The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change and the recent whole-of-government Modern Manufacturing Strategy has been released to help Australian manufacturing scale-up, become more competitive, resilient and boost job creation. Against this backdrop, many Australian manufacturers are pivoting or considering adopting a direct-to-consumer (D2C) approach.

While all manufacturers are contending with the challenges of a changing landscape, those with consumer product lines face some especially difficult decisions about selling direct to-consumers online. Manufacturers have to consider how to manage relationships with retailers and what to do to avoid customer service and supply chain nightmares. 

The good news in the midst of all this disruption is that consumers love their brands. People want to interact with the brands they love and trust rather than through intermediaries like retailers and distributors. With the pandemic dramatically accelerating Australians’ willingness to buy online there is a mountain of potential revenue for manufacturers that can successfully adopt a D2C approach. 

That’s where the need for an intelligent customer relationship management (CRM) system comes in. A set of marketing, sales, and customer service processes and technologies that can consolidate all critical customer information into one central, easy-to-use platform designed to foster strong relationships with dealers, channel partners, and customers and help improve your customer experience. However, it’s not enough to just have a CRM. You need to find the right CRM for your manufacturing company’s unique needs. 

If you’re considering the right CRM for your business, keep these core features in mind:

Essential Element #1: Complete customer data 

From supply chain management to demand forecasting to customer relationships, manufacturers have a lot of data. But it’s often decentralised and difficult to use. Look for a CRM that makes it easy to get consolidated views of all your data no matter where it lives so every employee can get a single view of the customer in real-time. 

The right CRM will allow you to cut through the clutter and extract the insights that matter most. With a powerful CRM built for manufacturers companies are able to forecast sales demand based on real numbers instead of guesswork or extensive research. This, in turn, leads to ordering just the right amount of raw materials and knowing precisely where to focus future production. This translates into fewer back orders, less waste, quicker turnaround times and the ability to respond quickly to changes in the marketplace. Your CRM should let you see everything related to a given customer, partner or dealer — no matter where that data lives. It should give you insights into what your customers want and alert you when preferences shift over time.  

Essential Element #2: Ease of use

When choosing a CRM system, beware of complex, bloated and overpriced solutions. While it can be easy to get distracted by an array of special features, many of these functions are superfluous for manufacturers. The right manufacturing CRM makes it easy to access exactly what you need when you need it — whether that means getting at-a-glance insights on the latest customer activity, communicating with channel partners or seeing where things stand with your supply chain. 

The overly-complicated CRM, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. Your teams will spend more time tracking down information than taking action. This is why so many manufacturing companies waste time wrestling with inconsistent customer insights that are not only scattered across the organisation but also difficult to understand.

Essential Element #3: Flexibility

The more you can bend a CRM solution to fit the multifaceted needs of various relationships, the better positioned you’ll be to create outstanding experiences for dealers, partners and end consumers alike. It will clear roadblocks to successful customer engagement. 

It’s important to remember that the majority of people use smartphones, and that employees check their smartphones as much as 300 times a day. This means many members of your team are going to need a CRM that’s just as effective on mobile devices as it is on desktops and laptops. Look for a CRM mobile app that includes essential features like click-to-call, click-to-text, GPS mapping, dynamic search and offline syncing.

Select a CRM that makes it easy to move your data from one deployment option to another. With the industry changing at such a rapid pace, you need to be able to make changes quickly and efficiently.

If there’s one thing all manufacturers need to succeed, it’s a CRM. The right CRM platform will help you unlock customer insights, better understand customer preferences, detect anomalies, enhance upsell and cross-sell, and influence accurate buying and reduce wastage. It will also scale with your business and support future growth.

Jason du Preez is senior vice president for Australia at SugarCRM.