On average it costs $1.13 for companies to earn $1 from a new customer.

I’m no mathematician (I barely passed calculus in college), but I’m pretty sure that $1.13 is more than $1.00. The average company is spending more than it’s making on customer acquisition.

How can you lower this cost?

Well, customer acquisition falls on marketing and sales. Marketing and sales depend on CRM to add customers. Your customer relationship manager (CRM) is the central database of customer and prospect information needed to close the sale and retain your customers.

CRM software is everywhere – and everyone says you “should” be using it.

But what does it actually do for you? How can you use your CRM to get more customers (in less time)? How can you optimize your CRM?

66% of companies are getting little to no benefit from their CRM information! It’s hard to close sales when you don’t know anything about who you’re selling to. It’s also hard to keep customers when you can’t remember who they are.

In this post we’ll cover 9 best practices to optimize your CRM.

  1. Audit your data regularly
  2. Create a uniform system for data entry
  3. Use data hygiene to get people to use your CRM
  4. Never let unclean data into your CRM
  5. Marry your marketing and sales data
  6. Refine and organize your contacts into segments
  7. Integrate your calendars and website
  8. Integrate your customer support tools
  9. Automate unnecessary manual processes

Data hygiene and organization best practices

You’re a power washer and your data is the sidewalk. Sooooo satisfying. (via GIPHY)

To optimize your CRM, tackle the most important task first: your data. Let’s just get this out in the open:

Your CRM is less important than the data it holds.

The tool you choose, the sales integrations you hook it up to, the complicated lead scoring formulas you create, and all of the bells and whistles of your CRM is less important than the data your CRM holds.

In the fight to lower the cost of acquiring and keeping customers, bad data is public enemy #1. Take a look.

You might have the freshest, fanciest CRM on the block. But features and functionality mean nothing if your data is bad. So clean it up!

Best practice 1: Audit your data regularly (not as hard as it sounds)

Customer data decays at a rate of 30% – 70% per year.

About half of your customer information is bad – or will be bad in the next year.

Jobs change, lives change, businesses change, email addresses change, physical addresses change. Everything changes, all the time.

Keep up with the changes and keep your CRM optimized. Audit your data.

For a good data audit, follow this 7-step process and get your data right.

  1. Locate and gather all of your customer information
  2. Organize the information based on what you need to know
  3. Prioritize the customer information by value to your business
  4. Remove any duplicate or incorrect information
  5. Add any information that is missing
  6. Create a uniform system for data entry
  7. Repeat the audit process at least once a year

A thorough data audit saves you time and money in several departments.

  • Marketing. Bad emails mean high bounce rates and lower sales. Good email lists improve your deliverability – and your campaigns will be able to sell more
  • Sales. Bad info is a sales rep’s worst nightmare. Phone numbers that don’t work, outdated emails, outdated job titles. A clean CRM saves your reps from hunting down the info they need – so they can spend more time selling.

A clean database means your emails will always find their target.

Audit your data. Your marketing and sales teams will thank you.

Best practice 2: Create a uniform system for data entry

If everyone using the CRM is in charge of their own data entry methods, you’ll have a hard time finding anything that you’re looking for. Reporting will be difficult, if not impossible, and duplicate data will clog up your system.

Organization is your friend. Create clear guidelines for data entry.

Have a code for CRM processes like:

  • Tracking phone calls
  • Logging conversations
  • Adding deal notes
  • Setting appointments
  • Scheduling calls
  • Creating follow up tasks

How can you run a report on customer interactions when there are 15 different ways to indicate a conversation? How can you track customer information if everyone is adding it differently?

You can’t.

Guidelines for data entry gives you actual, actionable results. You will have clearer reports and insight into the areas your sales process can improve.

Make sure that your reports are accurate with uniform data.

Consistent customer information also helps you evaluate performance on an individual level. You can see where each rep is succeeding or underperforming.

Uniform data helps reveal big-picture trends in your sales process too!

  • Average number of sales conversations needed for sale
  • Common reasons for lost deals
  • Length of sales cycle
  • Average deal size
  • Overall win rate
  • Total pipeline value

Get more out of your data and improve your CRM return on investment (ROI).

Consistent data helps you lower your customer acquisition cost, and hang onto your customers for longer.

Best practice 3: Use data hygiene to get people to use your CRM

What if your team doesn’t use your CRM – even though it has all the features you technically need?

