The Future of Events

The pandemic has had a huge impact on fundraising and charitable activities but one area that has been more heavily impacted is Events Fundraising. Massive’s Top 25 report showed that income from the top 25 mass participation events alone dropped from £143M in 2019 to £74.6M in 2020.  

With the sudden cancellation and postponement of physical fundraising events such as London Marathon in the spring of 2020, organisations had to quickly pivot, innovate and make tough decisions around resourcing and staffing. As restrictions have eased over recent months, event managers and fundraisers are faced with an ever-growing list of questions. Primary among them – what’s the plan from here? 

Pivoting to virtual events

With the removal of physical mass participation events, many charities have had to pivot their existing challenges into a virtual format. Virtual events were already on the rise before the pandemic with headline events such as My Marathon (British Heart Foundation) and Walk All Over Cancer (Cancer Research UK). The pandemic put the foot on the accelerator for many organisations to jump on this trend with a wave of new virtual propositions entering the market or attracting more marketing spend in 2020. For example, the 2.6 Challenge in April 2020, raised over £11M for charities across the UK alone.  

However, the role that virtual events will play within an organisation’s overall portfolio will be a question that will need to be continually reviewed over the coming months and years. Virtual events tend to reach a different type of supporter and the level of competition within the market means that targeting the right audience will be more important than ever. The expectations of virtual event participants have also changed over the past 18 months, with many expecting faster answers to questions, a more personalised supporter journey and elements of physical events such as medals which will increase costs. There is no doubt that virtual events are here to stay but in what guise will be down to each team and organisation.  

Physical events themselves are still far from normal

Mass participation events are likely to need to put in place adaptations to ensure that staff, participants and volunteers feel safe at the event. In some cases, this involves multiple versions of event plans with varying levels of restrictions built in. There are also additional considerations such as costs and logistics elements such as hand sanitising stations, the removal of water stations and changes to routes to reduce congestion. All of these will need to be considered into the future, with many asking which elements should be retained.  

Impacting the Events team

Finally, an important aspect to bear in mind is the impact that the pandemic has had on Events teams across the sector. Many Events teams will have experienced furlough and redundancy, leaving them with less resource than pre-pandemic. For those that remained, burnout is a real concern as they have been busier than ever; many will have been managing higher volumes of supporter queries, adapting plans at the last moment and reacting to cancellations with limited information from third party organisers. The resilience of these teams is not to be underestimated and while many are exhausted, the members of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Event Roundtables are more motivated than ever to create unique, personalised, and memorable experiences for their supporters.  

As we step into the ‘new normal’, event managers will need to ask many questions of themselves, their teams and their supporters. There is no doubt that there will be irreversible changes to not only portfolios for each organisation, but the logistics, planning and marketing of events that are returning.

How to determine the ROI of CRM Implementation

According to Nucleus Research, every dollar spent on CRM implementation generates an $8.71 return on investment in sales revenue.  

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a set of tools and technology to better manage all your company’s relationships and interactions with clients, and potential customers. To grow and scale your business, having a CRM solution is extremely crucial in today’s evolving business environment.  

All businesses have concerns about their bottom line and overhead costs. It doesn’t matter how much money you make if your overhead costs are cutting into your profits. It’s essential to make sure that your business investments bring you an optimum ROI.  

Measuring CRM Return on Investment

Without any historical data, calculating the ROI of CRM can be challenging. When calculating CRM ROI, factor in the pricing and licensing of software, training and maintenance costs, the cost of migration, and the time it takes your development team to get the system up and running. 

If you want to determine whether or not your performance has improved, examine how much time it saves your team to update the system, look for improvements in sales, factor in customer satisfaction metrics and marketing campaign performance.  

Compare your performance indicators and overhead costs before and after deploying the CRM to see if you’re getting a good return on your investment.  

Additional Features that can Increase CRM ROI

If you want to get the most out of your CRM investment, consider a multi-purpose CRM solution that combines accounting and project management capabilities. By being able to manage all facets of your business from a single solution, you’ll be able to save a lot of money on other business applications, while also increasing productivity. 

CRM system is extremely beneficial since it can be easily integrated into any business and applied to any aspect of the firm. The underlying reason is that CRM service providers know how complex business activities can be and they tailor the solution to be as user-friendly and efficient as possible. 

How to calculate the ROI

The same fundamental method can be used to calculate the return on any investment. The benefits from the investment are first quantified, then the costs are subtracted, and the result is divided by the cost and multiplied by 100.  

The tricky part is determining the true return on investment—after all, you may be working on other initiatives as well to enhance your company’s bottom line, such as employing new salespeople, expanding into a new market, or launching a new product line.  

Taking into account multiple metrics can assist you in making informed business decisions. Consider indicators like higher sales, customer retention, and other sales productivity KPIs to measure the value of your investment. Calculate your CRM’s return on investment using the formula below: 

ROI = (Net return on Investment/ Cost of Investment) * 100 

What Return on Investment should Businesses expect from CRM?

A modern, robust CRM solution is an excellent tool for enhancing sales and securely managing data. The cost of a CRM typically scales with the size of your company. While there are many costs to factor in, experienced business leaders are aware that if a CRM is implemented successfully, those costs will pay for themselves many times over. 

CRMs were shown to increase conversion rates by 300 percent, revenue by 29%, and sales team productivity by 34%. Actual outcomes can differ depending on the type of business, industry, and implementation stage. 

Organizations that use robust CRM solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM realize a significant increase in annual revenue, customer retention, and improved cost savings. Even the most successful sales teams can benefit significantly from a CRM’s increased efficiency, automation, collaboration, and transparency. 

