Leveraging CRM Data for Membership Growth Strategies

Digging into your membership engagement data in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to uncover growth opportunitiesMembership4

If you are familiar with the association world, then you know that there really is an association for just about anything. That also means that there are a lot of associations working very hard for your attention and for you to be included as a member – and to stay a member.

Finding out what motivates a member to join and continue to rejoin can be different from member to member and certainly vary from association to association. Associations have a good idea what drives their membership and their unique value to their members but sometimes find it difficult to continue to attract and retain members year after year.

Increasingly associations are leveraging data that they are sitting on in their CRM to help spur new membership growth opportunities.

Here are 6 areas to consider:

1. Identify True Networkers – One common practice to membership growth relies on your members’ own network of connections. Each of your association members probably knows a person or company who would make a good addition to the association. Many associations often use some type of “Member-Get-A-Member” campaign which provides existing members an incentive (gift card, dues discount or written public recognition) to help recruit and grow the membership. These tried and true methods can be very effective. An important aspect to any campaign is continuing to be creative and adding variety to the campaign (using different promotions/incentives, etc.). An often overlooked aspect is to use your data in CRM to help identify your highly engaged members – they are often the “true networkers”.  Leveraging this group helps with continual year over year membership growth.

2. Looking outside the box. Some associations grow the membership by opening up new membership types and tiers – some with success – some not so much. The key is to have the data in your CRM to back up these important new ventures. For instance, if you don’t currently allow international memberships but have reliable data that supports changing the policy, you suddenly have a whole new avenue for spurring membership growth.

3. Reconsider Failed Attempts. Consider taking a second look at membership growth ideas that may not have worked out so well in the past. Maybe now you have the right data in your CRM to support your new membership idea, type, or tier.

4. Strategic Tiers. Be careful not to offer too many new memberships all at once as your association may leave some money on the table. Continue to offer your base membership package with the valuable benefits that everyone seems to be happy to pay. The key is having reliable data to help plan any paid extra options or tiers (i.e. premium content on your website, an executives only tier, etc.) that may cater to members who want access to premium services.

5. Using your CRM to maximize growth. Review your current CRM to make sure you have the technology in place to support your membership growth goals. Some CRM systems built for associations as well as older systems called “association management software” may only support a few membership features and options, leaving you out of luck if you want to expand your membership offerings. Having easy to get to data at your fingertips helps drive good business decisions. Having online membership self-service features that make joining easy and renewing easy also greatly helps. Even features such as automated membership progression (i.e. automatically changing a 4th year student to full member) saves your staff from doing that manually. Don’t let the limitations of your technology burden your membership growth. The less time staff has to fiddle with older technology, the better. Find the CRM that lets you grow.

6. Using data to set smart goals. When it comes to setting realistic membership growth goals, it’s up to the association to decide the best strategic plan. It may be unrealistic for a long-standing association in an established industry to expect to achieve big increases in membership every year. But a newer association in a dynamic field might easily meet aggressive goals. Good data in your CRM helps create good realistic goals. As with any goal setting activity, remember to take the necessary time to create strategic action plans on how exactly the association plans to achieve those goals. Then leverage technology and data to monitor goals over time. Good reporting can help to adjust goals as needed throughout the year.

Using the engagement data you have in your CRM about your current, past, and prospective members, can help align the right association benefits to the right members (i.e. your certification helps make certain members more money at their job, educational webinars that increase their knowledge, events that help them connect and grow, etc.) Good alignment can help increase membership value – the value you can report back to the member come renewal time.

If you would like to learn more about how Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help with membership growth, feel free to contact me for guidance and suggestions.

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The “Our CRM Stinks” user proclamation and the top 3 ways to avoid a stinky CRM

Stinky CRM“Our CRM Stinks” – have you ever heard those words from a CRM user?

This post is about stinky CRM – the kind of CRM (customer relationship management) that users find offensive and therefore avoid using and leveraging into their daily work activities.

This post also includes the top 3 ways to avoid a stinky CRM (stinky crm is worse than ring around the collar).

