SugarCRM product chief: 4 steps to get over the old customer funnel

Chief product officer for CRM tech vendor shares his advice on how marketing leaders evolve their organisation's approach

“Customers today are more educated, have done more research and are 80 per cent of the way through their decision-making process before they have actually engaged with an organisation,” says SugarCRM chief product officer, Zac Sprackett.

 "At the same time, expectations of those consumers are growing in terms of how the business is going to treat them and respond to them.”  

The profound shifts in customer expectations we’ve witnessed in recent years have eliminated the traditional customer funnel, the executive leader claims. This has made it imperative for marketing, service and sales teams to come together in a unified and seamless circle and realise people exist in multiple dimensions.  

“You can be acquiring a product and also already be a customer – and also require support. And there is a need for a personalised experience throughout all of it,” Sprackett tells CMO on a recent visit to Australia.  

The problem is different silos across the organisation haven’t been designed to support this new-look customer worldview. For SugarCRM, adopting CRM at a platform level and taking a journey-led approach to customer management that enables various parts of the organisation to come together is the answer. Because the pay-off is competitive advantage, Sprackett says.  

“It’s about bringing all customer-facing departments together in service of that customer journey and deciding on processes and designing your flow through these interactions around the customer, as opposed to around your internal processes,” he says.  

Here, Sprackett shares several insights around how marketing leaders make this customer journey-led approach a reality.  

1. Evolve with the customer    

With things changing at a quicker rate than ever, marketers can’t be complacent. While everything might be scripted one day, things can change substantially the next, making it critical teams can adapt quickly.  

To achieve this, marketers need to come armed with the tools to roll that out across their organisation “so that everybody is singing from the same hymn book when it comes to interacting with your customers as they’re evolving”, Sprackett advises.  

The challenges this also poses for CMOs is knowing how to evolve their marketing execution as technology evolves and customer expectations adapt, while retaining the essence of their brand. “Not losing the ethos of who you are as a business by becoming generic and sort of bland is critical,” Sprackett adds.    

2. Tap AI for a holistic view of the customer  

An increasingly important input into these frameworks is artificial intelligence (AI). According to Sprackett, AI in a CRM platform is most powerful when drawing out insights and making the links that might otherwise not be obvious. A key use case could be drilling down into what factors go into determining an ideal customer, which may not be exactly what they seem at a surface level.  

Credit: Zac Sprackett

“For example, it might be, ‘we've sold a number of deals into the manufacturing industry, so our ideal customer is manufacturing’. However, when you actually dig into the data, it could be you've had success in the manufacturing industry, but those industry customers raised three times as many cases as somebody in another industry, and they churn out at a much higher rate,” he says.  

"The key is combining all of those signals that oftentimes live in different parts of the organisation to get a real picture of how valuable a lead that's coming in is, and how likely you are to be successful. How likely are you to turn that into a successful customer who is singing your praises? Being able to pull all of that information together is incredibly powerful.  

“Later on, predictive capabilities can help you understand your pipeline and the mix of that pipeline. There's just there's so many opportunities for AI to really help you to deliver more predictable business, which is fundamentally important to marketers.”  

3. Avoid one-function decision making  

Sprackett also counsels marketers to avoid short-sighted approaches that solve a need in one area of the business without thinking about how to establish connective tissue throughout the rest of the organisation.  

“We at Sugar believe in the value of time and understanding all of the different events or changes that have happened with a particular prospect and gathering all of that information in the marketing database and then ultimately the CRM and the service database as well,” he explains. “It gives marketers the ability to replay the events that have happened and more deeply understand and apply AI-type models that you might not even understand today.”  

4. Tap organisation-wide data sets  

It’s also understanding just how far and wide customer signals can be found. Whether it’s ERP, shopping carts, other lines of customer data or emerging fields like the Internet of Things (IoT), the volume of information available and that can be connected in customer journeys is increasing at a rapid pace.  

“There's no sign of it slowing down,” Sprackett says. “The ability to service the customer effectively without having that integration and that single point of view around who that customer is, is incredibly challenging, and it's getting more challenging by the day.”

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