Top CRM Features that boost Return on Investment

While this is just a small part of what all you can achieve with a CRM solution, here are some of the top features that can help you get the most out of your investment:  

  1. Automated order fulfillment: When a customer places an order, the CRM automatically triggers the fulfillment process, involving external vendors as well as your team.  
  2. Customer service: There is no doubt that CRM enhances customer support and service. All the data (data from mails, chat, phone) is stored centrally at one location and is easily accessible. 
  3. Cross-selling: Enhanced cross-selling is possible, thanks to data and customer insights. 
  4. Upselling: CRM can detect upsell opportunities at higher service levels in addition to cross-selling features.  
  5. Quote delivery: You can create and deliver a quote within the CRM for complex deals. If the customer wishes to make modifications or accept something, they can do so through the system. 
  6. Web-to-lead forms: Web-to-lead forms functionality is the key to close more deals quickly.  Make sure your sales staff is ready to capture and capitalize on leads as soon as they arrive. 
  7. Automatic renewal: Don’t forget about your customers’ renewal dates. CRMs can automatically handle payments or send out invoices when it’s time to renew.  
  8. Sales forecasting: Features like sales forecasting help you prepare for staffing and costs without going overboard. 
  9. Customer portal: Customers can log in, examine their information, change payment methods, download contracts, request customer assistance, and place orders using a web-based customer portal. 
  10. Commission pay management: Automated commission systems save your accounting staff and managers time. Salespeople can log in to see real-time information about their quota and upcoming commission payout. Spending less time on payroll allows you to spend more time on customers while saving money. 

Non-Profit CRM

Nonprofits can utilize the power of CRM to better organize data, manage supporter relationships, and conduct more efficient and successful fundraising in general. 

Since CRMs consolidate data, all sources can share information to provide non-profits with a complete picture of their donor relationships. 

In-Depth Donor Profiles 

A CRM system for nonprofits can track everything from donors’ names and addresses to their previous interactions with the organization.  

List Segmentation  

CRM have list segmentation features in order to send meaningful and compelling communications to your donors. You can approach donors more accurately and efficiently by segmenting your constituent list. 

Reporting Capabilities  

Your CRM not only records and organizes data that you directly input but it also records and organizes data that is funnelled in from your various campaigns, emails, and contribution pages.  

Modern business intelligence tools use dashboards and reports to present data in a visual, easy-to-understand format. Depending on whatever metrics you care about the most, the system will offer alternatives for configuring the layout. 

You can use reports to study whatever data you choose, including: 

  • Donations and funds. 
  • A list of attendees or the total amount raised. 
  • Messages to your donor base, detailing the results of each campaign.  

Donation Processing and Management 

By automating some aspects of donation processing, your team can take a breather as they are no longer responsible for manually processing each donation. 

This saves time and lowers the rate of human error, which is all but inevitable when dealing with numbers all day. 

Accepting and processing donor management is no longer a pain, from pledges to honorarium gifts, memorial gifts, gifts-in-kind, and recurring donations. You won’t have to wait as long for the funds to settle after shortening the donation processing period, with the use of a robust CRM solution.  

Grow your Business with the Right CRM

A customer relationship management system (CRM) is an essential tool for small businesses, enterprises and nonprofits, but not all CRM solutions are created equal. CRM platforms that are robust and scalable connect seamlessly with ERP and business intelligence tools. This ensures business processes are streamlined across the board, leading to increased business productivity.  

When you implement a CRM solution, you are investing in the future of your company. However, like with any large investment, it’s critical to understand the financial impact and gain, as well as to evaluate the investment’s efficacy regularly. 

 

Author Bio: Scarlett Jonathon is the head of marketing at DynamicsSmartz. She is a Microsoft Dynamics enthusiast with rich experience in integrated business solutions. She has a special knack for Dynamics 365 Business Central and Microsoft CRM solutions. She always tries to work on new ways of improving the entire concept of custom business solutions by providing truly user-oriented services. 

5 Best Practices to Secure Your Company’s Office 365 Accounts

Microsoft Office 365 is a powerful and valuable tool for any business. It helps boost productivity, improve accessibility to vital documents and reduce security risks through the multi-million worth advanced security features.

However, with accessibility comes risks of data leakages, malware, hackers, and losses. Attackers would be happy to get their hands on your organization’s financial information and other data to commit crimes or ask for ransom. So, to increase your Office 365 account security, you must implement several security practices.

This article will discuss some of the best practices to secure your Microsoft Office 365 account and secure your organization.

1. Know Your Enemy

To win any battle, you need to know your opponent well. Defending your Office 365 account starts from understanding how your enemies may try to attack it. Attackers may use many tricks to gain access to your accounts, and the most common way to do this is using some takeover attack designed to steal your employees’ login credentials.

They use phishing emails, which are surprisingly effective, especially if your employees are not keen.  Attacking your Office 365 account is not easy, and that’s why they will use tricks to get in.

That means the phishing email will resemble that coming from Microsoft. It might read something like, “looks like there is a problem with your account billing. Please click here to fix it.” Once your employee clicks and provides the details required, the attackers immediately take over the account. That’s why you need to invest in employee training.

2. Educate Your Employees

Before you implement any IT security protocols and policies, make sure your employees understand the importance of training and the seriousness of security threats on any organization’s accounts. Invest in adequate training for teams, as well as a full technology audit, even if it means hiring IT professionals.

Remember, technology, and human error cannot mix. Human error is by far the most significant cybersecurity risk to your business, and that’s why it’s crucial that your employees know the proper protocol to avoid such attacks. Make it mandatory training for every worker who joins your team.

Don’t allow new employees to use company technology or access sensitive data before the training. Data security must become part of your business culture, and training must be repeated regularly for all levels of users. Every employee should be trained to:

  • Set stronger passwords
  • Manage passwords properly
  • Use the in-built security settings in the system software
  • Protect other personal devices like laptops and cell phones
  • Follow company security protocols and best practices

3. Set Up a Two-Factor Authentication

The most effective way of improving Office 365 security is enabling two-factor authentication. Your employees will need to provide a unique, steadily changing code along with the correct password and username to access an account.

