In the realm of customer relationship management (CRM), staying ahead demands more than just technology – it requires insightful interpretation. In this interview, we engage in a captivating dialogue with Marshall, unraveling the layers of CRM intricacies. With his finger on the pulse of CRM trends and strategies, Marshall Lager provides us with a glimpse into the dynamic world of customer relations, where technology and human interaction converge to shape the future of business-customer dynamics. Join us as we delve into the mind of an industry analyst, unearthing the gems of wisdom that drive modern customer engagement strategies.
Embracing the Future of CRM
- Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background in the CRM industry? I’m Marshall Lager, an independent CRM industry analyst. My entrance into the CRM arena came in 2005, when I became a senior editor at CRM Magazine/destinationCRM.com. I fell in love with the idea of CRM as more than technology, but as a mindset rooted in using better communication to improve businesses’ ability to serve their customers. Eventually, I decided to take my knowledge into practice, and made the switch from journalist to analyst. I’ve worked for Informa and for G2, as well as done my own thing.
- In your experience, what are the key benefits that businesses can gain from implementing a CRM system? Every business does CRM at some level, but all but the smallest need a CRM system to do it well. CRM enables consistency and centrality for customer information. It keeps transaction history, preferences, and personal data as a business resource that can survive personnel changes. It helps businesses see patterns in customer behavior, both individually and in general.
- How has the CRM landscape evolved over the years, and what trends do you see emerging in the near future? CRM tech has its roots in sales force automation and contact management. It was software from a box, installed on a mainframe, and it lived at corporate headquarters. Once SaaS became practical, CRM became a key sales tool for salespeople who regularly visited clients. As businesses realized the potential for better insight into sales management, CRM grew into a system of record for customer behavior and interactions. CRM’s ability to connect to other business systems has become increasingly important.
- For businesses looking to adopt a CRM system, what factors should they consider when selecting the right CRM software? Know what problems you’re trying to solve before moving into the selection phase. A CRM system is not a magic wand that you use to make your business suddenly run better. It’s entirely possible to buy the wrong size shoes when choosing your CRM system—some don’t scale up well enough to serve a rapidly growing business, while others offer features the business will never use. Sometimes, the workflows inherent to one vendor’s CRM don’t mesh well with the business, so always consider how the new tech will affect how your people do their work. Give them tools to perform better, not just a new system to feed data into.
- CRM user adoption is often a challenge. What strategies can businesses employ to encourage their teams to fully utilize the CRM system? Ask the users what they want and need. Simply dropping a new CRM system on your employees will create confusion and resentment. Your first step should always be asking the people who will be using it what sort of results they would like to see from it. Find out what your current technology fails to address, and use that information to define your needs. Keep your employees in the loop at all stages, and make the new CRM something they want to use, not merely something they have to use.
- Artificial Intelligence and automation are becoming more prominent in CRM. How can businesses leverage these technologies to enhance customer relationships? CRM has always been about automation to some degree, ever since we called it sales force automation back in the day. Vendors are building AI into their products, enhancing automation, providing real-time analysis and suggestions in phone conversations, highlighting data trends, and more. Ask your vendor how these technologies apply to your business because whichever one you choose, you’re getting them to some degree.
- What are your thoughts on the role of customer data in crafting personalized marketing and sales strategies? How can CRM systems facilitate this? Modern sales and marketing without customer data is like going door to door with a product and hoping for a sale. You’ll get some hits, but you’ll miss many others, annoy lots of people, and waste time. Identifying your market audience is necessary, as is discovering the approaches that work best with given customers and groups. However, considering the sheer volume of personal and corporate information that’s available through third parties like LinkedIn (not to say anything bad about them though), it’s easy to cross the line into creepy, stalkerish behavior in pursuit of the sale. This is an area that needs to be navigated by touch.
- In your opinion, how important is ongoing training and support for a successful and effective CRM implementation? These are crucial. No business user wants their CRM system to surprise or confuse them. Insufficient training and support lead to loss of effectiveness. Everybody who might need to use the system needs to be trained on it, from the new kid in sales all the way up to the C-suite. CRM is how a business owns its share of the customer relationship.
Embracing the Dynamic World of CRM with Marshall Lager
As our conversation with Marshall Lager draws to a close, it's evident that his passion for CRM is unwavering, and his expertise is a beacon guiding businesses toward customer-centric success. His journey, from journalist to analyst, has woven a narrative of evolution in an industry where technology meets strategy, and human connections intersect with data-driven insights.
Marshall's wisdom echoes the sentiment that CRM is not just a system; it's a philosophy that empowers businesses to better understand, engage with, and serve their customers. From the early days of CRM as sales automation to its current role as a dynamic system of record, his insights reveal the transformative power that CRM holds.
As businesses navigate the complexities of CRM adoption, Marshall's advice resonates: identify your problems before seeking solutions, choose a system that aligns with your unique workflows, and engage with vendors known for serving your industry. Customization and scalability, as he notes, are integral to a CRM's success, and the guidance of a vendor's services team can be invaluable in these endeavors.
Marshall Lager's journey, insights, and dedication to CRM analysis stand as an inspiration. His commitment to unraveling the layers of CRM intricacies empowers businesses to cultivate relationships, make informed decisions, and embrace the ever-changing landscape of customer engagement.
In a world where technology continually reshapes the way we connect, one thing remains constant: the importance of understanding, valuing, and serving the individuals who fuel our businesses – the customers. With experts like Marshall Lager lighting the path, the future of CRM shines brightly with promise and potential.