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So far we’ve answered the following questions about the customer journey:

What does customer journey mean?

Why is a journey better than a funnel?

In today’s article, the last in the series, we will focus on the buying process within the customer journey and share a few takeaways.

Chances are, you’ve long believed that a journey-first mentality would benefit your company. Now you’re on a mission to make it a reality. Unfortunately, each time you mention the buyer journey to staff, more questions arise. You seem to be in an endless spiral of pushback, and you’re not sure what to do next.

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the questions. Regardless of your industry or business type, transitioning to a buyer journey mentality is a cultural shift that takes time and challenges your internal norms. The best thing to do is to address these questions head-on and begin working through them. In fact, here are a few questions to get you started.

Do you have clearly defined personas?

Your marketing team has a considerable budget to manage. PPC ads, social targeting, email campaigns, and content marketing are just a few of their ongoing initiatives. And, although marketing is fairly effective at generating inbound traffic, they’ll never fully reach their potential unless they have clearly defined buyer personas.

When asked about personas, your marketers might say things like, “Oh, yes. Everyone knows that we have two main personas: solopreneurs and IT directors.” This is a good start, but it’s a far cry from “clearly defined” personas. As we previously discussed, personas need to be based on actual data — not just vague generalities. Challenge your staff to use in-house CRM data along with third-party data from public sources (such as Bureau of Labor Statistics) and trade organizations to build personas that are highly specific. At a minimum, your personas should include the following types of information:

  • Name (i.e. “Sam the Solopreneur”)
  • Demographics
  • Pain points
  • Goals
  • Favorite features of your software
  • Biggest concerns about your software
  • Decision-making power
  • Ability to buy

The more specific your personas are, the more useful they become to everyone involved in the buyer journey. With clearly defined personas, marketing knows exactly who to target with ads and remarketing. Sales can build better battlecards and pitch decks that elevate buyer engagement. Customer success representatives gain valuable insight to streamline the onboarding process and better solve for the customer.

Key takeaway: You can’t take a buyer on a journey when you don’t have a data-driven understanding of who they are. Don’t settle for generic personas that provide minimal value.

What motivates your personas?

Understanding buyer motivation is a vital component for developing meaningful personas.

In fact, as an analyst at Forrester Research, Inc. recently pointed out, “B2B marketers must do a better job of tapping into the business purpose that drives the purchase of their product or service — especially when 62% of business buyers said they can develop selection criteria and finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content.”*

So, how can you understand buyer motivation for each persona? Here are a few steps for collecting and analyzing psychographic customer data.

Organize customers by persona in your CRM

Your CRM probably offers several ways to organize customers by persona group. For example, in Insightly, you might use tags to group and filter your buyers. Such an endeavor requires an upfront investment of time, but it’s a necessary step for performing meaningful analysis.

Evaluate closed opportunities by persona

Hopefully, your sales reps are trained to capture detailed information about each opportunity’s outcome. If so, running an opportunity state reason report can be a quick and easy way to understand buyer decision-making.

Survey your existing customers

Surveys can be an excellent source of psychographic data. To elevate participation, promote the “voice of customer survey” through email and social media and consider incentivizing it with a discount or prize (such as a free t-shirt).

Analyze data from your support ticketing app

Your support ticketing system is another treasure trove of persona interaction data. Hiring a data scientist is an affordable way to convert raw data into persona-level insights.

Key takeaway: Look for creative ways to gather psychographic data about your personas. You might be surprised by the amount of data you already have! You just need to look in the right places.

How do buyer journeys differ by persona?

At a high level, every customer – regardless of persona – is on a journey to find an excellent product for a reasonable price. That’s a given.

As you dive into persona-specific data, however, you’ll likely notice differing buyer interaction trends for each persona. This may lead you to ask even more questions, such as:

  • Are our target personas more likely to learn about us from organic search?
  • Do they attend trade shows with the intent of identifying our type of software?
  • Which persona group is more likely to click on retargeted ads?
  • Does our social media content appeal to all our buyer personas?
  • Does our website adequately support all groups?
  • Which persona is more likely to watch and share our videos?
  • What is the fully loaded cost to support an enterprise client?
  • Does email engagement vary significantly by persona?
  • How can we use content groupings to identify top content by persona?
  • What downloadable assets do our target audiences prefer?
  • Why do so many [insert persona type] sign up and use the product but never upgrade?
  • Which group is more likely to request a demo on our website?
  • Why do [insert persona type] ask more questions during the sales process?
  • Who is more likely to use our documentation site and support portal?

Studying buyer behavior by persona is a key step in the mapping process. Although no two buyers follow the same exact journey, many follow a similar pattern — especially within your persona groups.

Key takeaway: Buyer journeys can vary greatly from persona to persona. Use more data to answer the tough questions.

Do your systems align with the buyer journey?

Persona profiles and journey maps provide minimal value if your team lacks the right mix of tools.

What systems are mission critical for aligning around the buyer journey? Obviously, there’s no way to mention every single system in this article, but here are three of particular importance in today’s digital buying experience:

Integrated CRM

Manually entering or uploading customer lists from your operational database isn’t a viable workflow. You need a CRM that offers out-of-the-box integrations and an API that enables the free flow of customer data in a secure and scalable architecture. A well integrated CRM, or better yet, a unified sales and marketing CRM, will allow you to quickly act on customer data. For example, you can launch customized cross-sell and upsell campaigns based on your customer behavior data and insights.

Well-structured analytics platform

Most companies have a web tracking system, but, in reality, too few know how to properly utilize it. Understanding unique visitors and pageviews simply doesn’t cut it anymore. You need a finely tuned analytics platform that tracks a variety of data points for each persona throughout their entire journey with your company. These data points may including any and all of the following: events, goal completions, device utilization metrics, multi-channel attribution models, custom content groupings, etc.

Retargeting engine

Retargeted ads can be a cost effective way to keep the right message in front of your various personas. Using retargeted ads to offer an extended trial to abandoned target personas could move the needle on this month’s recurring revenue (MRR). Or, you might encourage your target buyers to register for your upcoming webinar. Simply put, retargeting can be a tremendous asset for nearly every stage of the buyer journey.

Key takeaway: Technology is a critical aspect of managing the buyer journey. That being said, technology isn’t a magic wand — so be strategic

This journey never ends

As we conclude this series, we’d like to leave you with one closing consideration: buyer journeys are constantly evolving. In other words, understanding the buyer’s journey is a journey in and of itself.

Key takeaway: Smart companies continuously monitor their buyers’ perspectives, motivations, needs, and interactions and then rapidly act on that knowledge to ensure an optimal experience for their customers and maintain a high customer retention rate. 

Thanks for joining us on this journey!

*Take L2RM To The Next Level With A Pivot – From The Funnel To Your Customer, Forrester Research, Inc., December 18, 2018

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No matter the product type, all manufacturing companies share a common set of operational needs that have to be met for them to reach their business goals, stay competitive, and build long-lasting customer relationships. New technologies and systems, including customer relationship management (CRM) and workflow automation, play a key role in addressing these needs.