Microsoft Office 365 has a fantastic feature that does not require you to prompt the unique code to connect your account to any trusted device. If an attacker attempts to hack your employee’s accounts, they will be required to provide the unique code. Since it is continuously changing, it becomes almost impossible to crack it.

Setting up the two-factor authentication on 365 accounts is not only effective but also easy to set up. In addition to external 2FA connectors like LoginTC that are useful for large teams, Office 365 has a built-in 2FA option suited for small teams or individual entrepreneurs. Simply find the navigation pane in the admin center and click “set up.”

Next, go to the “sign in and security” section, and you will find an option that says “turn on multi-factor authentication.” Head to “view,” which will take you to another page with a “make sign in more secure.” Click “get started” and select the box with “require multi-factor authentication.” Block access if there is any risk detected.

4. Make Stronger Passwords Mandatory

Part of your employee training should involve choosing strong passwords. Easy-to-remember philosophy is a thing of the past. In fact, it should be banned to protect and secure accounts.

Passwords are the easiest to crack but also the first line of defense. If an attacker cracks your password, all your information can be leaked or deleted quickly. All employees should follow a specific password policy to prevent brute-force attacks.

You can use a simple formula for users to follow when setting their passwords, like use a minimum of 8 characters, lowercase, uppercase and numeric characters. You can also select an expiration date for passwords and don’t allow the use of the same password in multiple accounts.

5. Use Active Directory and Dedicated Admin Accounts

If you have many employees, it’s almost obvious that not all of them will be careful enough to detect security threats and act promptly to secure the organization’s data.

Active Directory is designed to correct a human error by detecting and stopping data access from unknown or suspicious sources. For instance, you might notice your employee accessing their account from their apartment in Los Angeles and suddenly tries to access it from Russia. The active Directory helps you detect these anomalies and act immediately.

The dedicated admin accounts on your 365 account include some elevated privileges. The system developers know that admin accounts are hot targets for cyber criminals and hackers. Use your admin account for your administration work and have a separate user account for non-administrative use. Only use your admin account when necessary and ensure it is secured with multi-factor authentication. Don’t forget to log out every time you are done with your admin tasks.

Author’s BIO: Lori Wade is a journalist from Louisville. She is a content writer who has experience in small editions. Lori is currently engaged in growing awareness around cyber security. You can find her on LinkedIn. Hope you appreciate Lori’s useful insights!

How Can Non-Profit Organisations Benefit from SEO?

SEO is not only essential for businesses, it is also beneficial for non-profit organisations. In fact, it is a practical and extremely cost-effective way of obtaining online traffic. Although optimising a website can take a lot of time and effort, it is still a lot cheaper than using any other marketing strategies.      

What is SEO and how can it help non-profit organisations?

Search engine optimisation is a strategy that organisations use to boost their search engine ranking. Appearing at the top of the search results can make it easy for:  

  • Donors to provide financial support  
  • Volunteers to offer their time and labour 
  • Potential members to find out more about membership opportunities and benefits 

Relevant content can also help convince people to invest in your cause. For these reasons, you could argue that non-profit organisations need SEO more than any other business. This article will outline the most suitable optimisation strategies to generate online traffic.     

What SEO strategies are suitable for non-profits?

  1. Identify and use the right keywords  

Keywords can help you:  

  • Write content that is relevant to your target audience 
  • Find inspiration for your article topics 

The target keyword or phrase informs search engines such as Google about the main topic of your content. By identifying the right keywords, you will be able to generate the type of queries that you are ranking for.  

Keywords are essential, but you need to remember that you are creating content for people not search engines. Don’t force the keywords; instead, make it a natural process. 

You should start collecting high-value keywords by identifying the words and phrases that are significant to your organisation, supporters and donors. In addition: 

  • Understand the search volume – the average number of searches for your target keyword every month 
  • Find out how competitive your target keyword is – do other sites use the exact same keywords?  

You can determine the search volume and level of competition by utilising keyword reporting tools. 

What SEO keyword tools are suitable for my non-profit organisation? 

If you take advantage of tools and software (such as SEMrush) that offer free trials or free versions, you will be able to determine:  

  • Your keywords and their search volume 
  • Your site’s ranking 
  • Which websites are ranking for your keywords 

These software tools can also monitor your ranking and progress. 

Understanding your keyword search volume  

A low search volume can be misleading. The keywords that non-profits use are often based on a specific niche. As a result, it is likely that the software may report a zero or low monthly search volume. 

It is essential that you optimise the words and phrases that explain who you are and your cause. For example, if you run an animal shelter or a dog adoption service a professional membership organisation, make sure your keywords are relevant to the searcher as this will boost your online traffic.  

Don’t focus on keywords with the sole purpose of targeting high search volumes. Pick the words or phrases that embody your mission and goals.     

           2. Incorporate engaging content that targets your readers and provide an excellent user experience  

Google tends to give higher rankings to sites that give people fast and accurate information. It is not a good idea to force your visitors to navigate through endless pages or huge swathes of text. Providing high-quality content involves giving something valuable to your readers. However, you also need to present the information in a format that is easy to follow. Make it appealing so it will have an instant impact on the hearts and minds of your target audience. 

It is quite easy to publish and share content online, but there is also intense competition. In a saturated market, it is vital that you publish distinct and focused content.       

How to create focused content 

Before drafting your content, you need to understand what your target audience may be interested in. Try to identify what the readers will consider valuable from their perspective. How can you inspire them to support your cause? Incorporate concise and tailored information that is designed to grab their attention. 

