10 Missed Opportunities Managing Your Customers in Spreadsheets

At this year's Sweet and Snacks Expo in May, I met several sales representatives of small to medium-sized consumer packaged goods (CPG) businesses who told me they manage their customer database and sales process within spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheets. While I understand the idea of bootstrapping your business, I would like to demonstrate what migrating your customer database to a CRM and Sales and Marketing Automation platform can do for your business that spreadsheets cannot do or don't excel in (pun not intended). But before I do, consider this:

The key basic features of a spreadsheet are: To organize rows and columns of text and numeric data for arithmetic, statistical, and financial formulations, analysis, and insights. Essentially, spreadsheets allow you to simply and dynamically add, subtract, multiply, and divide.

Alternatively, the key objective of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is: To implement strategies and technologies that enable a company to store, manage, and analyze their customers' details (compiled throughout their customer journey) to qualify and convert a lead, improve their business, and increase customer lifetime value. This information can include common data elements such as:

Global CRM Software Sales Statistics

  • Geographics

  • Demographics

  • Psychographics

  • Media Channels (conventional and digital)

  • Communication Channels

  • Shopping Channels

  • Shopping Behavior and Purchase History

Does CRM sound more like the type of program you want to employ at your organization and learn more about? If yes, you can contact me directly to learn more, and also continue reading this series of 10 Missed Opportunities of Using Spreadsheets to Manage and Grow your Customer Database. They include:

  1. Streamlined Customer Database Management | Easily Accessible Data

  2. Personalization | Customer Segmentation for Targeted Sales and Marketing

  3. Lead Generation | Lead Nurturing | Sales and Marketing Automation

  4. Intuitive Reporting User Experience | Consolidated Data Integration

  5. Efficient Deal & Pipeline Management | Dynamic Forecasting

  6. Accountability | Collaboration | Communication

  7. Real-Time Mobile Accessibility | Location Tracking (GPS)

  8. Security and Database Administration | Deduplication

  9. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) | Inventory | Human Resources

  10. Happy Customers and Increased Sales!

1. Streamlined Customer Database Management | Easily Accessible Data It's 4:30 p.m. on Friday, and you are looking at your to-do’s for the week ahead. You have written down a few notes in your notebook or maybe you have sales calls and follow-ups scheduled in your calendar. On Monday morning you open your spreadsheet and search for the first call or email you have to make, and it goes something like this?

Neverending spreadsheet search

Then, on Monday at 10:30 a.m., your boss asks you to reach out to a new list of leads he or she has purchased. At 2:00 p.m. your manager calls you and asks you for a status on a particular lead and an updated forecast on a few of your leads and an overall forecast for the month. Of course, often a top notch salesperson will know the answer to that automatically. However, for those that want to demonstrate that preparedness, but need to look the information up, does it look something like this?

There is a more efficient and equitable way to manage your contacts and relationships, I promise!

CRM systems provide you with all sorts of tools to be super efficient, allowing you to easily access your customer records, type in new and updated contact details and conversation notes, log activities such as visits, record products and services they are interested in, deals each customer is involved in and where they stand within the sales cycle. This will enable you to be at the ready with relevant feedback for your boss or even impress your customers ahead of time with valuable information based on your previous conversations or even based on knowledge that your customer clicked on and read a blog post or article you provided to them.

The next time you get a phone call from your customer or boss asking you a question, wouldn't you prefer if it went a bit more like this?

Wondering how you would get that data from your spreadsheet to a shiny new CRM platform? Don't sweat it! Often times a CRM platform will have an easy intuitive data import option for your existing data. For example, you may be asked to format your data into an importable CSV file and then upload that data into your CRM system directly with the simple click of a button.

For contact fields, CRM systems offer out of the box field suggestions, but have custom fields available for you to capture data specific to your business. For example, one particular service that a few sales representatives I met at the Expo mentioned that recently began using is Repsly, a simple yet powerful Enterprise class mobile field sales management tool and simple CRM solution that enables management visibility, team communication, and reporting and optimization all in one platform.