With this in mind, we recently reached out to Insightly manufacturing customers to learn about their experience and changes observed as a result of implementing Insightly CRM. We asked questions that covered common operational and business areas in manufacturing: from planning and forecasting through production, inventory management, sales, distribution, and customer service.

In this post we share key takeaways from 115 manufacturers who completed our anonymous email survey. We hope these insights will help decision-makers and CRM administrators in manufacturing companies to evaluate their own CRM needs and select the right solution.

We asked questions in the following categories:

  • User adoption
  • Productivity
  • Customer insights
  • Return on investment (ROI) and revenue growth

User adoption

User adoption, or a process of adopting and using a new CRM by its intended users, is one of the top concerns of any company that’s introducing a CRM to the team for the first time or is switching to a new one. After all, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated and powerful a CRM is if your team finds it hard to adopt and incorporate in their daily work.

Not surprisingly, when asked why they chose Insightly CRM, 57% of our survey respondents cited “adoption and ease of use” as one of the most important factors in their decision-making.

But adoption is only the first step in ensuring ROI in any new technology —consistent, frequent, and as-intended usage is what determines its long-term benefits. To that end, we learned that 77% of manufacturers use Insightly CRM on a daily basis.

Productivity

Automating repeatable processes to minimize human error and save time across different workflows and departments is critical to ensuring productivity.

In our survey, 42% of respondents reported improvement in “implementing repeatable business processes” (workflow automation) and 39% reported overall improvement in employee productivity as a result of using Insightly CRM.

Users also reported slashing weekly hours spent on administrative and routine tasks.

Customer insights

The soundness of your business decisions depends on the accuracy, relevance, and timeliness  of your customer data analytics. Access to a single source of truth with a 360-degree view of your customer allows you to align your teams and engage with customers at the right time with the right message, build superior products and customer experience, and make solid business decisions.

In our survey, 69% of respondents reported having a more accurate source of information on their customers, sales, and projects as a result of implementing Insightly CRM and 47% reported improvements in understanding and reporting sales performance.

ROI and revenue growth

Of those survey respondents who were able to observe results, 70% saw positive ROI within the first year of using Insightly CRM.

As far as revenue, survey respondents reported 18% annual revenue growth as a result of using Insightly CRM.

The degree to which manufacturers are able to streamline their operations and improve productivity has a direct impact on the quality of their customer and business relationships, ability to scale and, ultimately, grow business.

For more insights and data charts from our survey, please download the FREE ebook below.

Download the ebook

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Earlier this year, we introduced a suite of new sales force automation (SFA) and analytics capabilities that provide our customers with more control, flexibility, and actionable insights to better serve their own customers and grow profitability. From our comprehensive product and services catalog to flexible price books, to automated quotation system, to custom calculation fields and validation rules, to sales territory mapping — our customers gained access to enterprise-grade capabilities, except in a much simpler, more user-friendly interface and at a fracture of the cost.

 

We were happy to receive feedback from our customers and in this release we’re introducing advanced reporting tools, new dashboard visualizations, and platform and productivity improvements that we’ve developed with our customers’ feedback in mind. We’re also unveiling Insightly’s new help center and community portal with user guides, FAQ section, and content for specific use cases and industries.

Watch the Q2 2019 Product Release Webinar where Insightly CEO Anthony Smith introduces new features.

Check out the new Insightly Help Center.

New Quotation & Product Reports

Our new advanced custom quotation and product reports allow you to select and filter opportunity products and quotation line records, group and sum them, and build reports that you can schedule and email straight to your inbox on a custom schedule.

You can also:

  • Run these reports at anytime from within the reporting system
  • Share these reports with other users
  • Set custom user permissions

Availability: Enterprise Plan

Product & Price Book Dashboard Additions

You now have the power to drill into product and quotes data and visualize trends and spot patterns using over 75 different chart and map types. Chart and map both opportunity products and quotation line items with our new dashboard visualization capabilities.

For example, you can map out which of your products have sold best in different states or territories, or how many quotations have included specific products at different times of the year.

Availability: Enterprise Plan

Custom Fields in Tasks & Events

Better manage your time and projects with our new custom fields in Tasks and Events. Track exactly how much time it takes to perform different individual tasks and automatically roll up that info to see the calculated summary times for all tasks in a project or opportunity. To learn how to do this and to better understand calculated fields, check out this step-by-step tutorial in our help center.

This new feature makes a lot of our customers happy and is available on Insightly web app as well as on our Android and iOS apps.

Availability: All Plans

Drag and Drop Layout Editor

With our advanced layout editing you can easily organize all relevant and important information and declutter your view in both details and related tabs.

Use drag and drop tool to easily add and remove fields, change the order of fields on the page, and modify sections for different users in both details and related tabs. Choose which tables or grids you would like to see on the related tab and in which order.

Availability: All Plans

Flexible Multi-Column Layouts

This is another widely-requested feature from our customers that brings total flexibility in the page design and views. You can now customize individual sections on a page layout to be adapted to multi-column instead of single column. View all key information in small laptop displays and large external monitors at the same time, with the software switching to multiple columns if the screen is wide enough.

And because you can set the multi-column layout per section, you can preserve the single column layout where it makes sense for you.

Availability: All Plans

Improved Data Entry, Linking, and Lookup

Save time and clicks with our new data entry and productivity additions.

Add a record (contact) and simultaneously link other records to it (organization data) in the same motion. You can do the same with inline linked records for all forms in Insightly, including your custom objects and fields.

Gain more visibility and insights into the depth and scope of your relationships with any contact. Use new table in the related tab to view peers, co-workers, and other key connections of your primary contact. With our new page layout editor for the related tab, you can also choose where on the page you would like to see this new table.

Availability: All Plans

Notifications

Never miss an Insightly notification simply because you’re in another app or browser tab. This is great for multitaskers who are always switching between apps as well for users who keep lots of browser tabs open.

By default, on a Mac the notifications pop up in the top right and in Windows they appear in the bottom right. Both operating systems also keep a history of those notifications, so you can click to see prior notification from earlier in the day.

Availability: All Plans

Insightly Help Center

Our customer success and service teams have been hard at work improving the Insightly help center to make it easier for our customers to search for relevant content and learn new tips and insights.

Look up articles and videos with beginner guides, product tips, and best practices to make the most out of Insightly.

Check out the new Insightly Help Center.

Coming soon: Insightly Marketing

During the webinar, Insightly CEO Anthony Smith also previewed brand new Insightly Marketing! To get a sneak peek, watch the webinar.

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Accelerating funnel growth is a top priority for most B2B leaders. In fact, a recent survey by Forrester Research,* Inc. found that 81% of global B2B marketing decision makers measure the effectiveness of their marketing programs based on revenue impact. In other words, marketers realize that they can’t just focus on brand awareness or cost per impression. Marketers are expected to deliver revenue, plain and simple. For many, this means doubling down on their existing funnels.

However, increasingly more sales and marketing leaders are choosing to leave the funnel behind, and instead view their customers in the context of a journey.

Abandoning the funnel isn’t easy, especially when departments, legacy systems, and data sets are misaligned. Let’s explore why this is the case and how your company can take steps toward a journey-first mentality.