Here is an example.  In a recent casual conversation with a family member, he said to me “you know CRM right?  Well get this – the CRM I have to use at my company really stinks”.  He went on to say, “corporate is making us now use a new CRM to track our sales activities but the CRM is impossible to use.  It is from the same company out of Germany that does our operations software and our corporate thought that adding this CRM was a good idea.  Well it is not set up right, it is so hard to use, the data in there isn’t right, and nobody on my team knows how to use it.”  So there you have it folks – a good example of a stinky CRM.

Modern features help but really are not the cause of the stinky.  In the above example, there was no mention of any particular feature or lack of features.   Although modern CRM features help, the CRM in this case was stinky mostly because of basic implementation issues such as:

  • Inadequate training on the way the CRM is supposed to support user processes.
  • Poor data quality in the CRM make users not trust the data/reports. It is the bad data in-bad data out mantra (data quality could be a whole separate blog post).
  • Not being set up in a way that the user understands.  Not intuitive. Not purpose driven.
  • The team was not bought in on the solution and has since turned against it.
  • Provided by a company that considers CRM an extra module or after thought.

The best CRM can still be stinky.  Even the best CRM solutions on the market can turn stinky.  There is however a nice advantage starting off with a modern CRM application like Microsoft Dynamics CRM because it has a basic intuitive user experience across your device of choice.  Built in sales, marketing, social, and customer care features that easily help users perform their high value activities more effectively.  Yes these features help tremendously, but don’t let these features blind you into thinking that simply turning on a CRM in the cloud will immediately solve all CRM needs.  If your CRM isn’t tailored to your unique processes, then it could become a stinky crm.

Top 3 Ways to Avoid a Stinky CRM

1. Don’t over complicate your most important user tasks.  If you want your users to use CRM, keep things as simple as possible and included within an organized and logical flow.  Work to understand how your users do their work now and how CRM (with the minimum of screens and clicks) can support/enhance that process – even enlighten with new information and analytics right on the same screen.  Sometimes there is the desire to add every conceivable field to the screen that any department and any user might need.  After all, this is an important process, right?  Actually, this tends to crowd the screen with lots of fields that seem to have little or no purpose.  Work to keep screens clean and purpose driven.  If you have teams/departments that have different needs, consider using role based forms per department.  Each department (role) would see just the fields they need included within a clean logical screen by screen flow.  This makes the CRM easier to use for the most important tasks.

2. Sweat the small stuff.  As powerful and easy as most CRM solutions are, don’t just turn on a cloud subscription to a CRM and expect your users to fend for themselves.  I realize that there is the thinking that “we will do minimal upfront definition because we will just adapt our process to the way the CRM works”.   This thinking may work on some areas of CRM but more than likely, this “just turn it on as is” type thinking is setting up CRM to fail.  Take enough time upfront to sweat the small details – the unique processes, the data, the reporting needs, etc.  This will leverage CRM within the organization and allow CRM to become the focal point to the entire enterprise. For users, it will make CRM meaningful and hence easier to use (and no stinky CRM complaints).

3. Start with a modern CRM.  Starting with a modern CRM like Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides so many powerful features and advantages.  Microsoft provides built-in integration to Outlook, Office, Skype, InsideView, Yammer, and more.  Compared with custom-made CRM solutions or CRM add-on’s from software companies that don’t focus on CRM, the modern CRM leverages the latest technology. It can help reduce costs and increase profitability by organizing and automating your unique business processes that nurture customer/member satisfaction and loyalty.

At the end of the day, CRM is a just a business application.  It is a tool.  Even with all the advanced technology and features and built-in integration and ready to go examples and data import templates, CRM still has the potential to stink if it is not implemented properly.

Think you might have a stinky CRM?  Not happy with how it was implemented?  Feel free to contact me for guidance and suggestions.

Related posts:

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Math Gone Social

Many seem to enjoy an occasional online brain teaser and there seems to be an increasing number of these little math challenges being shared across social platforms.  With all the sharing and engagement going on, the next logical step is to get the marketing folks involved – and add a little message.

With that said, I thought I would create a puzzle that includes a message.

