Conference Call: The Benefits Companies and Sage Software discuss CRM

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DMNews chats with The Benefit Companies, an employee benefits manager; and its CRM provider, Sage Software, about CRM. On the line is Larry Ritter, SVP of global product management and product marketing, Sage; Bill Sells, manager of IT, The Benefit Companies; and Justin Andaloro, marketing manager, The Benefit Companies.

Q: What makes Sage a good fit for you – what are some key qualities of a good CRM provider?

Bill Sells: The biggest key for CRM for us is the customization capabilities. Second is having support and input from Sage. The conversations we had with them gave us ideas on how to direct the management of our data and how to implement more efficiently. I don't know if we would have been able to do that without working with Sage.

Q: What are some best practices for small businesses using CRM products?

Justin Andaloro: Know how to get the information out, and be able to track the stats on your data. You have to know how to separate and organize between prospects and clients and between different types of clients. A few months ago, there was a regulation change that affected a lot of our health insurance clients. Having CRM in place allowed us to pinpoint clients who were affected by this regulation. We used Sage's Swiftpage to draft an e-mail and send out the legislation update, and we tracked who opened that e-mail and who didn't. If they didn't read it, we knew we had to communicate that important change in another way.

Larry Ritter: You need to keep it simple. Start small, think big. It's easy to get yourself whipped into a frenzy thinking of all the things you can do and insights you can make. Consider how to get existing data into a new system — can you do it quickly and easily, and can you incrementally add things to it? The other tip is, if you don't have expertise or interest in developing expertise, work with someone who does, like a business partner. It is money well-spent.

Q: What's on the horizon for CRM?

LR: A lot of the questions I'm asked today are around social media and how that fits with CRM. Social media is a great, vast source of information, and what's different about it and what's relevant about CRM is that social can help information find you. If you are a good client of mine, I can follow what you're doing and what you're posting on Twitter and Facebook. The advantage in a CRM system is that you can aggregate this information and filter it down so you can know more about your best accounts. The really interesting thing going on in CRM and social media is in finding information about companies of interest and information on what other people are saying about you. There's a great opportunity with CRM to monitor these communities or networks that are talking about your product and the ability for you to take action on it.

JA: I would say the biggest piece is integrating our data and our information on clients and what we have on our prospects and integrating all of that with social media. I think social is huge, and using that information to our advantage and integrating those is the next step for us.

LR: For smaller companies, it does apply more to contact aggregation: how to use social media to improve the ability to sell and market to people that I already know and find more information about them. For a small business, anything and everything I can find about my existing customer to appear more knowledgeable about them than my competitors is a huge advantage.
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