Why the funnel is so enticing

There’s no question that the funnel is still a common concept in business. How did this come to be? What makes the funnel so attractive to business leaders?

Here are a few possible explanations.

Funnels are easily understood

Sales and marketing leaders aren’t paid to maintain the status quo. Rather, they are expected to  develop innovative strategies for maximizing revenue and profitability. With this in mind, it’s understandable why the funnel became such an important element of many sales and marketing playbooks. Marketing to tens of thousands of potential customers is daunting, and the funnel offers a relatively convenient way to categorize an otherwise unmanageable list of people.

Funnel groupings seem nice and tidy

Although the specific stages of each funnel will vary between organizations, the basic concept remains the same. When a new lead becomes aware of your brand, he is said to be at the top of the funnel. As he progresses toward a purchase, the lead theoretically passes through several sequential stages. The very bottom of the funnel represents a sale.

From the company’s perspective, the funnel can seem very helpful for forecasting demand, allocating marketing resources, implementing promotional campaigns, budgeting for fulfillment and capacity, and countless other important processes.

Some customers actually make it through the funnel

It’s true that some customers progress through the buying process exactly as you would hope. They learn about your brand through paid advertising or organic search, download some whitepapers, ask for a demo, and then send their purchase order.

That being said, customers who follow your desired path to purchase are the exception, rather than a rule in today’s landscape.

Why funnel vision overlooks the customer

Funnels tend to have self-serving motivations. Of course, companies should seek to understand how customers interact prior to purchase, which is what a funnel attempts to represent. Unfortunately, in today’s world of social media, review sites, mobile phones, private browsers, and retargeted ads, categorizing a typical customer into any one particular stage of the funnel is increasingly complex, if not impossible.

Why are funnels increasingly unreliable in today’s economy? Here are a few reasons I’ve witnessed firsthand as a consultant.

Funnels aren’t actually nice and tidy

The funnel concept presupposes that leads advance from one defined stage to the next, inching ever closer to an eventual sale.

The problem with this line of thinking is twofold. First, as any marketer will tell you, it’s practically impossible to know (for sure) where any lead is at in today’s buying cycle. Web analytic systems typically report anonymous or semi-anonymous data, making it difficult to know where the leads in your CRM actually came from. As a deal transitions from marketing to sales, the process becomes even more complex as additional stakeholders and decision makers get added into the mix.

Second, the funnel seems to completely ignore those leads who do make a purchase. By its nature, a funnel only has two openings (the top and the bottom); yet, leads who fail to buy don’t exit through either point. It seems that lost leads exit through some type of “funnel osmosis,” creating a significant amount of guesswork for your CRM administrator. Should a disengaged lead be marked as lost? If so, when? The funnel mentality struggles to answer these questions, creating additional inaccuracies in your funnel’s metrics.

Department-specific funnels trump the larger funnel

Unless your organization is very strategic about sales and marketing alignment, there’s a good chance that informal mini-funnels will develop and trump your company’s overall funnel. For example, let’s assume that your acquisition funnel places customers in one of four primary (and somewhat generic) phases:

  • Top of funnel: people recently acquainted with your brand
  • Mid-funnel: people who have given you some type of contact information
  • Bottom of funnel: people who have expressed interest in your product
  • Sale: people who are ready to buy

These categories are so generic that your sales and marketing teams have to create their own department-specific funnels to perform their day-to-day tasks. For example, your sales team might have its own funnel that groups prospective customers as follows:

  • Uncontacted marketing leads
  • Qualified sales leads
  • Negotiation
  • Contracts
  • Close-won

In this situation, the sales team comes to rely on the marketing team’s funnel for leads, and the marketing team comes to rely on the sales team’s funnel to keep their jobs. Trouble is, each funnel operates independently from the other, causing internal confusion and experiential gaps for the most important stakeholder – the customer.

Getting caught up in funnel misalignment is not an enjoyable experience. A few years ago I was shopping for a new(er) vehicle. After considerable research, I identified a dealership that advertised an amazing price on my preferred model. Prior to making the 45-minute drive, I called to confirm that they still had several in inventory. Their marketing funnel worked like clockwork, but, sadly, it was all an illusion. After arriving, the sales representative informed me that they had already sold all of specially priced vehicles. I felt duped and never went back to that car dealership. I also made sure to share my experience with everyone I knew. So often, like in this case, the cost of internal misalignment extends beyond the loss of one immediate sale.

Post-transactional interactions are often an afterthought

Perhaps one of the most glaring issues with funnel vision is that it completely ignores what happens after the sale is made. Assuming even a flawless funnel experience, the reality is that the customer drops out the bottom into an empty void.

Granted, many organizations have well-structured customer support programs that ensure a seamless transition. But do these programs fully capitalize on customer lifetime value? Do they keep the customer informed of new products or services that solve their latest challenges? Or, do they simply keep customers adequately satisfied until a better solution comes along? Outside of the context of a customer journey, it’s hard to know for sure.

Overcoming “funnel vision”

Don’t feel too overwhelmed if your company seems hopelessly stuck in funnel vision. Remember, overcoming funnel vision is a continuous process that requires an internal cultural shift. The good news is that there are steps you can take to accelerate change.

Learn from your existing funnel

Completely abandoning your funnel on day one is not a prudent decision. After all, it has taken years to develop into its current form and could serve as an excellent springboard for the journey map that you’ll soon develop. Despite your funnel’s flaws, it most likely contains valuable details about pre-sale interactions, common deal progression patterns, and key terminology that is highly relevant for understanding the customer journey.

Gather input from your teams

Ask your sales reps, marketing team, and success team to anonymously share their feedback about the customer lifecycle. What is working from an acquisition standpoint? What processes are broken? At what stage do most leads drop? Which systems need to be streamlined?

Don’t be surprised if you hear comments like this:

  • “The lead handoff process is broken between marketing and sales.”
  • “Sales doesn’t follow up quickly enough with web leads.”
  • “Leads from social media are not ready to buy our products.”
  • “Small accounts seem more likely to request support.”
  • “Customer success feels left out of the planning process.”
  • “There’s a disconnect between our CRM, marketing automation system, and support ticketing app.”

What is the purpose of this exercise? For starters, there’s a high certainty that the feedback will validate what you already know. That is, the funnel isn’t an effective way to structure your customer management process. In addition, you may discover key insights about how prospective and existing customers interact, where they interact, and why. All of this information is vital for pivoting to a customer journey focus.

Simplify your data structure

It’s hard to move toward a customer journey focus when all your relationship and interaction data is spread across dozens of disconnected systems. Although you may not be able to completely eliminate certain data silos, you can begin to simplify your data structure.

Take a fresh look at the systems that staff use to collect customer information and determine whether or not they’re actually necessary. For example, does your CRM offer built-in email marketing functionality? If so, consider eliminating one system and simplify around a single source of truth. Or, at least try integrating the two systems to achieve a more accurate representation of each customer’s journey.

Also, it’s important to periodically reevaluate the data that makes it into your systems. Do you really need thirty custom fields for lead records? Is this information helping you, or is it just adding unnecessary clutter and complexity to your system integrations?