High-quality content should be: 

  •  Written in easy-to-understand language 
  •  Always on topic and well-organised 
  •  Presented from a different perspective  
  •  Created for a specific audience and purpose 

Your content can take various forms, such as: 

  • Blog posts 
  • Video posts (for example, YouTube) 
  • Visuals – infographics, photos or screenshots 

It is also vital that you provide the best user experience possible as this will enable you to obtain a higher ranking. Google prefers websites that: 

  • Are quick to load 
  • Use intuitive navigation 
  • Provide easy-to-locate content 
  • Are mobile-friendly 

This last point is crucial as Google follows a mobile-first index. This means that mobile-friendly sites are often listed on the first results page.  

Many websites offer a beginner’s guide to search engine optimisation. Most if not all experts agree that eye-catching content and an excellent user experience are the most important SEO factors.    

          3. Apply on-page and off-page tactics to your website   

‘On-page’ refers to everything directly affecting your website and its impact on: 

  • How Google and users understand your content 
  • The types of keywords you are ranking for  

Here are the on-page elements you should utilise: 

  • Title Tag – This is the clickable blue text in the search results. You can optimise title tags by creating a unique but engaging title. Don’t forget to include a keyword for the page. If possible, place the target keyword at the very left-hand side of the title tag. Google may only display 55 or 60 characters so you need to keep the title tag within the limit. 
  • Meta description – This is the text located below the title tag. Although meta descriptions may not directly affect your site’s ranking, they can boost the number of clicks. Make sure that each page contains a unique meta description that is relevant to your readers. Also, include a call-to-action to encourage users to click on your other pages.     
  • Headings – The titles and headings give structure to your writing and manage your readers’ expectations. When keywords are added to the headers, Google can evaluate your page’s relevance to a search query.  
  • Search engines cannot read an image. This is why you need to include alternative or ALT texts. They will appear if visitors cannot see the image. You can also include keywords in the ALT texts to optimise your pages and increase their relevance 
  • Internal linking – Linking internally to your other pages can help visitors discover new content on your site. You can link sections which detail your past events to upcoming activities. 

Meanwhile, off-page refers to ranking factors outside your website. The most effective off-site strategy involves creating backlinks. The more backlinks the better as Google considers them to be a sign of a website’s authority and credibility.    

You can gather these links by reaching out to online publishers and news sites. Ask for them to be included in their upcoming articles and enquire as to whether they will incorporate a link to your website. You can also provide a link to your campaign page that will help readers to: 

  • Learn more about your non-profit organisation 
  • Make a donation 
  • Purchase a ticket 

           4. Use local SEO to increase awareness 

Local SEO is a specialised strategy that is designed to increase awareness within your community. The best method is to obtain a Google My Business (GMB) listing for your non-profit organisation. You can also include branded keywords that you are associated with, such as: 

  • ‘Home for Pets adoption’ 
  • ‘Pet adoption, England’ 

Conclusion

You should think of SEO as working out to get in shape; it is beneficial every time you do it, but it may take some time before you and your target audience notice the difference. Nevertheless, if you want to succeed, you need to implement an SEO strategy that is suitable for your non-profit group. This will help you increase your site’s organic traffic, donations and visitor engagement. Tools such as Moz and Google Search Console can provide helpful hints for your SEO efforts.  

Top Excel Templates To Make Project Management Easier

The job of a project manager has always been daunting, to say the least. 

Delegating tasks, tracking results, budgeting, resource planning, creating schedules, managing people—all these can be quite overwhelming without the proper tools. 

Fortunately for today’s project managers, there’s no shortage of tools to make their jobs easier. 

Take the following Excel project management templates, for example. Most of them are free and accessible online, and they will always come in handy whenever project managers need an effective and efficient way of carrying out their tasks. 

Gantt Chart Project Template 

A Gantt Chart Excel template provides you with an excellent visual representation of task schedules, allowing you to see project timelines in more detail. 

With a Gantt Chart, it’s easier for you to see things like your project’s start and end times, target milestones with an overview of the tasks every member of the team needs to do, priority levels, and due dates for all their deliverables, among other things. 

Building a well-functioning Gantt chart could be complicated and may take time, but once you get it done, you can be sure that your project’s most important tasks will be carefully scheduled, tracked, and finished on or before the deadline.

Click here to download the Gantt Chart Project Template 

Excel Project Budget Templates 

Every project needs a budget and a smart way of handling it to ensure its completion within its limits. 

Excel Budget templates have proven to be quite useful for project managers trying their best to predict and manage the financial side of things. 

An Excel Project Budget template allows project managers to create detailed costings and fund allocations. 

With this one-size-fits-all template, tracking materials, labour, and fixed costs has never been so easy. 

Click here to download the Excel Project Budget Templates

Critical Path Method Template 

Project managers may be jack-of-all-trades by nature, but if there’s one task that takes a lot out of them, it would probably be creating a Critical Path Method or CPM. 

Painstaking as creating a CPM can be, it can never be stressed enough how important it is to successful project management. 

After all, a CPM helps project managers identify which tasks they can afford to delay and which ones are more critical and require more attention and resources. 

Thankfully, the Critical Path Method template exists to make CPM creation easier for project managers. Aside from pinpointing crucial and non-crucial tasks, the CPM template also allows you to determine how long the latter can be possibly delayed. 

Click here to download the Critical Path Method Template 

Status Report Template 

Project managers should always know the status of the team on a regular basis. They cannot be unaware of their teams’ progress (or lack of it), or that could come back and haunt them later. 

The Status Report Template can help project managers stay on top of everything that’s going on with their team. 

It takes mere seconds to generate project schedule metrics using this template. Aside from giving project managers the ability to see where the team stands at a glance, the Status Report Template also makes for more impressive presentations for teammates and stakeholders alike. 

Click here to download the Status Report Template 

Earned Value Management Template 

The Earned Value Management Template allows project managers to compare the project’s actual expenses to its budget to see if it can be completed on time without going beyond its allocated funds. 

