Money for Future Muscle: CRM Investment Continues to Increase in the Vertical as Companies Turn to PRM, Analytics, and Order Management to Get a Tighter Grasp on Customers

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There's a lot of space separating the company and the customer in the manufacturing industry. However, manufacturing is one of the verticals in which CRM adoption is growing the most quickly today. In a buyers' market where partner relationships are becoming more crucial to competitiveness, manufacturing companies are looking to invest in PRM and data integration to gain elbow room in this saturated space.

Customer retention is becoming more crucial as companies look to service for revenue, says Ray Wang, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. "You don't make money selling products anymore. People are looking at ways to hold onto customers not only in the presale, but after." With service fees, warranties, and upgrades contributing to profit at a higher level than the initial sale, manufacturers must not only understand their customers' needs, but also have the ability to predict them. Because of this shifting emphasis, interest in investment is higher in manufacturing than in almost any other space. A recent Forrester study found 38 percent of manufacturers are looking to adopt new or upgraded technology in the upcoming year.

Analytical tools provide an opportunity for companies to better analyze and make decisions about their customers. Additionally, customer data integration and master data management can help manufacturers to get a better picture of their top suppliers, greatest risks, and best opportunities for discounts or upsells. Although investment in this area is growing, it is an option only for large companies. "These are half a million dollar deals," Wang says. For more spendthrift companies, SaaS is gaining much ground. Hosted options are also becoming more popular as manufacturing companies often have difficulty absorbing large, complex platforms, says Bill Band, an analyst at Forrester. "They like being able to imbibe by the drink, so to speak."

Because many manufacturing companies go through a two- or three-tier distribution, excellent partner relationships are crucial for success. For this reason, in the past year, much focus has been placed on PRM,

according to Rob DeSisto, a Gartner analyst. He says one of the biggest challenges in the manufacturing industry is how to get partners to "sell more of my stuff than the competition?" Order management systems can also prove valuable as they allow partners a clearer view of a product's life cycle. …