Category Archives for "Marketing Execution"

Execution Time – At Least 30% is Already Taken

Execution Time
Execution Time

Whether you manage a team in a project-driven environment, or you’re a lone wolf with a big plan, time management is a continual challenge for us all.

As important as it is, many people are oblivious to the hidden time constraints that are part of their average work weeks. It’s easy to do if you don’t give it some thought. If you break out and calculate the time spent on other activities, you may be amazed by how much execution time is simply not there.

Capability, engagement and time capacity are major factors that impact productivity. Let’s say you are about to enter a new quarter and you’ve just finished a marketing plan. How will you succeed in achieving your goals? Obviously, you must have the requisite skills and abilities across your team. You also need enough budget and resources allocated for the plan to work. Let’s assume that you and your people are in a situation where you feel adequately motivated. If not, this is another issue to contend with. That leaves time – perhaps the most important variable of them all. If you haven’t thought enough about how much of time is actually available, chances are, you will not meet your commitments. You also run the risk of sub-par quality as you madly scramble near the end of the quarter. (have you ever been there?)

So how much actual time do you have to work with when executing your plan? The chart below highlights some areas you probably don’t think much about during your initial planning. If you have a role where a prescribed number of deliverables must be completed in a fixed timeframe, those activities represent the pure execution part of your plan. However, as seen below, there are many “foundational” activities that still need doing as part of your day-to-day job.

Execution Time

These added demands on your time are for the most part important. The point is really about making sure you know they exist and have built your plan accordingly. For example, if you have a team reporting into you, you need to spend time with your people, and administrative tasks such as performance appraisals still have to get done. Let’s say the weekly plan updates, status meetings (with your team and boss), revisions and follow-ups take an average of 4 hours a week, that works out to over a full weeks’ worth of time during a quarter. A calculation I’ve done based on experience and typical corporate environments puts the “non-execution time” at a conservative 30%. That’s a big number to ignore!

Execution Time Tips

There are a number of reasons why expectations are misaligned when it comes to planning time. Below are some things to consider when trying to right-size your capacity:

1. Think About It: The math is very simple – how much time you need relative to how much you have. Put some focus on determining how much time is required for the activities you are scheduling. Be as detailed as you can and learn from past experience. Estimate more precisely the actual time you will have available using some of the ideas shown above. Going through an exercise like this will undoubtedly surprise you when it’s all added up.

2. Don’t Underestimate: Even if people do a good job at estimating how much time is available, there can still be a disconnect because they underestimate how long the work will take. This can be a strong inclination for people who are naturally positive and optimistic. While those traits are great ones to have, the rose-colored glasses can cause anxiety when tasks take much longer to complete than planned.

3. Build In Contingencies: It’s impossible to account for everything that can side-swipe you along the way, but try and anticipate obstacles and think through “what if” scenarios. Also, be aware of key dependencies in your plan and make sure they get the attention and priority they deserve.

4. Don’t Get Distracted: As tempting as it can be, don’t go off course chasing “shiny objects.” If your plan is the right one, stick with it. Put ideas in a parking lot for later and push things and people off whenever you can if it takes time away from your execution.

So the next time you start a new planning cycle, think about the hours and days of productive time that are really at your disposal. We’re not even considering the degree of true productivity, because nobody works 100% of every hour they have available. But if you use at least some type of calculation to get a close estimate, it will help you better manage your capacity, which will lead to better execution.

CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation

CRM Best Practices
CRM Best Practices

For most companies today, their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is the primary tool for managing sales and marketing information.

A forecast from Gartner estimates the CRM market was worth $27.5 billion worldwide in 2015 and anticipates it rising to $37 billion by 2017. This year, Gartner expects Enterprise CRM will outpace ERP sales for the first time in history. As compelling as the story is for CRM, it’s not an easy road for some – especially if adoption is a struggle. Getting sales and others on board is often cultural or process challenge rather than issues with the CRM itself. Fortunately, research shows that adoption numbers are turning a corner as companies get better at deploying and managing their CRMs.

I have always been a huge CRM fan because I’ve experienced first-hand the many advantages. Of course, I’ve seen the “belly flops” in my travels as well. Through it all, I’ve learned much about how to make CRM add real value to a business, In this article, I’ll share six highly foundational and strategic tips that can help your CRM project get off to a great start. These are essential if you want to succeed and create a solid ROI – or any for that matter.

Shown below is an overview of the key benefits and capabilities sales and marketing should expect from their CRM if it’s done right. I’ve included a separate marketing automation system, which is an optional but integral part of an “ideal” scenario. Most CRMs these days include some level of automation built in, but they’re not as robust as standalone applications.

