What do customer data and bananas have in common? Both rapidly decay. The biggest difference (other than potassium content) is that you can see bananas turning brown. Unfortunately, most customer relationship management (CRM) systems hide the decay of prospective customer information.
For a small business, finding leads and customers is hard enough. If you're letting your data get stale, you're missing out on opportunities in your sales pipeline and likely dropping the ball with current customers. And if your data is decaying, it can impact your entire business, from sales to HR to accounting to customer service.
Today's leads become tomorrow's garbage without you even noticing the shift. Customer data decays at a rate of 30 percent per year. In some markets with high employee turnover, that data can unravel at a shocking 70 percent each year. A small business CRM system is only as good as the data in it, and most systems do not account for this prospect rot.
Bank of America found out that even its state-of-the art CRM system was susceptible to this kind of creeping data disease. Recently, the national bank discovered that a large number of incomplete or incorrect customer profiles in its database had triggered a failure in the bank's authentication process. It then had to assign a 100-employee task force to solve the problem. Bank of America learned a hard lesson: Rotten data can poison an otherwise healthy system.
The shelf life of any CRM system is dependent on the freshness of the data inside that system. The first step toward improving the longevity of a CRM system is to collect data that's less likely to spoil over time.
Editor's Note: Looking for CRM software? We can help you choose the one that's right for you. Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:
There is a reason those leads are inactive
They've either forgotten about you, aren't interested in whatever you're selling or weren't at the right point in their customer journey to be convinced. Either way, it's important to send the right message to reboot the relationship.
Inactive leads can be a virtual gold mine for your marketing and sales team, if handled correctly. They provide a second chance, which is a rare but valuable resource for your small business. Nonetheless, reaching out with the same value proposition won't yield new results. You never know how someone's business has changed over the course of a few months or a few years.
Your data should tell you why the leads are inactive so that you can craft your messaging in a way that reignites interest and address any concerns that were present the first time around. Automated marketing and smart messaging can stoke the fires of an inactive prospect.
Here are a few ways to ensure that your customer information stays fresh and your customers stay engaged.
1. Lower the bar
Minimize your customers' workload. High expectations are great for corporate culture or classroom teachers but awful for customer landing pages. Lower your expectations, and your customers are more likely to meet them.
In practice, that means asking fewer questions and requiring less information from prospects. Email addresses and contact information are the quickly rotting fruit of the data world. Instead of asking customers to fill out fields of information that will soon be outdated, let your software do more of the work. With the right software settings, you need ask for only the most basic, shelf-stable information and drop a cookie to gather more specific information later.
The less information your prospect has to part with, the lower the barrier to providing that information and the less likely it will be that the information will be entered incorrectly and rot immediately.
2. Get to the point
There is a time for Leo Tolstoy and a time for Ernest Hemingway. Be Hemingway.
The average office worker gets more than 120 emails per day. Because of time demands, we read marketing content in fractions of phrases as opposed to full paragraphs. According to Boomerang, the ideal email length is between 50 and 125 words. It appears brevity is the soul of response: Subject lines of four words or less delivered a 48 percent response rate.
Likewise on frequency – if you constantly reach out by sending generic, long-winded emails or just pitch a sale over and over, you're driving a nail into the coffin. Be straightforward, not a pest. Bombarding your prospect with lengthy emails is just begging to be ignored or marked as spam.
3. Remember: There's no "I" in sales
Imagine your sales prospects as hungry toddlers. They do not care if you're having a bad day, and they do not care if you are a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. They only care about whether you have food for them at that precise moment. The heart of sales is answering customers' what's-in-it-for-me question before they even ask.
While your sales message must be brief, it must also be clear. You've got to tell prospects exactly how you will make their lives easier. Apple took this approach to selling its products. Look at the headlines on the Apple website, and you’ll see quick hits like "Why is iPhone so fast?"
Apple hooks uncommitted consumers with such questions, then goes on to tell them in many ways how the iPhone is the only product that has the battery life they need or the camera resolution they crave.
The challenge is to clarify what makes your product uniquely positioned to solve a customer's problem and then push that message. Address potential concerns and objections head-on, and present your clear value proposition by answering this question: Why is your business better suited than your competitors to help prospects overcome those obstacles?
No one likes bad data or rotten bananas. Thoughtful data capture when forming a client relationship and strategic messaging to inactive leads can preserve the health of both your CRM system and your bottom line.