Publisher clarifies sales data with $2.5m CRM system

Australian lifestyle magazine publisher PMP Limited has deployed a $2.5 million customer information system, which has integrated the company's sales teams and sales information from different business units and branches.

Ed Day, PMP's general manager of business planning, said the company's sales staff of 250 had long struggled to work with its 10,000 clients through traditional communication channels like telephone and face-to-face interaction, which created disparate information records between each business group.

The lack of a single view of customer information created redundancies like information duplication and information gaps around new customers, sales prospects and bookings and financial reporting and forecasting, Day said. The duplication also occurred between state branches with many of the sales staff working remotely.

Describing the company's previous black cloud approach to customer relationship management (CRM), Day said: "If a sales person from one division wanted to approach an advertising prospect, they had no way of finding out if the client was already taken and the [research] process could take up to two hours. Now it takes them 10 seconds to establish whether customer contact had been made."

The Siebel Systems sales solution provides a unified view of each business division's customer, sales and marketing activities. PMP has been deploying the sales force automation system since January, trialing it across different units to gain gradual buy-in and consolidate user support.

"We've gone from a vague information system to an extremely sound and flexible one," Day said. "Before, it was impossible to produce reliable sales and marketing metrics, but now our unified database allows individual business units to carefully guard the client information they need to keep confidential for commercial reasons. But as far as contacts and accounting goes, sales teams can drill down on information, make their own report queries or track performance and share this information from group to group."

The soft benefits the system created were growth in PMP's contact database which more than trebled, better sales report generation and forecasting ability, productivity gains of up to six hours a week for sales staff, tighter collaboration between sales teams and reduced paperwork.

The only implementation barrier PMP faced was cultural -- converting employee perception that the project was a way of big brother looking over their shoulder, to a sense of excitement of its potential to change the way staff worked.

In Day's view, the keys to a successful project were to keep things simple and business-focused as opposed to IT-focused.

This approach meant involving primary users -- sales employees -- in the planning and discovery stage, demonstrating a detailed communication plan to staff, senior management and to IT and educating users about the long-term efficiencies of using the system.

After assessing CRM offerings from PeopleSoft and SalesLogix, Day said PMP chose a Siebel product as it was good short-term solution and an even more attractive long-term investment because of its integration power.

The whole company will go live with the system by August.

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