Ideal CRM Scenario for Sales & Marketing

Building a Solid CRM Foundation

#1 Gain Executive Buy-In
A high-functioning CRM can produce impressive results, but It’s usually a big investment among many competing priorities. The fate of CRM success depends heavily on the level of executive support. This means your CEO can’t stand in front of the team a few months from now talking about your new CRM, and then ask “how do I sign into this darned thing?” The sales, marketing, IT and other leaders involved must share the same level of commitment, or your CRM project will likely not survive. Success will rely on your people and processes more than the technology. For the owner of the project, this means a great deal of executive communication and collaboration – before, during and after the decision has been made to proceed.

#2 Create a Plan
CRM is typically a large-scale corporate undertaking involving many complexities and stakeholders. Before you deploy it, be clear about what you want to achieve. Decide who will use it and how. Understand what the data mapping will be relative to other connected systems. Clearly define how you will deploy, test, train, support and improve your CRM over time. It sounds intuitive, but you would be surprised how many companies fail to do this adequately and then pay the price later. Be sure to think about how success should be measured. It’s also important to know the needs and concerns of your different user groups and then plan how you will address them to gain support.

#3 Build It for Users
CRM is designed to improve effectiveness and productivity, but that can only happen when your users see the benefits and embrace them. Don’t design or position the system as a management tool for “big brother” to keep watch. Don’t make it overly complicated either. If you do one or both of these, the CRM simply won’t fly, so stop now and save your money! Some ways to help this will be presented at another time. However, the key themes are: keep it relevant, keep it simple, and ensure it’s set up to help people do their jobs easier and better.

#4 Provide Training & Support
This is two-fold. First, the people responsible for CRM will need to be well trained – including the system itself, plus the customizations and processes you will use. Most vendors offer a “train the trainer” program. The core team could be internal, consultants, or a combination of both. Next, come the end-users. Make sure everyone understands the importance of CRM to the strategy and growth of the organization. Ensure each user is clear on the CRM’s use as it relates to their respective roles. Document your training for new people coming in and as a reference for existing users. It’s better still if you can create instructional click-by-click videos. Once training is complete, there will be questions, so be sure to offer responsive support to help get users up to speed as quickly as possible. This is crucial during the first few months.

#5 Mandate Adoption
This area is by far the one that “makes or breaks” CRM success. For sales, in particular, I would argue that CRM usage should be part of the job description and have some weight in performance appraisals. There simply can’t be exceptions. I once had a sales VP tell me “our reps only have to bother with CRM until they make their quotas – after that, they can do what they want.” How well do you think that CRM program worked? Adoption starts from the top and must be continually reinforced.

One of the best ways to get sales people using CRM is to stop the “spreadsheet madness” that comes with pipeline and forecast review meetings. Don’t accept any data not sitting in the CRM – period! I like the adage “if an opportunity isn’t in CRM, it doesn’t exist.” It’s best to review the data directly from your CRM on a projected screen in sales meetings and use custom views showing the key fields you need to see. People will be a little embarrassed in this situation if they haven’t come prepared, and the behavior should quickly change. If not, the Sales Manager may need to take a more aggressive stance. Again, 100% adoption must be enforced if your CRM is to deliver on it’s full potential. Successful sales people usually see the value in short order and take full advantage of it. But, if others don’t get with the program, understand why and fix it. It does take some time to learn a new system, so it’s best to have a pre-defined cut-off point if you’re moving into a new CRM. A few weeks to a month after training should be more than enough time in most cases.

#6 Communicate Results
Track, measure and communicate results and benefits shown from using CRM over time. Show how it’s impacting sales productivity, marketing campaigns, customer satisfaction, and service (if CRM is used for that purpose.) The more value you can show to senior management, the more support you will have. When you create a positive buzz from end-users, they get others excited about adoption as well. Ideally, in your planning phase, you have established some goals and metrics that you can track against in a meaningful way.

Hopefully, you have picked up a point or two here that helps. I’m coming at this from the B2B sales and marketing perspective and didn’t touch on the many powerful CRM capabilities around service, support, social media tracking, and help desk integration. For B2C and retail, CRM tends to be more focused on direct customer interaction and end-client experience. That said, these tips are applicable to any CRM implementation. They build the critical foundation needed for CRM to have the significant impact it can and should. In the next installment of the series, I’ll focus on ways to make CRM easier to use, better maintained, and explore added functionality to draw out further value.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and would love to hear your thoughts about CRM implementations or any experiences you can share. Please follow us on your favorite social feed and contact us if we can help in any way.

CRM Best Practices: Make CRM Easier to Use & Increase Adoption

Making CRM Easier
Making CRM Easier

In a previous post called CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation, we walked through 6 crucial steps needed to get CRM off to a great start.

In the post, we outlined the key foundational components of CRM effectiveness. In this article, we’ll look at 8 practical and proven ways to make CRM easier to use.

