With a projected 13.5% CAGR from 2017 through 2022, a recent Gartner study labelled the CRM market “one of the fastest-growing business software application markets” in existence. Why exactly are so many businesses in such a hurry to invest?
Several years ago now, the US market research firm Forrester introduced “the Age of the Customer” into business lexicon. Like most other researchers at the time, Forrester spotted how digital media was shifting the balance of power in markets. Following the rise of the internet, customer choice had exploded. Decision makers could do business with just about anyone no matter where they were in the world.
Back here in the present day, a recent Gartner report predicts current levels of explosive CRM investment look set to continue as time ticks on.
First power is handed to customers.
Then investment in CRM software increases.
Is it possible that there’s a direct relationship between the two?
With great choice comes great CRM
On initial inspection, it certainly seems like the two phenomena could be linked. When customers suddenly have more choice, businesses presumably need to up their game. And that’s precisely what CRM software enables.
Keeping a close record of customer interactions, for example, can transform the customer experience. Visible profit margins make it easier to shift prices, or build added value into proposals.
Whether through better customer understanding, more efficient marketing or plain-old reduced admin, CRM software gives businesses a much-needed edge. So, on the face of it, it certainly seems like today’s increasing CRM investments could be fuelled by the Age of the Customer.
Seismic shifts in the way we work
But maybe we’re just jumping to conclusions. Yes, the above link is nice and neat. But it’s also just one possible narrative.
The way we work has changed dramatically in recent years, and in many ways. Staff increasingly work remotely. Today’s remote workers need remote access to customer information. Similarly, labour markets are increasingly fluid. New staff need to know where their predecessors left off.
Gartner cites “agility” and “flexibility” as key drivers of the increasing CRM investment, explanations that, in all honesty, could support any number of hypotheses.
CRM’s benefits being extremely diverse, it makes it tricky to pinpoint precisely why so many businesses are in a hurry to invest.
Costs, revenues and IT’s Everest
Despite its growth, there are, of course, some businesses yet to invest in CRM.
In theory, for businesses of any more than a dozen or so employees, CRM systems should be a dream come true: greater prospect visibility; greater customer visibility; reams of data for analyses; as already mentioned, the benefits of introducing CRM are vast. Ultimately, CRM sharpens operational efficiency, improves decision making, reduces costs and increases revenues. So why are some businesses still motoring on with spreadsheets, paper files or guesswork?
The answer might lie in the initial implementation. Implementing any new software can be tricky. And migrating from one system to another can seem like the IT equivalent of overcoming Everest. Existing staff need to adopt these new systems and we all know that encouraging adoption isn’t always easy.
That said, cloud-based CRM systems knock down at least some of the hurdles. And while migration and adoption might seem ominous, simply working with a friendly and supportive CRM partner can make both painless.
Making small businesses big
In truth, it’s likely the real drivers of CRM growth are some unique combination of every theory outlined above – and a whole lot more.
A single comment on the subject from a Workbooks customer, however, is perhaps more insightful than any other. After they introduced Workbooks to their marketing services business, we followed up to ask how things had been. There was talk of Workbooks streamlining processes, illuminating sales pipelines and enhancing marketing capabilities. But then came the following from the organisation’s Sales & Operations Director: “We’ve grown up as a business… we’ve come out of this ‘small business’ mentality.”
In almost any business, growth and is usually the ultimate goal.
Maybe explaining increasing CRM investments is as simple as that.
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