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4 Ways To Feed Your Starving CRM System

4 Ways To Feed Your Starving CRM SystemYour CRM system is hungry. Right now, it’s hungry. It’s always hungry. For data. If you’re a sales or marketing manager, you probably spend a considerable portion of your time trying to figure out how to keep the system fed.

Last month I wrote about the “secret sauce” that makes a good CRM system “so delicious”. However, without a database full of names, phone numbers, email addresses, and all the other things that make the system useful, it’s just an empty candy shell. Like a chocolate truffle without the tasty nougat inside.

So how and where do you get the food to feed your starving CRM? Let’s take a look at some of the most common data sources:

Homemade Data

The easiest data to get into CRM is the data you already have. Very few businesses start out with zero lead data to bring into CRM. Chances are, you’ve got data tucked away in a cluster of places already. Business cards, Excel spreadsheets, contact managers like ACT! and GoldMine — these sources usually form the foundation of your CRM database.

The good news is that you already have the data. It’s there. The bad news is that, depending on which source of data it is, it may take some time to actually feed it into your system. For things like Excel and old business cards, it’s usually a fairly straightforward process. For contact managers, it can often be a far bigger headache than you’d expect.

Take-Out Data

Buying data, like lead lists, was a very popular way to get lots of information into a system very quickly some time ago. However, with the passing of the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003, those lists have become much less useful for any business that is relying in whole or in part on email marketing to get their message out.

With that said, if you business is less concerned with email and relies primarily on phone calls to make sales, then purchasing a list of leads in your target market(s) might be worth exploring. There is certainly no shortage of companies out there that provide this service, and a quick search online will yield an abundance of offers, articles covering pros and cons of the practice, and information about best practices for using lead lists.

Fast Food Data

Online marketing and advertising has evolved tremendously since Google introduced AdWords 13 years ago. Paid search has become an extremely sophisticated game which is usually won by those with the most time, money, and resources to throw at it. This is especially true if the product or service a business is selling is something more mainstream, like clothing, electronics, legal services, etc. However, if your business offers something unique, or simply has cash to throw in the ring, paid search advertising is still one of the fastest and most effective ways to generate a lot of leads in a short time.

If your business is considering dipping its toes into the PPC pool, unless you’ve hired a seasoned paid search marketer to run your campaigns, you should really consider starting at the beginning. If you jump into the deep end unprepared, you’re very likely to waste a lot of time and money learning to swim.

Organic Data

The new gold standard for generating clean, high-quality leads is through inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is the process of creating content on your website–blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc–and attracting traffic organically and then driving conversions through “calls to action”. A typical call to action is to offer a site visitor some incentive, like an ebook or white paper, in exchange for them filling out a form that captures certain data like their name, phone number, and email address. In fact, you’ll notice a CTA at the bottom of this (and every other) blog post on our site.

This process has a lot of benefits, and comparatively few drawbacks, over the other three sources of data mentioned above. If someone fills out a form to request additional content from you, it’s a generally safe bet that they are at least moderately interested in the product or service your business is offering. For example, it’s probably a fairly safe bet that those of you that fill out a request for one of our CRM comparison reports are at least considering buying or replacing a CRM system.

Inbound marketing, in a roundabout way, is really a bartering system. The company offers a range of content and incentives in exchange for information. If a visitor feels the exchange is worthwhile, if the thing offered is worth the time and willingness of the visitor to provide their information, then the exchange is made.

The Combo Meal

Most businesses rely on some or all of the data sources mentioned in this article to generate the data needed to keep their CRM system fed and happy. It’s also a continually evolving process, and the mix will change over time and new methods and sources will emerge.

This is also one of the few areas where the actual CRM system, whether it’s a big name enterprise product or something small and geared for SMB’s, doesn’t matter as much. All CRM systems live to consume and store data. The more, the better. Finding a way to keep your system fed will take a lot of work and experimentation. Some sources may seem like shortcuts, but the truth is that they all require a lot of leg work to be useful. The key is figuring out how to make the most of that data once it’s been collected.

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