Via a simple smartphone, which is today’s Comfort Blanket 2.0, we can be contacted in real time on multiple communication channels (email, chat, instant messaging, voice and many others).
How should you group together your scattered contacts?
Corporate communication tools have never been so advanced and powerful
Via a simple smartphone, which is today’s Comfort Blanket 2.0, we can be contacted in real time on multiple communication channels (email, chat, instant messaging, voice and many others). The goal is to be ever more responsive and more efficient. Yet, this vision has begun to crumble and show adverse effects on our daily lives.
We are creating new silos of information, partly due to the decentralization of user level contact management and the increasing number of communication tools. But all is not lost! There are concrete solutions to overcome this challenge along with an action plan that you can use.
The number of communication tools has exploded – and along with it, the number of information silos
You can see it every day - the pace of work is accelerating. You are drowning under the sheer volume of information (emails, SMS messages, instant messaging, and more). Your bosses say that you must be more reactive as you have a massive range of communication tools at your fingertips.
And indeed, you are now spoiled when it comes to the options available to send a message. It also means that if you have a question to ask a colleague, you’ve got to start by asking yourself which tool to use to contact them.
• By email because it is not urgent but you want to keep track of the conversation?
• Via the company’s internal chat platform to get the answer in a flash?
• With an SMS message because you are not in the office?
• Through the corporate social network because it is for a client project?
• Calling them on the phone because it's a complex question?
• Through their personal accounts (social media, Android or IOS, and more) because they are on leave?
• Or maybe some other tool?
If we were to make a quick rough and ready list, it is likely that you would have between five and 15 communication tools available on your work computer.
But this level of choice is not bad – the real problem is that often these tools do not communicate with each other. You can chat with a colleague every day, for instance, but you may not know their landline or mobile number.
It's even worse when we start talking about marketing and sales: Information silos have multiplied, and the databases of contacts have multiplied at the same time. Here is an illustration of this phenomenon of information silos at the level of marketing lead management:
Even for prospecting, there are four functional areas, each with tools that house unique information. Your contacts are now prisoners of multiple platforms:
• Excel files extracted from systems external to the company (example: trade show files)
• Contacts on social media
• Business cards, notebook and paper contacts
• Emails in Outlook, Gmail and others
• Smartphone contacts directory
• Accounts in ERP or CRM
• Website comments
• Emailing and marketing automation basics
At the end of the day, the company's database of contacts is more fragmented than ever with contacts that are scattered across many tools. Besides, they are not centralized by a single CRM because that system no longer has access to all these tools, both for technical reasons within the tools, but also because of the growing importance of the "bring your own device" phenomenon (BYOD, that is, the ability to use our own tools in a professional environment). This means that it is now possible to lose contacts easily (for example, through the departure of an employee, the update of a phone which loses all the telephone numbers or having a smartphone stolen or broken).
According to an article published by Insight, 60% of US companies now officially allow BYOD, 90% of them have plans to develop it in the next 12 months, and 67% of employees use their personal tools for business use.
Yet in the future, the success of a business will come from its ability to collaborate and exploit its data, not just its mere possession.
Indeed, this is already the case. We can see with the current wave of digital transformation that it is now the most agile companies that catch up with the slowest, rather than the biggest ones that crush the smallest.
So, it is vital to start with the good habits as soon as possible – starting with keeping the contacts database clean and up to date.
A few simple ideas need to be hammered home:
• An employee working by himself with "his or her customers" in their own Excel file, their own smartphone, can no longer be tolerated. A salesperson (or any other employee) can no longer succeed alone. A prospect contact is no longer the sole property of a single person (let alone a sales representative) - it must be shared with the entire business so that others can, for example, conduct lead nurturing, send invitations to events.
• The integration and synchronization of the different systems must be systematized. For example, if the number one business tool for sales people is the smartphone, it must be linked to the company's information system because the smartphone is becoming the keystone of all employee activity. According to Stat Counter, in November 2016, when looking at Web traffic from around the world, traffic from mobile devices has exceeded that from personal computers. This is where you will gather your contacts and their most up-to-date details. That is why the smartphone is the best tool to synchronize to different databases, with LinkedIn, with the CRM, with Outlook and the rest.
Of course, the timing will be different depending on the populations involved as this study shows:
• Data and contacts must be liberated and shared for the benefit of everyone. A single repository must be established, used and updated by all.
Here is a simple action plan to put in place, which will allow you to make the most of your contacts database:
Act: Seven tips to manage your contacts effectively!
Here is a simple plan of action that can be put in place which will allow you to better exploit your contacts database:
1. Establish a regular “lead day”
The idea is to set aside one day per month or quarter, where sales and marketing can pool new contacts generated via social media, business cards, newcomers and those who are not yet in the CRM. And to motivate the participants, why not set up a contest with prizes (even if symbolic) to win? You can end this "lead day" with a "cleansing" session of the current business portfolio.
2. Hunt in packs
The goal is to share LinkedIn contacts with colleagues and, in addition, once or twice a year, extracting emails from different silos of information to communicate personally and individually at a major free event with high added value (for example, a web seminar, business breakfast, white paper).
The sending of emails can be done by the marketing department, personalized in the name of the sender.
3. Regularly synchronize the various contact databases with a centralized CRM
For example, synchronize between the inbox and LinkedIn, or smartphones and LinkedIn. The goal is to increase the number of information exchanges between the different databases that will, in turn, be uploaded to the CRM.
4. Define a “Charter for Contact Management” with best practices.
One of the main aims is to underline, particularly to newcomers, that clients are not the clients of a salesperson, but they are those of the company, and to establish a culture, as is fashionable on social media, of sharing contacts and information with colleagues.
It is also to ensure that the contacts database is up-to-date. Each year, about 10% of a business contact database becomes obsolete. It is therefore vital to update contact details along with every exchange.
5. Ask contacts to update their contact information themselves.
Nothing is easier than when contacts update their details themselves. There are some simple tips to make this happen, the first being to send an annual survey asking customers to update their contact details.
6. Use OCR tools to digitize contacts
Manually entering a business card or registering a contact takes time and is a source of errors.
Therefore, it is essential to "digitize" each of the new contacts. This can be done by adding contacts to LinkedIn and then synchronizing them with your CRM, or by using business card scanning tools such as Evernote Premium. You can also use tools like EverContact.com that retrieve information from your incoming emails to automatically create new contacts.
7. Hunting duplicates
The biggest waste of time in a contact database is a duplicate. Do a regular audit of the database to merge and remove duplicate contacts.
The multiplication of communication tools and channels makes businesses more reactive but, at the same time, it has the negative effect of creating new information silos.
However, your contacts database represents the wealth of your business. When the economic climate is difficult, a well-managed, clean contact database becomes a major strength.
However, one thing never changes - you must not lose a single contact, because if you do not cherish it, the competition will take care of it for you.
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