In doing so, project managers will be able to determine how the project is progressing vis-à-vis its budget, as well as identify possible issues early on to avoid future issues with its finances. 

Click here to download the Earned Value Management Template

Risk Register Template 

All projects come with certain risks, some big, some small. 

If a project manager can anticipate what those risks are, he or she should be able to come up with ways to counter them to keep the project moving forward. 

With the Risk Register template, project managers should be able to see risks coming from a mile away and deal with them promptly. 

When using the Risk Register template, make sure you draw up a list of all possible risks to your project. Spell out the potential impact of each one, then appoint people in your team to be on the lookout for those risks so you can meet them head-on when they come. 

Click here to download the Risk Register Template 

 

It’s definitely a great time to be a project manager with all these free and downloadable Excel templates at their disposal. 

A project manager’s job today may be no less demanding and challenging than it was in the past, but as long as these tools exist, they can breathe more easily knowing they have these Excel templates at their disposal. 

Anthony Stevens is the Content Specialist for Excel Templates, a resource for free Excel templates including calendars and charts. When not writing, he spends time building furniture and running with his dog.

 

Hart Square’s free-to-non-profits Training Programme “How to deliver successful projects” provides more great insight into project management tips and techniques. Click through below to find out more about it.

 

Top 7 CRM Trends to Look for in 2021

Today, providing the best products and services is just not enough. Building meaningful relationships with customers to foster loyalty and retention is equally important. Customer Relationship Management plays a pivotal role for each and every business, and staying ahead of CRM trends can provide you with a competitive advantage.

In the past few years, the Customer Relationship Management system has grown well beyond just being a contact management mechanism to a holistic business solution. It offers something for everyone and adds a lot of value to your organization.

Brands around the world are choosing CRM to support their customers with a more conversational approach. It is expected that the global CRM market will grow to an impressive $81.9 billion by 2025. CRM is emerging as a one-stop solution helping organizations make data-driven decisions to drive hyper sales growth and boost revenue.

As we progress into this new decade, the industry as we know it has shaken up by key CRM trends. In this article, we’ve gathered the top CRM trends that you should know for 2021 and beyond. Here are some of our top CRM predictions, including increased use of CRM from new markets, strong features and integrations, and the effect of wider tech trends on CRM.

1. AI is becoming a central part of CRM

There’s a ton of noise around Artificial Intelligence these days, and CRM is not going to be excluded from this trend. According to Gartner’s 2019 CIO Agenda survey, 14% of global CIOs have already deployed AI, and it is estimated that AI associated with CRM activities will boost global business revenue by $1.1 trillion by the end of 2021.

To allow personalization of customer interactions, CRM analyses vast amounts of data. Different CRM tools provide organizations with access to information from multiple touchpoints across various departments and channels, such as sales, marketing, and contact centers, to build effective business strategies. Businesses can expect AI-powered CRM platforms to shed light on real-time consumer behaviors and provide insights into purchase trends to facilitate potential conversions.

AI will assist CRM to simplify laborious and repetitive manual activities, thereby enhancing employee productivity. AI and Machine Learning (ML) will boost the conversational options currently available with CRM platforms. CRM chatbots backed by AI will soon be able to anticipate future customer queries and provide additional information that might be required. AI-powered CRM will deliver quicker and better solutions, eliminating the incidence of human errors.

2. CRM will join hands with IoT

IoT is emerging as the biggest game-changer in almost every industry vertical. The integration of CRM and IoT will be witnessed this year on a larger scale. CRM and IoT combined offers numerous advantages, such as an advanced level of customization, increased customer loyalty, improved customer retention, and helps deliver personalized marketing campaigns.

According to experts, IoT will continue to make substantial changes in the manner in which CRM is done. According to research, IoT devices will increase to 39 billion by 2025. By adding connections to IoT feeds from devices, advanced CRM systems are taking advantage of this trend. These smart devices provide a treasure trove of insights into customer behaviour and enable businesses to use these insights not only to provide enhanced customer support but also to deliver more personalized marketing strategies.

3. Voice Technology and Conversational User Interface (UI)

Voice technology plays a fundamental role in the advancement of SaaS solutions. According to an Adobe study on voice technology, around 94% of users consider voice technology easy to use and believe that it saves more time and enhances their quality of life. Voice assistants help sales staff monitor customer data faster. Leading CRM solution providers have embraced voice technology and more CRM solution providers are expected to follow suit.

4. Customer Experience will take centre stage

Usability has always been a challenge for CRM platforms, but the most popular CRM systems in the future will have an interface that focuses on ease of use. User experience will always be at the heart of CRM. Experts have predicted that CRM systems will soon grow to be easy to use, making it easier to access and evaluate information. We might also see advanced CRM functionality that will make it easier for sales and customer service agents to initiate contact with customers.

With the ease of use in CRM, businesses can be expected to provide enhanced and personalized customer service. CRM systems will be able to deliver information that addresses the needs of consumers reliably and guide them further into the marketing funnel.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a powerful, scalable CRM solution. With a familiar and intuitive user interface, it ranks among the highest in user adoption. With great functionality, value, and flexibility, it is not easy to lose sight of the advantages that Dynamics 365 CRM can bring to an organization that wants minimal configuration and ease of use to optimize business operations and provide a fast return on investment.

5. Mobile CRM will pave the way

The advent of smartphones has transformed the way businesses manage their operations. To keep up with the ever-evolving trends in the digital world, CRM technology has evolved as well. With ‘work from home’ being the standard of the day, all concerned stakeholders need to access CRM resources. This requires compact CRM tools with easy, interchangeable online-offline capabilities. More mobile compatible CRM features are expected to enter the market to meet the increasing connectivity needs of the end-users.