Why would people not use a tool that’s tailor-made for them?

  • Lack of training
  • Complexity and overkill
  • Fear of corporate oversight
  • Unclear value to reps

These problems are more common than you might think:

So how can you promote user adoption and data hygiene at the same time?

Turn it into a game.

James Wong, CEO of Avidian Technologies, says, “With CRM software, a good starting point is to have the team start entering their sales contacts. Once they have fully incorporated this process, start tracking sales with the new system.”

Start small. Make sure that the contacts and information they’re adding is consistent with your system.

When your users master the task at hand move them into the next level. Your CRM is being cleaned and your users are being trained at the same time.

“Continue adding new elements on a regular basis until they are using every function of the new solution in their daily routine.”

Best practice 4: Never let unclean data into your CRM

Never let data into your CRM system without cleaning it. Otherwise it will pile up and you’ll have a mountain of bad data on your hands.

Data pollution occurs when:

  • Integrations are faulty or misconfigured
  • Humans make errors
  • Data is changed within a business process

Identify the source of the data pollution and systemically correct it. Put on your detective hat and follow the faulty intel.

  • If the source is an integration, you’ll have to play with the configuration until the data is transferring correctly.
  • If it’s human error, best practice #2 (create a uniform system for data entry) and #3 (use data hygiene to promote user adoption).
  • If a business process is the culprit, you may need to simplify or break it down into smaller pieces.

Optimized customer data = optimized CRM.

Marketing information best practices

In our information-driven world, you begin to learn about a sales prospect or lead from the moment they become aware of your business:

  • Social media ad impressions
  • Engagements
  • An intro conversation at an event
  • Site tracking information

This is marketing data. It can tell you a lot about a potential customer:

  • Product/service interests
  • Content they have interacted with
  • Level of engagement

Marketing data comes from many different sources. Use it.

Best practice 5: Marry your marketing and sales data

What can you know about a lead before you ever make contact with them? More than you might think.

If you’re taking advantage of the available tools, you can answer most of these questions:

  • How did they find out about you?
  • What channel did they come from?
  • Are they on your email list?
  • Are they engaging with your content?
  • What are they interested in?

The sales process begins with marketing.Studies show that 88% of your prospective customers have started to judge your business before you ever talk to them.

Today, there are multiple types of CRM for you to choose from. With stackable SaaS applications on the rise with no end in sight, your CRM and your marketing platform can be tied together via integration.

OR get you a platform that does both *cough* ActiveCampaign *cough*

These integrations make it simple for you to sync the information coming in from marketing.

Armed with this marketing information, you can manage the handoff from marketing → sales more effectively – because you have a better understanding of what each lead needs.

First contact sales calls are tricky. Contextual knowledge of a prospect is a huge advantage for you. Getting your marketing data in the CRM means the sales team has less tedious work to do. The qualifying process is already underway.

Not only will they have preliminary information ironed out for them, but marketing data tells them which leads to prioritize. Not all leads are created equal. Help your sales team know who to contact early and often.

When marketing data is tied into your CRM, you know more about:

  • The problems that people are looking for your business to solve
  • Where your potential customers are looking for answers
  • The types of content that resonate best with your audience
  • When to reach out to prospects

An optimized CRM contains all the necessary information to acquire and keep a customer. Marketing data gives your team a better sense of how to sell to each lead.

Best practice 6: Refine and organize your contacts into segments

A few weeks ago, before the final season of Game of Thrones began, I was on Quora reading some fan theories on how the show would end (I’m cool, I swear). The theories were all wrong, but that’s not the point.

A day later, I got an email from Quora with a Game of Thrones theory subject line. I opened it and I clicked.

The next day I got another. And another. And another.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

See? I told you. I get one every day!

All of the emails are about Game of Thrones because I’ve apparently been tagged as “Game of Thrones enthusiast”.

Quora is tracking my actions and my behavior, and rewarding my engagement with more content aligned with what they know I am interested in. In this case, it’s Game of Thrones.

You can (and should) do the same in your CRM.

When you learn something about your prospective customers, that information is in your CRM because you’ve married your marketing and sales data (practice #5). You can use that information to segment or drill into your list to find a particular group of people.

The jargon changes from platform to platform but there are 3 main types of segmentation:

  • Lists
  • Tags
  • Custom fields

The types of segmentatio