A good CRM system will allow you to capture and easily access ongoing data from other platforms and channels through an Application Program Interface (API) option, a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications and interactions. Some CRM companies have partnerships with vendors in categories such as Marketing Automation, Drip Email Marketing, Accounting, and Inventory, that can easily be integrated into your CRM software and enable you to capture additional fields and data. Alternatively, if your chosen CRM doesn't have a pre-developed API connection with your other software vendors, they will often offer integration with your preferred partners as an additional service. You may want to consider this when choosing your CRM partner or choosing any ancillary vendors.

CRM and Marketing Automation platforms essentially offer you efficiency and accessibility, leaving room for equitable business activities such as leveraging all that organized customer data to intelligently market your value to your customers, rather than missing out on opportunities to grow your business, the focus of my series.

2. Personalization | Customer Segmentation for Targeted Sales and Marketing

Are you compiling all your customers from the spreadsheet and sending all your customers the same emails? Are you sending out the same paid social media posts? Do you think every single prospect and customer of yours has the exact same needs at the exact same time and prefers to be communicated with in the same manner or channel? If so, you may want to reconsider your sales and marketing strategy. Consider these stats:

  • Relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails. (Jupiter Research)

  • Personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14%, and conversion rates by 10%. (Aberdeen Group)

Source: Hubspot

Your database, whether it's a collection of contacts at businesses or a list of consumers that research, shop for, and/or buy your products, consists of all kinds of people with different customer details. They may have different pains they want to be alleviated and desire different gains. Also, your customers are not necessarily equally valuable to your business, so you might want to customize your marketing and sales efforts accordingly.

Trying to segment your spreadsheets according to specific criteria would require a lot of conditional formatting, copying and pasting, and manual data manipulation. It may also require learning how to create formulas, all of which takes up your valuable relationship building and selling time.

With a CRM system with great Sales Automation capabilities such as Salesforce.com, you can effectively segment your customer database through a simple and intuitive list building feature where each person in the list has similar characteristics based on your desired criteria. Some CRMs include Email Marketing Automation within their platforms, while others require you to procure an additional vendor to implement your campaigns. With the right software setup, you can leverage these personalized lists to send targeted messages to your prospects and customers according to a bunch of different criteria. For example, when I was putting together email campaigns for Lifes2Good’s Viviscal brand that included Viviscal press in publications that reach females, I made sure I only sent it to females, rather than the entire database of Viviscal customers.

Are you getting excited about all the time you can free up by using CRM and Marketing Automation programs to manage and grow your business? Would you like to learn how you can utilize that freed up time to acquire more leads more strategically and shorten your sales cycle? Contact me, or see below for the next topic in my series, Lead Nurturing with Sales and Marketing Automation.

3. Lead Generation | Lead Nurturing | Sales and Marketing Automation

Gone are the days of linear one-and-done customer acquisition. Sure, there are salespeople that can reach the right prospect at the right time, but, it takes the average salesperson roughly six to eight touches with the prospect to convert the lead into a customer. Setting up a strategy that triggers personalized communication based on certain conventional or digital activities that occur throughout your prospects' customer journey is a great way to nurture your business or consumer lead. For example, maybe your customer journey began at the Sweets and Snacks Expo and you had a quick conversation with some leads. You wrote your brief notes on the back of their small business cards, capturing only minimal information, such as contact information and a few tiny notes about your conversation. Imagine then, that your potential customer pulls up your website, researches similar products on Amazon. Actually, no need to imagine, it's really happening.

