CRM & Quality Content: The Sales Process’ Dynamic Duo

CRM-ball

Customer relationship management (CRM) is critical to promoting progression through an organization’s sales cycle. More than just a warehouse of contacts, an optimized CRM solution contains critical data about your company’s clients, prospects, colleagues and/or suppliers.

CRM systems are responsible for some of the biggest gains in 21st Century commercial productivity, because data is king, and the ability to access it – easily, completely and accurately – can mean the difference between opportunities lost and won.

A top-performing CRM system tracks activity at every stage of the sales cycle. But it goes further, guiding producers on the sequential steps required to close a deal or cross-sell a particular client. To facilitate this, a full history of all communications and documents shared must be part of every CRM record.

And that leads us to a truth that cannot be overstated. Fresh, relevant and compelling content is absolutely critical to keeping your clients and prospects engaged, and the sales process moving. Here are some tips for developing web and social media content that supports your customer relationship management efforts.

Newer is better

You’ve heard the saying “what’s old is new again?” Forget that when it comes to the development and promotion of digital content. You don’t have to overhaul your company’s home page every week, but consistently adding new content gives visitors a reason to bookmark the site and return.

Know your audience

In a well-meaning effort to be all things to all people, companies can lose sight of their key messages – and their target audience. Remember the following acronym: WIFM. What’s in it for me? Your content should vary, but always relate to your demographic and its interests.

Leverage your expertise

Trust is big – and your reputation as a subject matter expert can open doors. If you can save a customer or prospect time, money or otherwise make life easier, don’t hold back. Best practice content delivered to your audience is a soft sell method that builds confidence in your business over time.

Keep it simple

Bulleted tip sheets, short articles with numbered titles (“7 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Garage) and brief blog posts (300-500 words) can hold a reader’s attention span. Dense documents do not.

Be consistent

Keeping the content on your website and social media platforms updated is a job, but it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore. If you own a startup business or work for a small team, hands can be scarce. Schedule a regular hour or two on your calendar every week to review, plan and assign content. The consistent flow of new opportunities into your CRM system will make the effort well worth it.

Originally published on the SAVO corporate blog

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The Power of Swatting

My maternal grandfather Eugene Casimir Bosiacki was a quiet man who weighed over 400 pounds when he died in July of 1993. Though he was passionate about polka, golf and food, my sister and I could never get him to talk about his time missing in action as an Aerial Gunner in World War II.

Through the hushed whispers of other family members who attended his funeral, we learned of the squalid, deprived conditions in which he spent four weeks waiting for rescue in the Philippines. Conditions that left him with a lifelong distaste for insects.

When Poppa (as Jenny and I called him) retired from a long career in sales, he took up a second vocation that united his love of silence and keeping the environment bug-free. Poppa went down to the corner drugstore, bought himself a blue fly swatter, filled a giant plastic cup with water and commenced the soldier’s version of neighborhood watch. Sitting sentry, Poppa surveyed the kids on the block at play, scrutinized suspicious characters and most importantly, leveraged that omnipresent blue fly swatter to disabuse flying critters with notions of sharing his space.

Having grown up in immense poverty before joining the Air Force at age 15 after expulsion from an orphanage, I don’t think Poppa knew much of control or choice in his life. But he could decide how many of his thoughts were shared – and what earned the right to fly into his home.

Lonesome Dove (March 9, 2009)

It’s day two of my new weekday life without Eddie. I mentioned that we have done this before, so I saw him off early yesterday morning without tears (not sure if I am capable of them at 4:15 AM anyway). I am bound and determined to make our time apart productive and as fulfilling as possible. I have my nose to the grindstone at the office and do my best to fill my evenings with work around the house, my regular gym schedule and other sundry activities. For the most part, I am so active and diligent in my attempts to distract myself, I forget that I am actually alone. The only two circumstances when I cannot ignore that weird feeling that something is missing are the bookends to my day.

My husband is noise incarnate. He talks, he snorts, he snores, he sings (loudly). Those of you acquainted with him know just what I am talking about. Eddie has a life force about him that I have often wished to emulate, but have been unable to duplicate. It’s just impossible to remain ignorant of his presence. So it was as I got dressed for work yesterday morning that I wondered about the eerie quiet. When Eddie was unemployed, he wasn’t even awake at that time, so why did I feel so alone? I realized that even my husband’s sleeping noises carry a weight and comfort for me. His tossing and turning, coughing and heavy breathing became as much a part of my morning routine as did wrapping my scarf around my neck before walking out the door.