CRM_ChangingWeather

The above puzzle is displayed as an image so it is easy to share.  If you don’t have the time to figure it out, click here for this answer key.

And here is another exponentially fun puzzle,…

ChallengeRevealsMessage2

The answer key to this 3 letter message is here.

Those that enjoy solving brain teasers might lead to new and innovative ways to market a message using social tools.

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CRM Confusion: The Double Definition of CRM

Double CRMThe acronym CRM is increasingly becoming a household name or at the very least a well-known business term.

But what exactly is CRM these days?

To most, CRM has the fairly straight-forward definition it started with: Customer Relationship Management – the ability to track leads, prospects, customers, opportunities, sales, marketing, and customer service.

But CRM really has a double definition.   

There is the common sales-oriented definition and then there is a newer additional definition for CRM referring to CRM as a platform, or “xRM“. In the past few years the xRM approach to CRM has gained so much momentum that it often overshadows the traditional CRM definition.

Hence, there tends to be some confusion when trying to compare a wide variety of solutions that include the term “CRM”.

Some businesses simply want the sales features of a CRM solution, while other organizations don’t want any sales features at all – they want CRM to meet a unique need like tracking meeting registrations or managing members of an organization.  Both may refer to their system as CRM.  A group other than “customers” may have taken over the first letter of the acronym.

There are still CRM systems that can only provide the traditional CRM sales features. But most modern commercial CRM solutions (such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM), provide both – the traditional CRM features and the increasingly popular and powerful platform features that help extend CRM as well as leverage the latest technology such as:

  • Outlook integration
  • Skype integration
  • Mobility
  • Social media monitoring
  • Easy analytics and dashboards
  • Intuitive user experiences
  • Collaboration
  • Automated workflows

Microsoft Dynamics CRM and xRM can disrupt legacy software

There are other business applications (e.g., accounting software) that may include some CRM features, maybe a CRM add-on.   This take on CRM, which is added to an existing application, may only provide basic sales features and not have the latest technology/platform capabilities. Nonetheless, the general term CRM is easily thrown around, so businesses selecting a new CRM need to be careful.

Here is an example from the association industry of how CRM becomes xRM. Similar examples exist in a range of industries from the public sector to education to franchise management to wealth management and beyond. In the world of associations, there are specific solutions to help associations called AMS systems (association management software). These solutions manage membership, meetings, certifications, committees, and a lot more.

CRM 2013 as AMS

Some of these AMS systems are built upon modern commercial CRM systems (like Dynamics CRM) so an association can leverage the latest technology, extend the platform to meet specific needs, as well as utilize the inherent traditional CRM sales features if needed.

More traditional AMS solutions from legacy providers have to compete with these modern CRM-based AMS solutions. These vendors have started to offer CRM add-ons that will handle sales and service (the traditional CRM definition).  It is an effort, I guess, to say, “Hey, we have CRM too”.

Anyone who has seen a complete CRM solution like Dynamics CRM or one of its competitors understands that a real CRM/xRM solution is in another class from a CRM add-on to a legacy system that’s vertical-specific. If an association executive is looking for modern features, they should take care when selecting a new AMS system with merely a CRM add-on.

In conclusion, CRM has become a rather common (dare I say…trendy?) business term for many businesses and organizations. But examples of xRM success are showing that modern CRM platforms do a lot more than they used to. Just remember the double definition of the modern CRM.

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Feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions.

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Posted in AMS, Association Management Software, CRM, SystemSelection, xRM | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Breaking down CRM options for Associations

The Pros and Cons of moving to CRM at your Association

Modern CRMLots of talk about CRM these days – more so than ever it seems. How can associations leverage CRM? Where does an association start? What are the options out there for associations? This article will attempt to review the 4 most common ways that a commercial CRM application (i.e. Microsoft CRM, Salesforce.com) is utilized at associations and the advantages, risks, costs, and benefits of each.

CRM 101 - Before we jump in, let’s first review what CRM is to provide some context. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. In the most traditional sense, CRM helps track the entire customer relationship including sales, marketing, and customer service. Most modern commercial CRM applications have the ability to be easily extended to meet unique needs. Extending CRM is often referred to as “using CRM as a platform”. In the case of associations, this means that they can use CRM to manage membership, committees, chapters, events, speakers, expos, transactions, and more.

