by Aleksander Peterson
People are throwing around the term “data-driven” pretty loosely these days. It’s one of those brand-isms that makes your company seem cool and cutting edge.
Our innovative, data-driven approach to synergistic integration is designed to drive your bottom line, optimize growth-hacking and attract millennials.
Jargon aside, being “data-driven” is simply using facts to make better decisions and build better relationships. In a business context, this kind of information is referred to as business intelligence (BI). As commerce moves deeper into the digital universe and across more channels, BI is becoming a prerequisite for sales and marketing success.
But if you run a small business, you may feel a bit excluded. After all, if you want to run data analytics, you need a dedicated BI tool. And most of these tools would put you way over budget and probably never pay for themselves.
Here’s the good news: you can run data analytics and gain some impressive insights without even leaving your CRM software. Considering you probably already have a CRM, and considering that’s where your sales, marketing and customer and data is already stored, it’s a classic win-win.
A view from inside
Although reporting language and capabilities vary from product to product, almost every CRM provides some out-of-the-box reporting tools that cover the basics:
- Sales reporting (revenue, pipelines, goals, etc.)
- Campaign reporting (email, landing pages, lead sources)
- Customer reporting (buying patterns, demographics/firmographics, profitability)
Taken as a whole, CRM reports are designed to help you sell smarter, monitor progress to goals and quickly identify problems. They can also help marketers track campaign performance and measure ROI — which proves to be a difficult task for about 75 percent of marketers.
Most platforms give you the choice between canned or custom reports. The canned reports are already configured, so they’re easy to pull up (only a click or two), but are usually limited to generic, industry-standard analytics (such as sales forecasts and revenue). These insights are useful, but they may not accommodate your business’s more nuanced reporting needs. For that, you can use custom reports to bring in unique variables or mash up multiple data sets to discover root cause and correlation.
CRM dashboards are where all the data comes together.Users can customize their dashboards to display a real-time summary of reports related to their role. For example, a CFO could build a dashboard that displays lead source ROI, monthly sales and purchase behavior of top customers. This approach lets decision-makers see a quick overview of the most important information without spending extra time on one-off reports.
As you can see, there are more than a few ways to be “data-driven” with the tools you already have. In the rest of this post, we’ll talk about some specific uses of CRM reporting tools. Since every vendor has different names for their reports, we’ll classify these by report type and look at six main CRM report categories.
1) Profitability Reports
Profitability reports show you where your money is coming from — not in campaign terms, but in terms of specific customers. By mining your customer database for purchase history and customer buying habits, you can determine which customers:
- make the biggest contribution to your revenue
- are the most loyal
- and have the highest potential to buy from you again
These insights can be useful for nonprofits (who need to leverage their biggest donors as community advocates) and B2B companies (who use account-based marketing to drive revenue).
2) Sales Cycle Reports
As sales and marketing manage the buying process across various touchpoints and channels, it’s important to know how different variables affect the sales cycle. If anything, sales cycles are getting longer and more complicated. According to SiriusDecisions, the average sales cycle has increased by 22 percent over the last five years. Sales cycle reports can depict the average cycle duration (from lead capture to close) across different lead sources, and drill down to smaller metrics such as average response time.
3) CRM Pipeline Reports
CRM Pipeline reports show how your leads are progressing or regressing through the decision process, and what opportunities are pending. This helps marketers set quotas for their campaigns and helps salespeople prioritize their development tactics based on opportunity stage. Infusionsoft by Keap offers a Pipeline Summary report (opportunities by stage, date range and team), and a Pipeline Detail report (stage movement details).
4) Sales Forecast Reports
Once you have a clear picture of your pipeline, you can use your current leads and opportunities — as well as past sales trends — to project future revenue. Most teams run sales forecast reports on a monthly or quarterly basis, and use the projections to set goals for each department. Of course, for these forecasts to be reliable, the pipeline itself needs to be accurate, which precludes the use of manual measurement tools and “guesstimations.” Less than half of all sales reps believe their current pipelines are accurate, and yet they spend about 2.5 hours a week creating forecasts.
5) Sales Conversion Reports
Sales conversion reports tell you what percentage of leads convert into won deals or sales within a defined date range. Most CRMs break this down by lead source. For example, the report might show that 12 percent of email leads converted last month, compared to only 5 percent of paid media leads. Depending on your platform, you may also have visibility into the earlier stages of conversion, such as MQL (marketing qualified lead) to SQL (sales qualified lead), and SQL to SAL (sales accepted lead).
This insight is part of the “closed loop” process, which helps marketers track leads after they are delivered to sales and attribute financial results to specific campaign tactics. According to Adobe, 89 percent of marketers who practice attribution say it has a positive impact on their business.
6) Goal Progress Reports
Goal progress reports measure how campaigns are performing against their preset goals. These will inevitably be different for each department. For sales, a progress report might track total revenue and deals won for the current fiscal period. For marketing, it might be number of MQLs delivered or total revenue per source. Goal progress reports are admittedly pretty high-level, but they can serve as a reference point for campaign effectiveness without requiring a deep dive into pipeline and channel metrics (most of the time, goal reports can even be embedded into your dashboard). This keeps team members on the same page and helps decision-makers know when to shift gears.
Thanks to complicated buyer’s journeys and a highly competitive market, companies face increasing pressure to be “data-driven” across sales, marketing, and service. But you don’t need an umpteen-thousand-dollar analytics platform, a team of dedicated analysts or a data science certification to make informed decisions ... at least not if you have a CRM. CRM reports make basic business intelligence accessible to companies of every size. They’re easy to interpret, easy to use, and already paid for, which means you only stand to gain.
Aleksandr Peterson is a technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers marketing automation, CRMs, project management, human resources, and other emerging business technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.