When I came home from the office for the day, I found myself calling out to him from the front door out of habit. I somehow hoped he’d stick his head out of our office door to bellow the familiar, “Hello Pumpkin!” There are so many instances where I have found the attention grabbing and scene stealing powers of my husband to be annoying, but once they are missing from my everyday, I realize that I am nothing without my larger than life better half.

There are many couples in far more dire straits than us, and I only need to keep this up for four to six months. It will get easier each week. The human being’s ability to adapt to change is really quite remarkable, no matter how we may resist new scenarios at times. It’s sort of tough though when the person you most want to discuss these ideas with is the one person you just can’t see.

Mixed Blessings (March 5, 2009)

Hubby got a job. A job with Comcast. It’s a 4-6 month contract-to-hire position. That’s not exactly longterm security, but in this economy…well I don’t need to tell any of you. It also pays darned good money, enough so that we can sock away a bit more while bracing for another possible hunt over the summer. But, though this is exactly what I’ve prayed would happen, as with any boon, there is always a catch. Eddie will have to travel back and forth to Denver, Colorado every week from Monday at 4AM, until Friday night at 11 or midnight. That’s going to be rough on him personally, and hell on our marriage in terms of time spent together. Believe me, this is no whine. We need this, and most critically, Eddie needs this. But I will miss him terribly.

We’ve done this before. In the 6 months leading up to our wedding in Raipur, India, Eddie was away each week on a project in Phoenix. We lived almost next door to O’Hare at that time, and he always returned on Thursday night. This was rough, especially on a bride to be, but back then he slept at home more nights than he was away.

The first 7 months of our marriage, Eddie was away in Red Bank, New Jersey, and I again held down the fort at home. The one thing that rendered this bearable to a newlywed wife was that I got him to agree that we’d move back to the City, pronto. It did make things slightly harder on him in terms of getting to the airport and back, but thankfully that was a sacrifice he was willing to make for my sanity. What really killed us both with this project were the 16-18 hour days Eddie put in as a leader of the team. More often than not, this work schedule was in effect even on Saturday and Sunday. One week, he just didn’t come home at all. Comcast at least states that they keep a pretty regular 9-5, Monday-Friday routine (and judging from the crap service I receive as one of their customers, I can attest to their immovability on that front), so I am keeping in mind that my sadness over the imminent disruption to our homelife can only pale in comparison to the trials we endured in 2008.

The field that Eddie has chosen for his career definitely lends itself to high earning potential. But it also comes with risks. One of those is volatility. The work is usually temporary, which creates a lot of opportunity to try new things and see new faces. But as I have seen throughout the worst of this economic downturn, that benefit of change can quickly turn to a disadvantage when you are a temp worker and payrolls are being sliced. There are no unemployment insurance benefits to collect. There’s no real way of knowing when your next paycheck is coming, even if you saved during your employed period.

But as a wife who genuinely and truly adores her husband (Jen and I have that in common), I can tell you that money means nothing when you have to look at your husband’s face after he returns home from months of living in hotel rooms and rental cars, working like a dog, just so he can give you the financial security he thinks you deserve. You just want to grab his weary body and never let him walk back out the door. I am proud of him. The job he has landed is nothing but wonderful, especially when you consider the many other people out there who are forced to make tougher choices than these everyday. But I can’t lie to myself. It won’t be so easy.

Roadkill (February 27, 2009)

Today was to be my professional day in the sun. I had long planned the first meeting I was to host all by myself, no co-workers, no boss to look over my shoulder. I was to welcome 30 highly respected dental professionals into the ADA Boardroom, a state of the art and imposing facility. I was to proctor the meeting, and even give a 45-minute presentation on our department procedures and program tools. I had spent weeks preparing and collating agenda materials, ordering a fine continental breakfast for the attendees. I was nervous but confident as I woke up with the alarm this morning and headed into work early.

Many of you may have figured out by now that I am a walking sitcom, complete with internal laugh track. So this rather mundane professional situation predictably unraveled into a”Bridget Jones” style farce rather quickly. Seriously, I should have seen it coming.

I reached downtown about 7:30, and went to catch the bus, the 125 Water Tower Express. As I exited the train station, I saw it pull up out of the corner of my eye and congratulated myself on my good timing. I was running to grab it, and the driver started to pull away without me as I was knocking on the door. The bastard (not sure if it was a he or she) never did stop – typical. I am not a quiet knocker. I was frustrated and in my rush, I did not notice the curb of the street. Naturally, in addition to the obvious humiliation of being ignored by a City bus driver in front of hundreds, I had to trip and fall on my hands and knees, hurtling myself into the middle of the road. And before any of you even ask, no, there was no alcohol involved. Again naturally, not one soul in this crowd of hundreds so much as asked I were alright. Now angry, hurt and mortified, I picked myself up and willed my body not to hobble back to the curb, but to return to the sidewalk with my head held high. Giggling gawkers be damned. I dragged myself into the nearest Bank of America ATM vestibule under the guise of withdrawing money, but really so I could injury check, look for my damage to my wardrobe, and let out an animal-like howl as I rubbed my already purple left knee. Gratefully, my shiny black pants were none the worse for wear, so I hopped another bus, popped a Motrin for my sore joints and decided to rise above.

