HubSpot

HubSpot
CRM signals future of supplier management technology

 

As a concept and a technology customer relationship management has a 20-year headstart on SRM. Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO of market leader HubSpot, describes what the future has in store for CRM and shows what it might mean for managing suppliers. The explosion of apps and solutions, and the innovative way vendors are packaging them and bringing them to market, has been a huge boost to a company’s ability to adapt and to create a delightful customer experience.

The landscape is shifting quite a bit in terms of where to expect major new advances in technology. In recent years, the advent of easily accessible technologies such as video, real-time chat, and bots have dramatically improved a business’ ability to reach and serve customers and prospects. I am sure we will continue to see all sorts of innovations that save time, reduce costs and improve quality. However, in terms of big, dramatic leaps in productivity, the focus of innovation will be less on major new features and more on how all the parts work together.
 
In the front-office — the customer-facing space — CRM systems and tools that help manage the full customer journey from marketing through sales to customer service, are designed to provide staff and managers with a single view of the customer. From a single pane of glass, everyone can see a history of a customer’s interaction with the company, from an initial visit to the website to becoming a lead, from the sales process through customer service and retentio —even to customers driving new leads with positive word-of-mouth.
 
At the same time, customer information will always exist in all sorts of systems and solutions. Those independent products and other system-of-record platforms will continue to capture and generate customer information; they will continue to consume and provide information with the breadth of applications up and down the technology stack. The typical medium-sized business today uses several dozen cloud-based solutions:  the trend has been moving towards more solutions, not fewer. Part of the reason for this is that technology has become much more democratised — individual employees and small teams are empowered to find, experiment with and introduce tools that make their jobs easier and provide value to customers. And vendors have made their products easier to find, to try-out, and to buy on a small scale, pre-empting the laborious enterprise sales cycle.
 
Apps create a boom in customer data
The explosion of apps and solutions, and the innovative way vendors are packaging them and bringing them to market, has been a huge boost to a company’s ability to adapt and to create a delightful customer experience. But this explosion also comes at a cost: it takes organisations away from a single view of customer data. Therefore, the advance many companies are looking forward to is the ability for all those solutions to easily interoperate and share customer data seamlessly.
 
While we can offer such an all-in-one solution, we also recognise that one company cannot claim a monopoly on all advancements in the field. To benefit from all advances in the market, the smartest businesses will adopt a general-purpose CRM platform, which allows them to benefit from more innovation on the market without compromising integration or efficiency. The marketplace is starting to place a premium on software that prizes integration over a single vendor solution. As technology providers respond to that demand, the easier it will be for businesses to have single, complete view of their customer.
 

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Technology to anticipate customers’ wants and needs
For years now at HubSpot, we havemade extensive use of personas as part of the inbound marketing on which our solution is based. A persona is a semi-fictional representation of an ideal customer based on market research and real data about existing customers. Most companies create several personas to develop their marketing plans. But in the business-to-consumer world, we see a big shift away from personas. Companies are becoming less inclined to make a whole group of customers fit into a box. Rather, they are using AI and machine learning to develop highly individualised messaging and offerings. For example, music streaming subscription service Spotify does not use a persona like “ageing rocker”; instead it creates a unique music mix based on previous music selections and algorithms based on the choices of millions of other users.
 
Such precise customisation is not so likely in the B2B world. However, where personas take a basic topdown, hand-crafted approach, data analytics provide marketers with a bottom-up, data-driven mechanism to detect fine-grained patterns among customer cohorts. We will see more and more innovation in detecting and visualising behavioural trends.
 
Linking understanding of customers with the management supply chains
Where organisations can understand and predict the behaviour of customers, they can feed this information into supplier management. Some B2B marketplaces, for example, capture and share information about traffic, search terms used, time spent on a supplier’s page, and include data on the number of pages visited, time between visits and visit-to-lead ratios. In effect, the suppliers can use the marketplace as an extension of their marketing presence.
 
Competitive advantage is increasingly found in how you sell, and not as much in what you sell. The most valuable innovation among suppliers will be in their ability to help improve the overall customer experience. For some businesses, that will mean simplifying the buying process by reducing the overall complexity of how a product or offer is assembled, packaged and delivered. 
 
For others, it will mean greater transparency not only into the status of an order but also into where and how parts are sourced in terms of environmental impact and fair employment practices. And for others it will be the ease with which items can be returned or exchanged. Improving suppliers’ response to customer needs will rely on technological innovation, and especially on the ability to share data up and down the supply chain. It will also depend on a shift in mindset; where there is a willingness to emphasise customer experience. CRM has come a long way from simply being software in which organisations strive to get a single view of the customer, to a platform which integrates and analyses customer data from a diverse set of internal and external applications. Within the leap forward is the ability to understand and act on customer needs more rapidly, increasing the responsiveness of the whole supply chain. But it may take time to develop the right mindset and form the necessary trusted relationships.
Improving suppliers’ response to customer needs will rely on technological innovation, and especially on the ability to share data up and down the supply chain. It will also depend on a shift in mindset; where there is a willingness to emphasise customer experience.
Contact us to discuss any aspects of your supplier management programme or State of Flux SRM technology at enquiries@stateofflux.co.uk.
 

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