  • 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchases. (Retailing Today, 2014)

  • 44% of people go directly to Amazon to start their product searches, compared to 34% who use search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to search for products. (Marketing Land, 2015)

Source: Hubspot

How are you keeping track of all your leads’ activities throughout their customer journey? What if you could stop your lead from purchasing a competing product or service by making a phone call or sending a personalized remarketing email or sponsored ad based on what they clicked on? Imagine you sent an email to your lead with a link to a landing page, and a presentation with 10 slides. What if you could send a personalized follow-up email or pick up the phone and talk to them about the exact slide they opened in the presentation you sent them. Do you keep track of where each of your contacts is in their customer journey with you or your company, both with conventional communication and digital activities, all on spreadsheet software?

With the proper technology tools in front of you and a defined sales and customer focused lead nurturing strategy implemented, you would increase your chances of customer acquisition. A great CRM tool for social sales and marketing CRM is Nimble. Check out these statistics:

  • Lead nurturing emails get 4-10 times the response rate compared to standalone email blasts. (SilverPop/DemandGen Report)

  • Lead nurturing emails generate an 8% click-through rate (CTR) compared to general email sends, which generate just a 3% CTR. (HubSpot)

Source: Hubspot

Customers prefer one-to-one personalized communication at the right time, within the right channel, and with relevant messages throughout their customer journey. Frankly, if you don't accomplish this, it doesn't matter how many times you reach your customer--you will likely not capture them and lose them to a competitor who understands their pains, desired gains, and shopping behaviors.

  • Aligning content to specific stages in the buyer’s journey yields an average of 73% higher conversion rates vs content that isn’t aligned. (Aberdeen)

  • 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (MarketingSherpa)

Source: Hubspot

4. Intuitive Reporting User Experience | Consolidated Data Integration

Once you have all your contact fields and segmentation elements implemented, you can create reports based on this data and learn about your customers. I mean, now that I've convinced you to implement a customer nurturing program, you'll want to measure the performance and ROI of those lead generation and nurturing activities and make adjustments and optimizations accordingly. It is through this data that you can build beautiful reports and dashboards exhibiting your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), the metrics you use to analyze both the characteristics of your customers and the performance of your marketing activities, revenues, and profits, allowing marketers and salespeople to capture, organize, present, and address business issues accordingly.

While reporting is a common use for spreadsheets, the user experience (UX), intuitive user interaction (UI), and overall visual reporting features, combined with the option for data integration of multiple data elements from disparate resources, makes migrating to CRM and Marketing Automation tools highly beneficial. It provides you peace of mind and efficiency, and allows you to spend more time on equitable activities such as leveraging and applying the data into your marketing strategies and less time fussing around with creating reports and figuring out how to combine disparate data resources into a clean, inclusive, highly useful report dashboard and business tool.

5. Efficient Deal & Pipeline Management | Dynamic Forecasting

Business moves fast. Your pipeline and forecast can change daily, and even hourly. You can be in the midst of a phone call with a customer and have a simple purchase update to make to your deal. Rather than manually searching through the spreadsheet for the desired record to find the right tab, column, or row to enter the updated information, with a CRM system, you could have that record and data available to you in one second and update it accordingly, updating not only your single record, but dynamically updating your forecast.

Spreadsheets require all sorts of formulations and fancy data and software manipulation in order to set up a dynamic data update, and even then they require some manual efforts. Rather than master the skill of pivot tables and macros and worry about your spreadsheet becoming truncated and getting too long and cumbersome, wouldn't you rather have the confidence that your data can update automatically and offer you the simple ability to access it with a single click, drop down menu, or quick data entry? If you are like me, you often benefit from visualizing your business performance in intuitive layouts and automatic updates.

Wouldn't you rather streamline your forecasting and visualize your pipeline in an intuitive and useful dashboard so it's easy to quickly report your regular and ad hoc forecast reports to your management team? You can always export any of these reports into a spreadsheet document, but CRM platforms will make gathering that information and making sense of that information really simple and efficient. Then you can quickly communicate that to your management team or anyone else that needs transparency on your performance, the topic of the next missed opportunity in our series.

