Stop Wrestling Records: The Case For Transforming Data


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Stop battling your customer data.

Is your customer data ready to rumble?

Customer relationship management (CRM) programs are, by definition, all about the customer. Accordingly, they focus on bringing the right marketing, sales, and service processes to bear on the right prospect or customer, at the right time. Doing that, however, first requires amassing top-notch customer data–relating to sales calls, pricing and quoting, orders, invoices, financial details, marketing outreach, and service requests.

Giving your CRM users a concise view of that data helps make them more efficient, because they don’t have to waste time assembling a full picture of a prospect or customer themselves. Making the CRM system so useful also drives employees to adopt it.

But creating a concise, easy-to-access view of every single customer is challenging. For starters, the required data is typically stored in multiple locations, and controlled by different departments–and managers–across your business. So, how can businesses best tame this data challenge?

Data Transformation Tools: De-Dupe And Load

Enter data transformation tools. According to Innoveer consultant Wayne Jones, a number of companies offer software tools and services to help you transform, clean, relocate or consolidate essential information, to give your CRM users a consolidated view of your customer, including a complete history of your interactions with them.

On the enterprise-class tool front, the big names include IBM DataStage, Informatica, and Microsoft SQL Server integration services. All focus on ETL (extract transform load), which is tech-speak for “moving data from one place to another,” but in our eyes, Informatica really stands out for its cloud integration and data quality tools, as well as its ability to bring in supplemental information on contacts, for example via Dun & Bradstreet.

In the cloud realm, meanwhile, top ETL toolkits include Cast Iron, Jitterbit, as well as Informatica (which offers a free version of its Informatica Data Loader). Salesforce too offers its free Apex Data Loader.

Select The Best Technology For The Job

Deciding which technology is right for you really depends on your project and business requirements, as well as whether you can make do with batch loading, or require real-time integration. Smaller Salesforce users may find that Apex will meet all of their needs. Larger programs, meanwhile, may require ongoing, cloud-based transformation capabilities, or even the services of an enterprise-class product, supplemented with data intelligence services and outsourced quality checks.

One benefit of cloud technology is that it’s sold per the Salesforce model–meaning less often to CIOs, and more to business people. In other words, creating a single view of every customer doesn’t have to be an IT challenge, but rather a business opportunity.

Single Views Drive Strong Relationships

Salespeople don’t need to be sold on the importance of having a single view of all interactions with a customer. Indeed, the more complete your data, the clearer your view of a customer, and the faster you can get selling.

So it’s essential to have the right contacts linked to the right account, and to have correct phone numbers and addresses, not least so that your marketing materials–and later, salespeople–arrive at the right place. Then there’s duplication: if customer data comes from 5 data sources and you 10 have different records for a single customer, you don’t want to market to them 10 times, owing not just to the wasted cost and efficiency, but also the threat of marketing fatigue.

Having clean data also allow you to add to it, for example via data-completion services offered by the likes of Experian QAS. They can fill in missing addresses, update contact information or phone numbers, automatically, and further increase the efficiency of your marketing and sales programs.

Finally, top-notch data helps drive salespeople to use the system. Over the course of Innoveer’s hundreds of CRM projects, time and again, we’ve found that the number-one challenge isn’t technology, but user adoption. If salespeople don’t trust the data in your CRM system, they’re not going to use it.

Build More Complete Views In Stages

When starting out with CRM, however, don’t try to build a single view of customers all at once. Instead, break the problem down in to smaller steps. Typically, the best approach will be to implement your CRM system first–build a base, perhaps including minimal existing data, and then add to that in stages, using the appropriate data-transformation tool.

Know too that enterprise-class tools, including Infomatica, offer a massive feature set. In the early stages of your project, you may only be relying on small parts of that functionality, then expanding your use, as you bring more information into your CRM system. In other words, as your CRM program matures, so too should your use attempts to build a more complete view of your customers.

Learn More

What’s the best way to implement a sales force automation (SFA) program? Or would you like to know the top sales effectiveness or marketing automation questions–and answers–you should be asking, to make your current CRM program even better? For all this and more, check out our Innoveer’s CRM expert videos.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Kenny Louie.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


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