SugarCon Speaker Spotlight: Agency Q

The day after the close of a quarter (and a GREAT one at that) is traditionally a more relaxed day in the office. I WISH. So much is going on, especially with SugarCon just around the corner. And one of the reasons to attend SugarCon is to learn more about the business benefits of CRM – learning more about why we should be using the system, rather than how the technology works.

Our amazing partner network does a lot of the heavy lifting here – bringing a technical discussion into a more value-oriented dialog. The simple fact is, CRM tools can do a lot of things – finding the right partner to help you make sure that your CRM system is helping you grow your business and not miring you in a technology abyss – is the key.

I recently talked with Greg Nelson, director of customer engagement at new Sugar partner, agencyQ out of Washington DC as he prepared for his SugarCon session on focusing on the “relationship” aspect of CRM. I have known the firm for a while, and they really understand business value. These guys see where business is going – faster, online, social, etc. and have been ahead of the curve. In short, it is awesome having them as part of the Sugar team.

In our brief talk, Greg made some great points about the true value of CRM, inbound marketing, and how to leverage social media without buying in to gimmicky trends.  Enjoy.

Greg, in the past CRM has gotten a bad rap as being “too much about technology.” Is there any truth to that?

All too often I see a major disconnect between IT, Marketing/Sales and Customers.  CRM is not a silver bullet.  Just because a company spends a large amount of money on CRM technology does not mean that they understand how to engage the customer with their product or service.  CRM cannot solve a broken business model or fix a corporate culture that is not focused on the needs of the customer. Companies need to spend less time looking at data and more time walking in the shoes of their customers.

CRM should foster a stronger relationship with your customer.  Companies have to take a 360 degree view of their business and better understand how every touch point affects the customer journey. This means not only utilizing data and technology but also looking at your business through the eyes of the customer.  Focusing too much on CRM technology and ignoring the basics of customer service will cause any CRM solution to fail.

How can a firm like agencyQ help alter these perceptions?

agencyQ advocates using CRM as a tool that supports customer engagement. We help clients drive ROI by developing thoughtful marketing strategies that are supported by smart technology solutions.

For CRM technology to be effective, the customer needs to be in the center of the business model. CRM is about knowing the customer, developing strategies that meet their needs and turning customers into brand advocates.

At Q we use a very systematic way of developing customer engagement.  Through our engagement assessment we develop a CRM blueprint that provides recommendations on practices, processes and enablers which is driven by the opinions and behaviors of customers.

The CRM blueprint identifies actions and collaborative touch point opportunities as well as a foundation that our clients can use for meaningful segmentation modeling.

But with software like SugarCRM – the open source angle makes it somewhat of a technology play, or is that really not an issue for end users?

It is all about how you instruct the client to use the technology. There is an increasing tendency to forget what the “R” in CRM stands for. At Q, we help clients remember the real people behind all the data, and to leverage CRM as a tool for truly understanding their customers as their lives change and their relationship with a brand evolves.  CRM is about more than technology; it plays a critical role in converting customers from names in a database to advocates for your brand.

Let’s shift gears a bit, there has been a lot of talk lately around inbound marketing which you guys have been doing for ages. How do you see web-based marketing and CRM coming together in new ways?

Inbound marketing and CRM need to come together to optimize the customer driven demand chain.

It is all about creating engaging and dynamic communication hubs that are grounded by two way communication with your brand. Now more than ever, clients have to anticipate the needs of their customer and develop engagement strategies that foster an ongoing customer relationship.

Can CRM as it stands today power the types of “social” benefits, like word of mouth marketing through brand advocates, or do organizations need yet another technology solution?

The ultimate goal of CRM is to make a sale. Typically loyal consumers are motivated to talk about and promote brands through word-of-mouth marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing presents an incredible opportunity as more and more conversations happen online, giving them global exposure.

The ability to identify, measure and encourage loyal behavior is critical to any customer-centered business strategy. Your CRM technology solution must act as the foundation of this strategy and provide your business with the tools and analytics that allow you to identify and engage these customers for social networking conversations.

Finally, with all of the hype and buzz around social media, what do you see the role of the traditional CRM system being as we move forward into the age of the social web?

We need to start listening and measuring how customers use social media. What excites me about social media is that it gives clients a forum to listen and interact with their customers in real time. Companies need to view social media as a CRM tool that they can tap at any point in time to measure and gauge how a customer is feeling about their product or service.