So Just What IS a CRM Platform and Why Does It Matter to YOU?
First of all, YES it matters to you if your organization:
Has already implemented enterprise platforms for ERP and Office functions;
Needs to move into the next generation of B2B Commerce – Digital Demand Creation;
Considers end-to-end productivity, cycle time, and margin management key to success.
What IS a CRM Platform?
I think we all get the idea of a platform as a foundation. NASA (and now Space-X) know all about this for putting big things into space. For us in the world of B2B Commerce, in simple terms, it’s a broad foundation to create demand, support the entire cycle and care for customers. The best known example of a platform is ERP. There was a time (long ago) when companies bought ‘best of breed’ applications (systems) to meet specific needs (e.g. General Ledger, Purchasing, Order Entry, etc.). Then SAP came along with a true PLATFORM and changed that game forever – and behind SAP came a host of other ERP’s. Today everyone knows what ERP means and why they need one.
Specifically, CRM platforms today integrate the key functions necessary to seamlessly manage the entire Channel Facing and Customer Experience. Core functionality includes at least these components (and more per specific business needs):
Sales Force Automation – this most widely accepted functionality was the starting point for CRM. It offered the tools for sales forces/channels to manage their contacts, leads, opportunities, quotes, orders.
Portals – The common entry point
Guided Selling – Intelligent search, cross-sell, up-sell, and tools to solve user problems
Sales Tools – Intelligent, knowledge-based guidance on trade-offs, configuration, price, quote and proposal management.
Digital Marketing – Management of the new generation of tools for identification, qualification, generation, tracking and measuring leads and opportunities.
Social Media – Social monitoring, linking and promoting relevant content and activity on the web
Customer Life Cycle Management – Case and content monitoring, tracking, and activity on all customer interactions. Initial sales and life cycle management.
Business Analytics – Measurement, tracking and reporting of all of this key data and turning it into actionable responses that feed into all of the above.
Why does it matter to you?
Because a CRM platform is the only affordable and sure-fire way to get your next generation of Demand Creation and Customer Care to really perform. I mention affordable first – to contrast PLATFORM value with the numerous ‘point solutions’ from many very fine vendors. The point-solution issues all become larger as you move across the full lifecycle and functionality. Don’t fall for the stock answer that ‘middleware’ will take care of the integration. It doesn’t! It is expensive and falls short on seamless transaction and data flow. The PLATFORM advantages are in the built-in integration of all of the key functions, data and processes into a seamless experience for all users.