Today’s CRMs are incredibly powerful and robust but this can be a double-edged sword. As with most software programs, vendors continually increase functionality, flexibility, customization and integration options. These are all good things, but they also add complexity and can make the system more difficult to learn and use.

The following ideas will help make CRM easier to use for both end-users and the people managing the system. Full adoption of CRM is critical and most times it’s an “all or nothing” proposition. Your CRM must be fully utilized if you want to standardize and simplify processes, have accurate reporting and ultimately increase sales.

Here’s a quick re-cap of the “foundational” tips that were presented in CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation:
1. Gain Executive Buy-In
2. Create a Plan
3. Build it for Users
4. Provide Training & Support
5. Mandate Adoption
6. Communicate Results

Ideal CRM Scenario for Sales & Marketing

8 Tips for Making CRM Easier to Use

#1 Minimize Fields
When deploying CRM, people have a tendency to include fields that are rarely if ever used. People think “we might need this” but don’t stop to ask themselves “why.” In the planning phase, a good approach is to critically challenge every field you want to include. Why is it important? What purpose does it serve? Does it feed a measurement that needs reporting? If you don’t have a valid reason for a field, exclude it.

#2 Customize Page Layouts
Most CRMs allow you to define roles, permissions and page layouts based on different user groups. Use this feature when you set up your CRM. Only show fields that are relevant to each user type. For example, Marketing often creates custom fields to track awareness and engagement levels before opportunities convert. If people in the Service department use the CRM, they don’t need this data and likely don’t care about it. So don’t include it in their respective views of the system. This keeps their screens from being too distracting.

Another aspect of simplifying page layout involves “related lists.” Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities typically reside in distinct sections of the CRM and are often referred to as objects. These objects can contain data from other objects that sit under the main body of information. Often, the default includes a number of related lists that seldom get used. It’s best to take those off your page layouts if they’re not useful.

#3 Reduce Required Fields
The primary way to “force” a user to input specific data is with the dreaded “required field.” Some fields are absolutely a must, but think about your process and make sure you don’t have required fields that are not essential. Nothing annoys a user more than making them enter data they don’t think is relevant. If a field is important and should be required, a good start is explaining why it matters. Keeping required fields to a bare minimum helps productivity and reduces frustration.

#4 Simplify Lead Creation
When it comes to leads in CRM, most are early stage or not prospects at all. This is why CRMs typically use a separate lead database so you don’t clutter up your accounts with useless data. The idea is to create (or import) leads in a way that takes very little time. Keep your lead record simple! The company name, contact name, lead source, interest, industry, city, email, and phone number will generally do. If you import lists with full addresses and other information, that’s fine – but, don’t ask people to type it in. Once leads convert and there is substance to an opportunity, data will increasingly be added during the sales cycle.

#5 Use Automated Formatting
Most CRMs allow some degree of automation. It varies between products so to start you should invest time learning about your CRM’s capabilities specifically around: 1) Easing data entry by automatically formatting certain types of information and leveraging dependent picklists: and 2) Any other features that save keystrokes or unnecessary navigation.

#6 Simplify Field Names
Don’t confuse users with field names that differ from other internal systems. If your entire company refers to those who have bought your products as “clients,” don’t name the CRM field “customers”. Creating a corporate “standard naming convention” document is a great idea if you don’t have one already. The more familiar you make your field names in CRM, the better. If you use custom fields, make them intuitive, short and simple. Titles that are too long will make your reporting unwieldy.

#7 Use Help Buttons
A great feature of most CRMs is that you can customize help buttons (usually a question mark symbol) to provide real-time instruction if people are not sure about a specific field. If you have this feature, use it. Obviously, you don’t need to explain what a zip code is, but if it’s a custom field, this is a perfect way to help users understand what the field is for and how to use it properly. For required fields, this is a good place to describe why a field is needed. This also makes training for your CRM easier and helps people get up to speed faster.

#8 Make it Mobile
Like websites and other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications – it needs to be mobile. Many users work in the field – especially salespeople. If they can’t access their CRM data in a way that’s productive, that is a severe limitation. The good news is that virtually all SaaS-based CRMs offer a mobile app version of their software. If they don’t, or you’re considering a licensed CRM without strong mobile capabilities – stop now and save your money!

Conclusion

If you have built a good foundation, making your CRM easier to use is guaranteed to improve adoption and effectiveness. Ease-of-use is heavily impacted by simplicity, a clean interface, and relevance. Think about CRM from the user’s perspective and always challenge yourself in your set-up decisions. It’s been proven time and again that whether it’s a machine, a website, or a software application – positive user experience is often the difference between success and failure.

Please share any ideas, thoughts, or experiences you may have on this topic. Contact us if we can help with your CRM project, or point you in the right direction.

Optimizing CRM – Part 3 of the “23 Tips Series”

Optimizing CRM

This is the third part of a series designed to help set up and manage a CRM to produce better results. Far too many organizations don’t reach the full potential when it comes to their CRMs.

