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Why a Flexible CRM is essential for your go-to-market strategy

In collaboration with CustomerTalk - The classic CRM systems are excellent for traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) environments, but not for the rapidly changing digitally armed markets. But why is that? You'll read all about it in this article.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put an added pressure on many commercial teams. The first quarter of 2020 was about quickly finding new ways to interact with current – and prospective – customers. As a result, you saw the rapid adoption of new sales and marketing tools, particularly those that many traditional customer relationship management (CRM) systems don’t provide. Some examples here would be Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams for the video calls we all know so well, as well as new tools that marketing and sales can use to build and maintain customer relationships while this is not possible physically. Take a look at prospecting technologies like Bloobirds, Vainu and Leadfeeder, sales enablement platforms such as Showpad and Mediafly and collaboration tools like Miro and Slack.

Each year, the Martech 5000 maps out all of these tools. ‘5000’ is now outdated, as it currently features over 8,000 SaaS solutions for commercial support. The good news is that more and more commercial professionals are using these tools. But the new concepts and other working methods are often not well supported by well-known CRM systems and existing procedures. The conclusion is plain to see: the old working methods are standing in the way of the new strategy. But that’s really not possible, advisable or necessary any more.

How are the dominant CRM systems holding up? 

The CRM providers see what’s happening, of course. The field is so strewn with these new trends and developments, you could almost trip over them. Through all this, they’re shouting at the top of their lungs that AI is ingrained, that it can flawlessly shape your account-based marketing strategy and that their system also uses the latest chatbots.

But let’s not kid ourselves: the foundations of most CRM systems largely predate the Internet age, making them severely obsolete. You can try to dress these systems up with bells and whistles, but the reality is their very foundations are coming to an end. At the end of the day, you’ll have to make do with a tool that hurts as much as it helps.

8,000 tools for marketing and sales – who can keep track? Source: chiefmartec.com

Go-to-market implementation fraught with friction

A go-to-market strategy is essentially your plan to sell x units of a certain product or service within a given period of time. You do this with Marketing and Sales teams, who have to work in close collaboration in order to meet the target. But that’s only part of the solution. The problems are rooted not so much in people’s willingness to collaborate, but rather in processes and systems that are set in stone and make flexible cooperation impossible.

The path is typically easy enough to devise and map out. But when it comes to setting it up, we get bogged down in the company’s system limitations and IT policies. Will IT organise the commercial team with terms such as IT target architecture, primary processes, missing functionalities and data silos? This could mean months and months of meetings. The solution primarily lies in a service-oriented IT department, one that can manage the marketing and sales tools – not the other way around.

The traditional CRM systems currently used are extremely well suited to traditional environments with enterprise resource planning (ERP), but not to the rapidly changing, digitally equipped markets. The data that determines whether you’ve met your key performance indicators (KPIs) is often scattered across different systems and databases. It’s not enough to keep track of your activities manually. Digital commercial tools provide the data to create full targets, for strategic and tactical management.

So what’s the answer?

The tragedy of many IT systems is that they are deeply embedded in company processes. In some cases, the systems actually are the processes. This naturally makes it even harder to implement the desired changes. That’s why you need a very clear distinction between CRM for the back office and CRM for the front office. For a go-to-market strategy, we can often set aside the CRM system configured for back office processes. At most, we’ll make a data interface so we can view information like inventories and schedules.

If you want a modern, flexible and high-performing front office, an outside-in approach is hard to beat. This kind of approach is based entirely around the (prospective) customer and the customer journey. First, we define the ideal buyer profiles and the customer journey for a variety of personas. We use these to configure the internal sales and marketing processes and translate them using the system excellently suited to this: HubSpot’s CRM. Where this platform lacks certain tooling, we can use integrations like Vainu, Vidyard or Hotjar. But, as noted, there are hundreds of solutions involving your go-to-market approach. The tools should support this strategy, not dictate it.

Picture of Emiel Kanters
Emiel Kanters

Managing Director & Partner