If you lived in the city — with lots of winding streets, stop-and-go traffic, roundabouts, changes in elevation and, of course, traffic — you could buy a sports car. You could get something sleek and aerodynamic, something with a horsepower equivalent to a rodeo, with handling that could turn on a dime and acceleration that would rival a space shuttle. But if you never left the city, those features would be wasted.
You would need a place where you could take advantage of what makes a sports car special, somewhere to really let it spread its wings, to open it up. You would need to understand where, and under what conditions, you could make full use of its features
The same is true for Salesforce CRM. A high-performance machine in its own right, Salesforce CRM is essentially just a repository of data that provides a central place to access customer information. Leveraging the CRM data with smart data strategies is like taking advantage of a sports car’s premium features.
Depending on the circumstance, a CRM can be a source of information about customers, or it can be the recipient of that information. In a sense, a CRM is both simultaneously. Or perhaps a better way to put it is that it is one or the other depending on the circumstance. If a company is running a campaign where customers are filling out forms, the CRM is a destination. However, once that information is stored and put to use it becomes a source of truth about customers for sales reps.
Understanding this role of a CRM is essential in beginning to ensure that a data strategy suits your business needs. Making the most of a CRM starts by realizing that data doesn’t always exist within it. Not everything within a CRM lives there as a result of automation such as campaigns. Sales agents aren’t always sitting in front of their computers with Salesforce open. Maybe they have customer information jotted down on a matchbook or cocktail napkin, in their head or on their smartphone or tablet.
Either way, getting a clear picture of when a CRM needs to be fed information and when it is a source of information goes a long way. A well-maintained CRM needs to be a recipient of data under some circumstances so it can be a repository later.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to data strategy. To make the most out of data in Salesforce CRM, businesses need to answer a few key questions about their data.
First, your business needs to ask itself what purpose the data serves, why does the business want it? Customer data falls into two categories: demographic and behavioral. The former describes who a customer is (e.g., a woman between 25 and 40 living in California) while the latter describes what they do (e.g., someone who abandoned a cart or filled out a form). So, the type of data collected will often determine how a company uses that data. Making use of the data for interactions, let’s say, is different from understanding who viewed the company site.
Next, a business needs to understand to whom the data is valuable, and therefore needs access to it. Maybe the marketing or sales team do not engage customers who have not purchased anything from the company in more than a year. In which case, data from those customers is not relevant and should not be included when designing a data strategy.
Once your company establishes who is using what data and how they are making use of it, the company needs to establish a data retention policy. Obviously, storing more data costs more money, so there is no sense in a company storing data it doesn’t need or only needs occasionally. Storing massive amounts of data gets exponentially expensive because, not only is it more costly to store, but more data is also more costly to maintain.
Retention and visibility are parallel concepts. Retention is another way of saying what data a company holds onto and visibility is who is able to see that data. Just because data is not visible in Salesforce CRM, does not mean it doesn’t exist. Data can be offloaded and stored externally and incorporated into the CRM when needed or simply referenced outside it.
Issues of privacy can also play into data retention. Deciding who in the company has access to what data, customer preferences on how their data is used as well as what regulations protect the customer’s right to be forgotten are also important considerations.
Another key element of a good data strategy is how to structure a company’s data. Well-structured data allows users to view the details of customer information quickly, easily and intuitively. Just as with the entire goal of a CRM and a good data strategy, the purpose here is ease of use, which cuts down on administration time and thus saves money. Ensuring that all a company’s data is uniform across all uses — called “data cleanliness” — also falls under this umbrella.
Mulling over such considerations may seem like a lot. An experienced partner can give companies insight into which data is necessary for any given purpose, and how much needs to be stored within its CRM. Much like that friend in the passenger seat, an experienced partner can take care of all the details — finding the right radio station, checking your blindspot, adjusting the mirrors — so you can relax and enjoy the ride.