Taking care of your customers is good business. This tenet has held true since humans first began bartering. But in the age of the Internet, those handshakes that were once the bread and butter of customer relations have been replaced by email and social networking. Enter Customer Relationship Management (CRM). CRM is a strategic approach for building loyalty that combines the personal touches of traditional service with the efficiencies of modern technology. A good CRM platform draws on a detailed understanding of your customers’ buying habits to drive sales. It accounts for market nuances and the power of emotion for attracting customers. It’s a new way of thinking about marketing in the digital age.
Not surprisingly, dozens of software companies have developed CRM solutions to help automate tasks and increase points of contact between companies and their customers. Unfortunately, owning one of these CRM programs is much like having a Ferrari on blocks. Sure you have a great car, but without gas, you’re not going anywhere.
In fact, CRM solutions have a high failure rate. The newsletters that have become such a favorite CRM feature actually have a declining open rate. Customers don’t respond to these generic emailed articles they view as just one rung up from spam. Plus most consumers are pretty savvy to automated responses. They know these emails they get thanking them for a purchase or inviting them to a sales event are sent to everyone. It doesn’t make them feel special, which, ironically, is partly why CRMs were developed in the first place: to create the illusion of a personal touch on the Internet.
Sure, CRM software can really help you track all of your customer interactions and purchase histories, allowing you to better target them with specific messaging. That’s probably its most important and effective use. However, having all this data at your fingertips is worthless if you don’t hand it over to a marketing strategist who can implement an appropriate program. Many companies rely on their sales staff to manage the software. Sales people are great at pitching. That’s their talent. But deciding what to say to whom, that falls under the realm of marketing. It’s a different task that requires the skills of a marketing expert.
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The upshot here? Think before you CRM. Even if you’ve already purchased software, it behooves you to take a closer look at how you’re implementing this technology. After all, technology is only as smart as the people using it.
1) Develop a strategic plan. The CRM software is a marketing tool. It is not your marketing plan. Think about how you want to interact with your customers, what you want to say to them and what messages might generate sales. Discuss actionable items.
2) Explore how the software can be utilized to enhance your strategy while reducing man-hours. Again, the software is a tool much like a newspaper ad or a radio spot. It shouldn’t double as your plan, nor should it be turned over to your sales staff for management.
3) Execute! Make sure the newsletters and emails you send out have value for your customer. They should be representative of your brand. And they should have calls-to-action. Your customer needs to know how to respond.
If you implement these basic steps when deploying your CRM, you’ll find that Customer Relationship Management can really boost your business. Not because the software has so many fancy features, but because you’re using those features in a smart and targeted way.