Part II: 10 CRM data infrastructure questions companies should consider before going ahead with a CRM system

I’d suggest asking for a 1-2 month free trial of your preferred CRM system before making any sort of licence purchase. This will allow you to run use cases and ensure the CRM works to meet all the needs of your organisation.

The most important question of all: Does your infrastructure ensure your data responds to search criteria?

Configuring your CRM data infrastructure (and indeed, the data itself) properly is critical to effective database marketing. If you do it properly, you’ll be able to run reports or queries within the CRM that bring back relevant data which you can use to form contact lists for specific, targeted marketing campaigns.

Ten Questions

Here are ten questions to consider when looking at the data you have, and the infrastructure you’ll create within your CRM to house and access that data:

1. Do you have a variety of products? Are some prospects/customers focused on particular products? If so, it’s essential that you consider products at the company level within your CRM infrastructure because companies may opt out of your digital marketing efforts if they are receiving marketing that is focused on products that do not concern them. Addressing this may be ask simple as featuring a dropdown against companies that lists all products (so that you can select and report on the products relevant to that company). You should also be considering whether your CRM has the ability to link to a web based form where customers and prospects can tick and untick boxes to identify the products and areas they are interested in receiving information about (and have this automatically updated in your CRM).

2. Will your CRM be home to more than one company “type”? You may think a CRM is solely for customer management and marketing to prospects, but you may find yourself wanting to use the CRM to send different types of marketing to different groups. For example, do you send out press releases? You may want a “press” category. Are you looking for further investment? You may want a “potential investor/partner” category for announcements that may specifically be of interest to this group. 

3. Are your customers and prospects multi-national companies, and are you going to regionalise company entries in the CRM? For example, you may work with HSBC in the United Kingdom, but what happens when you also begin to market to HSBC in France? Large multi-national companies are often such separate entities that it makes sense to separate them into different accounts in a CRM system.

4. Do you intend to send out various marketing campaigns aimed at people and companies in specific cities or countries? For example, you may decide to throw an event for hedge fund managers in New York City in the US. In this instance, you will need to ensure that at a company level, there are fields for both city and country.

5. Within your prospect and customer companies, do you have different types of contacts you market to? For example, you may have a product that is targeted at hedge fund managers and another product that is more targeted at client relationship managers in hedge funds. By creating a dropdown list of job titles placed at the contact level, you enable reporting on job titles and give yourself the opportunity to create specific reports – such as the hedge fund managers in New York City example from point 5.

6. What about required fields? In short, if you know you *must* have the ability to report on job titles and countries (so that you can create and send that event invite to hedge fund managers in New York City), then make them required fields (ie, records cannot be saved unless these fields are filled in).

7. Who “owns” contacts and company accounts in the CRM? Sales people and client managers are often in charge of specific accounts and may want to own them in the CRM. For this reason, many CRMs may have an “account owner” or “contact owner” field that is filled in by default by the person who entered the record (and can be changed). Does your CRM have this? In terms of analytics, you may find you want to at some point produce a reports that show various results according to account ownership.

8. Opt out? Can you insert an “opt out” or unsubscribe link at the foot of marketing emails you generate from the CRM? Does this then automatically opt the contact out from further marketing emails? While the “opt out” functionality in your CRM might not work exactly this way, it is worth testing exactly how it does work before going ahead with a CRM.

9. Does your CRM handle data duplication? If so, how? This will become important if you begin importing large spreadsheets of contacts. Amazingly, even some of the most popular CRMs do not have functionality in place for identifying duplication during mass upload exercises. The danger here is that you duplicate not only contacts, but also companies and that contacts from the same company live under two different accounts in the CRM.

10. Have you considered creating a hotlist category for contacts? You may send out a quarterly newsetter to most contacts in your database and in some cases, this is probably enough communication. But there are always “hot prospects” who are those people you’d really like to alert to your new blog post, or your latest press release. Consider adding to your contact records a “hotlist” tickbox so that you can produce a hotlist report for campaigns whenever you like. Just remember to keep it updated!

Published by Jennifer Reid

Technology marketing specialist focussed on digital marketing, social media marketing, SEO and writing for the web.

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