6. Accountability | Collaboration | Communication

Do you agree that most successful businesses are run by people that have honest and respectful relationships with their coworkers, clients, and partners that foster transparent communication? Do you feel that managing your business on spreadsheet software empowers you to collaborate, demonstrate transparent accountability, and foster open communication? My guess is the answer is, no. And if your answer is yes, my question to you is, do you desire a smoother more collaborative working environment?

Some of best CRM tools not only provide you with personal productivity, management, and marketing tools, but also include interactivity elements with your coworkers and clients. For those platforms that don't include your preferred form of communication or productivity, as I've mentioned before, you can procure additional applications to accommodate your workflow, through API integration. Two of my favorites which I would highly suggest integrating with if you're looking for ancillary resources are Trello and Slack.

Often times with spreadsheets, collaboration is not easy, and typically not in real time, given the their common nature of one-at-a-time accessibility. A CRM or automation tool enables whole teams and organizations to access, update, analyze, and communicate their business information in real time, not only at your desk, but in the field--the next topic on the missed opportunity list.

7. Real-Time Mobile Accessibility | Location Tracking (GPS)

Gone are the days where business is solely run behind a desk. People don't have to write on a notebook in the field anymore and run back and copy their notes on spreadsheets or calendars or call their assistants. Salespeople and Marketers can easily capture information about their customers in real-time, enabling them to spend more time learning about their customers' pains and desired gains. They can spend more time on equitable lead generation tactics such as asking more questions, sending more relevant content, and educating their prospects and customers on their products and services.

On the road, you need to efficiently access customer information such as location, other customers nearby your current call, and other customer and deal information in real time, a missed opportunity with spreadsheet software, because it would require you to spend way too much time scrolling through data. Further, a lot of CRM tools are designed with mobile in mind first. A CRM platform that does a great job at offering mobile field management is Repsly.

What if you are out in the field and you want to quickly and securely add a new customer user to your CRM? Database administration and security is the next missed opportunity in the series.

8. Security and Database Administration | Deduplication

While you do get basic security and password protection with spreadsheets, there are limitations. CRM, Marketing Automation, and other marketing software such as Email Service Providers (ESP) are often sold per license, which essentially means single person access. It is common to buy a license for each active user. Alternatively, marketing technology software can be sold in other packages that are independent of the number of licenses.

Another benefit that CRM, Marketing Automation, and ESPs provide you that spreadsheets don't excel in, is deduplication. While there are conditional formatting formulas and macros that a high-level Excel or Google spreadsheet user can perform in order to eliminate data, it is a time consuming cumbersome process. Sales and marketing technology provides easy point and click deduplication processes. Further, it is common that a person will be in charge of CRM Administration, which includes managing accessibility permissions, passwords, data or field additions, data or field eliminations or de-duplications, and any data or technology challenges that pop up throughout your customer lifetime with your shiny new CRM or Marketing Automation software.

9. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) | Inventory | Human Resources

Additional features you can streamline either by procuring separate technology integrations through API, or by purchasing an all-inclusive ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software platform that manages all your business processes in one platform, include:

  • Manufacturing

  • Inventory & Order Management

  • Purchasing & Procurement

  • Financials & Accounting

  • Human Resources

  • Project and Workflow Management

A few inclusive ERP platforms, commonly used by manufacturers and global enterprises include, Netsuite and Oracle. They both offer CRM functions within their platform.

Sure, you can run calculations in spreadsheets, but being able to manage all these elements in one platform streamlines that process, decreases your administration time, and increases your productivity and capabilities.

10. Happy Customers and Increased Sales!

CRM Systems at their core reduce your stress and time spent on administering your business and increase your productivity, efficiency, and equitability with its intuitive, easy to use interface and automation capabilities, providing your team with more time to spend nurturing your relationships, servicing and delighting your customers, and ultimately growing your business.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or to obtain my help with optimizing your business operations and customer acquisition strategies. I'm here to help you.

#CRM #MarketingAutomation #EmailMarketing #Sales #CustomerJourney #CustomerLifetimeValue #CLV #LTV #ERP #Spreadsheet #BusinessAdministration

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