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Are You Managing Contact Information or Building Strong Relationships?

Are you effectively managing your client relationships to build the kinds of relationships that will increase your business? Sales and marketing is a process of converting leads to clients, manage customer satisfaction and loyalty, and develop advocates who will refer new business. Managing these relationships takes careful attention – or a great system.

Unfortunately, many of the software packages and systems commonly used to manage client contacts don’t have the tools to effectively manage relationships. Unless your system makes it easy follow-up on clients and contacts and track results, you may be missing key actions to complete follow-up – and potential sales.

Most businesses find that some sort of database is needed to keep their contacts organized. Outlook, Act!, accounting packages such as Quickbooks, or email list managers such as Constant Contact all contain tools for collecting and organizing information for retrieval purposes. While these are good Contact Managers[1], they are not effective Contact Relationship Managers. The difference is a subtle shift in thinking and approach – with profound implications for how easily the work gets done.

Contact Managers enable businesses to keep organized lists of clients and leads and related data, usually including information that enables sorting or targeting based on specific criteria. Most Contact Managers also enable organizations to keep track of what outreach has been made to a client or lead – what emails or marketing materials were sent, when and where the lead originated, and if a sale was closed. However, the features of a Contact Relationship Manager extend beyond this functionality to allow a better picture of an organizations’ clients, sales pipeline, and business processes to really make Sales and Marketing work.

What Makes a True Contact Relationship Management (CRM) System:

1. Holistic View of Clients and Potentials

CRMs bring together information from varied sources within the business to get a complete picture of each customer or potential customer:

  • lead information and history, including source and interests,

  • account information,

  • customer support records,

  • email and mass email history, and response history,

  • phone or in-person contact notes,

  • website browsing history and download or “opt-in” behavior.

This holistic picture of clients and leads allows for better profiling and targeting. It increases opportunities for selling, cross-selling and up-selling with every “touch” you have with clients and prospects.

2. Management of Business Process

At its core, CRM is about managing Business Processes rather than individual Contacts. Software systems that are CRMs include tools to manage repeatable workflows that contain tasks and actions that are similar for many different contacts. Contacts are assigned to workflows based on eligibility criteria (such as where the lead came from, what interests the contact has, or what products or services the client has previously purchased) and assignment can happen automatically when new contacts are created that meet the criteria.

Managing the process rather than the contact greatly increases productivity, and ensures that each contact that meets eligibility criteria is handled consistently. Follow-up to clients and leads can occur automatically, without any additional input or action from users. The workload is streamlined and simplified and, as a result, the work to make follow-up happen in a timely fashion actually GETS DONE.

The efficiency gained by managing processes is so attractive that many Contact Managers are now adding CRM functionality to their solutions. Outlook Business allows users to attach tasks, activities, events, emails, documents, and notes to individual contacts and create company profiles when dealing with more than one person in an organization. Recent editions of Act! allow users to set up workflows for follow-up campaigns. However, the tools are often quirky and awkward to use because the functionality is an afterthought and the fundamental CM model does not easily support process management.

3. Full-Circle View of Results

Since data is collected and combined throughout the lifecycle of business processes and client interactions, CRMs include sophisticated reporting tools to analyze the success of marketing efforts and to forecast upcoming sales and revenues.

Reporting on the success of the process gives greater insight into what sales or marketing techniques actually work, and what dollar value specific marketing tactics have. Businesses can spend effort and money on the strategies that have the most impact, or refine those strategies that are not producing the desired results.


CM (Act!, Outlook, etc.)


(, sugarCRM, InfusionSoft, etc.)

Organize information about Clients, Leads, and other Contacts



Automate work flow to ensure sales and marketing tasks get done



Show what correspondence or conversations have taken place for clients or leads



Combine data from accounting, customer support, or web interaction history



Report on marketing campaign success, sales pipeline progress, or ROI for a particular marketing effort



Share data across the business organization based on user role and responsibilities



Cloud Computing and CRM

The need to support organizational-wide shared information has moved most CRM software tools to “Cloud Computing” rather than the traditional desktop “client-server” model. These CRMs gain a huge advantage over their Contact Manager counterparts.

Software served “in the cloud” is maintained by the software provider and accessed by your business through a web browser. No desktop installation of software is required, nor do users need to have data storage space, IT support, or software servers in-house. Users throughout a business organization can easily access the information they need to be successful and to keep the rest of the organization up-to-date.

Since they are meant to be used organization-wide for sharing data and process responsibility, web-based CRMs also have excellent features for managing user roles and security. Supervisors and managers can have better visibility of when salespeople interact with clients and leads. Individual users see only the data and processes that are relevant and useful to them.

Small business without separate departments?

However, most CRMs are also flexible enough to conform to an individual organization’s business processes even if sales, marketing, and customer support are all managed by the same person. In fact, it is for these users that creating role-based automated workflows may make the most sense!

The Need for Clear Business Processes

No matter how you choose to implement a marketing plan, the effectiveness all comes down to how well your processes are defined and implemented. Too often, small and medium-sized businesses think of Sales and Marketing as a secondary function – a black box that turns leads into loyal clients – without consciously thinking about what has to happen to make that switch. No matter how great your product or service is, not reaching your sales goals can spell disaster for your business. A disciplined approach to sales and marketing means that “making the number” is not left to chance. Instead, it is a well-thought-out strategy that is continually monitored, controlled, and improved upon.

Insightrak helps our clients define, refine and monitor their Sales and Marketing Business Processes to ensure their success.

Questions to Ask about Your Contact Management Solution

  • Does your system allow easy reporting of which customers have interest in specific products or services that you offer? Can you schedule automated follow-up for clients with specific interests?

  • How easy is it to identify “hot” leads and “A-list” clients? Can you score leads automatically based on behavior?

  • Do you have good visibility of your sales pipeline and how well (or how poorly) follow-up is taking place?

  • Can you send personalized HTML email blasts? How easy is it to do?

  • Can everyone in your organization easily access the information they need about clients and potential clients?

  • Will your solution grow with your business?

Technical considerations:

  • What level of IT support is required for managing data imports, software upgrades and security?

  • Do you have someone to turn to for help in designing and implementing your marketing plan with the best tools available?

[1] Also sometimes called Personal Information Managers, or PIMs

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