Having an effective CRM system can give a huge boost to any sales and marketing team, and when the right processes are in place, it can actually drive business. However, for too many B2B companies, the CRM system simply takes up a lot of time and gives very little back. One company that has managed to get things right is Automata, and I spoke to their CRM and Data Manager, Jack Warren, to find out how they do it.
There's an expression that Jack used that I think is the perfect way to describe a good CRM - "a main source of truth". Successful companies know a lot about their customers histories, needs and priorities - but it's rare that this knowledge is stored centrally, in a place where the whole team can access and benefit from it. Without this kind of centralisation, the CRM quickly becomes yet another administrative task that the sales and marketing teams would rather keep away from. But when it's used properly, it provides the kinds of insights that help the whole company find out what's working, set priorities, and ultimately win more deals.
Getting to this point, however, is easier said than done. To get some guidance on how to achieve it, I asked Jack about:
- Why B2B companies who are struggling to get the most out of their CRM system would benefit from a CRM manager
- How Jack's CRM work has been received by Automata's sales and marketing teams
- What insights a well-run CRM system can provide into the effectiveness of content, ads, events and more.
Thanks to Jack for joining this week's episode, and thanks to you for listening! As always, links to The Onlinification Pod on the main podcast platforms can be found below, and a full transcription of this episode is available further down.
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DB: So, hello Jack Warren. Welcome to The Onlinification Pod. How are you doing?
JW: Yeah, very well, thank you. How are you?
DB: I'm not bad. I'm not bad. It's nice to have an external guest on the pod for once. We've had, like 60 episodes now with the same kind of five or six people. So now we're branching out a little bit. Is this your first podcast, or?
JW: Yeah, it's my first podcast experience. Yeah.
DB: Fantastic. I mean, since you're the man of the hour, why don't you introduce yourself a little bit and tell us a bit more about your company?
JW: Sure. So, yeah, I'm Jack. I'm currently CRM and Data Manager at Automata. I look after a HubSpot and all things data-related pretty much, for Automata. And the company itself is actually a lab automation partner that helps, basically helps scientists relieve themselves of the highly repetitive tasks that they find themselves doing in their labs and can focus on the more science approach and solving the challenges they face at the moment.
DB: Cool. I would recommend everyone to go to your site and look at the videos of some of these robots working away. There was one that's like a row of, like, 30 robotic arms processing, what were they called, PCR tests, for the health service in Britain. That was pretty impressive.
JW: Yeah, for the NHS. Yeah, that was a really, really good project last year.
DB: So what does a CRM manager do?
JW: So CRM, I basically look after, well, It's looking after the customer relationship management system. So any contacts that come through via the website, or we host all the information customers or future potential customers come into the website, and we host it basically on a big database that contains all the relevant information so that we can provide you with a better service. And obviously we track as they go through the funnel, and pass all that detail, relevant information to the relevant teams in the business.
DB: Yeah. And that's, that's the tricky part I think that a lot of, um, B2B companies struggle with, is getting that information, you know, throughout the company. It's one thing just have it all gathering in the CRM, but it's actually making use of it and making sure it gets to the right people, has that kind of been the sticking point for you?
JW: Yeah, definitely. So when I joined, which was about nine months ago, it was a challenge because Automata previously had a e-commerce sort of offering, selling robots basically online, then pivoted obviously to a B2B play, service providing for labs, and that posed the challenge of we were trying to transition the business, but it was ahead of what the CRM was tracking and the data we were able to collect. So there was a bit of a catch-up with the CRM system itself. So yeah, that's been a unique challenge. But over the last couple of months we really got down to trying to provide the visibility of what happens to our data and provide it to the relevant teams so they can actually see, from a high view, exactly where we are from start to finish, top of the funnel through to the currently conversational sales teams. But before that was a bit unclear. It was a bit more like to know who's talking to who, or where leads are coming from or anything. So really putting this into place so everyone can just quickly have a snapshot view of where everyone is in that system is, yeah, it's been super beneficial for the company, although still working on loads of different things, obviously it's never finished, so it's always trying to optimise that.
DB: Yeah. And I mean it's, the benefits of that are pretty obvious I think because you know, if you're thinking about salespeople, maybe often that kind of information is in like people's inboxes or some kind of private excel, or just like in their heads, really. Whereas now I guess you kind of have like full visibility over everything that's going on, really.
JW: Yeah, we get everyone to basically link up to HubSpot, and HubSpot is our main source of truth. So ideally everyone comes in there, everything gets tracked in HubSpot too. So yeah, like, like there isn't any rogue Excel sheet that has been used to keep tabs on what's happening with the latest deals, obviously that's no good for the business because that's just someone's Excel, io it could be deleted, it could be misplaced or whatever. So having everything HubSpot, it allows us to give it visibility. And for me, I provide also the insights to the data as well. So for me to go through, and I can say, OK, this is exactly who this person is working with and etcetera etcetera, going through the data just to provide that visibility. Yeah, that's definitely been a struggle to piece it all together.
