We got engaged on a drizzly, chilly afternoon in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was perfect. Then, I began my wedding research. Which venues should we look at? What date would we like? Who are we inviting to the wedding? As wonderful as it was to start thinking about our big day, it was also very overwhelming. There are a lot of moving parts to a wedding, and keeping track of them all is quite an undertaking.
That’s when the lightbulb clicked on. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how my wedding woes mirrored the issues our customers face every day: forecasting, budgeting, tracking contacts, managing paperwork, etc. It turns out, working with CRM taught me a lot about the importance of managing these aspects. Here’s how:
1. Accurate Information
The day after the engagement party, I started powering out Thank You notes. After my hand lost circulation, it was time to address the envelopes. As I went through my address book, I realized some of the addresses were wrong and had never been updated. Not the best time to find this out! If we don’t send them a thank you card, what does that say about the value we place on the relationship? The same concept applies for inaccurate CRM data.
Keeping the correct information saves everyone from an awkward and embarrassing situation. The sales reps are sure they’re reaching out to the right people and the marketing department can segment and target the right audience. Contacts feel valued and understood because the information they’re receiving is relevant to them.
Unfortunately, maintaining clean data isn’t always as easy as it sounds. It’s hard to guarantee all employees will be diligent at keeping their data clean, and contacts that aren’t closely monitored (like those marked as “nurture”) can linger in the system, unnoticed for years. Luckily, there are steps you can take.
Adding some gamification can make cleaning data fun! Set a deadline for employees to clean out their CRM information. When the deadline passes, award the employee who’s made the most progress with a prize or recognition. If gamification isn’t your bag, you can create calendar reminders each month to encourage everyone to devote time to cleaning their data.
It’s also a good idea to establish some data policies when someone leaves the company. Who will take over their data? Who will make sure the contacts are current and the information is accurate? Should the departing employee meet with management to go over their accounts?
2. Contract Management
When a customer decides to work with us, they sign a contract. When we demo a product to a potential partner, the party signs a non-disclosure agreement. Wedding planning involves just as many (if not more!) contracts. There’s a contract for the hall, the caterer, the florist, the DJ – basically, if you’re involved in my wedding in any way, we need signed contracts.
CRM makes managing those contracts simple. Companies can integrate a document generation/eSignature program (PandaDoc, DocuSign, Flexidocs, XperiDo) into the CRM to make creating, signing, and storing contracts efficient and way more organized. These programs make it easier to track who signed and who didn’t, which takes a lot of the stress out of the sales process, especially if you’re juggling a few accounts. Meanwhile, I’m over here making notes-to-self in my Google calendar and hoping I don’t lose any of the legal documents floating around my pink binder. If only I could utilize the magic of CRM and eSignature solutions!
3. Prioritizing and Tracking Activities
I never realized how many details go into wedding planning. Some of the bigger activities are obvious, but there are so many smaller tasks to stay on top of. Trying to keep a mental list was out of the question – I’m already losing my mind as it is. Writing it down seemed like a good idea at first, but I had to keep rewriting the list and praying I didn’t lose it. All that list writing got me thinking about how I’d track and prioritize if I was using a CRM.
The first thing I thought about was creating a customized dashboard; it’d the perfect way to stay on task with what needs to get done. I’d build an activities section so every time I logged in, my upcoming activities would be staring me in the face. It’d be impossible to miss an important milestone or deadline.
Next, I thought how emails would factor in. I’d been exchanging multiple messages with multiple people throughout my wedding planning. I created a “Wedding” tag to keep track of them all, but there was no real organization other than that. If I needed to follow up on anything, I had to remember to star the email and come back to it later. Had I been using a CRM, however, I could have filed all my emails under each contact. Then, when I wanted to see the latest conversation in the feed, I could find it right away and prioritize my next steps. In addition, a CRM plug-in like Collabspot would let me update my contacts and set my reminders from inside my email system. I could even integrate my email with my CRM so I could log those messages with a single click.
Tracking activities in CRM is a great practice for sales teams to adopt. Personalized dashboards, activity reminders, and email logs give an instant snapshot of the opportunity status so sales can be more efficient and effective.
4. Dynamic Reports
The wedding guest list: you’d think it would be fun to reminisce about all the wonderful people you’ve encountered in your life, but it’s actually terrifying. I can’t tell you how many hours I sat and stared at the list, scrutinizing it from every angle and asking myself questions like, “Will this person be offended if we don’t invite them? Will that person expect a plus one? Who is this “Aunt Jackie” my Mom keeps telling me to invite? The last time I saw this person was at our high school graduation, but she invited me to her wedding so, I should invite her to mine, right?” It. Is. Agonizing.
The next obstacle will be seating charts and dietary considerations. Who’s a vegan? Who’s allergic to shellfish? Which cousins can’t sit together because of a fight 15 years ago at Christmas?
You know what would be nice? A lovely, neat report, detailing all the critical information on each guest. The report would pull in notes and specialized fields to give me one, comprehensive reference point. Then, if I updated the contact, I could rest at ease knowing my report would sync and reflect the most current information.
In a business environment, dynamic reports keep us on top of our most crucial insights. Whether you’re keeping track of new customer acquisition, a client’s past sales history, or customers in a specific region of the country, the dynamic reporting capabilities of CRM give instant feedback. It’s a well-oiled machine filled with valuable data, just waiting to be used.
My two best friends of 15 years both got married before me. We didn’t get into the nitty gritty of wedding costs at the time, but I figured my DIY wedding approach would probably be less expensive than theirs. Now, as I move through my own wedding planning, I find myself turning to them for financial reference. “How much were your flowers?” “How much did you spend on save-the-dates?”
I’m fortunate to be close enough with these ladies that I can ask them these probing, personal questions without it being considered a faux-pas. It makes me think, “What if I could take all their wedding expenses and match them against my own anticipated costs?” That visual comparison would be so helpful. I could predict my wedding expenses with greater accuracy, and do it much faster. I would accomplish this by using CRMs forecasting capabilities.
Forecasting with CRM takes the guess work out of fiscal planning and budgeting. The Catch 22 of forecasting is that you need historical data to do it, and the data needs to be correct. That’s why accurate information is so important. If your data is unkept, your forecasts could be thrown off, resulting in skewed predictions and misallocation of resources. With the right forecast, businesses can initiate strategies that make them more profitable in the short term, and position them for sustainable growth in the long-term.
So, as it turns out, wedding planning has a lot of parallels to good business practices. If you can’t prioritize, organize, and budget, you’ll never move forward. CRM addresses the business challenges that slow us down so we can focus on the bigger picture. In my case, that picture is of my ideal wedding day, executed within a reasonable budget and shared with the people I love. While I may not be able to use CRM for my wedding planning, I can use what CRM taught me about maintaining information, the effective use of data, and creating accurate budgets to guide me through the process.
Businesses using CRM are ahead of the curve, but if your company is still thinking about it, take my advice and make the move. TAI has experts to help you with CRM planning, selection, onboarding, training, adoption, and integrations – and maybe when this wedding planning is all over, I’ll have enough expertise to consult on china patterns and reception venues, too!