Customer Relationship Management, or CRM for short. The idea is simple: learn about your customers, and use your knowledge to strengthen your relationship with them. Use your stronger relationship to sell them more products or services. Repeat.
Not surprisingly, helping businesses to do this is… big business. A myriad of software solutions are available, with a plethora of consultancies and training businesses available to help you implement them. CRM has a lot in common with ERP. Indeed, some of the big players in the ERP space, also seek to sell CRM services alongside.
As a result, businesses focus on the software tools. This is a mistake. A fool with a tool… is still a fool. The secret to good CRM – as with good customer service – is to focus on the culture you build.
Why do we Need CRM?
In the old days, a trader or a tradesman knew all their customers personally. They lived in the same town, traded personally, and the numbers would be small enough to retain their personalities, preferences, and situations in your head. No more.
By the nineteenth century, big businesses had far outgrown that. And, early in the twentieth century, they were working hard at structured loyalty programmes, based on market segments.
In the 1990s, technology became sophisticated and cheap enough to give everyone in an organisation access to data. And that technology could aggregate, sort, and combine data from many sources. Now, a salesperson could record and access all sorts of information about a customer, prospect, or suspect.
Today’s CRM systems don’t just draw information from what an organisation’s own sales and customer care teams record. They access huge online databases held by businesses like social media platforms. Have you ever wondered why Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIN are free to use? It’s because CRM systems in big and medium sized companies are accessing their data. And the organisations who use those CRM systems are paying to access that data, which you donate freely.
That’s why Microsoft bought LinkedIN: so it can package the data into its own CRM products.
What is CRM?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a strategy and a process for managing an organisation’s relationships and interactions with its current and potential customers. If you improve your knowledge about them, you can better target marketing, offers, promotions, and sales messages. That means more sales and more profit.
But even not-for-profits and governmental organisations use CRM. For them, it is a way to improve the services they offer to their clients and service users.
Most often, when people talk about CRM they are referring to a CRM system. This is a software tool which helps with, for example:
- Contact management
- Customer intelligence
- Sales management
- Marketing automation
- Customer service
Customer Relationship Management will help you to focus on your organisation’s relationships with clients, customers, and service users.
How to do CRM
Set up a System
You need a process and, these days that means a software system to enable it.
There are a huge array of options and Pocketblog is far from qualified to list them, let alone name them. The big names include major ERP players like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, along with larger niche players, like Hubspot and Salesforce. But for small and medium sized businesses, the choice is bewildering.
A CRM system is as good as the data it contains and the use to which your people put it. So, step one has to be to start to build your data set. This may involve buying some core data.
Build the Culture
If you want to get value from your CRM system, you need to build a culture that means your people use it well, and use it willingly. This is by far the hardest part. But invest here for success. A mediocre system used well will give far better results than a top tier system, poorly adopted.
Identify Leads and Communicate with Them
A big benefit of a CRM system is that it can help you to identify and add new leads, and then document them accurately. By integrating with marketing systems and even proposal processes, they help you create highly targeted and properly customised marketing and sales collateral. The intention is to use Customer Relationship Management to gain competitive advantage.
Improve Your Products and Services
One often overlooked capability of a strong CRM process is the ability to synthesise information from a huge variety of sources to create insights into how your customers feel about your organisation, and what products and services they’ll need next. The result is a tool that can help improve what you offer, spot customer service or product reliability problems and identify gaps.
What is Your experience of CRM?
We’d love to hear your experiences of CRM. Please leave them in the comments below, and we’d be delighted to respond.
To learn more…
The C.R.M. Pocketbook, by David Alexander & Charles Turner is full of tips and strategies for acquiring, developing, valuing, and retaining customers in a multi-channnel environment.
The CRM Pocketbook will help managers take a more strategic approach to setting relationship management objectives and implementing practical plans in a multi-channel environment. This book explains how organisations can build more effective engagement strategies that provide outstanding customer support and drive business value. There is a section describing the contribution needed from departments within organisations, including how to keep investors informed and supportive of CRM initiatives, leading to the delivery of the customer promise and business results.