accounting, e-commerce and inventory management software. Due to the lack of CRM integration with front and back office operations such as: sales, marketing, advertising, accounting (accounts payable and accounts receivable), finance, inventory management (manufacturing, shipping, materials requirements planning) and e-commerce processes, leaders often lack the ability to make totally informed business decisions. Without access to accurate enterprise-wide data, leaders struggle to recognize customer segments, improve customer retention, create additional product offerings, and identify the organization's most profitable customers. Devoid of instant access to accurate enterprise-wide data, leaders cannot quickly analyze the effectiveness of targeted-marketing CRM campaigns or devise comprehensive business strategies.

There are many popular CRM software programs on the market today, such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and SalesForce.com. According to Gartner's July 7th 2008 Press Release entitled Worldwide Customer Relationship Management Market Grew 23 Percent in 2007, “SAP was the No. 1 vendor in worldwide CRM software revenue in 2007."  SAP differentiates their product by offering CRM to small and mid-sized enterprises as part of a completely integrated accounting and inventory business management software system. Companies utilizing CRM in that fashion have one unified system of data from which to create highly effective targeted sales and marketing strategies. The success of their sales and marketing campaigns can be directly attributable to the use of integrated business management software that allows for pertinent information to be processed through the accounting, customer relationship management, e-commerce and inventory management software, without any duplication of data entry.

In addition to streamlining and automating time-consuming business processes, an integrated system of data permits instant tracking of all valuable information concerning customers across the entire organization. Accordingly, a unified and streamlined business software system saves time and permits easy maintenance of accurate, up-to-the-minute product, customer and vendor/supplier data. Thus, an integrated system creates time in which enterprise leaders can focus on post-recovery growth and more effectively use CRM to track online communities of customers via emerging social media, analyze customer behavioral changes, review their segmentation strategies, study customer processes and redesign organizational processes so as to become more customer-centric.


About the Author
As Cornerstone Consulting’s Vice President, Eleanor Mullaney assists SMBs leverage integrated business management systems and achieve efficient business processes. She is a Certified Sage Software, SageCRM and SAP Business One Sales Consultant. For more information about Cornerstone Consulting, please see: http://www.Cornerstone1.com