CRM’s Missing Link: Acquiring the Customer

Sales and marketing departments are under increasing pressure to producestellar results while creating cost and process efficiencies. Thatpressure, along with a desire to cultivate and retain business, has feddemand for a multitude of CRM solutions.

If you can fully understand your customers and their behaviors, thetheory goes, you are more likely to keep them coming back. There is nodenying the importance of CRM and the role it plays in customersatisfaction and account growth, although CRM applications have had their share of implementation issues. However, those responsible forbusiness growth may be putting themselves at a disadvantage by notapplying this same attention and care to relationships with prospectsbefore they become customers.

The adage about the ease of keeping customers versus acquiring new onesgoes only so far when what you want is a bigger share of the market –which, almost by definition, requires new customer acquisition in tandemwith customer retention programs.

This is certainly not news to most sales and marketing departments, yet few sales and marketing heads have access to a comprehensive look at their customer acquisition process, from a prospect’s initial interest through a sale or lost opportunity.

The Missing Piece

What’s missing is the means to examine and manage marketplace responsebefore a prospect becomes a customer and is input into the CRMsystem. This process is called customer acquisition management (CAM), acomprehensive approach to relationships with prospects.

Think of CAM as a process that encompasses the entire front end of thelead-to-customer lifecycle. It manages the acquisition of customers,while CRM addresses the ongoing customer experience. As such, CAMcomplements and enhances CRM. Where CAM and CRM overlap is insales-force automation (SFA), a process in which hot prospects aretypically identified.

Many companies feel pain not in lead generation, but in managing,tracking and even nurturing leads from the beginning to the end of thecycle. This is where CAM can play a role. In today’s competitivemarketplace, you can build an advantage by gaining knowledge of orintelligence about those leads throughout the cycle. Even understandingwhy certain prospects do not buy can help reshape your marketingefforts.

Marketing departments most often are cost centers that continuallystruggle to justify their budgets. With customer acquisition management,marketers can measure cause and effect precisely. This makes justifyingbudgets easier and provides vital insight into where to spendpromotional dollars to get the optimum result.

Accurate Data, Accurate Decisions

Ideally, to acquire customers efficiently, your company should be ableto track sales lead resolution, or what happened with each lead, back toeach individual marketing event.

When you know exactly which ads or events produce sales and which donot, spending advertising dollars more effectively is easy — and so isjustifying your budget. A better understanding of your ideal prospectwill help you define your target market with precision. Meanwhile,accurate marketing knowledge will drive efficiencies in your marketingspending.

For some companies, intelligence gathered from well-managed customeracquisition strategies actually dictates where they spend theirpromotional dollars.

For example, Watkins Manufacturing, which makes Hot Springportable spas, markets its products largely via direct-responsetelevision, which generates substantial leads for its national networkof independent dealers. Watkins uses sophisticated customer acquisitionand lead management services to find the right places to advertise.

“We found the advertising we were doing on MSNBC was not yieldingresults and was not bringing in people who were intending to buy ourproduct,” Susan Strible, dealer programs manager at Watkins said.”Conversely, our spots on the National Geographic cable channel weregenerating significantly more leads and more people who tended to buyour spas.”

The result: Dollars being spent on MSNBC were moved to the NationalGeographic channel.

Watkins uses a hosted customer acquisition management solution supportedby professional services, including lead management, fulfillment andinbound-outbound telemarketing services to improve its sales-to-leadsratio. The program has allowed the firm to wring much more value fromits marketing budget. An active CAM system has been the key to many ofWatkins’ marketing successes.

Leads generated by sales and marketing efforts are captured by Watkins’CAM partner and are automatically qualified, ranked and routed to thespa company’s dealers across the United States via the Web.

Focusing the Sales Force

Clearly, understanding the value of customer acquisition management andits importance to overall sales and marketing efforts in both consumerand business-to-business environments can accelerate your sales success.

When it’s done well, it becomes a process of building profilinginformation in which leads that are not yet appropriate for salespeopleare peeled away. That refining process makes the sales force moreproductive and more welcomed by prospects.

Moreover, when outsourcing to a full-service hosted CAM solution, younever have to see raw leads come in. They go directly into the processthrough toll-free numbers, e-mails, Web site hits, direct-response cards– any medium you use for promotion. But you can view online every saleslead and its status as the service provider qualifies, nurtures,profiles and distributes them. Your own business rules determine howeach lead is ranked and distributed.

This solution can be a great benefit to organizations where thesalespeople own the leads. With the hosted customer acquisitionmanagement approach, leads are first entered into a central database,not simply distributed to regional sales teams. Each lead is refined andclearly categorized before it goes to salespeople.

“I can tell you that the president of our company is personallyinterested in this program,” Strible said. “It gets a lot of attentionacross the executive team here. The program helps us build brandawareness — it helps us meet those goals of tracking our advertisingefforts and increasing brand awareness among our target consumers,” she explained.

CAM Benefits

As another example, Seattle-area technology company IntermecTechnologies employs a hosted customer acquisition management solutionas a key ingredient in its sales and marketing efforts. Intermec is aseller of global supply chain products and also develops, manufacturesand integrates wired and wireless automated data collection, radiofrequency identification (RFID), mobile computing systems, bar-codeprinters and label media. The company uses a hosted CAM program tocollect and manage more than 20,000 sales leads generated annually.

“It offers a really great lead-management and response system,”Maureen Szlemp, Intermec director of marketing communications, explained.”The service provides a good, robust back-end database [and] a good Webinterface for inputting information, for distributing leads, forreporting activity and the maturation of leads,” she said.

Szlemp’s colleague, Intermec Sales Development Manager Dave Koering,agrees on the advantages of the service. “The ability to track andrefine leads from the inception to an actual sale, and to have that kindof feedback for our marketing group, is one of the biggest positives.And having Web-based access to all the leads that are in the database isimportant to us,” he said.

Intermec, which uses lead management, on-demand printing, fulfillmentand inbound-outbound telemarketing, has found the hosted CAM model itworks with to be excellent at helping it turn leads into sales. Also,the automation firm has found the full-service model more helpful andless expensive than the software system it formerly used, which offeredlimited access to prospect data. The current system allows 24-houraccess to reports and the ability to export data for other multitouchcampaigns, so the data can be used over and over again.

In the end, customer acquisition management can deliver a competitiveadvantage in your customer acquisition process — and that’s an optionworth considering.

Justin Saylor is the director of marketing for AdTrack, a provider of full-service CAM solutions.

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