Client Database vs CRM – 12 fundamental questions

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It seems that everyone has been in CRM mode since the beginnnig of the New Millennium; CRM 1.0, CRM 2.0, Social CRM, CRM-in-the-Cloud, etc., it’s the Buzz word of the moment. Surprisingly, we forget that the 90’s was the Golden Age of Database; at the time every business invested heavily in a Database. Who doesn’t recall VisualFoxPro. But that was another time…

The fact is that it’s all well and good to put into place a sophisticated CRM with advanced management functions, with or without plug-ins for Social Media; it will never compensate for the deficiencies or the absence of a Database that properly reflects the reality of your business situation. Equally, you are no further ahead if your CRM system database needs to interface with other IT systems used to run your business.

When it comes to choosing between a CRM and a Database, one must evaluate needs that vary depending on the size, industry sector, and above all the size of the Sales Force/ Customer Service and customer base of your company.

Customer Profiles vs Customer Activity

That is the fundamental question. In the case of “CRM vs Database”, we’ll show that the real question comes down to this: are you more Customer Activity or Customer Profile centric? Should you first and foremost manage Customer Profiles or Customer Activities, or better yet – both?

Often, business need  to consolidate multiple customer lists and automate the Customer Activities or Customer Relationship Management. In this case, a CRM is the right path to follow.

But first, if you have a customer base (real and potential) that exceeds 500, each with multiple contacts; then in that case, concentrate on deploying a Database. You’ll derive an ROI that is a hundred fold and will have you singing its praises for years to come.

Better yet, if you need to regroup a monumental set of lists of varying types of customers; without a doubt the implementation of a Database is not only a priority but it’s crucial to the proper Customer Management and Business Development of your company.

Priority Customer Profiles/Database

Here are some ideas to consider to better guide those of you with a large Customer pool (more than 500 clients with multiple contacts for each) and to make sure you are on the right path with a Database.

  1. Large list of Customers (more than 500 with multiple contacts)
  2. You wish to group into one place, multiple lists of various types of customers
  3. Do you want to create a unique and complete view of each of your clients
  4. You want to formalize the filtering of each of these “customer” entities (hierarchy, groups, partners, etc.)
  5. You need to separate your customers by type of Enterprise, Customers, by contact, by industry type/sector, territories, priority levels, etc.
  6. Your business reality calls upon complex Client Profiles that hold a large number of static data fields, strategic data: qualitative and quantitative data
  7. Your activities require advanced Customer Management functionalities such as Client fusion, assigning Parent Client status to multiple representatives, elimination of duplications, assigning territories to representatives, etc.
  8. You intend to put in place applications that draw data from your Customer List
  9. Do you have developed applications that require a large amount of data from a large number of Customers.
  10. You already have a Customer Database but it cannot consolidate
  11. You have Customer Database but it is not integrated (you have duplicates, incomplete or incompatible profiles, etc.
  12. Your main goal is to improve your Customer Activity Management and your CRM is incapable of dealing with.

Implementation of a CRM

When it comes to the question of the implementation or upgrading a CRM? You must consider the advantages that come with a new Database:

  • You can entrust the bulk of the work of measurement, performance analysis and profitability of your Sales Force / Customer Service to applications that are developed specifically for that purpose rather than your CRM.
  • It’s easier to eliminate Agenda (CRM + Outlook) duplication and avoid Customer Activity errors, as well as losses associated with productivity issues.
  • You can direct development improvements of your CRM towards optimizing and planning of Customer Activities and Business Development instead of safeguarding, compiling and storage of massive data imports.

Contrary to common perception, a robust Database often becomes a source from which multiple applications can feed on. These can track the evolution of your clientele and be the foundation of your Business Development and Information Channels (BD ERP CRM Mobile) that allow all your employees to “access the right Information, anytime and anywhere.”

After all, before being able to take advantage of Business Intelligence, you must have Customer Intelligence; right?

Have a great week,

Michel & Denis


Thomas Oriol

Michel & Denis,

Thank you for this insightful post. As you rightly note, “CRM” has become such a buzzword that nobody knows what it means anymore. My company develops an online sales analysis and forecasting solution, and we have found useful to educate prospects on the difference between back office and front office functions within the sales team.

The interesting point is that depending on the company, the appropriate back office software will be a database, an ERP software, a traditional CRM software… or just a modern collaborative suite (Google Apps, Lotus Live, Office 365).

Once the back office question settled, the company will choose the front office solutions it needs (e.g. lead qualification and nurturing, sales forecasting) and plug them into its back office.

What do you think of this back office/front office distinction applied to sales management software?




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