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Three simple steps to long term CRM success .. Nick McConnell, Commercial Director at TwentyCi

By Nick McConnell, Commercial Director at TwentyCi

 The flow of consumer data is expanding and the cost of CRM technology is dropping. Add to that the escalation in platforms to reach people – from mobile, social media and apps such as Snapchat to more unexpected places like screens in driverless cars – and you can see why brands are excited at the opportunities for engaging more and more with consumers through CRM.  Or are they?

The flip-side to this explosion in opportunities is that many companies are feeling overwhelmed at  the level of sophistication in systems, with the brainpower to implement successful CRM fallilng outside of their core capabilities. Instead of being empowered by the advancements in CRM, they feel more like a rabbit caught in the headlights – they understand that ultimately CRM can help them strengthen customer relationships and build ROI, but are uncertain where to start.

For any growing business, CRM should undoubtedly be a long term goal. Today it is possible to get CRM up and running with a lighter touch – more quickly and without the need for the multi million pound investment that was required in the 90s/2000s. However, it is better to take time to get it right and build the right foundations, not just in terms of technology but also within business roles and culture, to ensure that it will really achieve business goals.

So what do companies need to do to ensure they get the CRM they need?

1. Make CRM a Board-level issue

Very few Boards have anyone specifically designated to represent the customer, and yet surely this should be one of the most important positions in any company? Many CMOs only go part way to fulfilling this role.  For a start, according to research from The Marketing Society, the average tenure for a CMO is 18 months.  It’s therefore unsurprising that many CMOs look at the short term, spending more time looking at the creative elements of campaigns and making sure they are getting the brand message across – with CRM being looked at purely as a poor relation.

However, CRM’s role should be viewed as much bigger than this, with goals for relationship building needing to look far beyond 18 months.  Today, CRM can be redefined as ‘Conversations that are Relevant and Measurable’.  It is about managing a conversation with a customer, regardless of when or where it takes place, or who within the organisation is on the other side.  The focus and investment required to make CRM work across the whole business and make it become part of a company’s ethos and culture requires the kind of top level buy-in and investment that only comes from making conversation management a Board position.

2. Take the long view

These days, data is everywhere and its sources and uses are becoming increasingly diverse.  While this makes it possible to get better customer insight in theory, the reality is that some companies are reaching a point of data overload.

To implement the right CRM for a business, it’s necessary to take the long view and spend time identifying what data attributes from across all customer touchpoints actually make a difference in its own consumer conversations – and which will therefore help it to achieve its goals.  For instance, it is possible that a brand with a strong focus on Millennials may find that it only needs to implement mobile-based CRM which will be much easier and cheaper to set up.

3. Implement ‘mini’ CRM campaigns

There is an alternative ‘no tech’ CRM that companies can start to use straightaway as a stopgap, giving them the space they need to work towards full CRM implementation.  This is to create ‘mini’ CRM campaigns when consumers actually have their wallets open.

Instead of trying to make sense of all the data all at once, it is possible to take a pared done approach which combines transactional data with external signals to pinpoint key events in a customer’s life which affect their purchasing behaviour.  These events could be, for example, when someone is moving home, having a baby or retiring.

Each of these extends over many months from planning to the ‘event’ itself and beyond, creating its own distinct customer needs and lifecycles.  If we can identify what life event someone is going through, we can understand the context that is driving their consumer decisions and respond appropriately.  This is a much simpler, but very effective way of creating the kind of ‘marketing in the moment’ that CRM provides – albeit for a shorter time period.

We have started to see more marketers use this approach as a complement to their longer term CRM.  In this model, CRM shifts to an awareness-building role, creating an ongoing background hum that keeps the brand in mind.  Meanwhile acquisition marketing is delivered through PPC and hyper-targeted contextual direct marketing communications that stem from life events which are used to reach people when they are most likely to spend.

In today’s complex world there is no one-size-fits-all solution to CRM.  These three steps ensure organisations have the best chance of getting the right CRM for their own unique needs –which ultimately means they can maximise ROI for the long term.