Get yourself out of the old-school mentality.
The ever-evolving nature of the material handling industry demands constant attention to keep up with its breakneck speed. However, the frequency with which trends and technology change can often leave material handling distributors disillusioned and discouraged—stuck using the same methods they’ve been relying on for years.
Take a moment to step back and view your business operations as objectively as possible. Being busy doesn’t necessarily translate into an increased market share or achieved potential. We actually increase our levels of stress and busyness by operating in an antiquated and disorganized fashion. Nothing is more valuable in a business day than time and maximizing that time by proactively increasing productivity throughout your organization.
Skeptical questions about the Internet and its relevance have long been replaced by businesses whose core operations thrive online and whose reach through e-commerce extends further and deeper than ever thought possible. If you haven’t already embraced the wonder and potential of the Internet as it relates to your business, consider this your wake-up call.
Get yourself out of the old-school mentality that uses conventional wisdom with methods that limit your reach and start asking new questions:
- How does the Internet affect the way I market my business?
- Is it better than what I’m currently doing?
- How can I use the Internet’s resources to better reach my target market?
- How can my staff be organized internally to better serve the customer?
- Does my current technology allow me to be accessible, productive and able to communicate effectively?
These questions must be answered to ensure the success and vitality of your business in the coming years. Don’t be left behind!
To tackle some of these questions, more companies are seeking creative ways to utilize what the Internet can do for them. More and more options, or “tools,” are made available to organizations every day to maximize use of the vast “information superhighway.” One immediate advantage is the time-saving nature of the Internet—you can now contact 10 customers in 10 minutes through e-mail when it used to take an entire day! From changing content and updating your Web site to creating an entire mechanism for placing, tracking and fulfilling orders, the possibilities are endless to ensure a usable, friendly and interactive Web site when doing business with your company.
Time-saving Internet-based trends of particular interest for businesses include the migration from handwritten checks to online checking and banking services, as well as the implementation of Web-based accounting and invoicing. Using the same Web-based software, you can review figures with your CPA in real time, then e-mail invoices with the click of a button. No more printing invoices, using postage and walking to the mailbox. Seems simple, but it saves time!
Another Internet-based tool advantageous to businesses is Web tracking. You would be hard-pressed to find something you can’t track online today, from hits to individual pages on your Web site to how many people open your e-newsletter at what time of day. This type of information is invaluable to assessing the effectiveness of a new product launch or marketing campaign. Or better yet, it will give you convincing figures to reaffirm your commitment to using the Internet as a viable and pervasive medium. Check with your hosting provider for your tracking options or employ a free service, such as Google Analytics.
Evolution of CRM
Many large companies use software (Web-based or not) to structure the way they keep up with their customers. A salesperson can enter data on current or prospective customers and track the sales process, including logging proposals and last contact. All types of data and demographics can be organized and kept, even as salespeople come and go. This process, called customer relationship management (CRM), is no stranger to most but is evolving and taking on a more personal, consumer-driven approach that will be more effective toward achieving the original thinking behind CRM.
According to Allen Bonde, senior vice president of strategy and marketing at eVergance, the previous CRM model focusing on a self-service knowledge base or customer analytics will be enhanced by a focus on the customer rather than only customer processes. By implementing more personalized approaches to customer needs and delivering solutions through all forms of interaction, organizations can use the vast database at their fingertips to interact with clients on a more personal level by tailoring service toward certain skill levels and preferences to maximize these relationships.
An effective CRM model should be comprehensive and easy to customize to fit your company’s needs. If starting a CRM program internally is not an option, look for a reputable company, such as SalesForce.com, that has a proven track record in providing CRM services for other companies in your field. A company like SalesForce.com, with more than 41,000 clients worldwide, offers customizable enterprise applications that manage sales, marketing, customer service and other critical business functions. Another advantage to this type of CRM model is its Web-based platform, making it easily accessible to the sales team and others in your company, in addition to saving valuable space on your server.
What It Means for You
Salespeople typically have multi-purpose PDAs, which they load with customer information while out in the field. By utilizing productivity through mobility, they have the capability of creating, editing and e-mailing documents to have a proposal for a prospective customer waiting in their e-mail inbox in just a few moments. Upon return to the office, they can synchronize all data with their CRM software, essentially backing up and updating both.
Let’s look at another scenario. Your salesperson has garnered 500 e-mail addresses, and you need to sell or lease an overstock of inventory. You could easily put together an HTML-formatted e-mail with photos, short verbiage and links directly to the purchasing page on your Web site and send it to all 500 prospects with the click of a button. It’s direct, targeted and simple—giving the customer everything needed to make a decision.
The potential of the Internet as it relates to the material handling industry is immense, and we are just starting to touch the hem of the garment. In the coming years, there will be more ways to contact and interface with your customers than we’ve ever thought possible. If you’re not up to speed yet, it’s not too late, and the tools are getting easier and more fun to use!
|Meet the Author
Art Arellano is the executive director at eliftruck.com, located in Chicago, Illinois, and on the Web at www.eliftruck.com.