Start aligning around the journey

As we’ve already established, shifting to a journey mentality isn’t an overnight process. An effective transition starts with proactive alignment at every level of the company, including at the operational level. Although change can be slow to take root, you can help accelerate change by framing customer conversations in the context of a journey (rather than continuing to perpetuate funnel vision).

Citing independent, third-party data (such as this report from Forrester Research) can help awaken others to the validity of the customer journey. Also, find creative ways to leverage your own firsthand analytics, such as customer churn trends and conversion rate data. Such metrics can bolster your advocacy of the customer journey concept, serve as an effective benchmark for goal setting, and help you track the impact of a “journey-first” approach.

Get visibility into your customer’s journey

I hope you’re enjoying this multi-part series about the customer journey. My next post will dive deeper into the customer journey and explore potential impacts to your business — both in terms of day-to-day operations and revenue performance.

Read part one of the series: What does customer journey mean? 

 

*Take L2RM To The Next Level With A Pivot – From The Funnel To Your Customer, Forrester Research, Inc., December 18, 2018

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The year was 2002. My girlfriend (now wife) Mandy needed to purchase a laptop. Mandy didn’t know much about computers. Being a good boyfriend, I decided to assist her in the endeavor, even though I didn’t know much about computers either!

Unsure of how to begin our research, we spoke to a mutual acquaintance who “knew computers.” After listening to Mandy’s needs, he confidently informed her of the exact make and model that she should buy. He even told her which store offered the best price. Sure enough, the next day, that’s exactly where we went. No shopping around. No further research. We just walked into the store, and Mandy walked out with her new computer.

Looking back at this story, I have to shake my head and laugh.

In today’s economy, it’s hard to imagine making such an important (and expensive) purchase based exclusively on one person’s guidance. After all, the buying process looks dramatically different than it did a decade or two ago. Online reviews, social commerce, smartphones, one-click ordering, and the democratization of the web – all have revolutionized how customers discover, research, buy, and use products and services of all types.

As a result, in the past few years companies across B2C and B2B markets have been spending time and resources on understanding and defining their customer interactions in the context of a journey. But how do you define “customer journey”? How has it evolved in the past few years? How does the customer journey impact your business?

Let’s take a closer look.

Defining the customer journey

At face value, “customer journey” seems like a buzzword that could have dozens of potential meanings. According to researchers at Forrester, a customer journey is “the series of interactions between a customer and a company that occur as the customer pursues a specific goal.”

If we look at this definition in the context of my earlier laptop buying experience, the customer journey seems fairly straightforward. In our case, the customer’s goal was successfully accomplished upon her first interaction with the company. Because the product, or computer, lasted for years, no other immediate “goals” were identified. Likewise, the electronics store never reached out to measure Mandy’s satisfaction or inquire about future goals (which is probably why the company no longer exists, but that’s another story).

Few customer journeys are quite so simple in this day and age. Given the wealth of information available online, most B2C buyers don’t just walk into a physical retail location and write a check on their first visit. In a similar way, B2B buyers don’t issue purchase orders without performing a reasonable amount of due diligence. Buyers know that the information age has given them the upper hand, which is why your company needs to join them on their journey – rather than trying to circumvent it.

Understanding the customer journey: goals & personas

So how can your company begin to adopt a customer journey mentality?

Before making any drastic changes to your sales and marketing processes, it’s important to first gain a fresh perspective of your customers and their goals. As we discussed in our recent series about sales and marketing alignment, inconsistent terminology and siloed data can lead to costly misconceptions about buyer behavior. When you don’t understand who your customers are and what their needs are, it’s impossible to fully understand their interactions in the context of a journey. It’s therefore vital for sales and marketing leaders to align on two fundamental concepts: buyer goals and personas.

Goals

Not every interaction with a customer involves the exchange of money. In fact, it’s quite possible that most interactions will be non-transactional in nature. Take, for example, a software as a service company like Insightly. At a high level, customers use Insightly to achieve a primary goal of managing their customers, leads, and projects under one roof. Throughout the customer’s journey from initial awareness to advocate, however, countless other goals and interactions are bound to develop, such as:

  • Upgrading or downgrading the current plan level
  • Requesting support assistance from the customer success team
  • Sharing feature enhancement ideas to make the platform more useful
  • Participating in educational training webinars
  • Requesting additional information about new features and integrations
  • Publishing satisfaction ratings on online review sites

In other words, customer behavior is dictated largely by their motivation, or at least until the point of inflection – when a customer enters a company’s realm by providing information or completing a transaction. After that point, companies have more opportunities to steer customers through a desired journey. Ultimately, companies who understand the “why” behind customer interactions at each point are well on their way to understanding the journey and creating consistently great customer experience.

Personas

One cannot understand customer goals without clearly defining who the customer is. Personas, which are fictitious characters based on actual data, can be tremendously useful for understanding your customers and their journeys.

How can you develop detailed and accurate personas? In my experience, interviewing frontline sales and support staff is a great place to start. Be sure to ask a variety of open-ended questions to foster an in-depth conversation about:

  • Buying cycles and patterns
  • Common objectives in the sales process
  • Gatekeepers, decision makers, and other stakeholders (particularly for B2B)
  • Demographic and psychographic considerations
  • Typical pre-sale and post-sale interactions

Incorporating quantitative data from your CRM is another important step for supplementing the accuracy of your personas while simultaneously avoiding any unintended biases. Some CRMs even offer built-in business intelligence dashboards, which can accelerate persona analysis and minimize unnecessary spreadsheet manipulation.

Customer journey mapping

Once you’ve developed a rock-solid understanding of your typical personas and their goals, it’s time to begin the customer journey mapping process. Mapping the customer journey can be a complex and tedious process, particularly for customers who establish lifelong relationships with buyers. As with any personal relationship, long-term business relationships fluidly contract and expand over time, making it difficult to know how to begin the mapping process. How can you “map” something that involves hundreds or thousands of relationships and an untold number of interactions?  

Let’s start the discussion with these questions:

  • When do your personas interact with your company? For example, discovery, pre-sale, sale, post-sale, service, etc.
  • How can your personas interact with your company or brand? For example, review sites, your marketing website, support portal, within the user interface, on social media, etc.
  • What are the different types of customer interactions? For example, website visits, eBook downloads, trial requests, support tickets, social media posts, blog comments, etc.
  • Where will you get the data to accurately answer these types of questions? For example, your CRM, website analytics platform, data warehouse, etc.
  • How does all of this fit within the context of a journey?

As you begin to ask these questions, you may realize that your “ideal” customer journey is far from reality. Perhaps your social media team is slow to respond to unsolicited lead inquiries. Or, perhaps your support team is more responsive to customers who are especially vocal, resulting in longer wait times for people who are polite. Don’t let this misalignment get you down. Remember, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” customer journey, especially in today’s reality of the self-guided customer journey. As Lori Wizdo at Forrester Research recently pointed out, the evolution toward a self-guided journey is changing the role of B2B marketers and sellers, which is why sales and marketing need to better align, share information, and work hard to keep the buyer’s attention throughout the journey. (Forrester Research, “Q&A: B2B Marketing Automation Platforms 101”, November 21, 2018)

Seek to continuously elevate your company’s understanding of the customer and try to structure internal conversations in the context of a journey and align your teams, relying on data-driven analytics at every step of the process. In time, this approach is sure to pay big dividends – both for your organization and the customer.

