How does web-based ERP enable Growth Hackers in new ways



Growth hacking unfolds along two parallel lines. The first one is enabling rapid experimentation across marketing channels using new methods that are easy to implement and fast to pay-off (otherwise, they may be abandoned). The second one is engaging customers in several ways in order to keep them in close distance from the organizations sales “reality” and activity. For example, making sure that new products are instantly known in the customer base, interesting news are immediately propagated in the community etc.
In this post I’d like to focus on the latter and discuss how a web-based ERP/CRM integrated solution can decisively assist customer engagement and community building. My intention is to show that SaaS business solutions do not just offer some “technology upgrade” in the organization or solely some cost benefit but can also play a significant role in the growth efforts of the organization

First of all, we start by noticing that all customer-related information already exist in some kind of (legacy?) ERP: order history, payment behavior etc. Then, a growth hacker needs the functionality that a CRM has to offer in order to complete plans and actions. Typically, one would think that we are discussing about a project of interfacing the ERP with the CRM, so that the CRM has the full history of the customer and therefore be in position to provide “cubes” or “angles” of sales habits, propose opportunities for cross-sales etc. In my opinion this is not enough since a growth hacker’s requirements are volatile and ever-evolving: you can’t just accommodate growth hackers’ needs by simply asking "what kind of information do you want to have travelling across systems?" They simply are not in a position to tell you beforehand; and even if they are, it’s just a matter of time before they come back and ask for something new. Then the project of “interfacing” is opened one more time; in the meantime, because such projects take some time to complete, the window of opportunity – as a growth hacker perceives it – will have been lost.
But let’s look at some examples that a growth hacker may utilize in order to increase customer engagement, assuming that an open, web-based platform is in place (remember, we are discussing the second pylon of growth hacking):

  • Customers can be invited "in" the web platform, in order to complete business transactions, on-line. For example, to review a sales offer, approve it and therefore instantly ask the vendor (you) to execute the order. More examples like this can be found here: http://goo.gl/VKHQPe

  • Enhance customer experience through Business Intelligence, offered to them (e.g. last year sales, types of goods, total value etc.).

  • Send marketing messages - not through the usual marketing newsletter but through the B.I. mentioned above, offered on-line in your systems. Imagine, for example, that when your customers login your web-based platform to review the current status of orders, they are immediately popped-up with personalized messages regarding seasonal discounts, personalized proposals for cross-sales etc.

  • Blend ERP transactions (e.g. invoice, sales quote etc.) with sales material (e.g. attach a brochure) and marketing actions (e.g. call-to-action inside an e-invoice message)

If one truly believes that these capabilities add value and speed to a growth hacker's job, then maybe the best platform to build on is a web-based ERP, such as a SaaS product. Of course, those who already have a legacy ERP are not left out. They can build web-based front-end systems to enhance the company's extrovert image but the aforementioned issues of interfacing and consolidation of data will always be there.
I envisage a SaaS ERP product with embedded CRM capabilities and “customer login area” in one do-it-all package. And for that, I would be willing to sacrifice some "best of breed" functionality that often enough is just nice-to-have, exotic or overkilling.

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