There’s a widening gap amongst manufacturers as more and more B2B workers change their buying habits. Each buyer’s expectations of their purchase at work is changing based on how they’re growing accustomed to making purchases at home, with B2C companies.
But the majority of those B2C companies use something that a lot of industrial businesses are still uncertain about investing in: CRM automation.
As of 2019, 45% of manufacturers were not using a CRM system to keep track of their leads; link marketing to sales; track ROI; or set up nurture campaigns. They don’t yet see the value in CRM software.
1. ADOPTING NEW TECHNOLOGY CAN IMPROVE THE MARKETING, SALES, & CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Many of today’s manufacturing marketers first started their position working with either Excel spreadsheets to keep track of their leads– or else even earlier, with hard copy paperwork. Unfortunately, the world kept accelerating, and now it’s hard to drive revenue or determine KPIs from those spreadsheets at an equal rate with other businesses who have moved their contacts online.
And that CRM cloud doesn’t just account for contact information, either. It also connects straight to your company’s website: content, forms, and lead tracking. Plus, everything is doubly complicated because most manufacturers are also dealing with third-party vendors.
Distributors and dealers want to be able to get answers quickly– often times on their own, without the need to pick up a phone or write an email. They’ve grown used to pulling information straight off of websites and service themselves.
If a manufacturer has automated forms on their website so that third-party vendors can go online and download a manual or file for a warranty claim all on their own, that make-it-easy step is going to have a huge impact on the vendor’s experience…to say nothing of the end user they might be servicing.
If a vendor is in another country or they’re working late and they have a problem, what happens if their only option is to speak to a manufacturer’s rep during normal business hours? They’re stuck. But if a manufacturer invests a little bit up front into educational content and CRM automation that’s connected to forms on their website, that vendor can find answers or at least submit a request and know that help is on the way.
A manufacturer needs to keep their site updated– especially their FAQ section. That way, when (not if) a user has a question, they can find the resource at any time of the day. If the information is current, then the support requests should be reduced and those that do come in can be better analyzed since the data is going to highlight issues most likely not found in the FAQ section or on most of the website.
Those are patterns that a spreadsheet alone can’t always recognize– certainly not without several hours or days of human calculations.
Suddenly industrial companies may not need to spend quite as much time or money in support as before– because many of the vendors are using the content and resources provided to solve problems on their own.
2. REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF TIME YOUR SALES & CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAMS SPEND WITH REPETITIVE TASKS
CRM automation also helps manufacturers to eliminate wasted time by…not to sound redundant…automating processes. If your sales or marketing team has a repetitive task, there may be a way to automate at least portions of it to eliminate wasted time and make the whole process more efficient.
Time is money– and so even though CRM automation may be an investment up front, the ROI from automating tasks that do not need a person to complete isn’t the only financial benefit that manufacturers ought to measure.
Consider how much money an employee might be paid per hour to respond to every request for a quote that comes in. Perhaps not all of their responses can be automated, but portions of it likely can. An automated CRM can kick out an immediate email to the submitter, saying, “I got your request for a quote, and I’m working on it right now.” It might even include, “I’ll have an answer for you within the hour! In the meantime, here are some examples of our work that has helped other companies.” That could be fifteen, twenty, perhaps even thirty minutes off the employee’s plate. They can spend that time on the quote itself, knowing that the submitter has been assured that an answer is on the way.
And you know who else is saving money? That client. If they had called on the phone for a quote, they might end up waiting on hold while your rep scatters to put everything together. But if they received an automated email saying, “I’ll have your quote in an hour,” suddenly they’re able to get other tasks done in the meantime!
Before long, all that saved time (and ergo saved money) stacks up.
Furthermore, that increased speed in communication means faster delivery of the eventual product or solution. The problem is being solved at a faster pace (or at least it appears to be so, which puts customers at ease; a la the Chick-fil-A method).
And remember, your sales teams and your clients don’t just save time in their communication with each other: they can also recognize problems and find solutions faster.
We mentioned that manufacturers who keep getting warranty claims might need to look into a recall– but they also might just recognize that the claims are all coming from one particular dealer or region. Maybe they need to send service techs to those areas and offer training courses and certification programs.
3. AUTOMATING CRM ACTIVITIES CAN REDUCE THE BARRIERS BETWEEN MANUFACTURERS AND END USERS, IMPROVING DEALER RELATIONSHIPS
Factories that are filling with IoT sensors rely on their digital data to help them detect when machinery might be running low on a resource or approaching the end of its lifespan. Well, marketing and sales can play at the predictive maintenance game, too.
Remember those warranty claim examples? Manufacturers might be able to determine a lot of opportunities from the actual data that vendors might be entering in their online forms.
Repeated feedback about a product feature might prompt changes to the next model; or they might inspire a new product entirely.
Furthermore, guess what else likely comes in with form-fills like warranty claims? The end user’s information!
If a vehicle manufacturer receives a warranty claim over a vehicle’s blinker, they can do more than just process the claim or notify the dealer of a recall. The manufacturer’s CRM might also then sort the end user based on their vehicle’s age or make or model. Then the marketing team can add them to marketing campaigns for a new feature or even a new vehicle based on that information!
Those are decisions that can’t always be made with a spreadsheet– certainly not within seconds or minutes, at the very least.
Every new product or new offer that goes into making a buyer’s life easier is an automatic win for everybody involved.
4. GRADUALLY DEPLOY AUTOMATING YOUR CRM ACTIVITIES
All of these stories and case studies may sound great, but of course…building them will take time. It’s likely that companies with robust automated CRMs actually started very small in the beginning. It’s a multi-step, multilayered process.
Building CRM automation is a bit like rolling a snowball. It builds upon itself and gains momentum the more it’s utilized.
You need to understand how your current marketing and sales process works before you start adapting it, piece by piece. And you will need organizational buy-in to do it.
For example, if you use Excel, then your next step is just to graduate to an online CRM that might not be automated at all (at least, not yet). Just move your spreadsheet into a platform like Hubspot or SalesForce. Suddenly when one person updates a contact, perhaps with a new phone number, everyone in your company will be able to access that update in real time. It’s a baby step– but those are crucial.
Just remember: software is no substitute for a road map of your current process.
As you grow to understand the map of your current process, then you can begin building upon it or even making changes to it. Mark out the major cornerstones or important, foundational steps your teams always follow in their work. Try to look for ways that you can sort, organize, and eventually automate those factors within your CRM.
To hear more practical examples of what manufacturers can gain from CRM automation, watch our interview with Cassie Nettles, VP of Marketing Solutions for Ad Victoriam Solutions.
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