DB: Yeah. And how does what you're working on now compare to how it was before, were you working with another CRM system before HubSpot?
JW: Since I joined, it's always been HubSpot. It was just more that we had all the fields, everything was set up just for a pure ecommerce play, basically, and going through that step by step. Now we're moving to the B2B end, and I'm sort of converting everything that I could from e-commerce to keep it similar to the B2B so we didn't lose any, we didn't have any downtime to the CRM. Nobody who was using it day to day would actually see a difference to how HubSpot worked necessarily. It would just be more like this transition, everything on the back end and all of the workflows, the lists, everything to go through and make sure that if someone comes to the website, it gets picked up by the SDR team, triggers a task, they can go out and reach out to these leads, and obviously triggers in the reports and dashboards as well and putting in the right information that we need at the right time. And if not, they can decide to start to nurture or sequence or whoever else that goes at that stage. It just depends, so I'm trying to build it to be simple but effective, I guess, I don't want people to have too many choices because I find otherwise, too many choices, is it going to be hard to upkeep? So trying to keep it simple step by step, and then everything is ideally consistent in the end.
DB: You mentioned it a couple of times, but just to clarify, you kind of pivoted recently from like e-commerce, selling these robots online, to like more of a, I don't want to say standard, you know, but to a B2B company with, you know, the usual structure that people are familiar with. But what's been the difference then in the CRM in terms of, you know, I guess the kind of information you're interested in gathering in and taking care of after making that switch, you know?
JW: Yeah. So obviously, before there was lots of data capture around what people put it in their baskets, or what website they visited or how many orders they placed, etc. Now it's much more of these, we have a long sale cycle now, so it's more like they need multiple touchpoints. So we put out those webinars, events, paid campaigns, LinkedIn, etc. and ideally, I'm sort of step-by-step getting there. So we have attribution for events, webinars and the original source, but eventually I'll do it for every single stage. So if they come back a third or fourth time, if they come via LinkedIn or paid they'll also be tagged there, so we can see the whole journey and see what actually drives these people to end up converting obviously into a sale. So it's mapping that journey and every stage and seeing what marketing material that Automata actually puts out and actually what's working with the market. I think getting to that stage would be ideal for the business. It's just transitioning to that phase, which is going to take a bit of time, and especially doing it retrospectively is going to be very difficult and time-consuming. But as soon as I put that into place, it should be able to track that data moving forward.
DB: And how have all these things been received throughout the company? I'm kind of thinking sales, marketing, you know, them being able to, marketing, for example, being able to see, like you said, "oh, this webinar brought this person in and then eventually they went on to buy for such and such an amount." There's not a lot of companies that have that, not a lot of marketing departments that have that kind of feedback, you know?
JW: Yeah, it's been a struggle to build that, to be honest, but yeah. I always try to do it from a channel above. So I'm events, specific events that I can attribute, like these deals were created by this event, and also, as I mentioned, the influence. But yeah, the marketing teams really found it useful obviously because we can then pinpoint which events and paid search seem to be the top performers for us at the moment, and then it's breaking that down as well, like is there a particular ad group? Is there a keyword that's really triggering these people to go through that stage? It's mapping out like that phase of it as well. But from the marketing point of view, it's like, obviously we recently pivoted. We still didn't know what worked, what doesn't work, but we now found that there's quite a good response if you go to events, webinars and paid search. And obviously I think SEO is hard to mention, because obviously year ago we were trying to rank for selling robots, and now we're doing much more of a B2B play. So organic is always going to be a little bit lagging behind, especially from a paid search point of view. But there are still obviously people coming through from organic. And the marketing team really find that that really useful, and the sales team in particular, to see where their leads are actually coming from, from that point of view. And I think I mentioned the visibility as well, they can really see what stage they really are at. And then if it's like one particular event of all these leads from this event, where are they in that funnel as well? And seeing that view of, was it a good event, was it not a good event, and why? Why wasn't it a good event? So in the future, we can also make improvements and make adjustments to the business.
DB: And I suppose it makes it easier for you to know what to prioritise as well. You don't spend loads of time on, I don't know, some particular kind of content that at the end of the day doesn't really produce a great deal of business.
JW: Exactly. Yeah.
DB: And how big is your company?
JW: About 115 people. And we're growing, I think when I joined it was like 70 just nine months ago. So, yeah, it's almost a 50% increase.
DB: Right. And it sounds like you have, you know, a marketing department, sales department. So is, your kind of CRM group, are you kind of like floating somewhere in between there, or? I'm just wondering how, how you fit in to the environment a little bit.
JW: Yeah, I sort of, I guess I sort of sit in between sales and marketing, but I'm more on the marketing side of things, as we also have a sales operation manager who takes care of mainly the, from the deals onwards and post completion of deals as well. So I'm more top of the funnel, making sure everything is coming in correctly and tracked, basically working very closely with him to get everything up to speed and make sure from beginning to end that everything is running smoothly across the whole business. But yeah, I sit mainly, definitely more in the marketing side, but even then I'm a little bit outside I think, because I try and take an objective view of the the data without being in judgement of campaigns.