Let’s continue the journey

So far we’ve discussed what the customer journey is, how it’s constantly evolving, and how it relates to your business. In the next post, we’ll go one step further and explore specific steps for pivoting from a “funnel” mentality to a journey-minded approach.

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Insightly named an April 2019 Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice for Sales Force Automation (SFA)

We are excited to announce that Insightly has been recognized as an April 2019 Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice for Sales Force Automation.

We take great pride in this distinction, as customer feedback continues to shape our products and services.

In its announcement, Gartner explains, “The Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice is a recognition of vendors in this market by verified end-user professionals, taking into account both the number of reviews and the overall user ratings.” To ensure fair evaluation, Gartner maintains rigorous criteria for recognizing vendors with a high customer satisfaction rate.

Here are some excerpts from the customer reviews that helped us earn this distinction:

  • “Beast in WorkFlow Automation, will integrate with all major services you use. Go for it.” — Founder in the Education Industry Gartner Peer Insights (December 23, 2018)
  • “Tracking contacts, managing projects, and sales all in one platform is everything I need. Perfect for almost any company size.”— Sales and Marketing Professional in Manufacturing Industry, Gartner Peer Insights (February 14, 2019)
  • “The system is extremely user friendly and very customizable. We have a unique business model that requires a lot of custom fields and layouts, and Insightly had no issues accommodating to those custom fields. You can’t beat the price either! Half the price with twice the options as other big name CRM [softwares].”— Operations Supervisor in the Finance Industry, Gartner Peer Insights (October 17, 2019)

Learn more about this distinction!

Want to know what other Insightly customers have to say about our product and services? Read more reviews for Insightly on Gartner.

As Anthony Smith, our CEO and Founder, says, “As we execute on our product roadmap to meet the needs of our customers, we are always looking for ways to innovate even further, and welcome any and all feedback our customers share with us on Gartner Peer Insights.”

We thank all our customers for sharing their feedback with us. If you’re a customer and have an Insightly story to share, we encourage you to join the Gartner Peer Insights crowd and weigh in.

Not a customer yet? Request a free demo.

 

The Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice badge is a trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc., and/or its affiliates, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved. Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice constitute the subjective opinions of individual end-user reviews, ratings, and data applied against a documented methodology; they neither represent the views of, nor constitute an endorsement by, Gartner or its affiliates.

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This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Often in the typical life journey of a startup, it all starts with a prototype and a burst of early adopters, who are your only customer base. This initial success is enough to light up the founders to do whatever it takes to showcase and validate the product-market fit, a crucial ingredient for venture funding and future growth. It is also a phase when things are engineered for survival. The feature definitions are flexible and malleable, the use cases are primarily driven by the willing customers for the next big deal or growth spurt (assuming they are strategically aligned, of course).

Insightly is no different. We went through some similar phases of growth. We built features with a fervor. We understood and fulfilled the needs of the small and medium businesses. However, once we were outside the initial survival phase, we were very prudent about how we built our application.

Though it was difficult, we took a needed pause to evaluate our strategy for architecture and growth. Based on where we wanted to be, we made many product decisions coupled with some key architectural decisions that changed the overall DNA and trajectory of our offerings. From our founder, who wrote most of the initial code, to the early team that built many of its subsequent offerings, Insightly has always been grounded on a solid engineering foundation. This foundation is the lifeline of our company and has been a catalyst that has helped us grow exponentially.

Here are some of the engineering and architectural initiatives that not only helped us deliver compelling functionalities to our customers, but also formed the rock-solid foundation of Insightly’s SaaS offering.

Metadata driven architecture (MDA)

From early days, when we were working on our long-term product strategy and roadmap, it became very clear that we needed an architecture that could serve us for the long term and yet be flexible enough to accommodate the heterogeneous needs of our growing customer base. Being a horizontal CRM product that caters to a multitude of verticals, MDA provided the needed flexibility. By abstracting the functionality from the application architecture, we were not only able to personalize the experience tailored to each of our users, but it was also easily maintainable and less prone to errors and regressions. Converging the metadata and their instance data in real time and dynamically rendering the user Interface at runtime, helped us hit the mark with our customers.

Custom objects & custom fields

Custom Objects and Custom Fields have an equal footing as the pre-defined standard objects, that comes out of the box from Insightly. From CRUD operations to reporting, from extensibility using custom fields to API access for these Objects, they thrive and live like first class citizens within the Insightly ecosystem. The MDA architecture underneath helps us provide a consistent user experience across all the objects within Insightly.

Microservices

Decoupling many of our heavy lifting modules into smaller asynchronous jobs not only helped us reach our high availability goals, but also helped us to scale exponentially and handle many more requests. It also provided the required elasticity to scale individual pieces of our software based on the statistics and monitoring we had in place. We were able to surgically fix issues that helped us in our overall performance, stability, and at the end of the day, improve on the one metric that counts the most, usability of our product and customer experience!

Platform

At Insightly, a platform strategy was always at the core of our architecture and roadmap. In addition to providing our customers with a myriad of powerful CRM features, we also wanted to extend our value creation by building meaningful extensions and integrations. Insightly provides a rich set of Restful APIs that can be used by external ecosystems to create more value to our end customers. We also allow folks to extend the capabilities by providing a seamless integration with an external serverless compute framework from within our application ecosystem.

Security

Security is at the core of any organization that manages its customer data, and Insightly is no exception. Security is at the heart of everything we do and work on at Insightly. From a company wide initiative to be SOC2 Type II compliant, to many other initiatives like GDPR, Australian Privacy Act, and Privacy Shield, we always adhere to current industry standards and security practices. We constantly audit our applications for vulnerabilities and keep plugging away any vulnerabilities we find. From a A+ rating on our SSL server tests, to adopting best coding practices, from internal security checks to external audits, from to Pen testings to OWASP initiatives, security is embedded at all levels of our technology spectrum.

SSL Server Test Results

Simplicity

Keep it simple! It has been a mantra our engineers have always relied upon, and it has helped us grow as an engineering organization. While we have tackled some hard engineering problems related to architecture and scale, we have always brainstormed ourselves out of complex solutions, and relied upon sound, simple and elegant solutions that deliver the end results for us and our customers.

Mobile

In the current era, mobile apps are not just “nice to have”, but are an essential part of any offering. At Insightly, we built our mobile app from the ground up using some of the latest technologies. Rather than trying to mimic the exact web user behavior, we focused on ensuring the mobile use cases were at the forefront of our design and architecture. From beautiful and polished UI to handling push notifications, from stability to performance, we wanted the user experience to be nothing but amazing!

