Database: The Reinvention of CRM

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Failures in CRM have made the acronym a four-letter word in some realms. CRM vendors plugged away at the strategy too much by purchasing competitors and selling additional training to CEOs who invested millions and received lackluster engagement among their employees.

According to Richard Brock, president and CEO of CRM vendor FirstWave Technologies of Atlanta, CRM hit a wall when vendors were spending $6 on service for every $1 made through licensing.

Brock recognized that not everyone wanted a Marine Corps-strength solution. Sales representatives did not want the intimidating discipline of a system that took time away from the sales activity that lined their pockets.

“They didn’t focus on the end user,” he said of CRM vendors. “There was too much focus on technology and not enough on the people.”

“The strategic goal of Web 2.0 is to alter the perspective of software from the provider to the consumer,” said Allen Nance, president of Mansell Group, an Atlanta-based consultancy.

Now, behemoth software builders such as Oracle try for more user-friendly CRM through Web 2.0 tools that capture transactions and record details to the database.

FirstWave, however, is not actively marketing its CRM solution as it reintroduces itself as a systems-agnostic distributor and measurement expert of sales messages. Its database of 13 million businesses can be filtered according to client effort, whether it’s through e-mail delivery or Web marketing.

The Future of CRM Databases

“CRM has been a driving force of database creation and use because it became and still is a catalyst for companies to better manage customer interactions,” Nance said.

“CRM started as a strategic objective, not software,” he continued. “In the beginning, customer relationship management was a strategic goal that said, ‘Our company values customer relationships, and we want to better interact with the customer, learn from the customer and service the customer.’”

Brock reasons that the best way to achieve CRM’s strategy potential is to put the database to use. That’s why FirstWave has made a database fed by opt-in, organically compiled and purchased lists available for CANN SPAM-compliant e-mail and other sales communications.

Sophisticated delivery of messages through e-mail or paid advertising on Google — buying keywords that optimize sales, not just interest — generates quality leads that are fed to the client’s database. “We are changing the system,”he said.

Keeping Score

Database expansion with fresh, interested contacts may reinvigorate CRM and tell a success story that is not about software. To accelerate this success, scoring tools are among recommended database measurement devices. They provide for the companies that invested in CRM — but never quite realized the returns they hoped for — a new opportunity to decide which relationships to pursue and with what priority.

Scoring models leverage Web interactions. They draw their intelligence in large part from trackable activity online. Through the capture of this information, Brock said, CRM users have database records before they even make contact with a prospect. “A sales rep wouldn’t input that into the CRM system until the prospect at least showed interest,” he said.

Companies may segment their database according to appropriate messaging, sales process or any other business rule. Analytics applied to company-prospect or company-customer interactions recorded to the database drive process improvements for future database use.

Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who frequently writes about technology and data security. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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