6. Social CRM will be on the rise

Social CRM can be defined as the integration of social media networks into CRM platforms. When social media and CRM come together, businesses get to derive more powerful insights from social media and get a greater understanding of brand awareness. By delivering timely and insightful responses to comments posted, businesses can utilize social CRM to create stronger relationships with customers, both current and prospective. CRM is expected to dive deeper into social networking helping businesses to better understand how consumers view their goods and services and provide quick responses to their queries. Adopting social CRM will help companies generate more leads, win more customers and retain them in the long run.

7. Integration of CRM with Other Processes

In order to work, CRM systems use data from as many as 12 sources. Advanced integration with multiple data sources and other third-party applications will certainly become a prerequisite for future CRM platforms to gain more insights into customers while enhancing their software functionality. Integration with marketing automation and analytical tools, for instance, will help CRM systems monitor and analyze external customer interactions. Similarly, the incorporation of different accounting tools will help organizations streamline their billing processes and better implement customer segmentation.

Conclusion

Today, a large share of the software industry is dominated by CRM, and it is only going to get bigger in the years to come. Getting ahead of these trends will help you find out which functions to look for in a CRM platform for your business.

Author Bio: Scarlett Jonathon is the head of marketing at DynamicsSmartz. She is a Microsoft Dynamics enthusiast with rich experience in integrated business solutions. She has a special knack for Dynamics 365 Business Central and Microsoft CRM solutions. She always tries to work on new ways of improving the entire concept of custom business solutions by providing truly user-oriented services.

The same magic formula that all the best online platforms deploy

The dramatic effects of Covid-19 have made most of us reflect on all aspects of our lives. For some it has been a terrible time and for others they have found the experience of slowing down and spending time doing things they may not have done before quite invigorating and rewarding. For the majority, the most rapid change has been having to fully embrace the digital world.

During lock down, this became really clear to me as I prepared to speak virtually to 600 people at an e-learning conference hosted by The Institute of Leadership and Management (TILM) about the barriers of online learning. It made me reflect on just how far the online learning industry has come in the 20 years I’ve been working  in the thick of it as global QA lead at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for their next generation learning platform, or consulting to global brands such as Kaplan, BT, Barclays or membership bodies such as RIBA, TILM or Chartered Institute of Housing, but also to realise how many barriers still exist. Let’s explore this for a moment.

A number of contributing factors have reduced the barriers and challenges in the way of successful online learning for corporate and membership organisations. Technology advancements being the most obvious, particularly the movement to cloud computing. We are certainly a long way from when I started out my career and had to travel across London to put a CD in to a PC to complete a very drab compliance course. How things have changed since then!

“Dramatic expectations have exposed weaknesses in learning platforms that are not easy to use or house content that is not relevant and stimulating.”

However, with technical innovation and evolution, has come greater expectations of online learning. In our personal lives we have a plethora of apps and tools such YouTube or LinkedIn Learning which we can use to access content to teach us anything, at the precise time we need it, and we can access it from any device (even if we still struggle to find the time to consciously use these tools).

These expectations have exposed weaknesses in learning platforms that are not easy to use or house content that is not relevant and stimulating – causing then the modern learner to quickly disengage. Typically this is because LMS platforms used by corporate and membership organisations have been designed and built with L&D departments in mind, and not to the needs of the learners. Hence why we have seen the explosion in the last 2-3 years of ‘Learning Experience Platforms’, which are much more learner centric and focus on driving engagement – the biggest barrier of all to online learning.

So, to come back to my reflections. From what I have personally seen and been involved in, the most successful online learning strategies that truly engage and have an impact in both the corporate and membership world, all have the same magic formula.

At the heart of them are diagnostics that drive personalised learning pathways. These pathways are made up of bite sized learning experiences, some form of workplace application and are supported by coaching and driven by senior management.

“PwC for example are investing over 3 billion dollars in reskilling their entire workforce in cyber security, AI, big data, drone technology and robotics knowing that 96% of an accountants job will be automated by the end of the decade.”

To expand on this a little

In the corporate world for example an organisation will make the strategic decision to invest in L&D to achieve a commercial objective. To achieve this objective the business will need to develop people’s capabilities by ‘role’, or maybe in certain ‘subjects’. Just look at how PwC for example are investing over 3 billion dollars in reskilling their entire workforce in cyber security, AI, big data, drone technology and robotics knowing that 96% of an accountants job will be automated by the end of the decade.

So for a learner to truly engage with any form of learning there needs to be a trigger event, an event that motivates them to want to invest time and energy in learning. After all we all have very hectic lives and are spoilt with sources of information. Creating this trigger event for a membership body can be even harder to create than for a corporate, unless professional development is mandatory.

I have seen this ‘trigger event’ achieved where a diagnostic is used to identify a learner’s competency and skill gaps before they engage in any learning. Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses gives us a focus and ‘engages’ us in investing time in our own development.

By identifying the exact development gaps, a platform can prioritise online learning experiences to the specific needs of the learner saving them time and helping them see exactly what they are capable of. These online-learning experiences should be bite-sized, short and come in many forms such as: high quality videos, PDFs, e-learns, and podcasts. Variety is essential. When online learning content is personalised and relevant to the learner, this is then when we notice high levels of engagement.

“Application of any online learning is critical to truly embedding it. So any online learning strategy should include workplace activities or events that can be digitally tracked.”

However, this on its own is not enough

The application of any online learning is critical to truly embedding it. So any online learning strategy should include workplace activities or events that can be digitally tracked. Some sort of task that is completed in the workplace, which can then be measured to demonstrate that the online learning has been effective in achieving the organisational goal.

One thing I do know for certain is that when on-line learning is personalised, bite-sized, accessible from any device, actively applied back in to the workplace, and if a learner can be supported by a coach giving them an opportunity to reflect, then you have an online learning strategy that will achieve any commercial and organisational goal. This is no longer a nice to have for professional organisations, it’s a must have to stay ahead in the new world we all find ourselves in.

