At a certain point in a startups lifecycle a customer relationship management solution (CRM) of some kind will be introduced. This is less common among B2C companies but inevitable among B2B companies. Robust CRM platforms like SalesForce and HubSpot are very "analyst-friendly" and I recommend that every business analyst have at least a basic understanding of CRM analytics.
I wrote this post to provide an introduction to CRM analytics. This post aims to provide you with the principles behind CRM data and how you should approach this data. If your company uses a solution like SalesForce, HubSpot, Pipedrive or any of the leading CRM solutions, you'll want to dive deep and become an expert in the specific solution's data structure.
The contact object
At it's core a CRM is a tool that makes it easier to manage relationships with individuals. It's all in the name, customer relationship management. Every CRM in one way or another has one or more entities relating to individuals.
In SalesForce you have the lead and contact entities. An individual starts their lifecycle as a lead and is later converted to a contact. This is the standard SalesForce model but not every company works this way. ACM or account based marketing is all the rave at the moment and is just one of a few popular models used to manage relationships with individuals relevant to the business.
In HubSpot you have the contact entity. Individuals remain as contacts in HubSpot and the lifecycle stage is used to segment individuals.
Common information saved on individuals
There is a long list of information which is useful to know about someone that could help you improve your relationship with them. Think about your closest friends. You probably know hundreds of facts about them which makes it easier for you to communicate, engage and maintain their friendship.
This concept is not foreign to CRM solutions and thus there are dozens of common data fields which are related to the contact entity.
Some of the most common fields include:
- First name
- Last name
- Phone number
- etc etc
Along with contact and demographic info there are also a few key internal data points which are important for analytics. These include:
- id - a unique id for the contact. In SalesForce this would be the id field in the lead and contact tables.
- created_at - the timestamp that the contact was created in the CRM. This field is important for growth and cohort related analyses and reports.
The contact entity is in my opinion the most important. Your marketing team's entire top of funnel focus is on increasing the number of contacts being added to your CRM. If you can master the contact data you can use it to keep your marketing team honest and provide valuable insights on growth.
History data is where the insights are hiding
Every major CRM system creates historical data. This data helps create a record of certain behaviors, triggers and actions performed by the CRM user (your sales rep for example) or the actual contact (like when the contact submits a form or opens an email).
Another common name for historical data is fact data. If you think about it, historical data is nothing more than a record of facts as they happen. If someone for example opens an email and the CRM knows about it thanks to a tracking pixel then a fact took place, a specific email was opened. Since the CRM knows who the email was sent to and exactly when it was opened, a row of data can be added to a database. This row of info has an id, timestamp and other references which can be used to build powerful reports and conduct time decay, correlation or volume-based analyses.
In SalesForce you have a long list of historical data categories including lead, contact, opportunity and account history as well as campaign performance, different activity types and more.
In HubSpot you have a similar list but with more focus on actions performed by your contacts.
Deals, opportunities and the world of sales
CRM systems are built to primarily serve marketing, sales and account management teams. A core component of every CRM system is the sales funnel.
SalesForce and HubSpot both have dedicated entities and reports for managing sales opportunities. In SalesForce the relevant entities are Opportunity and Account, and in HubSpot it's the Deal and Company entities.
As a business analyst you must understand how these entities fit into your company's sales process. Once you understand the flow and have access to the data, you can help monitor the sales pipeline, sales cycle, closure and discount rates and many other critical sales metrics.
This area is where company's usually make their biggest errors in terms of process so be patient and work with the head of sales, sales ops and CFO on getting a better process in place if things are very difficult.
At their core CRM platforms help manage relationships with individuals. Depending on your company culture, product offering and market, this relationship might last one day or many years.
As a business analyst, understanding the data available in your CRM and the fundamentals of CRM analytics will be critical. The more you understand this data the more you can help understand the driving factors behind your sales cycle and customer journey.
The contact, deal and history data is where you want to start and then expand your knowledge by taking on the rest that the CRM has to offer. The more you know the more valuable you'll become to the organization.