I recently published an article on AdExchanger on why CRM was way beyond just a technology or a channel. In fact, I strongly question if CRM is even a capability that can be boxed into any single bucket — Consumer Relationship is an objective and if you do the right things, it’s an outcome. But we have boxed it over the years and made it into a thing that is either a software, or a channel or a tactic so often. It may have worked for many years but in a world lead, controlled and driven by consumer needs and desires, it wont. Here is why.
Marketing has evolved substantially, from the times of the “Mad Men” and witty creative advertising, to a process about driving consumer engagement and accelerating business growth. And the vast amount of data at our fingertips has made marketing measurable and better defined its value proposition.
This transformative journey has given marketing professionals a new, shiny object almost each year, from multi-channel to omni-channel experiences, from mobile first and responsive designs to hybrid and native apps, from real time bidding and big data to programmatic buying, attribution and predictive models and now the world of chatbots, AR & VR. While evolving the core foundation and experiences, marketers tend to fixate on these new concepts until the next one pops up. But there is one philosophy that has remained true for decades: CRM – Consumer Relationship Management; and mind you, I called it a philosophy.
This is because CRM is not just data, technology or the email channel. It is the culmination of all these pieces coming together to deliver a broader consumer experience that inspires behavioral change and participation that eventually builds and maintains a “relationship”.
Regardless of how big your brand or marketing budget may be, most marketers say “we do CRM.” But this mindset has dramatically varying interpretations, implementation and understanding within the marketing world. For some:
- Sending promotional and/or triggered emails, direct mail or SMS to a group of consumers is CRM.
- “CRM campaigns” are separate and isolated from consumer marketing or advertising efforts.
- Having a database that stores consumer information is considered CRM.
- Buying/renting a marketing automation software is doing CRM.
But what about:
- Leveraging consumer data and insights underneath every single channel and touch point to deliver the most relevant and contextual experience.
- Driving personalized experiences, whether that is targeting or retargeting paid media or engaging consumers on social to strengthen relationships.
- