The Need for Customer Relationship Management and Analytics in Your Business

Part 8 of Masterclass Series

In part 8 of our Masterclass Series on "Building a Strategic Marketing Plan for Your Business," The Five Echelon Group's Founder/CMO Eric Dickmann talks with CRM strategist and Huron Consulting Group's Senior Director - Ed Garry about the need for customer relationship management and analytics in your business. 

Ed graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management and Marketing. He has worked with global Fortune 500 clients and provided financial services to guide their sales optimization processes, implement innovative CRM solutions, and optimize business processes and team structures. Before joining Huron Consulting, Ed spent a decade as the Global CRM and Sales Enablement Head of the Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) and as Vice President of CRM solutions at the Bank of America. 

Working primarily with the Salesforce CRM platform, Ed has been awarded with more than 15 Salesforce badges. Over the course of Ed's professional career, he has participated in countless forums, panels, speaking events, and is a frequent presenter at PowerObjects and The SME Forum conferences. 

On a personal note, Ed and I both served at Siebel Systems where we helped manage the marketing and product development for Siebel's Financial Services Industry Edition of their flagship CRM product. On September 12, 2005, Oracle Corporation announced it had agreed to buy Siebel Systems for $5.8 billion and "Siebel" is now a brand name owned by Oracle Corporation. At Oracle, Ed and I took on roles in the Oracle Financial Services Global Business Unit where we both had global responsibility for marketing Oracle's Commercial and Retail Banking products respectively. As a division, the Oracle Financial Services Global Business Unit had over 13,000 employees across the globe supporting the products and services developed specifically for the financial services industry.


Customer Relationship Management

How can I keep track of all the information and data flowing in and out of my business?  Who are my customers, hot prospects, and leads? How can my entire organization share the same information and work together to serve our customers? How can we share information between all the different applications we use? All of these questions point to the need for a central repository of contact data and interaction history, that repository is called a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.

CRM software is not a new concept. It used to be called Contact Management and for many companies today, that's how they still view it. But the reality is that CRM has evolved. It's no longer just a system to store contacts and manage incoming and outgoing sales communications, it's now a hub, a central repository for all interactions. It's a system that helps to manage the buyer's journey from a prospect's initial interaction with an organization, all the way though their journey of becoming a customer and then servicing them after the sale. It helps manage the full customer lifecycle, not just with the tools inside the CRM itself, but through a web of integrations that allow the CRM to access data across channels, lines of business, and systems.

The Holy Grail: A 360 Degree View of Your Customers

The holy grail has often been seen as the idea of providing a 360 degree view of the customer, the ability to understand how the customer has interacted with the organization, and how the organization has interacted with the customer. While it sounds simple in concept, the reality is that providing this 360 degree view is challenging for most organizations. We've all experienced those calls into a call center to follow-up on a problem, only to find an agent on the other end of the phone who has no idea what we're talking about. It's frustrating for employees and customers alike.

It's surprising that many companies don't take advantage of widely available CRM tools and data analytics software. As your business grows, so does the complexity of your back office. Building internal systems that share data and rely on a centralized hub of customer data can help avoid problems down the road. If you find yourself logging into multiple systems at the start of each day, cutting and pasting data from one system to the other, or cross-referencing account numbers to get the information you need, you're describing exactly the issues CRM systems aim to fix. You want easy access to customer information, no matter where it originally came from!

360 degree view

Integrating CRM into your business does not automatically guarantee all your data problems will be solved. Let's be real, data management and application integration are complex problems to solve. But the effort can be well worth the trouble.  CRM not only gives you the ability to understand how a customer was marketed to, but what kind of offers and outreach they responded to, and how they discovered your products or services. Armed with this knowledge, your Marketing team is better able to generate leads and your Sales team is better able to sell. CRM provides a clearer picture of what prospects were looking for and where they are in their buyer's journey.

The Changing Definition of CRM- Customer Relationship Management

In the early days, customer relationship management focused heavily on the concept of the 360-degree view of the customer. Ed Garry states that it may have been the widely accepted definition of CRM from 1999-2004, but as time passed, it has slowly become a negative perception. This was because while the vision was real, the technology often wasn't up to the task of bringing that vision into reality. Data is often stored on mainframe systems that were built in a era when integration wasn't a factor. Other systems were brought into fill out missing functionality that mainframes applications didn't provide but over time, organizations had silos of data everywhere and a patchwork of integrations trying to keep data in sync. Mainframes slowly gave way to client-server technologies, which were replaced by web applications and now cloud apps.  

CRM through the years

The Importance of Integration

Having a hub of information that integrates your tools and data is important in a highly competitive business world. The beauty of today's customer relationship management technology is that your chosen platform gives you the freedom to integrate existing systems and provides the openness necessary to connect with other applications. In some of those early versions of CRM, there just was not the integration capability that exists today. When you look at modern platforms like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, HubSpot, or one of the smaller CRM solutions, they will all have an open ecosystem that allows you to have multiple points of integration and interaction. 