DB: And do you think, I mean, I guess obviously you do because that's your job, but do you think it would be smart to like have someone like you at a large B2B company, like someone who is the CRM manager? I'm just kind of thinking, a lot of companies, the CRM is, you know, the responsibility of someone in marketing often, and then that gives rise to, um, bit of a disconnect with all the other parts of the company where it's really important.
JW: Yeah. I think CRM definitely needs someone dedicated to focus on it, and I'm not just saying that because that's my job.
DB: Creating a bit of job security?
JW: Yeah, exactly. But it's, I think it's just the, obviously the more quality data you have in the system, the data you actually pull out is going to be a lot more beneficial to the business. You can't rely on what the CRM is telling you if it's like part-time from someone's responsibility and it's multiple people, there's no step-by-step process of how all the data goes, goes into the system. It could be wildly inconsistent, and then the data you try and pull out isn't going to be relevant, isn't going to be useful, and in the end it's going to be a waste basically. So I think ideally, yeah, you need someone to come in, take responsibility, map out the whole journey and make sure that data that's collected in the CRM is actually useful and the business can pick it apart and say what's working and what's not. How is this doing? How long does this take? You know, pull all these stats out and get the data that's needed, I think, to make the right business decisions. Obviously, if a business wants to go towards more data-driven decision making, I think the CRM is a big part of that because you can actually understand all the information about the customers. If someone's looking after it part-time, that's to be a struggle to upkeep.
DB: Yeah, exactly. I think you definitely notice that the more you start doing with your CRM and you know, you get the first few bits of useful stuff out of it, the more you actually realise that it does need to be a full-time job to continue developing in that way.
JW: Yeah, absolutely.
DB: So I always try and get some tips in this podcast, and I know it's kind of tricky because it's, you know, trying to summarize your entire history at Automata in a few tips, but there's plenty of B2B companies that struggle with CRM and actually making use of it. What kind of advice would you give to a company that is trying to get somewhere where you are, you know, in the direction you're going?
JW: Yeah, I think it's just vitally important, I think, to actually map out how it's currently used. I think that would be a good way, because I found that very beneficial, because obviously I can come in and just say, look, this is how I think it should be used, but not necessarily how others actually use it. So I try and get feedback sessions. I try to run through it with the other members of the team to see how they work. Then I'll just try and maybe simplify that and see if I can match it together. Maybe it is marketing and sales and using it almost, almost very similar. But I can combine these properties together, and I'm just trying to make this streamlined as possible for both teams, and ideally just make it a step-by-step process, by just really understanding the data. I think it just needs, like it took me a few months to be honest, to really dive deep into the system just to understand how everything worked together because obviously time goes on, you add you had a workflow, you add a list, you add properties, you add everything else, and before you know it, it's a bit like, I guess it's out of control and this workflow is everywhere and things are flying and you don't really understand it, I think. So taking the time to definitely go through the system, understanding exactly what's going on and what data you are looking to track as well. What do you want to get out of the system? What are the key points that you want to have with the data that you're actually tracking in there? And then you can reverse engineer from that, basically.
DB: Have you ever found yourself trying to slim down the amount of different kinds of data that you want to get in? You know, I'm just thinking, if you just get HubSpot out of the box, you know, you have a list of all these properties and it can be a bit overwhelming. And maybe you find yourself focusing on the wrong bits of information.
JW: No, definitely. Yeah. I think that's the best way. I try to picture like, what would the business want to see at the end? And I can translate that into what would the CRM need to contain to be able to provide those insights for the business? And yeah, with out-of-the-box HubSpot you do get a ton of different ones that maybe aren't relevant to the business. So I've gone through and I've been trying to amend them, combine a couple, remove them just to make it as basically as small as possible and as manageable as possible as well. And you know, this kind of system is a lot easier to make sure everything is tracked correctly, and again, at the end point is basically providing the right data.
DB: And would you recommend the HubSpot CRM?
DB: I've used Salesforce before, but I do like HubSpot. I do like HubSpot. We also use them for marketing automation as well. So everything is built into that. So at the moment I think where we currently are, I think HubSpot is the tool for us at the moment, and I like it, I like the plugins as well and the apps you can plug into it. I think they're very useful to help you expand the capabilities of HubSpot.
DB: What kind of plugins and add-ons are you making use of?
JW: We currently have a couple for data. So I'm putting lots of data into other tools like Data Studio as well to visualize a high level of everything. And also we use Salesloft, which plugs into HubSpot, where the SDRs have their sequencing, their cadences and everything else. We also have InCycle, just to keep data fresh. And it runs through, tidies up and helps automate a lot of the tidying up I don't have to do. So again, there's a setup and it runs automatically. Those are the key ones. And then we're moving towards more of an ABM play in the next few months. So I've sort of started to investigate the plugin for that as well. It looks like there's a good few different options available for HubSpot, so I'm excited to get to test that as well.
DB: Well, great. I think that'll do for today. But it was great to have you on and hear a bit more about CRM. So thank you very much.
JW: Thank you. Appreciate it.