Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Paradise by the CRM Dashboard Light?

Some marketers love metrics, and happily slice and dice numbers - the open and click-through rates from email campaigns, Google AdWords reports, sales reports that tie back to marketing campaigns. Others look at them as an unpleasant necessity. I think that reflects the different ways we all found our way into marketing careers - some of us from the analytical end, some from the creative end, all meeting somewhere in the middle.

But no matter how you personally feel about marketing metrics, they're important, and you need to understand them... and that makes "Lies, Damn Lies, and Dashboards" by Su Doyle at MarketingProfs worth a read:

Watching CRM dashboards is like monitoring stocks online—it's easy to get mesmerized by the merest up tick or downturn in lead flow. But like savvy investors, savvy marketers need to do the legwork to understand what's really being measured—before getting seduced by graphs and charts.

Marketers have never been more metric-driven. We obsessively check our CRM dashboard, and we know that the CEO and sales team are doing the same. How do we stay ahead of the numbers in a real-time world?

There's something important to understand about measuring any process: you have to have a solid underlying process, or the measurements are meaningless.

Here's what my experience with CRM systems tells me: the marketing and sales processes are almost never as tight as they should be, or as anybody thinks they are, and CRM systems usually show us that - if we know how to look at what they tell us.

Doyle gives an example of two groups within a company looking at the same numbers, and reaching two entirely different conclusions about marketing results. What she describes is all too common: people don't agree about what leads are. The handoff process from sales to marketing isn't working.

If you can, the time to figure this out is before the new CRM system is online and everyone is looking at reports and pointing fingers at each other. I won't repeat Doyle's good suggestions, but just offer this thought: much of this boils down to sitting down with your sales team and agreeing to how things will work.

Define the difference between an inquiry and a lead, and agree on it. Define the process for handling both (inquiries go into a marcomm-based nurture cycle, leads go to an appropriate part of the sales team for action) and agree on it.

If you do that, you won't have your CRM system pointing out the dysfunction in your organization, and reviewing reports and looking at dashboards may become an occasion for collaborative problem-solving and improvement rather than an agita-inducing fight over who's screwing up.

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