Ed explains that customer relationship management has been traditionally focused on the front office. However, he tells us that a CRM platform must be able to connect the front, middle, and back offices so that they will be in sync with each other and provide visibility across the organization. As technology moved to the cloud, CRM platforms such as HubSpot and Salesforce emerged with the renewed promise of integrating data sources. Much has changed in technology making the vision that 360-degree view a much more achievable goal that it was when CRM's first debuted. Compared to the early years when CRM was snubbed by some business leaders as an overly complex, pipe dream, the concept is now being looked upon favorably by enterprises of all sizes for the value it provides. Customer service expectations have changed and no matter what your industry, the bar is higher in selling and servicing customers. And in marketing, the landscape has exploded with new technologies that siloed, have limited value, but integrated into your CRM stack, can provide enormous benefits and insight.

Companies' forecasted budget in CRM

The Importance of Having a CRM Strategy in Your Business 

Despite the easy access that CRM provides to customer data, some businesses are still not taking advantage of these tools and instead depend on Excel spreadsheets or other non-integrated tools to manage their customers. For small and medium-sized enterprises, it can be a struggle to implement a system, familiarize employees the tool, and get people using the tool as expected. The challenge that Ed sees in companies that have not yet adapted CRM tools is that they are often hesitant to make changes to their routines and invest in technology that could dramatically alter well established processes inside the company. Some companies may be wary of promises made by applications in the past but who's implementation did achieve the expected results. 

What businesses hope to achieve in using CRM

In some industries, having a tool that is built with that specific industry in mind can help improve the odds of implementation success. In the case of Salesforce, this tool is a very different tool today than it was ten years ago; compared to before, the Salesforce platform now gives you the ability to tailor specific functionality to your industry or take advantage of pre-built functionality tailored to industry specific vertical markets.

Start Over? 

Ed witnessed some companies looking at what they've done in the past and believing it is much easier to start over than to try and fix what they built 10+ years ago. It's not unusual for businesses, especially large enterprises, to feel that they need to build out functionality that is custom to their organization. Over time, this creates complexity within the application deployment and as technology changes or new functionality is released, it becomes harder and more complex to keep those customizations maintained. Some businesses fail to recognize that the out-of-the-box functionality of these platforms can significantly reduce the complexity when implemented correctly. While those customizations may be tempting to build, the long-term support and maintenance should always be factored into any decision. There are some cases where Ed shared that he has helped customers not necessarily move from old to new, but instead take the old, use it to be able to build a better new. Many companies are much more knowledgable today on what CRM can do for their businesses and when building new, they are able to take that accumulated knowledge from their first implementation and rollout a system that is more integrated but less complex than earlier efforts.

CRM is a Mindset

Ed Garry is a firm believer in making CRM your mindset. According to him, your customer relationship management implementation might flop if you allow your CRM to be driven by the technology instead of the business. Ideally, your CRM team should be composed of various types of people who understand your business process and your organization's underlying technology. In Ed's experience at the Bank of New York, Mellon (BNY Mellon), they were able to move mountains and do extraordinary things because their customer relationship management strategy was driven by the business and not the technology team. In Ed's experience, a CRM strategy must be driven by the business and partnered with IT to be successful.

Ed Garry

CRM is a mindset, it is a business strategy. Your CRM should be driven by your business and not by technology alone. "

There is never a bad time to bring CRM tools into your business. The worst decision is never starting. Some businesses fear starting because they don't feel they've got the right data but the reality is, nobody's data is perfect, but you have to start at some point collecting it. NIBusiness UK shares with us the benefits of having software tools in your business:

  • Cuts cost by automating the routine tasks
  • Allows you to measure each office's productivity and efficiency 
  • Improves your business' benchmark
  • Streamline business operations and accounts
  • Replace paper processes
  • Permits you to better communicate with your team, customers, and business partners

The Importance of CRM in Your Customer's Buyer's Journey 

Where did your leads come from? What marketing efforts were successful in creating brand awareness and driving prospects to your website? Customer relationship management software gives you the ability to understand how a customer was marketed to, what kind of offers and interactions they responded to, and how they actually came to have visibility of your organization. For a salesperson, this relevant knowledge can help in their approach to prospects by allowing them to more strategically address a prospect's needs based on information already collected. Having an organized profile of data consolidated in one place will make it much easier to identify what works and what doesn't. 


Customer relationship management software also gives you better insight into your marketing through analytical data. This data helps to shed light on what type of promotions are working and which ones are not. Ed points out that it's not unusual to have multiple touch points with a particular prospect. For most businesses, rarely does one touch point result in a sale. If you trace things backwards, it's multiple points of contact that ultimately resulted in the sale. That's why when your data, technology, and CRM are all intertwined, it's essential to have your buyer's journey mapped out. You want to be able to provide them the right information at the right touch point in their buyer's journey. CRM can give you the tools needed to meet those prospective customers where they are in their buying process.