The Modern CRM – Better, Faster, Cheaper Unlike traditional Association Management Software (AMS), most industry leading CRM systems are provided by major software companies like Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Oracle, and SAP. Microsoft for example spends $9 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) on product research and development.

Better Faster Cheaper

It might be difficult for an AMS vendor to keep up with what the major software companies are doing with CRM. Most modern commercial CRM systems are better, faster, cheaper. An article on CIO.com written a couple of years ago helps explain the better, faster, cheaper mantra. Association executives are also looking to properly leverage better faster cheaper technology to stay competitive and further their mission. Hence the interest in the modern commercial CRM.

The 4 most common ways associations utilize CRM - CRM has been making its way into associations for many years.  Here are 4 ways CRM applications have worked their way into associations:

Standalone CRM1. Stand-alone CRM – separate from AMS: Whether an association has an AMS or not, in this scenario, the CRM is used as a stand-alone database separate from any AMS database. It is typically used as a traditional CRM. For example, tracking advertising sales for the magazine or tracking sponsorships to the annual meeting. Companies and people in CRM are not shared with the AMS which can create separate silos of data.

Still, the cost and risk can be fairly low if used for a specific task that is outside the AMS. The cost and risk might also be low at the beginning because you can simply abandon the CRM in a short period of time if it no longer meets your needs. In general though, the stand-alone CRM can be risky. What may start out as a few people at the association signing-up online for a CRM to tackle a specific sales oriented task, often ends up becoming much more as additional people gain access to the CRM and more critical data is stored in CRM.

Adding CRM users and premium features can start to add up, but the bigger costs are when the CRM stores and manages key association data outside the main AMS. When an association has some key data in CRM and some in the AMS, it often creates lots of extra manual work – especially for data error corrections and reporting. With data corrections, it is difficult to know which duplicate record is the right one. Which email address is the one we should use? From which database? On the reporting side, things get complicated quickly.  What often ends up happening is the creation of an advanced data warehouse or the creation of a grand Excel file to bring in the two data sets. Then there is lots of manual manipulation and Excel file tweaking. It can be difficult to trust the data in these reports.

Because the modern CRM systems are so easy and provide so many benefits, they quickly start to take over many data management needs at an association. What starts as an innocent online CRM trial can quickly get out of control. Be careful with a stand-alone CRM. Use it for the powerful new functionality but keep it limited to a specific purpose – maybe something that the AMS just can’t do.

CRM connected to AMS2. CRM Connected to AMS: In this case, an association has CRM and they have an AMS and the two systems are integrated together to share and synchronize key data. It is sometimes a “fix” for the above mentioned stand-alone CRM situation. This scenario also may arise when an association wants to leverage a modern CRM but they still have the AMS connected to their website for the member experience online. For example, association staff enjoy using CRM because it seems easier to use and it is right inside Outlook, but the IT department is stuck with how to get CRM connected to the association’s website for online event registration. Hence, the blend of CRM and AMS.

The reality is that this situation can have several challenges. Usually not all the data is shared. For example, the company name and address might be shared between the CRM and AMS but not every note, activity, phone call, email and transaction. For some data, you still have to go back and forth between two separate systems.

The technical integration and synchronization between the CRM and AMS can sometimes be difficult to create and touchy to maintain. In addition, a growing majority of CRM systems are in the public cloud such as Salesforce.com or Microsoft CRM Online. Most public cloud CRM systems do not provide direct access to the database – only access via web services (and sometimes at an extra cost).

Connecting your CRM to your AMS can provide the powerful new benefits of a modern CRM while still utilizing the association specific features of the AMS. Be careful though. Plan for all potential costs such as the cost of integration, the ongoing support, and the annual software maintenance fees for both systems.

3. CRM as an AMS – with no 3rd party product add-on. In this scenario, an association has decided to retire the AMS and move all the data and business processes to CRM. The CRM is used as a platform and the association’s needs are fulfilled without a 3rd party add-on or any custom code. An association can innovate using CRM whether on their own or with the help of an experienced consultant.

