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How a CRM Helps a News Organization Manage Their Entire Workflow

Chances are that we love sales more than 99% of people. That probably explains why we’re building a sales management software. However, our love for sales has brought us some great stories about novel ways the sales software is being used. One day we received an email saying how Pipedrive helped everyone in their company follow the same process, and always be up-to-date with & on top of everything that goes on in the organization.

And that’s how we discovered Richland Source - an online news organization based in Ohio. Their own comment on how they work is this: “Almost everything we write is local and thus sourced, written, edited, and published organically -- no AP wire stuff here.” We found out they manage everything from sales to ad-production to invoicing from Pipedrive.

Having used Pipedrive for all these different reasons, they got inspired and decided to create an editorial pipeline, and start managing story production through the pipeline as well. Through some simple adaptations, Pipedrive has now become the common language for workflow management in the entire organization, giving the editors and reporters the much needed visibility into what’s happening, where people are stuck, and how to prioritize stories. We spoke to the publisher at Richland Source - Jay Allred - to find out the details.

What problem were you intending to solve when you first started using Pipedrive?

Initially, we were looking for a simple sales CRM that we could use to track the progress of our sales team. We wanted something cloud-based and affordable, because we were built using only cloud-based software apps and since we're a startup; cost is always a consideration. Pipedrive fit our requirements perfectly and we started using it in sales.

The more we used it in sales, we realized that the deal was not really finished until the client's advertising was running on Richland Source and the invoice was sent. So we added two stages, "Production" and "Invoicing" to our sales pipeline. That wrapped our graphics, production, and accounting folks into the workflow and gave end-to-end accountability. Everyone was on the same team and we were able to become increasingly paperless as a somewhat unintended consequence.

That experience opened our eyes to Pipedrive's ability to be a workflow management tool. Our editorial team was struggling to manage dozens of story leads and their individual deadlines, so we pitched Pipedrive to them and they agreed to try it. Major improvement. Within a day or two we had set up a separate pipeline and started some beta users and in-house training sessions. Suddenly, everyone had visibility into where a story was and how fast it was moving through the process.

Now, every member of our organization - no matter what their role - is a user of Pipedrive and has ownership of a part of the customer service, sales, or editorial process.

What kind of a solution were you using prior to that?

In both cases (sales and editorial) it was a mish-mash of Google Docs, spreadsheets, and calendaring apps.

How did you come to the decision to start using Pipedrive and what changes have you seen after starting using Pipedrive?

Like I mentioned above, we wanted a high level of visibility across the organization, an intuitive and simple user experience, easy administration and management, and something that was cloud-native. With those requirements, the decision was easy.

Some of the changes are pretty predictable. Workflow is clearer, managers can see where their employees are and help them stay on track, "silos" of information quickly blew up as we transitioned the sales / story data to Pipedrive, and so on.

What's more interesting are the unintended consequences.

  • We now have the shared contact database we always wanted. For example, when sales updates contact information for an electoral candidate, our reporters immediately have access to that updated contact info too.

  • Integration with Google Apps has put relevant documents at the fingertips of everyone in the org. Customer calls and wants to check on the status of a job in production, but the salesperson is out? No worries. Production checks the scanned insertion order attached to the deal, reports back to client, notes the activity in PD, and tasks the sales person with a follow up call. All within one application with no back and forth email needed.Magical, we say!

  • Having "non-sales" teams like editorial, accounting, and production as part of the Pipeline keeps the customer experience at the forefront. It's not about just sales now, it is about the whole enchilada of customer experience.

Could you tell us a little bit more about your use of Pipedrive?

We are first and foremost an organization that tells the stories of our community. Time and speed are often very important, but so are generating story ideas and juggling longer-term projects with short-term news stories. The "Unassigned Lead" stage is where any employee can drop a story idea. We use it to essentially crowdsource leads. Our editors monitor this stage and then assign the lead to a reporter by changing ownership of the deal and moving it forward in the pipeline.

We have turned on deal rotting for this stage to make sure that editors are alerted when a lead has begun to get old.

After a story has been published, the last stage, "Promote (Reporter)" comes into play. We ask our reporters to reach out to their contact and other interested parties when a story that concerns them publishes. This is a critical customer service stage for editorial, as it helps them build credibility and reinforces our culture of follow-up and customer service. Pipedrive gives us the visibility and accountability to manage this process.

We are looking at using the the timeline feature to help keep reporters on track for deadlines in a very visual, intuitive way by using the "expected close date" or a custom field to hold the deadline.

Do you have any cool sales tips or tricks you'd like to share?

We're hardly gurus here, but the trick for us has been to keep the customer's experience with us at the forefront. Everybody gets it - sales is about buying and selling. Where sales gets icky is when salespeople use that fact as an excuse to get smarmy and manipulative. If you put the treatment of any client you are working with - prospect, active, or past - out front you automatically zap the urge to get smarmy, because classy and respectful can't coexist with smarmy and manipulative

What's the future for online news and Richland Source?

The disruption in the newspaper business has made us part of a much larger examination of how the news on individual communities gets reported. Google, Yahoo, and ESPN have the global stuff covered, but who reports on city council and the high school football teams? Community newspapers used to fill that role, but are increasingly being challenged by online-only variants like us that are lighter, quicker, and often willing to be more actively engaged in their community. We're also working on a native app with our friends at Inmobly that will feature their video-caching technology, which we expect to roll out in Q1 2015.

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