If you would like any further information about how Meta Capability can work with you or would like a
demonstration of any of the platforms they have co-created to date, please email or call:
info@metacapability.com
+44 (0) 7813 323 230

Has your faithful old CRM finally had its day? Part Three

In our previous articles on the subject we recommended now is the time for you to start to talk to your staff about the technology they need to support them for the future. We also explore some of the considerations you need to have in mind when planning next steps.

Deep(er!) Dive

Let’s take a slightly more detailed look at a few of the specific areas in which your CRM supports your organisation and how they are impacted upon and potentially restricted by older technology.

Supporter and Member Communications

For most, if not all organisations, the ability to record and retrieve all communications with contacts is critical and any CRM system should support this as the most basic of functions as this is the core function of any CRM after all.

However, if the ability of your CRM is limited in this area due to its age and the technology on which it is built, this is an absolutely critical area to investigate further.

What is the usual means of communication and what interface is used? Does it integrate seamlessly with your email client of choice? Does it support communication via social media platforms? In what other ways do you communicate with your members, donors, volunteers etc? Can these various means of contact be seamlessly captured, stored and managed from within your CRM?

Transactional Processing

You may find that your current CRM is highly capable, robust and able to process high volumes of data. This is of course critical and alongside communication recording is the most basic of requirements.

It should not be overlooked that “older” CRMs have not fallen behind the newer offerings in this regard. High volume data processing is the bread and butter of such systems and they do it very, very well. In fact, some would argue that the newer model of cloud-based processing introduces risks and challenges that are not present with the older systems.

I tend to agree in all fairness and would strongly recommend that any potential replacement system proves itself capable of handling at least the same volume and complexity of transactional data that your current solution does. Do not assume it is a “given” that any replacement system will be able to process the volumes of data you currently do and in exactly the same way as your current system does.

Membership

Many organisations have highly complex requirements for handling their Membership offerings and the processing of data related to this area of the system.

Often Membership systems have functionality built upon over many years, providing a highly flexible and functionally capable membership solution. Any potential replacement should provide a similar level of functionality to match that currently available.

However, as is the case for most areas of operation, regardless of the power or functionality provided “behind the scenes”, many older systems will inevitably suffer from limitations of interface usability and flexibility as discussed earlier.

Event Processing

As for membership processing, many older systems have highly functional solutions to support the setup and management of events.

However often there is no standard integration with external Event processing services, such as Eventbrite for example and again due to the technology used, the solution may experience the same limitations of interface flexibility where customisation is required.

Process Automation & Work Flow

Many older systems have limited or no in-built support for Automation and Workflow.

This is now a key requirement for many organisations, allowing business logic to be defined based upon customised criteria which when met will automatically trigger specified actions. These could for example be displaying a form, sending a renewal email to a member or creating a task and assigning it to a colleague.

More modern solutions often have built-in support for automation or offer powerful integration with external cloud-based automation and work-flow processing solutions.

Conclusion

Here at Mast we have worked within the NFP Sector supporting organisations with their CRMs and related systems for many years, some of us going all the way back to the early 90s!

In that time we have seen many developments in both the requirements and expectations of NFP organisations and the technology available to support their needs.

There is no doubt that this is a very exciting time and that the level of technology options now available to NFP organisations are capable of transforming the way in which an organisation functions in a highly cost-effective manner.

Although your existing CRM may be robust, has been a reliable workhorse that has supported your organisation for a long time, it may be that the limitations of the product are now likely to hamper the ability of your organisation to adopt a programme of modernisation and digital transformation.

If your CRM is based upon old technology, if it is not cloud-based, if it is not easy to integrate and does not provide the ease and flexibility of use offered by many systems available today, I would suggest that you should be beginning to review your options, if indeed you already haven’t started this process.

For further information visit mastcrm.com or contact me on stuart.bailey@mast-ict.com

Has your faithful old CRM finally had its day? Part Two

In our previous article on the subject we recommended now is the time for you to start to talk to your staff about the technology they need to support them for the future. Here we cover off some of the considerations you need to have in mind when planning next steps.

The Cloud

It must be said that in my opinion, if your CRM isn’t sat happily within the cloud, then a large red buzzing alarm should be going off. If your system isn’t truly cloud based there will be a question mark over its ability to respond to and support the changing needs of your organisation.

The cloud is here now and it is the future.  If it is not already, it will certainly very soon be essential in the ability of systems to pass data between a host of different platforms, some of which haven’t even been invented yet!  The cloud is the backbone upon which your various solutions, systems and data sources will communicate freely and securely, enabling you to build a custom CRM eco-system designed and configured specifically to meet your organisation’s needs.

If not truly cloud-based, whilst integration will be possible with some effort, systems based upon “older” technology will remain limited by their inability to easily connect and move data between now commonly used services.

The good old database engine

Sure, your new system has a well organised and robust database engine.  That’s great and important as it is processing many thousands or hundreds of thousands of transactional entries from your lovely supporters every day. But if it isn’t able to communicate with other systems easily, if it can’t support the needs of your organisation either now or in the future, regardless of how robust it may be “behind the scenes” it will likely become a liability and a risk before too long.

Is it built upon rather “old” technology with a dated design? Many CRM database structures were created more than two decades ago and are now not ideally suited to support typical modern methods of communication and integration.  They have been extended but fundamentally changing a system from the ground up is a huge undertaking for a software company and a step they may be unwilling to take.

The user interface

Users now typically expect to work within a browser-based solution.  Most newer solutions offer this, however many “older” systems do not. But is it actually that important?

In my opinion, this is a critical issue and is absolutely not just an issue of aesthetics.

Modern interfaces are more familiar to users, helping faster adoption of solutions. They are also more flexible in terms of configuration, allowing your chosen processes to be mapped more easily, thereby giving your users a far better solution all-round.