With the right strategic planning and consulting, an association can build just the right amount of AMS functionality they need right within their modern CRM. The association pays just for the modern CRM without the additional cost and annual fees of add-on products. Most importantly, an association can have a better, faster, cheaper way to manage members. It is a good option for some associations; however, there are some major drawbacks. There is the lack of a web portal for online member self-service connected to CRM.  There is also the lack of AMS specific accounting features.

Portal - As powerful as CRM can be, there is no easy way to extend CRM for an online member self-service portal without advanced configuration using the platform SDK (software development kit). That means, if you want to have event registration online with the transaction and payment going automatically into CRM from the web, it will require either a custom solution or an add-on product from an independent software vendor (ISV). 

Financials - Having solid association specific financial features can sometimes be challenging to extend in CRM.  There is no out of the box credit card integration for CRM. There are a handful of 3rd party add-on products for credit card integration, but those may or may not fit into how you have built your transactions/invoices.  Also, it can be difficult to extend CRM to be a complete Accounts Receivable sub-ledger to your accounting system. This includes having the same General Ledger  account numbers and tracking general ledger detail for each transaction, payment, and refund.

The advantage to a CRM with no 3rd party add-on is that you are not contractually tied to any one particular vendor, you just have a modern CRM – most likely from a major software company (i.e. Microsoft, Salesforce.com) that has a channel of partners. This option works especially well when an association just wants to roll out CRM as an AMS for the internal association staff.  

Word of warning – good planning is essential. If an association knows they will eventually need member online self-service functionality or credit card integration, it is strongly recommended to plan that out in advance. If an association moves forward with this option on their own and configures their own meetings module in their new modern CRM and then later wants to add an ISV product for event registration online, all the work they did with CRM might not be compatible. Not only do they have to start all over again with the ISV’s event management module, the association has to move all the event data. If an association knows they will need the ISV product, it is better to start with the ISV company in the first place and use their product that is most likely pre-configured for the functionality needed. 

Other than the ISV solutions, the only other realistic option is to go custom. Find a consulting firm that can customize what you need directly on your own modern CRM – however it may be set up. You can go down this path, create the AMS features you need in CRM, and have a firm then build a custom portal for you. Again, planning is vital to keep cost and risk in check.

4. CRM as an AMS – with a 3rd party product add-on. With this option, an association gets all the full features of CRM with all the typical AMS functionality. This includes the all-important member self-service portal, credit card integration, and accounting functionality.  These solutions are from firms and ISV’s that serve the association market. They have created an all-in-one AMS system built on a commercial CRM platform.

An association buys the modern CRM and also buys the add-on product. It is usually sold as one complete package or product or hosted service. These add-on products vary in functionality from light AMS features to full AMS systems in CRM.  Doing a little homework and planning on vendors and their products can help.

Cost – This option can be more expensive than rolling out just CRM, but in the long run, if it has the features you need, it can be more cost effective. It may even have additional features that can be leveraged that the association didn’t initially consider.

Vendors – This option can lock you into a relationship with one vendor and their 3rd party add-on for CRM.  This is only an issue if the vendor doesn’t meet your expectations – so do your homework to compare user design, features, vendor reliability, deployment options (hosted or on-premise), and all related costs.

Conclusions – First off, if an association has a traditional AMS system they like and it is working for them, don’t change anything – stick with what you have. A good time to start to look at CRM options is when the traditional AMS becomes outdated, hard to use, or forces the association to stay on older technology like older versions of Outlook, Office or Windows.  Forced to stay on older technology makes it difficult to remain competitive for your members and effects the development of your core mission.

Annual Costs vs. Benefits - Associations can look at their current AMS from a cost/value point of view. Are they getting the value and benefit from all the money invested annually? You can also look at it from a competitive point of view. Do my competitors have a technological advantage? When evaluating a change, an association should not only consider the actual dollars for a new CRM but also the related benefits and return on investment.

