Last Updated Dec 7, 2007 6:04 PM EST
Networked marketing tools enable you to improve your performance in areas such as sales force management, communications, fulfillment, billing, service, and support. They can provide all the information you need to understand customers' preferences, needs, and interests. They offer a cost-effective method of converting prospects into profitable customers and make it more convenient for customers to conduct business with you online.
Sales automation tools allow your sales representatives to quickly identify promising leads, then coordinate the sales team efforts to close the deal. By automating routine administrative tasks and putting relevant information on the desktop, you can free your sales team to spend more time on productive selling. Networked marketing tools have a broader role, aligning your business processes with your customer strategy to enable your sales, marketing, and customer service teams to interact effectively with customers at every stage of the sales and marketing life cycle
By using the right networked marketing tools, you can align your business processes with your customer strategy to enable your sales, marketing, and customer service teams to interact effectively with customers at every stage of the sales and marketing life cycle. The right tools support improved performance in planning and analyzing your marketing campaigns, identifying and tracking your sales leads, and managing customer contacts.
Networked marketing tools can deliver significant enhancements in two key areas:
- efficiency—reducing the cost of the sales and marketing process through, for example, increased sales productivity or reduced customer acquisition costs
- effectiveness—improving business outcome, through, for example, increased revenue or customer satisfaction and loyalty
In practical terms, they provide a number of important benefits:
- make it easier to gather customer data swiftly and identify the most valuable customers
- increase customer loyalty by providing customized products and services
- reduce costs of serving customers
- make it easier to acquire similar customers
- control sales costs, productivity issues, and increasing job complexity
- improve the customer experience by eliminating non-customer facing administration tasks
Networked tools can be used to improve performance at every stage of the sales and marketing life cycle. These are the touch points between you and your customers through a typical sales and marketing life cycle:
- targeting the customer with marketing campaigns, personalized Web access
- acquiring the customer through sales engagements—this can be an ongoing activity at any point in the cycle
- transacting with the customer through e-commerce activities
- supporting and servicing the customer via integrated, multichannel offerings
- continuing to grow and retain the customer through training, communities, marketing, and other postsales activities
Customers are accustomed to high levels of personal service, as well as tailored product and service offerings. To meet that higher standard, you need to be able to learn your customers' needs in more detail and respond more quickly than ever. Understanding customer needs is a key competitive advantage. Knowing exactly which products or services they need and how they would like to purchase them can be simplified by using Internet technologies to interact with customers. Software, hardware, and Internet capabilities are used to gather and manage information about customers and prospects.
Your business can use this information to guide marketing, sales, and customer service activities that identify, attract, and retain profitable customers. The objectives are to increase customer satisfaction and profitability and create customer-driven offerings. The benefits are:
- greater customer loyalty;
- improved sales productivity;
- reduced sales and marketing costs;
- increased revenue and profitability.
Your customers interact with you in many different ways. By integrating all these into a single, accessible knowledge base, you can create a more personalized and profitable relationship with each customer. Your entire company becomes more responsive to fast-changing customer and market needs. Your sales teams can stay updated with the latest product information and prepare customized quotes on the spot. Sales teams can use online account histories to suggest new products and services during incoming customer calls.
There are five key areas of customer interaction:
- customer service support
- field sales support
- automated ordering
- targeted marketing
- technology-assisted selling
- Use networked information to monitor customer service requests, check order status, and obtain shipping details.
- Give customer-facing employees an automated way to process service requests.
- Build and manage a knowledge base based on accumulated responses to past customer questions and issues.
- Make customer information accessible over your internal network and the Internet.
Networked solutions focus on sales team processes and tools, which include:
- giving sales teams timely access to information such as customer profiles and order histories, enabling them to find and seize new opportunities;
- enabling sales teams to quickly retrieve product and service details;
- allowing sales managers to easily monitor the sales pipeline and account status.
- Give customers instant feedback after placing an order without tying up staff.
- Provide payment acknowledgment after a payment is processed.
- Give customers order tracking facilities to reduce calls to customer service.
- Collect and leverage real-time customer information through every customer-facing channel.
- Support analysis as a basis for developing customized products and services.
- Enable personalized Web-based interactions with customers.
A Web-based sales portal provides a collection of services tailored for individual sales executives and account managers. Real-time information provided by the portal allows field sales teams to be more knowledgeable about market opportunities and customer needs through customer satisfaction feedback, service alerts, warranty alerts, order alerts, and bookings. Field staff can also access third-party market, company, and competitor information, as well as customer-specific information. The delivery of real-time information via a portal supports increased levels of efficiency, leaving more time to deal with customers. It improves effectiveness, leading to more informed and competent interactions with customers, and ultimately enhances customer satisfaction.
Portals can include a range of facilities:
- Alerts: sales staff can choose to get alerts when events occur that have an impact on customer satisfaction such as shipping date changes or changes in order status.
- Real-time bookings: sales staff receive comprehensive information on account, date, order number, channel, product revenue, service revenue, billing, and shipping details.
- Bookings: booking metrics and analysis provide account managers with bookings information on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis.
- Relevant news stories: sales staff select which accounts to track, and news stories are automatically fed to this centralized portal, reducing time needed to research.
Lead management is often a slow, inefficient, and essentially manual set of operations that are seldom optimally orchestrated across the enterprise. The result is that sales representatives generally believe that leads, with the possible exception of the highest-rated leads, have little value, and they act on them only when time permits. This perception increases the problem, because delays in responding to leads both increase their costs and reduce their value. To address these issues, the lead management process needs to be integrated across the entire life cycle of a lead from demand creation and capture to resolution and analysis.
Because most marketers are focused on lead generation, they fail to recognize the importance of lead planning. Effective lead planning provides the framework for the alignment of objectives and a coordinated approach to resource allocation. Lead generation programs generate market demand, based on the original strategy. Lead qualification prioritizes leads according to their readiness to be acted on and the opportunities they present. The leads that are not ready are put into a nurturing process, resulting in more effective resource utilization and closing rates.
An effective lead management process must be able to track a lead throughout the sales process to closure. It is critical to assess the impact of lead management programs and to feed that information back into the strategy and planning phase, in order to improve future efforts.
An integrated lead management program increases the effectiveness and efficiency of lead management efforts:
- Effectiveness: improved quality and timeliness of leads increases credibility and utilization by sales/channels as well as closure rates. Moving the lead through to conversion quicker means revenue hits the bottom line faster. This can also increase customer satisfaction.
- Efficiency: cost of marketing and sales/channels resources is reduced.
If you handle field sales, advertising, direct marketing, customer service, and telesales through different departments or external agencies, your customers could be receiving a different level of service every time they contact you. It could be costing you money as well. You may be missing additional sales opportunities, and you could be duplicating some of your customer management costs. Integrating customer information across the organization can help to ensure high-impact marketing campaigns, increase retention rates, and maximize return on marketing investments.
Calvin, Robert J.,