Creative professionals love to innovate and ideate. However, it can be a challenge to bring the same drive to project management. In order to balance the creative and business sides of a company, creatives need to keep the sales funnel moving and projects on track to meet deadlines — which tends to be easier said than done.
Recently, Insightly (my employer), worked with TechValidate, an independent third party, to conduct a survey of creative professionals, freelancers and business owners in marketing, communication, design, advertising, media and agencies to uncover their top project management and sales challenges. The study found that there’s a cache of untapped sales value for creatives, although certain roadblocks stand in its way.
Below are some of the biggest pain points the survey uncovered, and how your creative team can overcome them to improve client satisfaction, sales and revenues.
Creatives’ biggest challenges: organization and client management
In an industry filled with freelancers, small agencies and competitive customer service, there’s no leeway for projects to go over budget or clients to be managed without care. Creatives need to be organized so they can clearly see what needs to get done to keep projects on track for completion.
The survey found that organizing information was the top challenge for 64 percent of creatives — and it’s proven in practice, as according to the Standish Group, just over a third of projects are successfully completed on time and on budget.
A client won’t continue to work with a creative agency only because the team can deliver the client’s needs in a timely manner. Creatives who wish to maintain and build a loyal client base must nurture an open, productive relationship, which depends on effective client management.
That challenge ranks a close second to organization, with 50 percent of survey respondents citing client management as their top roadblock.
A centralized solution brings order to fast-paced agencies
Rather than using a dozen different tools and services to manage the day-to-day logistics of running a business, creatives can overcome project management and sales challenges with a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. Companies with a fully utilized CRM solution can increase sales by 29 percent, according to Salesforce.com. (Disclosure: Insightly is a CRM platform for small and growing businesses.)
Creatives who implement a CRM report impressive improvements: Our survey found that 36 percent improved collaboration across departments and 44 percent improved customer responsiveness.
These increases are a direct result of a CRM’s ability to consolidate contact information and project details into a single platform, giving users a comprehensive and complete picture of a business. Customer history and interactions can be accessed with a quick search, and projects run more smoothly since clear deadlines can keep everything on track.
How creatives can maximize the benefits of a CRM
- Reduce time spent on admin tasks to improve productivity
Time is wasted when users have to manually enter contact information into a system or dig through an email inbox for specific account details, and it adds up quickly. When a new lead is entered into a CRM, it can trigger the assignment of a series of tasks.
For example, next steps could include scheduling a consultation, reviewing the website and existing content or brainstorming campaign ideas. Rather than spending time manually adding each of these tasks, team members can use their time to execute on their assignments.
A CRM tool makes menial tasks obsolete, which helps productivity skyrocket. And the numbers speak for themselves — after implementing a CRM, more than half of those surveyed saw an increase in productivity of at least 25 percent, and another quarter of responders said productivity increased by over 50 percent across the organization.
Time is money, so it’s important that every minute is well spent, and almost everyone would agree they’d rather focus their energy on client activities than on administrative tasks.
- Identify silos to improve customer satisfaction
Information needs to be shared and accessible across an organization. However, silos can create gaps that result in lost information and affected bottom lines.
When a current or prospective client speaks with one person at an organization, they expect the whole team hears the feedback. So anyone that interacts with a prospect needs to be able to quickly reference a complete profile of who that person is, his history with the organization and what others from the team have already discussed with him from a centralized location.
A CRM gives the team a single source of truth, in which changes and updates are reflected immediately and used as a competitive edge, because they help provide a level of customer service that many cannot match. And it’s proven to work: Using a CRM can improve customer retention by as much as 27 percent.
From a lead to a loyal client, integrating a CRM into the client, project and sales management processes will create an instant, complete picture of the business.
- Nurture leads to maintain a healthy sales pipeline
Not every lead is going to be ready to sign a contract and start a project when they first visit a website. In fact, approximately 73 percent of new B2B leads are not ready to purchase at the first point of contact.
However, that’s not to say those leads are a lost cause. Using client information that is housed in a CRM, creative professionals can create a plan to strategically communicate with a potential client, slowly building a relationship based on trust.
For example, if a lead said he struggles to keep people on his website, sending a casual email with a link to an article about best practices for capturing leads is the personal touch that will keep a business top of mind when he’s ready. This lead nurturing and management will make for a continuous flow of business and could also increase sales, as it did for 62 percent of those surveyed, by up to 49 percent.
For agencies wary of making an upfront investment, consider the fact that for every dollar spent on a CRM tool, $8.71 is generated in revenue. And when implemented correctly, a CRM helps creative professionals close more deals and track and improve customer experiences. This commitment to excellence is what keeps clients coming back, project after project.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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Author: Loretta Jones