When it comes to building high-value relationships, mid-sized companies struggle with the same challenges and issues as larger firms. At the top of that list is the ability to understand the value of all the data they collect and how to turn that data into actionable strategies. Overcoming that and other challenges can even put some large and mid-sized firms in the same competitive circles. Why? Because a customer focus, in many instances, levels the playing field, making size irrelevant.
That said, one challenge that puts mid-market companies at a disadvantage when compared with their larger counterparts is a lack of resources. Mid-sized firms typically lack the finances, time and training necessary to implement customer-driven applications. Their employees need a solution that's easy to learn and use, while creating no down time. In addition, staff members are often overworked and don't have free time to learn a new system. At the same time, mid-sized companies usually can't afford for employees to abandon their regular jobs for any length of time.
Such was the case at Minneapolis-based Business Microvar Inc. (BMI), an 18-year-old e-business software and service provider, bordering on mid-size with 60 employees. Its customer base is other mid-sized companies. According to CEO John Hendrickson, BMI needed to overcome those all too familiar process problems that a lack of available resources prevented it from solving. Specifically, its customer service, sales and accounting departments didn't share information, which led to multiple silos, information glut and duplicate entries.
"Accounting is processing receivables, while sales is processing opportunities in product applications," Hendrickson explains. "Without a doubt, these departments have to be integrated so that we have the same order information, the same product lists and the same price lists. That's a huge area of need for customers, and I don't really think [customer management] can be successful without it." He wanted a solution that would fit with applications already in use at BMI to integrate accounting, billing and inventory with customer-facing functionalities, such as service and sales.
In his search, Hendrickson found that his firm's mid-market needs weren't addressed well by many of the big players in the space at the time. "High-end solutions are either too expensive, have too high a service cost or are too complex to appeal to mid-market businesses," he says. After reviewing all his options, he chose Microsoft CRM, because the system integrates with other Microsoft programs already in use there. Also, it would be an easy transition for staff, as well, helping to increase ROI, he explains. Other options in the mid-market space are available from companies such as PeopleSoft, Siebel and Onyx.
Over the next 12 months, we anticipate several more examples like this one -- mid-market firms shifting knowledge from manual files and people's heads into one collective location for deeper analysis and better retrieval across the enterprise. And in that respect, again, they are no different from Fortune 1000 firms. As they get their collective arms around identifying and differentiating customers, will their smaller size make them more nimble and able to react to industry situations and customer issues more quickly than their larger counterparts? Maybe. The truth is, size is not the issue in profiting from customer relationships. Companies that align their resources to meet and exceed the needs of their Most Valuable Customers will be able to compete on any level.
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