Get smart about CRM

CRM executives looking for concrete tactics for steering their projects are likely to find them at week's Smart CRM conference in Atlanta.

For years, CRM decision makers have been hearing about broad, all-encompassing strategies for making their businesses "centered around the customer."

Many are now interested in some specific tactics on just how to achieve that. Experts will share those steps next week at Smart CRM, a conference hosted by SearchCRM.com and Norwalk, Conn.-based consultancy Peppers & Rogers Group. The conference runs from Wednesday through Friday in Atlanta.

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"The whole notion that you have to surround your business around the customer is more accepted now," said John Gaffney, executive editor at Peppers & Rogers and a scheduled Smart CRM presenter. "How I do it -- and to present it effectively -- is more important. There's a lot about strategy that's already been said. There's a greater need for tactics."

Among the tactical information to be offered is advice from Tom Spitale, principal at Peppers & Rogers, on the best ways to gauge the ROI of a CRM project. Setting measurable goals, gaining executive support and designing a comprehensive, strategic CRM plan are the key factors to success, Spitale said.

Attendees will also hear success stories, including case studies from executives of Continental Airlines Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service.

Erin Kinikin, a vice president and research director for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, will help users avoid the fatal flaws often associated with failed CRM projects.

"We're spending more money [on CRM] than we're getting in value after the fact," Kinikin said. "That gap is complicated by the fact that [the] executive attention span is 12 to 18 months. If you don't deliver value by then, there's a new VP of sales or marketing who's going to want to start all over again."

Similarly, too many companies go into a CRM project without a strategy for handling customer information, Kinikin said. Companies continue to use applications to randomly gather data with no sense of what is important.

"There's nothing about sales force automation that promises you're going to shorten your sales cycle or be more profitable," Kinikin said. The key is learning "how to ensure the information is of good quality and how to drive that information out to the right people to make use of it and make business decisions."

Other people scheduled to present information at Smart CRM are Don Peppers and Hamit Hamutcu of Peppers & Rogers, Meta Group analyst Steve Bonadio, consultant Chris Selland of Reservoir Partners, and consultant Paul Greenberg of the 56 Group.

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