When business takes off, offering a seamless customer experience while keeping profitable are essential for the success of any start-up. We talked to Conrad Ford, Founder and CEO at Funding Options, about how investing in CRM and smarter marketing have enabled Funding Options to manage a five-fold increase in customers without adding to its headcount.

How did Funding Options come about, and how did it grow so rapidly?

My background is in banking. After the global financial crisis in 2008 there was an acute need for finance for small businesses, so in 2012, I launched Funding Options as an alternative way for small businesses to secure funding.

We provide easy access to a very, very complex market. The government recently passed a law requiring banks to offer customers alternative routes to funding when they reject an application, and we fought hard to be one of the three companies licensed to pick up that business. We're already helping tens of thousands of businesses a year, but the new law is really accelerating our growth, so we need to be prepared and ready to expand.

How is technology helping you scale?

To handle a huge increase in customers with the same number of staff means we have to be efficient. Two years ago every customer interaction went through an account manager, but we don't have the resources to do that anymore, and it’s just not necessary. Most of our customers are just thinking about accessing finance or gathering information initially, so they don’t need to speak to a person – in fact it could even slow them down.

With Salesforce on the front line, the customers who need our attention get it, and those who don’t still get a seamless, personalised customer experience, but it’s automated.

We have this strange sales cycle that doesn’t match anyone else’s – we have to balance waiting for customers to be ready to use our services with keeping the lead warm – but with Salesforce we’ve been able to take out complexity with trigger-based marketing, for example, and make it easier for our sales people to focus on where they’re needed.

What were the drivers behind your decision to look for a CRM and marketing solution?

We knew we were going to experience explosive growth, so investing in CRM was a no-brainer. It can feel intimidating to make such a big financial commitment, but my advice would be to never underestimate the ROI of a good CRM solution.

Thinking about smarter marketing was a learning curve for me, my background is in finance, but I quickly realised we needed a more nuanced, personalised marketing solution to stay competitive. When we started looking for a CRM and marketing solution, staff were telling us they wanted to use Salesforce, but I had no idea how successful it was going to be. I know our marketing director was shocked at how quickly we were able to implement – he was expecting it to take a year or two, but we did it in three months!

So what’s next?

We’re going to integrate external data sources, such as information from Companies House, to enable trigger-based lead nurturing. We’ll be able to see a whole host of signals that they might be ready to use our services, and send automated but heavily personalised emails relating to exactly what is going on in their business at the time. 

The sales team has been trialling Salesforce IQ to find out when a customer is thinking about us. It automatically captures updates from emails, meetings, and phone calls, and filters opportunities, so we’re going to roll that out in full in 2017.

We’re also planning to use web chat later in the year. We don't want to bombard people browsing our site, but chat lets you speak without sharing contact details, so people don’t feel pestered.

What are your tips for other small companies that need to scale up quickly?

Don’t underestimate the ROI for decent CRM. I knew Salesforce was good, but I didn’t realise that it was the solution to most of our scalability challenges.

We had an enormous uptake in revenue in Q4 2016, followed by another leap in the first quarter of 2017, and Salesforce has been a massive part of making that happen. As well as making the day-to-day business more efficient, it also gives me a clear idea of the health of the business, where we need to invest, and how to retain profit margins as we grow.

Read the full success story to find out more about how Funding Options is growing faster with personalised emails, smarter lead nurturing, and a better view of the business.

Or download your copy of the Complete CRM Handbook which gives you everything you need to get started with CRM.