Moving the Needle with CRM

From a marketing perspective, there's a tendency for businesses to keep throwing dollars at tactics without fully understanding the effectiveness of their efforts. Instead of doing more or spending more,  there's a lot that can be achieved just moving the needle a little bit in one direction or another. This is why mapping out the buyer's journey is so important. The steps required to acquire a lead and make it "marketing qualified" are important to fully understand in order to make your tactics effective. It is shocking that many companies still don't understand how many touch points it takes before you get a "hot lead" or how many sales interactions it takes to close an actual opportunity. It's important to understand because you might only be one or two interactions away from being successful converting leads!

If you look at your averages, you may need to invest more in your marketing outreach or bring in Sales at a different point in the process. These insights get uncovered with analytical tools and business intelligence dashboards when built on a strong foundation of data and interaction history. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the goal is to look for patterns and look for areas where small changes and lead to big results. Too often, decisions get made on assumptions or an overly simplistic reading of the data. When you build out a CRM system and start using tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, previous hidden insights laying in your data can more easily be brought to light. Once surfaced, these insights can help you make changes or adjusts to your marketing outreach and follow-up that can prove significant in your ability to convert leads into customers.

The Interaction of Customers With Your Website 

A Contact Us page can be seen on the websites of most companies online. Those take on a whole new meaning when your site is integrated into your CRM system. Having customer relationship management software like HubSpot, helps you monitor people who have submitted contact forms and how they interacted with you website. I can pretty much guarantee that people who go directly to your Contact Us page without viewing other aspects of your posted content, are not hot prospects. They haven't done research or shown meaningful interest in your offerings. Whereas, if you can see somebody has read articles on a specific topic, drilled into pages that demonstrated interest in a particular area, or downloaded a specific piece of collateral, this all gives you better insight into that potential customer's interests and needs . 

With an integrated CRM, the information you're gathering about your prospective customer is all in one place. This data helps you to build out a theory of what is going on in your customer's minds and make a determination about whether they are a potentially hot lead or not. And with these rules in place, you can even automate further interactions through a workflow engine. Certainly,  you don't want to be creepy. You've got to respect your customers' privacy and be cautious about not invading their safe space; but used correctly, these tools can help you provide much better service to your potential customers.

User Adoption

Technology is great but tools like CRM only work when employees use it and use it correctly. For some sales organizations, the idea of inputting a bunch of prospect data into a corporate system could be seen as career limiting. What happens if that salesperson gets fired or takes another job? What happens to all their contacts? These can be tricky questions to answer but the bottom line is that when given a powerful tool to make their job both easier and more effective, employees can see how this technology can ultimately make them more successful. Having good tools on the desktop can be a game changer in many industries. As the statistic below shows, however, it's incumbent on organizations to clearly articulate the value of CRM to employees and proactively look for ways to encourage adoption.   

User Adoption

For the organization, the beauty of having a customer relationship management system is that even if your team members get promoted or reassigned to perform a different role within your organization, the data they are working on won't be affected and can still be easily accessed. If you want to access a specific customer profile, review a particular transaction , or reassign contacts, leads or opportunities, all of that can easily be accomplished with the click of a button.  

Tips in Finding the Best CRM Offering For Your Company

Ed Garry advises companies to identify their prioritiesbusiness requirements, and budget first before engaging in any CRM platform decision. He points out that Salesforce started out focusing on small and medium-sized companies. It wasn't until 2004 when Merrill Lynch bought the Salesforce CRM for their organization did the door really open for it to become the choice for large companies. Most CRM solutions can do many similar things. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, there are differentiators between the platforms; but from a basic contact management perspective, there are many choices available in the market. You have to find the one that aligns with where you are today and not forget where you need to be tomorrow. Purchase a tool that can grow with your organization and one that will integrate with your other tools and data sources.  When implemented correctly, that vision of the 360-degree view of the customer can come to life within your organization and give you the tools needed to market, sell, and service your customers more effectively.


Live Stream Replay


Ed Garry

Ed Garry

Ed Garry is a CRM strategist and Senior Director of Huron Consulting Group. Ed graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management and Marketing. He has worked with global Fortune 500 clients and provided financial services to guide their sales optimization processes, implement innovative CRM solutions, and optimize business processes and team structures. Before joining Huron Consulting, Ed spent a decade as the Global CRM and Sales Enablement Head of the Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) and as Vice President of CRM solutions at the Bank of America. 

Eric Dickmann

About the author

Eric Dickmann is the Founder / CMO of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast "The Virtual CMO" and YouTube series "Work-Life" and a CMO On Demand for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies and bring innovative products to the market.

Follow Us


Sign up for the latest podcast news!


The Virtual CMO podcast is hosted on Buzzsprout!

Podcast hosting and a whole lot more! Buzzsprout has helped over 100,000 people start their own podcast. It is the easiest way to host, promote, and track your podcast. I love it and highly recommend it to anyone thinking of starting a podcast.

Interested in learning more? Click the button below to save $20 and also help support our show!