Build versus rent

Sometimes you do not have to build everything from the ground up. It is prudent to integrate with some best of breed to provide meaningful and seamless experience to your customers. For example, we integrate with some of the best cloud companies that are the leaders in sending millions of email or managing your queues at scale, or helping you monitor the health of your applications and servers.

Engineered by engineers

Finally, the Insightly Web Application is not a standard monolithic legacy application. It’s a 21st century, enterprise grade, cloud based SaaS application built not only with the latest technologies, trends and practices, but also by some of the brightest and smartest engineers that take personal pride in how they have engineered and architected the solution. They collaboratively and consistently balance innovation and customer needs every day. In the end, it’s the engineers and the culture of our entire organization that is the true rock solid foundation of all our offerings.

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Paul Daly, the founder and CEO of Congruent Story, a brand marketing agency in Syracuse, NY, says brand-first thinking is the critical differentiator between companies that win and those that don’t. What does he mean? Keep reading or listen to the podcast. 

 

Gamechangers EP 5 - Congruent Story - SoundCloud
(1561 secs long, 37 plays)Play in SoundCloud

 

A serial entrepreneur who leads with culture first, Paul Daly launched Congruent Story five years ago as an internal communications media unit for his auto repair and reconditioning company (Image Auto). With Congruent Story, or Congruent, Paul wanted to keep his team—which spread across 500 miles—aligned under a unified vision as they reached out to and serviced car dealerships. His customers, auto dealers, were so impressed with the branding and content that they asked Congruent to produce marketing strategy and materials for them. Soon, Congruent Story became a business in its own right, serving companies in the auto industry. Today, Congruent works with local and national companies across industries to help them build brands, create compelling content, and foster lifelong customer relationships.

Recently, Insightly CMO Tony Kavanagh checked in with Paul on Insightly Gamechangers Podcast. They spoke about the auto industry, brand-first marketing, how Congruent Story uses Insightly CRM, and more. Listen to their fascinating conversation on the podcast or continue reading to learn more. Please note that the interview below has been edited for readability, length, and clarity.

Listen to the full podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

What is the state of the auto industry? What are auto industry trends?

Tony Kavanagh: So there’s a lot of disruption in the auto industry. Elon Musk recently talked about Ford going bankrupt when we hit the next recession. The auto industry touches everybody in their everyday lives and has such a huge influence over us. I’d love to get your perspective on where it’s going.

Paul Daly: Look, at the base of automotive, or aviation, or public transportation, mobility is the real currency. Getting from point A to point B, and that’s nothing new. Mobility has been a type of currency and a staple for centuries. The auto industry has been quintessential America for the last hundred years. The automobile has been our ticket to mobility. It’s become a part of our culture, our lives, and what we rely on.

In this technological age, not only the mobility scene has begun to change because we’re in a car, but also because of the availability of that car now with Uber and Lyft and autonomous vehicles. It’s just a lot of fun and there’s a lot of hype around these new technologies.

Elon Musk has become such a voice in the industry because he’s disrupting the sales model—how we manufacture and get to the customers. I think when most people think of the automotive industry, they think of a car dealer because that’s where we purchase cars, historically.

[Auto industry] has been a staple of our economy for years. Prior to the 2008 recession, the saying was, “Whatever’s good for General Motors is good for America.” That changed in 2008 when GM went under. Then, we realized that one company and our economy weren’t so closely tied together, because we found another way.

But the auto dealer model is how we have traded vehicles, and that’s been legislated. It goes back to World War I. When Henry Ford was making cars in America, the government and the people saw that the more Ford succeeded, the more Americans had these vehicles and [the business] would develop faster.

So, it was conducive to distribute these vehicles faster, which meant, building a franchise model so that they could sell through franchise dealers. Then, the legislation came in place to protect those dealers, so that they could build a business around selling a certain product. Here we are, a hundred years later, and we have deep legislation to protect auto dealers from direct to consumer sales model, which Elon Musk is disrupting. There’s a lot of fighting over that.

Another component is the availability of information. In the sense that, the way I buy a car now has changed. I don’t walk into dealerships and see what they have, and pick something that they have. I go online, do my car shopping, and I know every dealer that has every car that I like. If I like a 2017 Camry, I can now see where all the 2017 Camrys are in my market and their price. That’s historically called an efficient market—where the buyer and the seller have the same information. We are there now, and that’s a huge disruption.

How are car dealerships adjusting to new consumer behavior and trends? 

Tony: You talk about Fordism, which is the foundation of what we know as production lines today. Of course, they’ve been improved over the years; robotics and so on have influenced how cars get made, so radical changes are always happening there from a technology perspective. But also, the dealership model, as you say. Anything that’s in a protected environment is bound to be disrupted at some stage.

How do you see the dealership model working in the future? Because, it is changing, right? The experience that we expect as consumers is also changing with the whole move to a subscription-based model for purchasing of goods and services.

Paul: I have to start off by saying I owe quite a bit to the dealership model. A number of Congruent Story’s clients are dealerships. I will also say that that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to what the consumer thinks about it. It’s the consumer who’s going to decide.

My message to dealers that are hanging their hat on franchise law I say, “You know that laws are decided by legislators, and legislators are voted in by people. If people want something enough, they’re gonna get it.”

So, I agree with you—eventually, these types of things are disrupted and I don’t know how and when that’s going to happen. It’s already being shaken up quite a bit. But I also, to your other point, believe that the consumer experience has now risen to the top of the pile when it comes to what you need to deliver as an auto dealer.

You need to deliver a transparent experience. We have a bad reputation in the auto dealership world of being dishonest, always trying to get a little bit more out of the customer. There’s just not a lot of trust built there.

Now, I see a lot of progressive dealers, and the savvy ones, and the ones who are disproportionately going to win, they’re the ones that are empathetically addressing that issue head on. They’re not trying to hide from it. They’re not trying to say, “Well, that’s not us, that’s the dealer down the street.” They’re saying, “Hey, we understand you feel this way. Frankly, this industry has earned it.”

I believe that the dealers who are paying attention can and should deliver the very best customer experience and are capable of it because they’re in the communities. Many of these are family businesses who have been staples of the community and have given usually more money, and time, and volunteer work than the next 10 businesses in any community.

I still believe that the local dealership model, the franchise dealership model, has a lot of life in it if they pay attention. There are enough that are paying attention, but they’re just going to disproportionately crush the other guys. Their acquisitions are going to increase. It’s just going to be a more consolidated market. So, I guess that’s my 30 thousand foot on the industry for the next 10 years.

Considering the changes in the auto industry and consumer expectations, what is Congruent Story focused on?

Paul: We’re a brand-first creative agency. There’s a big problem with communication—from one person to another, or an organization to a group of people. It’s a problem that will never be fully solved. I don’t think it will ever be solved by AI.

We can have algorithms and marketing AI bots. We can solve a lot of problems. But I really believe that some of the things that they solve are just tactics. They’re important tactics, but I think below all of that, the empathetic communication from one human to another by one purpose, communicating someone else’s purpose—that’s what I think about most.

At Congruent we’re going to continue to think brand first, because it’s going to be the critical aspect of differentiator between the companies that win and the companies that don’t: sharpening that brand message and then executing to that. So I think there’s a lot of white space there and I don’t think that space is ever going away.