But old Mr. Murphy, he of the famous Law, would not have it so. My ego was to continue its battering and downward descent. I arrived to setup the meeting, only to discover that the”fine continental breakfast” I had asked our admin. to order was nowhere to be found. As she wasn’t in the office yet (of course!), I had to run down the cafeteria and implore the kind staff there to put a rush on a quickie meal for 30. This they did with grace and without going out of their way to impose any additional shame upon me. Thank you Aramark! This was handled seamlessly before the appearance of my first guest, so I moved onto the next crisis – technical problems with my presentation.

The Chairman of the group called the meeting to order, and my part of the proceedings was to take place about an hour in. I discreetly called IT support and sat sweating bullets that I should not be called upon and have to confess my lack of preparedness to present. The wonderful Jay came into the boardroom, equally discreetly and fixed my problem within seconds. Yeah! Celebrating the aversion of another disaster, I headed down the hall to relieve my tea filled bladder, only to encounter one of my meeting attendees just as he was flushing a urinal and zipping up his fly. All too late, I realized I had entered the men’s room. Kill me.

Somehow rather than castigating my incompetence, the dentists thanked me for one of the liveliest meetings they had ever attended. I’ll bet. A small group of them even took me to lunch. I guess old men enjoy the Lucille Ball in me. Fortunately, I am so accustomed to humilating myself, I didn’t feel the shame I probably should have. Lesson learned: whenever I get too high on my professional horse and feel invincible, I am reminded that I am just a girl who can be leveled by a bus (literally and metaphorically) at any moment.

The Politics of Fear (February 19, 2009)

I have heard this term bandied about a lot recently on CNN, blogs, and out of the mouths of other talking heads. “The politics of fear,” alludes to Obama’s supposed strategy of scaring us into taking the wrecked economy seriously. The theory put forth by the cynical is that President Obama takes advantage of the current climate of panic to push forward his left wing, Democratic agenda. Although I first heard the phrase from the nonpartisan, but always cranky Lou Dobbs, I smell the influence of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk in selling this concept to the people of America. So there we have it, “the politics of fear” takes its place as a catch phrase for 2009, much like “Main St./Wall St.,” “Joe the Plumber,” and “Yes, We Can” reflected the political atmosphere of 2008.

But here’s my problem with the accusations by some that the Obama adminstration is somehow working the paranoia of the average American to its advantage: if anything I don’t know if Obama’s message has been dire enough. Agreed that he definitely used forceful rhetoric to get the always inept Congress (and I lay the blame in a bipartisan manner) to act on a stimulus package. But what part of Obama’s address was untrue I’d like to know? The following are actual headlines encountered while perusing theNew York Times in the last two days. Now, the Times may lean to the left, but I doubt there are a lot of sane folks on the planet who would accuse it of yellow journalism:

  • Newly Poor Swell Lines at Food Banks Nationwide – As the recession continues, more people who are unused to asking for help are picking up free groceries.
  • Stocks Slip on Bank Uncertainty And Economic Woes
  • $275 Billion Plan Seeks to Address Housing Crisis
  • Wall Street Quietly Searches for Direction
  • Fed Offers Bleak Economic Outlook – The Federal Reserve cut its economic outlook for 2009 on Wednesday and warned that the United States economy would face an “unusually gradual and prolonged” period of recovery as the country struggles to climb out of a deep global downturn.

Now my dear readers, I must ask, since I am no economist, which of these stories are in any way fraudulent or based on opinion, rather than fact? Do those who assert a “politics of fear” honestly believe that there is some great conspiracy between Obama, the Fed and the media designed to convince us all that Doomsday is approaching, just so the Democrats can foist their agenda on us? This seems disinegnuous and self-protecting at best, delusional and dangerous at worst. We are a nation suffering in part because of our collective unwillingness to look toward the future, confront reality and address systemic problems. It seems to me that buying into the “politics of fear” is just another way to hang onto the status quo and avoid doing any real work. That was the Bush legacy, not the Obama motivation. Our new Prez is certainly not afraid to tackle issues, issues that in many cases should have been dealt with before I was born. I am grateful to Obama for taking these lame duck accusations on the chin and pushing forward.

