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Our Host, Jeff Porter interviews Tom Wengler – Cloud Nine Solutions.
Tom Wengler, Partner at Cloud Nine Solutions in Chattanooga, TN joins Host Jeff Porter this week to talk about Customer Relationship Management systems for Economic Development organizations. Cloud Nine Solutions is a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner with a depth of knowledge and experience working in Economic Development.
They also talk about the business climate in Chattanooga and Cloud Nines work with Economic Development Gardening through the Costarters, a nine-week program that helps aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs examine assumptions and turn business ideas into action.
An interview with Tom Wengler Cloud Nine Solutions:
Cloud Nine deploys CRM systems for economic development organizations. Can you tell us what a CRM system means for EDO’?
We think of CRM as the central point of data that manages relationships with your contacts that work for companies of course, but CRM needs to work with your website and marketing strategy and with a GIS system too. To drill into that, we handle Marketing Building relationships with the state and other referral partners
Economic Development CRM is a product that is not only easy to use but one that addresses all aspects of the EDO business on a single platform. In fact, our CRM can live inside of your Outlook system. There’s a separate interface for non-Outlook users too which is what you experience on a smart phone, a mac or an ipad.
The system sounds complex to handle all of this.
All of these components come in EconomicDevelopmentCRM and when we engage a client, we determine how much of this to turn on. And we phase these things in. We also tailor the system down to the Individual Employee level to make the system as light as possible. No one wants to be overwhelmed and no one wants to enter data all day either. Our goal is to make the system comprehensive for the EDO, but to feel like it’s a very light product to use which relevant, real time reporting data.
What are EDO’s getting excited about these days when it comes to technology?
Websites were the big thing and they are the front face of a community. They’re very important. Then google analytics comes along and is able to tell you how much traffic you are getting and where people are going / spending the most time. That’s pretty great.
But what you still don’t know is who’s visiting and who’s resonating with your message. Well, we can do a really good job of telling you this at the Individual Contact level. I can’t give away all of the secrets but here’s what we can do.
If I followed you around when you went grocery shopping, I’d get a pretty good idea of your lifestyle, right? Only it’s much better in this scenario. Imagine your prospect that is engaged in a deal starts digging around the available incentive packages or you see they are hitting the GIS map or certain types of properties in a certain area of town. You are picking up on two things – Timing and Motive. It’s very insightful. You will know what that individual is tuning into.
Websites that interact with the database.
We are in the final phase of testing the economic development website package that we built. A website is a website, right? Not really. Our websites interact with the CRM system. If someone fills out a form to become an Investor, that data auto populates the record in CRM. An inbound lead record is also populated and credits the marketing person’s campaign so you can see how well your marketing campaigns are performing. Survey responses…same thing – no data entry.
Then we can push data from the CRM system to the website so publishing a Member or Local Industry Portal is a snap. (Now new industries can see who they might pick up as a supplier or who they might sell to and members get some additional exposure). We do the same thing with events, workshops, seminar series, courses, you name it.
We can also publish key reports, graphs, charts and other data to the website as well.
The advantage is that we have been doing web site design and optimization for years and know how to get the site found in relevant searches. In addition to this, while we allow you to control the content, our model eliminates the large capital expense – we charge a monthly fee and of course, you control the website content.
We have tools ranging from Sharepoint (for collaboration on documents), and Project Portals where an extended team can talk through action steps and ideas on projects and we secure the interaction. We believe that these tools can also involve the prospect so if you invite them to participate in the collaboration, then you develop a better working relationship that is more real time and engaging. We truly believe that many of the project decisions are made not on facts and figures but on other, more intangible things such as human relationships, recreational venues, the perceived quality of life for residents and the story of the community. It’s not just about the building or the land or even the workforce.
What other tools do you have to minimize data entry?
Dun and Bradstreet or Hoovers is a great tool and many EDO’s are overpaying for a subscription to this stand alone services. DB has a new model and for a fraction of your current investment, you can hit the DB database from within CRM. You can build lists and import company / contact records and then the news feeds also come straight into the CRM record which is a great way of keeping up with what’s happening at the account level. I could pull a list of every business in your town and while the data is not perfect, it’s a great starting point. We can also compare the DB data to your existing data in your current system and if we’re honest, much of that data is probably old anyway.
Lots of EDO’s struggle with property and building data too. We’ve got a GIS Partner that pulls this data straight from the MLS and from Xceligent along with up to 8,000 data points from ESRI. We’ve talked to all the major GIS players and nothing stands up to this system which as you might guess, is integrated with our CRM. So, that property data, you or others can search this, run reports and figure out everything from traffic patterns at 4-6pm or how often families are buying pop-tarts. That’s the kind of reporting data that’s available and you don’t have to manage anything.
What types of relationships do you manage with the CRM.
Site Selectors, State Contacts, EDO contacts, strategic alliances, business partners, government officials, you name it. We’ll track every important interaction and we can also put like groups of companies or people into marketing groups that auto-populate. So, every time you add a manufacturing company and a VP of Operations, they will be added to the correct marketing list so you can send relevant, targeted information to this demographic – and you can see if they are reading your email, taking your surveys, attending your events and hitting your website. Very powerful.
When marketing is empowered to effectively communicate, we find that opportunities or projects just sort of bubble up and almost self-identify themselves. The CRM provides the clues and you know who to talk with and when to engage them.
What is case management?
I had an Economic developer tell me that everything that happens, good or bad in his city is potentially going to impact economic development. From graffiti to crime, these thing affect perception. So citizens must feel like you listen. Business owners must feel like you get it. They want to be appreciated. So, having a place for people to communicate their problems or ideas…great stuff. We create an open case, refer it or handle it, then report back on the results and action steps. That’s what we want, to be heard and acknowledged. This goes a long way to building a stronger sense of community.
We also find happy and engaged citizens tell the story of their town better than anyone else call. Every town has a story, so you’ve got to create the story, tell it 1,000 times, and let citizens take pride in it. My town, Chattanooga is great at this.
I could tell you a story about our recycling program or about our freshwater aquarium or about the ironman event that we just held. These positive stories weigh on the decisions made by people that will probably have to spend time in your city…a lot of time. Let’s face it, you want to put a company where you and your family will enjoy any time spent here. Sometimes I think it’s easy to get lost in the facts and figures. With CRM, it’s these details plus relationships that matter.
We think EDO’s need a system that supports reports and relationships – think of it as a customer care platform.
What goes wrong with CRM deployments?
These systems can be overwhelming. We encourage a step by step approach and careful setup so the technology meets each person where they are.
Our system is built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM so it’s familiar and easy to use. It works with the office suite which is what the vast majority of people are familiar with already (Word, Outlook, Excel). We can also work with google office too but we don’t see this too often. It seems cheaper until you look at something like Office365.
Who are your clients?
We range from 1 person EDO’s in rural Mississippi to St. Louis County Missouri to 80 people at the Tennessee Valley Authority covering businesses in parts of 7 states. The product options are:
Economic Development CRM –
The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to helping economic developers do their job more effectively and raising the profile of the profession.
When we succeed, our members create more high-quality jobs, develop more vibrant communities, and generally improve the quality of life in their regions.
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