How to Implement a CRM Solution in the SMB Space
By BY JULIE RITZER ROSS
Companies across a wide swath of vertical markets regularly produce enormous volumes of data pertaining to their operations and their customers. However, these entities are increasingly realizing that the quantity of the data they generate pales in comparison to the quality of the data. They face a huge challenge when it comes to re-purposing the volumes of information for specific goals—from better communication with customers and constituents to increasing sales. Some businesses have begun looking to the Channel for solutions that will enable them to maximize the value of their data—rendering customer relationship management (CRM) solutions a critical component of many a VAR’s toolbox.
A Case for CRM
“CRM is not the ideal technology for every organization, or the perfect fit for every VAR;” it suits the needs of some end-users better than it does others, and is more suited to certain verticals, says Rachel Lyubovitzky, director of corporate development, SaaSHR (www.SaaShr.com). “But if VARs are to fulfill the ‘trusted advisor’ role they have been assuming over the past few years, as hardware has become a commodity and competition grows increasingly stiff, they need to offer value-adds. CRM is, by virtue of its value in making information actionable, one of those value-adds,” Lyubovitzky asserts.
Vinay Iyer, vice president, CRM Global Solution Marketing, SAP (www.sap.com), corroborates Lyubovitzky’s comments, noting that CRM solutions are also a good bet for VARs because they offer ample opportunities to provide additional services and to execute enhancements. “End-users’ expectations of what they can get out of CRM are not only sky-high, they change and grow regularly,” he purports. “They achieve a higher level of contact with customers, and then they want a closer connection and they keep looking for avenues to provide it. With many other applications, like enterprise resource planning (ERP), that is not the case.”
Iyer—whose sentiments were echoed by Lyubovitzky—adds that experience in mobile applications and cloud computing renders VARs best suited to move into the CRM arena. “The ones that install internal servers and hardware, for example, will find it harder to make the leap; it’s not impossible, but it is not a natural progression either.”
CRM in the Cloud
SMBs’ shift to cloud-based technology is pushing the CRM implementation envelope, which may make it easier for VARs to get their feet in the door with new solutions and seal the deal with prospects. According to a survey by Techaisle (www.techaisle.com) survey, CRM is “the most popular” solution among those offered by VARs that serve the SMB market.
“As the cloud goes mainstream, companies,” SMB players with ties to VARs among them, will “look to consume and deliver IT as a service by evaluating their entire portfolio of applications, platforms, and infrastructure to determine which applications and workloads should completely move to the cloud; augment local resources either via private of public cloud extensions; or build transformative applications that vastly increase computing power available to any server, PC, or device,” observes Michael Park, vice president, Business Solutions Division, Microsoft (www.microsoft.com). “CRM is one of the first areas to shift to the cloud. Business decision-makers often look at the cloud through the lens of a single application. In particular, CRM, given its horizontal nature, rapid time to deployment and ease of configuration for sales administrators, fits the bill perfectly.”
Park adds that given this trend and end-users’ varying needs—for example, some must opt for private cloud delivery to meet technical, regulatory, or business process requirements—CRM is probably best delivered in a variety of formats. VARs partnering with the company can deliver its solutions—including Microsoft Dynamics CRM—via the public or private cloud as well as in software-as-a-service (SaaS) mode—or in any combination thereof.
For its part, PowerObjects, a CRM-only reseller based in Minneapolis, is delivering Microsoft CRM Dynamics to clients in several formats. It has established PowerSuccess, a service-as-a-subscription program, to cater to the large number of clients that favor the subscription model.
Beyond the Doorjamb
But flexibility in delivery is only the tip of the iceberg in achieving success within the CRM realm; other strategies come into play as well. For example, while all customer relationship management solutions offer out-of-the-box functionality, vendors and VARs alike emphasize the need to customize them in some fashion to ensure, as Iyer says, that they are entirely relevant to the client. In many situations, this means integrating CRM with other applications. Faye Business Systems Group (FBSG; www.fayebsg.com), a Woodland Hills, Calif.-based integrator of CRM solutions and a SugarCRM (www.sugarcrm.com) Gold Partner, earlier this year integrated SugarCRM with CyberSource Corp.’s (www.cybersource.com) Authorize.Net payment processing platform. FBSG customers can now enter secure credit card information via Authorize.Net while simultaneously entering quotes or sales orders into SugarCRM; add and edit multiple credit cards per account or contact; authorize and change a credit card on an account, contact, or for a specific quote. They can also access credit card transaction history associated with a related account or contact and restrict user access to Authorize.Net functions through a permissions editor.
“We have seen a large increase in interest from users who wanted to bring credit card processing into their CRM” to help them close more sales deals, and to do so faster than in the past, explains David Faye, FBSG’s CEO.
Similarly, last year, FBSG forged a standard integration of SugarCRM with the Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) e-mail marketing management application from the vendor of the same name. The “link” permits users to seamlessly connect data between the two. Donn James, marketing manager for Marketing Innovations International, a manufacturer and designer of custom promotional and retail merchandise with offices in New York City and Los Angeles, says the link between the systems yields his company real-time e-mail marketing results at our fingertips.” We can pull up any contact in SugarCRM and see exactly how they responded to our Constant Contact email blast,” he explains. “Now we don’t have to keep lists in two places. We maintain our entire Constant Contact email contact list within” the CRM application, completely streamlining the process of maintaining the list.”
Faye cautions channel players not to pursue initiation initiatives hastily and without careful consideration of customer feedback or tweaking the technology until it feels right. In the case of Authorize.Net, it was only “after months of fine-tuning and listening to users that we were able to assess where we could add more value to the functions and syncing processes,” he notes.
The ability to help entities implementing CRM solutions to ramp up quickly also appears to fuel the success fire. RJT Compuquest, a SAP channel partner headquartered in Torrance, Calif., has developed a Rapid CRM Implementation Solution intended to yield clients a 360-degree view of their customers within eight to nine weeks post-implementation, according to Amar Shokeen, president and CEO. “Customers benefit from an affordable, quick CRM implementation—faster time to value with lower risk,” he explains.
The Rapid CRM Implementation Solution is a preconfigured implementation service that connects to SAPs ECC 6.0 system can be configured in standalone fashion system. RJT targeted two sets of business scenarios using SAP Best Practices as a base level implementation to improve customer relations, Shokeen says. “Businesses can choose between a sales and marketing focused package, or a fully sales centered one.”
Finally, although such public sector clients as government entities may not be as concerned about the ROI from a CRM implementation as those in the private sector, VARs should be able, in attempting to sell those in the latter group on a solution, be able to demonstrate a business case for CRM deployment. A recent Microsoft-commissioned study by Forrester, “The Total Economic Impact of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011,” found that a 2,000-employee composite organization with an initial deployment of 50 users would experience a three-year, risk-adjusted ROI of 243 percent over a payback period of 4.1 months, as well as streamlined processes and operations leading to lower cost of sales, marketing cost savings and productivity savings.