Why your manufacturing business secretly needs CRM

When it comes to automation software, manufacturers are mostly concerned with operations management and production scheduling. At the same time, their focus shifts away from important tools to improve their sales and marketing efforts.

The term CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is commonly associated with sales and marketing. And for a good reason, as CRM's core essence is to:

  • bring together multi-departmental users and accumulate customer-related information,
  • naturally accommodate customer data from all possible channels and touchpoints.

A lot of manufacturers may feel they don’t need a dedicated CRM. This may be because they have a small sales staff or they feel adequately covered with their existing customer management process (a combination of spreadsheets, contact management in Outlook, and calendar/date tracking in Google, etc.) and believe “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

In this article, we’ll show the benefits of a CRM system for manufacturing business and explain why it can’t be supplemented by other management systems.

CRM in manufacturing

Features to consider

The best way to reap the benefits is to make sure a CRM solution has all of the most used and popular features.

Top CRM software features include:

  • Contact Management that provides the ability to capture, record, and classify data related to customer interaction (such as calls, emails, website visits, social interaction, purchases, visits, etc).
  • Opportunity/Lead Tracking that supports registering and detailing sales prospecting information, such as lead source and sales assignment.
  • Customer Order History that enables to automatically capture customer purchases and helps complete the information about customer interaction.
  • Milestone Notifications that lead to improved sales forecasting and can be used to suggest appropriate follow-up actions by tracking milestones in customer engagement.

But how do these features relate to manufacturing?

One piece of information manufacturers are always looking to fine-tune and accurately predict is their production levels.

CRM has always helped assist with sales forecasting. But in manufacturing, the sales department can provide some key pieces of information that can predict how much volume the production floor will be handling in a coming week, month, quarter, etc.

CRM is designed to assist with new leads, while also nurturing existing relationships. By tracking order history with the contact management feature, and setting milestones for the best course of a follow-up in the CRM, the sales department creates the best position to predict future sales (and thus, production levels). This can assist in ensuring the manufacturing floor has the appropriate number of people staffed, the level of inventory for raw materials is sufficient, and machines are up to working order in any “high stress” periods.

Even in a non-sales function, CRM can help manufacturers. Let’s say a manufacturing company has a few hydraulic press machines on the floor. While most manufacturing software is going to be able to have maintenance tracking on these machines, CRM allows keeping prospects for activities like technician work. Not only will CRM assist in tracking sales, but can also help a sales team to prospect and get quotes or contract information from various companies in the area that may be able to assist with last-minute breakdowns and machine failures.

Doesn’t ERP handle this?

ERP systems are designed to increase business efficiency through better working processes and smoother operation workflows. CRM solutions, in their turn, aim for the similar result though using different approaches. CRM should be solely for focusing on the customer.

Some fully integrated ERP solutions are promoted as being able to handle accounting, sales orders, and inventory. Some ERP solutions may even have a built-in “CRM module”. So, companies feel they can get by with tracking customer information via a customer list in their accounts receivable, or have a database of sales info in their order management module (that includes current and past orders, shipping addresses, and more). However, using the system to the effect it was not designed for may be not a very wise decision.

First of all, it is far too time-consuming to allow a sales team to have full access to ERP and requires them to sift through multiple areas of the system to gather the needed information to assist in their sales efforts.

Secondly, it can create potential security issues, when sales staff search through the accounting department’s records. For example, they may accidentally interfere with important financial documentation due to the lack of required qualifications and expertise.

Anyway, there’s still a need to integrate the information, which ERPs hold, to use CRM to the maximum advantage. Luckily, CRM consultants can assist in choosing the best ERP-CRM integration solution or develop one from scratch.

Connect all areas of business

The goal of CRM is simple: to collect all pieces of customer-related information available from an enterprise’s business systems to maximize the potential of customer relationships. Integrated information about prospects and customers helps to get the most out of marketing, sales, and customer service due to more personalized approach to communication with potential and current customers and better insights into sales activities and their results. Overall, this increases business efficiency.

Do you want to manage customer relationships more efficiently? Experienced consultants will help you with CRM software of any complexity.

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