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Part three: B2B CRM deployments

3rd May 2007
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By Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor

So what factors need to be considered by B2B firms in their CRM deployments? "The most important factor in deployment is selecting a CRM solution that fits the specific business process," says Microsoft's Nash. "This is most significantly affected by the end user, with the contrasting needs of customers and businesses determining the differing attributes of CRM solutions. For example, in a B2C environment effective integration is critical between the call centre and the customer portal, where customers can log on and monitor activity themselves; whilst this integration is not essential with many B2B implementations. Moreover, the transactional nature of many B2C solutions requires predictive analytics to support call centre staff.

"Another significant difference is the content. B2C systems typically have to cope with much larger volumes of information traffic and hold vast amounts of end customer information. However, deployment can frequently be more complex in a B2B environment where there are a far greater number of parties engaged in the sales cycle. With many individuals within different organisations all working together on a large sales opportunity, call centre integration is unnecessary but it is important to be able map complex sales processes into a chosen solution.

"Whether it’s a B2B or a B2C solution, two key considerations need to be taken into account: the ease of customisation and integration, and the familiarity. In B2C implementations it is critical to integrate with the transactional systems, customer portals and call centres; whereas B2B environments require customisation to align complex sales processes with different individuals. Familiarity of the chosen solution is equally important. It needs to be easy for all call centre staff and information workers to use, and integrate seamlessly with existing work practices, only then can adoption and the ultimate success of any CRM project be guaranteed."

Some other crucial differences between B2B and B2C need to be considered as well. In B2C CRM, the speed with which the telephone is answered in the call centre is most likely to be a key metric; in B2B CRM the critical metric is more likely to be whether the information that the caller gets when the phone is picked up is accurate and can address the inquiry being made appropriately. Because B2B problems are potentially far more complicated than those that arise in the B2C arena, CRM technology should focus on targeting responses to the right individuals. In B2B, 'frequently asked questions' aren't worth much whereas in the vast majority of consumer-related situations questions can be handled automatically as a 'first line of defence'.

Multiple sales processes

In a B2B environment there are also likely to be multiple sales processes that could be active within a single account at the same time, being managed by multiple sales people or sales teams. The CRM system needs to be set up in such a way to allow for multiple sales processes to be related to a single account or company while also enabling sales people to share visibility into relevant customer information.

Specific types of information need to be collected that are not relevant in the B2C environment such as the company website, the management hierarchy, who is the assistant of the buyer and what is his/her contact information, etc. The CRM system should be able to store information about the industry of the prospect firm as well as information on topics such as credit ranking, market capitalisation and so on.

It's also important to remember that B2B decision making will take longer that B2C – you don't do an impulse buy on a corporate payroll system, for example, or an outsourcing provider. B2B customers are also likely to be more risk averse, with a few notable exceptions. As such they will have preconceptions of who to buy from and what to buy from them? You don't get sacked for buying from IBM, remember...B2C customers are far more likely to want risk and excitement in their purchasing decisions; B2B customers want to know they'll still have a job in six months' time.

But is it all working? Not if the experience of SAS’s Arrowsmith is to be believed. “Historically B2B marketing has been much less well targeted, the argument being that accurate databases were difficult to buy externally or uneconomic to maintain in house. I believe that the backlash to the Dear Occupier mailing, the spam e-mail or pointless text message that has adversely affected B2C is now transferring to the B2B community.

“Fundamentally the relevance of the communication to the intended recipient is key, whether that recipient is an individual or organisation. Maybe B2B is a little behind B2C marketing but it is catching up fast. Doing it right makes money, secures good customers and increases advocacy. Only this morning communications from two publishers have arrived on my desk incorrectly addressed – one offering me a free place as a delegate at an event SAS has already paid for me to exhibit at and a second promoting me to managing director! Is this flattery marketing?”

This month's stories:

Key account management

Key account management: unlocking customer potential

The life and times of key account managers

"What is KAM? And why should I care?!"

B2B analytics

Search marketing euphoria

Customer profiling in B2B

Customer analytics: the devil is in the detail

Partner relationship management

Can PRM power B2B connectivity?

Partners need managing too: PRM in action

The dark side of partner networks

Find out more about Stuart Lauchlan

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