What does it mean to be a brand-first company? How do you become one? 

Tony: It’s so interesting. Here at Insightly, we are so maniacally focused on trying to deliver a tailored or a very personal message and experience to customers that we put a lot of time and effort in figuring out our customers’ needs and how to satisfy them and deliver a tailored message—that’s what they expect and that’s what they should get.

To your point, AI and technology take away the drudgery, the blocking and tackling, and the basics we’re addressing. But you can’t replace an individual’s or human being’s ability to resonate with another. I think the more we can do that on a more personalized basis, the better.

Paul: What you’re saying about empathy, the ability to connect and being focused on that—I’m sure in your business, just like in mine, it’s the same principle. Having a clear message actually helps you recruit and align a great team. Because, like the communication aspect of it, it goes both ways. It’s hard enough to communicate with customers, try aligning a team behind it. If your messaging isn’t sharp and your vision isn’t sharp, it makes that task twice as hard.

Tony: We tend to take a lot of pride in hiring the right people. You’re a culture-first guy. We are the same way, it is all about the people and the culture. It speaks volumes. When we write our brand guidelines, we talk about the culture and who are we.

The brand is everything we do. It’s who we are, it’s how we behave, it’s what we say in the market. It’s how we treat our customers, it’s everything.

It’s sort of cool to think that really the future success of any business is to be able to treat every customer like they’re your only customer, even if you have thousands of them.

Paul: That can only ever happen if you have a brand understanding within your own walls. You can never do that unless you do the hard work of what you’re doing.

People will say, “Hey, your brand is not your logo, your brand is not fonts, your brand is not a sign. It is not a mission statement. Your brand is a feeling. It’s how people feel when they hear your name, when they interact with one of your people, when they log onto the app and they see the Insightly logo. It makes people feel a certain way.”

One of my favorite brand definitions is from Shep Gordon: [A brand] is a set of expectations, and memories, and relationships that, when you add them all together, basically, account to a customer’s decision whether to do business with you or someone else.

So, I love that Insightly is working on that. You know, it’s funny, it shows in my experience with Insightly and my interactions, I know that there’s a focus there. I could just tell that when I’m doing business with a company that has a level of unified beliefs. So, it’s cool to hear some of the backstory.

How does Congruent team use and benefit from Insightly?

Paul: I have a team, it’s several people who use Insightly at the same time. I’m more of a beneficiary of the rest of my team using it because I don’t personally interface with it that much anymore. But the part that means the most to me, which I use often, is the pipeline feature and the way we can track our sales pipeline. I make business decisions based on that all the time.

For example, my business director and I go through leads and how far along they are. We’re able to set up a flow that works for us and close probabilities that work for us. We’ve gotten it dialed in really well now. So it’s part of my weekly review with my business director.

But when it comes to hiring more people, or potentially considering new space or equipment purchases, that pipeline has become a tool that I use to inform those decisions on a weekly basis. So, to that note, that’s what means the most to me and is the most effective component in my decision-making process at this point in our business.

Tony: It’s great to have all data around your customers and your potential customers in one place. There’s millions of data points that you can look at and start to build a picture that’s much more higher definition than anything you’ve ever done before. So, having all of that data in one place is very important.

[At Insightly] we truly believe that it’s all about customer information and to be able to service the customer exactly the way they expect at every touchpoint in the buyer cycle. So the more information you can surface to people, who are servicing the customer over time, the better. So the more informed your salespeople are, your service people are, or your delivery people are about the customer and their preferences, the better that delivery quality will be or the better that sales experience will be.

Being able to surface that in a way that’s easily consumable is tantamount for us as we move forward as a company. But also, for our customers for their success in the future. So, it’s really cool stuff that we’re working on here in the background. You’ll see a lot of new stuff coming out over the next coming quarters and years.

Paul: Wow, that sounds really interesting. I don’t know what you’re cooking, but it sounds like it’s gonna be really interesting.

Tony: Paul, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you for taking the time today. But also, thank you for being a great customer of ours. We’re delighted to help you on your way.

Paul: It’s been a pleasure being an Insightly customer and to talk to you today.

Want to learn about other Insightly customers who are changing the game in their industries and making a difference in people’s lives? Check out Insightly Gamechangers Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Prefer to read the stories on the blog? Here are the links:

For more customer stories and use cases, please browse Insightly Customer Stories.

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This article was originally published on Forbes.

At a first glance, you may wonder what a healthcare startup in Chicago, workplace research consultancy in London, and an out-of-home advertising agency in Detroit have in common. But, when you take a closer look, which is what I did, you’ll find that they share an unwavering focus on their customers, providing solutions to real needs.

As founder of a customer relationship management (CRM) startup, I look at customer relationships both as a product developer and a business owner. Today I’m writing with my business owner hat on, to share with you four business and customer relationship lessons I gleaned from three companies (Insightly customers) led by visionary women entrepreneurs who are changing the game in their industries and making a difference in people’s lives.

1. Know your playing field

Professor Lynda Gratton spent more than 15 years studying workspace and what it takes to create collaborative and dynamic teams before she launched Hot Spots Movement in London, a research consultancy that helps companies around the world build productive teams and future-proof their businesses.

Dr. Stacy Lindau, the founder of healthcare startup NowPow, came up with an idea of connecting patients to high quality community services right at the point of care while she was conducting research funded by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at The University of Chicago.

Before Candice Simons took a leap of faith and launched Brooklyn Outdoor in Detroit, she spent a decade working in advertising, absorbing knowledge and paying careful attention to customers and macro-trends in the industry.

The lesson:

While you may not need a Ph.D. or years of industry experience to start a business, becoming an expert in your field will pay off in a number of ways throughout different stages of your business: From creating a high definition picture of your customers and understanding their unique needs, to developing better solutions, to identifying opportunities for growth. Of course, as a business owner you never stop learning, but a solid foundation will save you time and money, especially at the beginning. Instead of catching up on knowledge in your industry, you’ll be able to pursue creative ideas and focus on building long-lasting customer relationships.

2. Clearly define the problem you plan to solve

By the time Dr. Lindau, Simons, and Gratton sat down with a business plan, they were equipped with a wealth of knowledge and experience that left no doubt in their minds that they were bringing solutions to real problems.

While researching workplace dynamics, Prof. Graton saw that companies, big and small, didn’t know how to navigate their businesses in the face of societal, demographic and technological forces that were reshaping work and workplace dynamics. She launched a consultancy to apply her research and help companies to retain and engage their employees and strengthen their brands.

For Dr. Lindau, the lack of access to quality community services was a glaring problem in Chicago, so she saw an opportunity in using technology to better connect people with the community resources they need to stay healthy and lead productive lives. She partnered with Rachel Kohler, a veteran business owner, to build an online platform, including a directory and e-prescription service, that would help hospitals, patient advocates and thousands of individuals easily find, match and make referrals for critical services in a timely manner.

Simons launched Brooklyn Outdoor to build authentic experiences between big brands and consumers and to better connect independent billboard operators with Fortune 500 clients. As part of their creative planning and process, her team spends time in the neighborhoods where the ads go up, learning about the people and culture to create advertisements that resonate with local audiences.