In this instalment, we’ll focus on optimizing CRM. The next 5 tips will help your system run smoother and encourage you to take advantage of some powerful features. if you want to review the first two parts of the series before continuing, they are Part 1: Strategic Factors; and Part 2: Making CRM Easier to Use. By using these proven tips, you will get a faster ROI on your investment, and significantly increase sales and marketing productivity. Here’s a quick re-cap of the ideas presented in Parts 1 and 2 of the series:

1. Gain Executive Buy-In
2. Create a Plan
3. Build it for Users
4. Training & Support
5. Mandate Adoption

6. Communicate Results
7. Minimize Fields
8. Customize Layouts
9. Minimize Required Fields
10. Simplify Leads

11. Automate Formats
12. Simplify Field Names
13. Use Help Buttons
14. Make it Mobile

Optimizing CRM for Best Results

#15 Segment with Precision: This is one of the most important “must-do” first steps in optimizing CRM. Whether you’re running marketing campaigns, communicating with clients, or using sales reporting, you must divide and tag your clients, prospects, and partners into well-defined segments. A major benefit of CRM is its ability to slice and dice a large database to communicate with, or track, a specific target audience. This should be done as soon as CRM has been set up and before you start importing account lists. As an example, usually there is an “Account Type” record in the CRM. Use this field to divide your accounts into groups such as Customers, Prospects, Partners, Vendors, and Competitors. You will likely want to further divide certain groups into sub-segments for easier isolation. Customers should have a field defining whether or not the client is Active, Inactive, Former, etc. The bottom line is that the more you segment and sub-segment your account records, the easier it is to manipulate the data you want. This provides better list management, targeting, and visibility. It obviously takes some time and effort up-front. But, if you do this properly, your CRM will serve you well.

#16 Leverage Reports: Customizing the reports you’ll use should be an immediate priority. Ideally, CRM reports should be the only “voice of truth” when it comes to managing your sales and marketing activities – so lose the spreadsheets once and for all! I would suggest you train a couple people to become “report experts” – they’ll be able to fine-tune the key reports you’ll need to make CRM a success. There are usually many pre-made reports included in your CRM. However, you will need to tailor them, or create new ones to suit your specific needs. It’s important to think carefully about reports. Make sure they are user-friendly and only contain the information needed for the intended purpose. Pipelines reports, forecasts, marketing analytics and other outputs are fundamental tools for driving your business forward through CRM.

#17 Keep Data Clean: A common issue with many CRMs is the build up of “dirty data.” Duplicate records and poorly designed account relationships being the major culprits. If your CRM doesn’t tell you an account is similar to the one you are about to save, you need to train people to check for variations before they create, or import new accounts. Whether it’s duplicate accounts or other data integrity issues, you need to keep your CRM clean. A good practice is to have a scheduled process to “sweep” your data for duplicates, and inaccuracies. Most CRMs have features that will help with this.

#18 Standardize Data: It may seem trivial to some, but I have found that creating standard data formats will help avoid confusion and messy reporting. Paying attention to the detail from the beginning will save you time later. It’s best to create standards for date formats, state/province, and country abbreviations address formats, company name suffixes, and so on. Using CRM-supplied options can help with some of this and it’s usually easy to customize fields to follow a specific format. Some, however, may need to be taught and manually applied, or mass corrected as part of your data management process discussed above. Ideally, you should standardize at the corporate level so all your systems look (and possibly exchange) this type of data in the same formats.

#19 Automate Tasks: Today’s more robust CRMs let you automate repetitive tasks. It’s beyond our scope here to dig too deep, but one of your team members should take the time to understand and implement this functionality. You can gain huge savings in time and increased productivity. For example, you can “program” your CRM to close, create or modify records when certain conditions are met. Another great function is the ability to trigger email notifications to any CRM user when a variety of different conditions are met. For example:

  • when a lead converts to a qualified opportunity
  • when the sales cycle reaches a certain stage
  • when a deal closes and action is required
  • when a prospect fills out a web form or subscribes to your newsletter
  • When certain numeric thresholds are reached or exceeded
  • When activity due dates are close, or past due

These a just a few illustrations of the many time-saving and communication benefits available with CRM automation. I hope you have found some of these ideas helpful. Optimizing CRM takes some work to get the most out of it. But, the experience I’ve had, along with many others, is that if you do it right – the impact on your revenue far exceeds the effort!

If you are so inclined, please share any thoughts or experiences you may have on this topic. Contact us if we can help in any way with your CRM project, or at least point you in the right direction. Subscribe? If you enjoyed this post and would like to receive notification of future Think2Grow blogs and newsletters, simply fill in the subscribe section on the sidebar above. To follow us on your favorite social feed, select it below.