In a busy week at Singapore-based Helix Media, four employees are out meeting people in the marine and offshore industry. All together, they collect about 300 to 400 business cards. For the specialist marketing and corporate communications agency that has been in operation since 2005, these contacts are extremely important as they mean a foot in the door for an industry that thrives on face-to-face interactions.
The maritime industry places great emphasis on personal connections and has very specific ways of networking. For instance, if a shipping business owner wants to do business in Japan or China, he has to meet his Japanese or Chinese counterpart in person.
Since events and conferences are the best places to meet such people, Helix Media needed to have a presence there and be able to take contacts made and convert them into business opportunities.
A single conference can be a platform for collecting many cards, and approaching the contacts while the lead is still hot is key. This, too, requires an organised method of collection and storage of business cards.
The Problem of Disorganization
“Being a small business, Helix Media has been growing year on year and has built up a reasonable book of clients for itself. We have accumulated around 3,800 business cards over a short period of time, and were looking for a way to organize this valuable information productively,” said managing partner and director Edward Ion. A former business journalist, Ion has more than 20 years of experience across the shipping, maritime, insurance and reinsurance industries.
Internally, Helix Media didn’t have a system to store or sort the business cards they collected. It was left to the person who obtained the contact information to remember and follow up as required. Naturally, this caused opportunities to be lost even as the company attempted to build consistent connections. Stacks of business cards also continued to pile up on work desks.
Existing Solutions Difficult to Use, Impractical
After trying different options that promised to make database management and networking easier, Helix Media was still not entirely satisfied. Some systems were not as simple or intuitive as they required them to be. Difficult interfaces and complicated processes added more time than they saved.
On the other hand, some of the database management solution providers had limitations on the number of contacts that could be uploaded. For a company that networks heavily, this was not practical at all.
Thus, after several disappointments, Helix Media decided to give Sansan’s business card management service a try.
Helix Media Explores Sansan
It was on Twitter that Ion first discovered Sansan. “I knew what we really needed was a simple system with an easy interface to manage the business cards we collected,” he said.
“One of the attractions of Sansan is that it gives us flexibility. The speed with which we are able to input the data is another benefit. And, of course, the centralized access through cloud service provides a seamless experience despite employee turnover,” noted Ion.
Every employee at Helix Media using Sansan accesses it as a mobile app. It is described by Ion as “genuinely mobile technology”. “The flexibility and convenience of mobile are unparalleled,” he added. Consider the scenario where an employee at Helix Media has set up a business development meeting and is following the lead on a company they are interested in pitching to. The employee is looking for answers to questions like; have we met this company before? Whom did we meet? When did we meet them? By using Sansan on mobile, answers to these questions can be brought up whenever and wherever they are needed, making the contact more consistent and credible. As Ion put it, “Sansan on mobile is helping us amass the business intelligence to be able to talk knowledgeably with the client.”
Gaining Valuable Insights From Data
What’s more, Sansan’s solution offers the ability to segment and use the data in many valuable ways. For instance, tagging the country, company or person’s name as you input the information from the business cards means it’s possible to sort the data by these fields. In addition, there is an option to key in details such as the type of industry and date of contact, which can also be used to create targeted segments for sending out bulk emails – a very valuable first step towards customer relationship management (CRM).
Given the emphasis on relationships in the marine industry, the use of this segmentation to send out personalized emails the way that Sansan allows is a powerful step, and one that guarantees a higher ’open rate’ by the target audience.
As such, Helix Media is interested in exploring this further, and has initiated usage in a simple manner to start with. Currently, the company is using such data to prepare for pitches and meetings. Having this context helps it to approach potential clients confidently.
“We can easily access our database of contacts to find names of people that we may have previously met in a company before going in for a pitch. Knowing whom we may have spoken to in the past helps us contextualize the client and provides valuable background information for the meeting. This in turn makes us look good in front of the client,” explained Ion.
Next Steps: CRM
Although it is too early for quantifiable metrics, Helix Media is working towards getting more organised with inputting data and developing a reliable database for CRM. Once all contacts are uploaded to the database, the company intends to send out emails to targeted clients as part of its CRM activities.
After all, “Being able to reconnect with even five clients out of a list of 20 is important in our line of business,” said Ion. “If you don’t have a solid relationship with a client, you cannot do business here (in Asia).”
Being pleased with the ease and efficiency of Sansan, Helix Media also plans to introduce the service to its global partners. Sansan’s cloud-based database management solution has met the needs of Helix Media, offering great opportunities for building meaningful relationships in the marine and offshore industry.