Providing an easy to use, flexible point of access to your CRM for your users goes far beyond aesthetics, it is a key element of any solution and must be treated as an important element of any CRM review.  It is also directly related to ease of remote and mobile access as discussed below.

Remote and mobile device access

If your current CRM interface is limited in its ability to provide access to the system, if access remotely or via mobile devices is overly difficult or in some cases impossible to deliver, then this should be another big red alarm buzzing away right above your head!

Covid-19 has highlighted that secure but easy to deliver remote access to organisational data, including your CRM is essential.  Here at Mast we have definitely seen that those organisations who prior to lockdown had put in place an IT infrastructure that provides secure ease of access, had a smoother transition to getting their now remote workforce up and running and working effectively.

It should be made clear however that in our experience, implementing such a solution does not have to be large scale and is not necessarily related to an organisation’s size or available budget.

If your current system is desktop-based and has no browser interface, it is likely that remote desktop solutions are required to provide users with access. This often limits the use of mobile devices without the creation of specific solutions to act as a “gateway” to the back-end systems, which can be costly and time consuming to create, install and support.

Integration with cloud-based services

How “easy” is it to link your CRM with your web site?  How flexible is the solution?  Do highly skilled, high cost developers need to be employed to make this happen or is it available “out of the box” in some cases?

If not cloud-based, is it necessary to have a complex set of systems to ensure the data held on your internal network is at no stage compromised whilst giving access to the CRM database for your web site?

Unlike many more modern cloud-based solutions, integration options built into older CRM systems are limited.

They may have an API allowing for other systems to extract, update and add data.  However, in our experience, this can become a cumbersome method of integrating, often requiring software developers to bring their skills to bear.

How capable is your CRM of “talking” to commonly used cloud-based services?

Many organisations now use cloud-based services/specialist packages. Would it be possible for your CRM to link to the example services listed below without significant effort from a team of developers?:

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Office 365
  • Gmail
  • EventBrite
  • Justgiving
  • Virgin Money Giving
  • BTMyDonate
  • GoFundMe
  • MailChimp
  • DotMailer
  • Communicator Corp
  • Engaging Networks
  • Sage
  • Xero
  • Slack
  • Stripe
  • GoCardless
  • DocuSign

Many of the current cloud-based CRM solutions available have either built-in support or apps written specifically to allow easy integration with these services and many more.

If your current CRM does not provide built-in support for, or make it simple to integrate with the vast majority of these services, then yes you guessed it – it’s big red buzzer time again!

Integrations could be custom-built, however this can be a costly and time-consuming exercise and one that often requires regular development work to change and maintain this custom element of a CRM.

For further information visit mastcrm.com or contact me on stuart.bailey@mast-ict.com

Has your faithful old CRM finally had its day? Part One

So, of late have you been taking sideways, slightly furtive glances at your CRM? Maybe thinking that perhaps it isn’t quite up to the job any longer? Maybe this same software that has served you so well for so many years, the kit that was once so shiny and new and enabled you to change the way you work, just doesn’t provide your organisation with the solution it needs nowadays?

But hang on, there are lots of other more important things to do right now aren’t there? More pressing things? Yes and it does do a pretty good job on a day to day basis doesn’t it? I mean it handles your donations, processes your direct debits, claims your gift aid, manages your members, your events, records your communications with your contacts. So yes, all is fine really isn’t it? We can carry on for now can’t we? What more does a CRM need to do after all?

Your peers and competitors are moving on to modern tools with enhanced features

The thing is, your colleagues and contacts at other organisations are also making similar noises, thinking that maybe their CRM needs looking at too. Plus you’ve started to read about what some of these newer software solutions can do. Funnily enough, these are the very things that your users and department heads have started to say that they really need to be able to have access to if they are to achieve theirs, and the organisations, objectives that they have been tasked with helping to deliver.

So while yes, there may appear to be more pressing issues in the short term, things are moving inexorably forward and pretty quickly too!

Needs are changing and organisations need to adapt.

The way people communicate, consume information, ask for assistance – and offer theirs – has changed and will continue to do so. In order to support any response to this, the technology in use within any organisation needs to be appropriate and, critically, it should also be an enabler of change rather than a blocker to progress.

I would argue that even if your CRM appears to be doing what it needs to do on a daily basis, you should be looking beyond this, talking in detail with your users and senior staff, understanding where they have frustrations around being able to carry out their daily functions and also deliver upon agreed strategies, both now and in the future.

If you have an ageing CRM, I can almost guarantee that even if you don’t already have a wish list compiled by your key users, you will have one to be proud of very soon after speaking in detail to them!

I suggest you begin by speaking to the right people within your organisation. Both the people that use the software and the people that depend on the people that use the software! That’s a great place to start and will give you a clearer picture of what’s what and if you need to think about a more detailed investigation.

How do you determine if you need to start looking elsewhere?

As I suggest above, first of all you need to start asking questions. Lots of them. Speak to your colleagues, to heads of departments, to end users.
You also need to understand the longer term strategy of your organisation and how this is likely to impact on your CRM and broader IT systems. What will be asked of your CRM solution over say the next 5 years? Will your current solution be able to support those needs and does it even have the legs to still be around in 5 years time?!

Understand your users’ frustrations, what they would like to do that they currently can’t. Importantly dig into why they want to do the things they say they do, that can become quite an interesting discussion!

What we’re talking about is assessing the need or otherwise for a replacement CRM system, so it’s important that you don’t assume that just because your users can’t currently use the system to support their needs, that your existing CRM can’t be re-configured or integrated with or supported by another solution that will solve the problems and frustrations that they are experiencing.

So get cracking on that list of questions and planning a first round of meetings; in part two we’ll look into some of the key considerations you need to take with you when you embark on your assessment of the next steps for your organisation.

For further information visit mastcrm.com or contact me on stuart.bailey@mast-ict.com