Skype setting in CRMBenefits such as a more efficient staff, happier staff, happier members, easier and better analytics, enhanced member insight, no new hardware costs if hosted, social media monitoring (such as Netbreeze) for deeper member engagement, automated workflow, built-in disaster recovery if hosted, integrated products (such as Skype, Office, Outlook, SharePoint, Yammer), data aggregators (like InsideView), newer technology, and on and on,..

Basically leveraging better, faster, cheaper technology.

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Not sure where or how to start?  Contact me for guidance and suggestions.

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Posted in AMS, Association Management Software, CRM, SystemSelection, xRM | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Discussing xRM, Legos, Restaurants on Rothman Tech-Tips

I was recently the Tech-Tip guest on Rothman Tech-Tips (video blog).  The host was Matthew Rothman.  Matt helps educate clients regarding technology.  He “connects the dots” for the everyday person on enterprise-level and emerging technologies.  Today’s topic was xRM and the value of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform.

Tech Tip Guest Video Blog RTT

Matt read my blog post on “Using LEGOs to Help Explain xRM and the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Platform” and thought it would make for a good Tech-Tips segment.

LEGO CRM

I am sometimes asked to explain xRM.  After all, what is xRM and how is it different than CRM?  I will often use the Legos analogy.  Microsoft provides the rich foundation, the various interconnecting blocks, and the many special pieces to easily extend Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a platform and extending CRM to meet new and different business needs is often referred to as xRM.

In addition to the Lego analogy discussed in the video segment, I was able to show a few live demonstration examples of xRM (like the below screenshot).  Plus a quick “how to” on adding a field to a form in CRM.

Association Dashboard in CRM

The video segment also highlighted the importance of strategic planning when it comes to CRM (and xRM) projects and we again turned to the Lego analogy.  As easy as playing with Legos may sound, most companies seek experienced assistance to properly implement and strategically extend CRM.  Otherwise, without a plan for your CRM, you may end up with a bunch of pretty blocks snapped together that few wish to use.

As in all the Rothman Tech Tip segments, it ended with the guest giving a restaurant recommendation in their hometown.

I enjoyed the discussion – it was fun.  I shared a few basic tips on xRM that were hopefully helpful.  Thank you Matt.  Matt can be reached via his blog at www.rothmantechtips.com

If you have any questions for me, please do not hesitate to reach out.

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The use of the word “Lego” and “Legos” is a registered trademark of the LEGO® brand.
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Top 4 Recent Microsoft Videos Worth Viewing

Visually Understand Where Microsoft is Now and Will Be Soon

It would seem that Microsoft has started providing a lot more interesting videos to share.  From their corporate YouTube channel (youtube.com/Microsoft) to videos specific to my favorite application, Microsoft Dynamics CRM (youtube.com/msdyncomm).

So many that you may have missed a few really good ones.  Unfortunately, this list does not include any Harlem Shakes or long basketball trick shots.  This list is just a handful of recent videos from Microsoft that I thought were of interest and worth viewing.

1. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile – Since this list has an emphasis toward Microsoft Dynamics CRM, this first video is on mobility and CRM.  The video walks through the power of getting business done across devices.  It highlights examples of working in the field, remotely, wherever you happen to be, and having access to the same information you are used to while “in the office”.

Mobile CRM Video

2.  Microsoft’s Future Vision: Live, Work, Play – This video is interesting to me – and simply fun to watch.  It is on Microsoft’s vision of the near future.  It highlights how technology can enhance the way we live, work, play.

Microsoft Future Video

3. CSX Transportation and Microsoft Dynamics CRM - Question: How does a company founded in 1827 survive in today’s economy?  Answer:  Innovate (and Microsoft CRM helps play a vital role). 

CSX and CRM Video

4. Reignite Your Passion – Unlock Your Potential with Microsoft Dynamics – This video provides an example of the new ways to think about how we view “work”.  It highlights the use of Microsoft Dynamics and the Surface tablet – and no formal desk and no formal tie ;-)

Microsoft Reignite Passion Video

There certainly were more videos I could have included.  As a matter of fact, there are many good videos just on Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  To learn more about how Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help your organization, please contact me.

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