The idea of recording of customer interactions is as old as the hills. First there was the ledger then, somewhat more recently we had the Rolodex with its satisfying spin of business cards. This saw a rather dramatic decline in popularity as the digital age dawned and contact management software began to emerge in the late 80’s. Over the following years we began to see what is recognised today as a customer relationship management (CRM) system. This noticeably improved the ability to serve customers and significantly boost the effectiveness of acquiring new customers by supporting lead generation efforts. Since this time we’ve witnessed innovation after innovation in this space, such as mobile-friendly platforms, cloud hosting, integrations with existing systems, automation and a seemingly endless number of applications.

What does this trip down CRM memory lane have to do with lead generation?

No matter the budget, from SME to huge global corporations, the evolution of CRM over the last decade or two is providing all businesses with tremendous opportunity from customer and prospect data. Our brand new guide on ‘Advanced Techniques for Effective Lead Generation’ identifies some of the more significant opportunities available to enterprise marketers, including CRM, automation and account-based marketing, giving practical action points for each. In this blog post we focus on some of the considerations and opportunities relating to CRM when it comes to creating a robust and effective lead generation programme.

Using existing data to develop new leads

The opportunities presented by today’s CRM systems, combined with a greater understanding by marketing leaders of how to use the technology, ensures we are able to identify and extract business potential from existing customers better than ever before. By recording and analysing customer insight in greater depth we can not only use this information to ensure we resonate with them in our messaging and approach, but we can use the same data to a build a profile of ‘ideal’ customers and so apply the same criteria when searching for new prospects. Of course these are likely to be the most commercially valuable, so any lead generation campaigns are likely to result in the best return on investment and ultimately the greatest profitability.

CRM ‘add-ons’ to aid lead generation

While your existing CRM system may be doing all you’re asking of it, if it hasn’t had much attention in the last year or two now may be the time to pause and identify the business opportunities you may be failing to take advantage of. With a seemingly endless list of applications there are tools to support sales and marketing through to those which improve HR and finance processes, and even collaboration applications that will help bring it all together.

When it comes to lead generation, perhaps one of the more effective tools to integrate with CRM is that of marketing automation platforms. With this marketers can set up automated email campaigns based on specific customer actions and dependencies, website personalisation, lead scoring, retargeting and much more. Not only will data from CRM influence the effective  development of these programmes, but it will also provide a clearer picture of campaign ROI for marketers since responses/engagement are captured in the CRM. At a company-wide level it will help to provide a more holistic view of engagement with that customer, a particular benefit for sales teams.

Social CRM is another example of opportunity for marketers looking to acquire and develop sales leads. When a customer chooses to contact you via Twitter or Facebook, and that interaction is tracked and managed in CRM, businesses can act faster, respond better and anticipate customer needs. But those tasked with generating and developing sales leads may benefit from taking things a step further. It is said that the true art of conversation is in the listening and if you’re listening to prospect comments via social channels you will be better able to react and engage on the right topic at the right time. Some of the most successful organisations are connecting social IDs to CRM records, increasingly by requesting things like social handles (such as LinkedIn profiles) via form fields for content downloads or event registration forms.

Marketing and sales – united through CRM

While the lead gen opportunities from CRM are vast, it is essential that sales and marketing work closer together than ever before. Fortunately the nature of CRM programmes is helping to close the gap between the two departments by providing a greater level of prospect data to sales, who are recording more detailed insight from their engagements, which in turns ensures that areas of success can be better identified and therefore marketing has a stronger idea of where to focus its efforts.

A glance to the future for lead generation

Having looked at the evolution of CRM and reflected on the opportunities for B2B lead generation, what should we prepare for over the years ahead? Experts that we have spoken to suggest the shift towards customer-centricity won’t be slowing down anytime soon, with even greater company-wide integration of systems that will help to provide a single view of the customer experience. We can expect further sophistication and specialisation leading to greater opportunity for marketers and businesses as a whole, but we must also prepare for this to come with yet more complexity. For lead generation experts this may mean more effective campaigns based on an even higher level of insight and therefore personalization.

It seems the lead generation opportunities through CRM will continue to grow, but while we must be prepared we must also ensure we’re taking advantage of things today. With this in mind, be sure to download our guide on Advanced Techniques for Effective Lead Generation, which contains five recommended action points on getting the most from your CRM system, as well as guidance and actions around account-based marketing and automation.