I considered this topic because of what’s going on in my own home. My husband has been out of a job for almost two months. After weeks of sending out resumes, working his inside connections and lowering his expectations on what he’s willing to do for money, he finally got a hit from a small company in the Chicago suburbs. However this lead, like so many during these times, turned into a painful near miss this week, actually the day of his birthday (Tuesday). He got all the way to the offer round, and then was not selected. We are starting to eat into our savings, and all economic indicators point to no relief on the job market any time soon. This is taking a major toll on my hubby, a man who perhaps more than most, ties his self-worth to his career and earning power. When he hears Lou Dobbs, or any other pundit, accusing Obama of playing the “politics of fear” with his sobering messages about the State of our Union, it is all I can do to restrain him. In our experience, and those of our friends and acquaintances, the economic reports are usually lagging behind what we see and hear on the front lines. If anything, the situation is much worse than the wags are saying.

I am about to give up on 2009 entirely. We are approaching the end of the first quarter, and I (and Bill Clinton) do not believe we’ve hit bottom yet. It is only then we can begin to rise again. This puts me in the unique position of praying for a faster, rather than a slower crash.

If all of this mess was just a distorted view brought on by the “politics of fear,” I would think I would have woken up from this nightmare by now to find a gainfully employed husband, my 401k portfolio having recovered the 38% value I lost in 2008, and my sister able to sell her house and move her expanding family to a place with enough space for their kids to grow.

Friday the 13th (February 13, 2009)

Reading Jen’s post this week made me realize again how not ready I am for children. I have enough trouble getting myself (and my impish husband) out of bed in the morning, washed dressed and fed, without adding actual dependents into the mix. I think I have mentioned before that the Husband Unit is presently without a job, and has been for 6 weeks now. We are OK, far luckier than many people for certain, but hubby spends enough time agonizing over his failure to provide as it is without the additional stress of having little mouths to feed. Beyond the economic stressors of parenthood, there are random and sudden bouts of illness or infestation (such as Jen is coping with), the constant lack of sleep or time for oneself. I already have to remind myself on a near daily basis that I am 30, no longer 20 (see Atlanta posts from last week). But as I round the corner toward 31, in-laws foaming at the mouth for the next generation of Boops, I often find myself wondering if I will ever feel “ready” or at least capable. I tip my hat to Jen and all the other multi-tasking super parents out there.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, for some a Hallmark holiday, for others, perhaps the one time a year that they stop and to use a well-worn phrase, smell the roses. The next few days are packed with personal significance for me, so I thought I’d use the occasion to send a couple of blog Valentine’s to my loved ones.

    • To my sister, Jen, who turned 28 1/2 this week: I know you know this already, but it bears repeating. The day you were born was one of the happiest days of my life. Though I was only 2 years old myself, I can recall the day you came into this world with clarity. And that is because there has never been anyone happier to be a new big sister than I was. You may be a career woman, mother of two and all around capable force, but you have and always will be my baby.
    • To my best friend of 17 years, Gary, who is enduring a trying family crisis at this time: you are a rock of good sense and maturity, while still remaining a beacon of good times and belly laughs, the kind that make you feel like you might pee your pants. I don’t know what my life would be like without that.
    • To my husband, who turns 28 years old this coming Tuesday, coincidentally, the very same day we shared our first kiss and I knew I was really in for it. You alternately infuriate, shock, entertain and love me like I have never been loved. You are a maelstrom of chaos and contentment, all in one. I thought I was pretty complex until you and your rock star attitude turned my world on its ear. I have never looked back.
    • To my nieces, undoubtedly the two cutest and sweetest little ladies to ever grace this planet: KK, may you always be the character that has brought sunshine into all of our lives. “Aunt Bucky” felt connected to you from the moment you rained explosive diarrhea on her good jeans at the tender age of three days. Rosebud, thank you for reminding me that if a 20-month old can do 50 squats in a row without fatigue, a full grown woman ought to be able to do 10 pushups without tears. I never imagined a baby could motivate me to get to the gym, but there you go. A big shout out to their father as well, who has more than a small hand in affecting the good natured sweetness of these gals.
    • To all my girls, you know who you are: C, JTho, TWebb, the ghetto fabulous Yee, Di, Jane and the Roux sisters. Holla!
    • To my A.D., who is boy crazy and giggles like a school girl though she is well into her fifth decade. I am without a mother figure and have been some time. Thanks for reminding me to lighten up, and that you will always be there.
    • To Perez Hilton, Barack Obama, Entertainment Weekly, David Sedaris and CNN: I gave up a lot of my spare time and brain power to you folks in 2008, and it was well worth it.