The lesson:

Be clear on what you plan to solve, and for whom, to avoid endless existential soul-searching throughout the lifetime of your business. You’ll still have to revisit your “why” from time to time and pay attention to macro-trends and changes in your industry, but starting out with clarity is critical to  business success.

As you grow your business, you’ll also find your customers and customer data as invaluable sources of insight and inspiration. Invest time in choosing the right technology to manage your data and customer relationships.

3. Choose technology that can empower your team

For Hot Spots Movement, choosing the right CRM wasn’t just about streamlining internal processes and projects, managing customer data or forecasting sales — it was a conscious decision to select a system that would help automate mundane manual tasks and free up time for more valuable and rewarding work.

As a company that set out to simplify access to critical social care, NowPow wanted a simple CRM solution for their own team. With so many moving pieces, they wanted a CRM they could customize and implement quickly. They also wanted to create a transparent workspace, where every team member had visibility into customer relationships from the very first touch by sales through the months and years of customer service down the road.

When Simons was deciding on a CRM, she wanted to make sure three things would happen — her team would be fully engaged, they would be strategic about the data they entered and managed in the CRM, and they would be able to manage the system, not the other way around.

The lesson:

Note that all three businesses put people at the core when deciding on a CRM. You take time to pick the best talent and hire the right people for your business. Why not choose the kind of technology that would empower your team to do their best, feel productive and contribute to your business growth? To quote the SVP of Apple and former CEO of Burberry, “Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.”

This doesn’t mean that you should ignore your business needs, security requirements, integrations or cost when choosing a CRM. Just remember that systems and tools don’t build relationships or drive success — people do.

4. Lead with empathy and authenticity

Whether it’s part of their business value proposition or customer philosophy in general, Prof. Gratton, Dr. Lindau and Simons built their teams and companies with authenticity and empathy both towards their employees and their customers. Their focus on customer relationships stems from a deep understanding of a human need to connect and do meaningful work. Prof. Gratton launched her business to help people better connect with each other in a workplace and find fulfillment in their work. Dr. Lindau built a platform that connects people to critical resources and allows professionals to coordinate efforts in providing access to those resources. Simons helps companies to connect with their audiences and create authentic brand experiences through engaging advertisements.

The lesson:

It’s easier to trust your vision and stay on course when you stay true to yourself. You’re also more likely to onboard people who share your values, believe in your vision and feel encouraged to be their authentic selves. In a way, empathy is impossible without authenticity, and you need both to build meaningful customer relationships and inspire your team to do the same.

We learn from example. True leaders, like Simons, Prof. Gratton and Dr. Lindau, aren’t always showing us what to do, but rather how to be: How to act on inspiration and execute with vision, purpose and empathy. With time, that inspiration percolates into employees and, ultimately, into customer relationships.

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This is Part 5 of sales and marketing alignment blog series based on conversations with Insightly VP of Sales Mark Ripley and CMO Tony Kavanagh.

 

Once your leaders have aligned around a shared marketing and sales strategy, it’s time to shift the focus and align the rest of the organization. After all, even the best strategy provides minimal value when your frontline staff feel disconnected and disengaged.

So, how can you ensure that staff at all levels align their actions with the company’s goals – not just the interests of their own departments?

Today we’ll explore how cross-functional teams can help achieve organization-wide alignment. We’ll also take a look at how Insightly’s sales department leverages cross-departmental teams to achieve its growth pipeline objectives.

Fostering relationships that transcend departments

The term “cross-functional team” is often used in business to describe a team that consists of people from different departments or functions. While this definition may be commonly accepted, the best cross-functional teams have more in common than mere membership to a group. Excellent teams aren’t just built on to-do lists, accountability charts, or productivity metrics; rather, they’re built on real human relationships.

“Relationships form the glue that connects cross-departmental teams,” says Mark Ripley, VP of Sales at Insightly. “To achieve greatness, an organization’s leaders must continuously encourage the formation and advancement of internal relationships.”

What can leaders do to encourage the development of healthy cross-departmental relationships? One way to encourage healthier and more collaborative cross-departmental relationships is to organize regular off-site team-building events and activities. Such events allow staff to momentarily step away from the daily grind of their jobs and network with colleagues from across the organization.

“At Insightly, social offsite events have helped us build more synergy among staff,” says Mark. “People feel more comfortable in a casual and relaxed setting, which makes it easier to form relationships that transcend department, job title, and seniority level.”

Structuring your team for success

As people get to know (and like) one another, they become more interested in each other’s lives and are able to better communicate with colleagues from other departments. But, cross-functional teams can’t become an extended version of your offsite social events. Clear objectives, roles, responsibilities, and expectations must be set to ensure the team achieves its goal.

How can you structure your cross-functional team for success? As Insightly learned with its cross-departmental growth pipeline initiative, you first have to appoint a team leader who can “own” success or failure.

After appointing his leader, Mark then worked closely with leadership from other departments to build the cross-functional team. They identified stakeholders who had the right mix of skills, experience, and expertise to align the various sources of pipeline.

“We assembled a cross-functional team that includes stakeholders from sales, marketing, product, and customer loyalty,” says Mark. “The team selected a point person from each department to work closely with the overall owner and serve as a liaison between the teams.”

Defining & measuring success

After team members and roles are clearly defined, the cross-functional group can start peeling back top-level objectives into more specific action items. Teams should develop their own data-centric goals that align with the overall goals of the company. The team leader should facilitate the creation of team-specific goals and incorporate candid feedback from each point person. At Insightly, the team defined the growth pipeline success with a specific number of opportunities from different sources.

In many cases, it may be necessary to develop secondary metrics that support the primary success indicator. That’s where a data-driven CRM, such as Insightly, proves to be particularly useful. Creating interactive business intelligence dashboards provides stakeholders with the data visualization they need to measure success in real-time.

For example, the Insightly growth pipeline team uses its own software to create dashboards that monitor primary and secondary KPIs, such as:

  • Number of opportunities by quarter, month, and day
  • Opportunity volume by source
  • Current opportunity volume vs. prior periods
  • Campaign contribution to opportunity volume

Business intelligence dashboards also make it possible for cross-functional teams to work smarter and remain focused on the most impactful activities. Instead of slicing and dicing spreadsheets or running complex SQL queries, team members gain instant access to reliable and actionable data from any web-enabled device. Easy access to key data frees up more time for collaboration, leading to more meaningful discussions, fresher ideas, and more alignment.

“Cross-functional teams can’t afford to waste time manually crunching data,” says Mark. “Dashboards bypass many of the administrative bottlenecks that are traditionally associated with data-driven decision making.”

Accelerate alignment with a better CRM

Whether you’re operationalizing at the team level or just starting the alignment conversation, one thing remains constant: achieving sales and marketing alignment is difficult, if not impossible, without a rock-solid CRM.

If your CRM is inhibiting organizational alignment, maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at the market. Download this free eBook from Insightly and find out if it’s time for you to make a change.

Download the guide

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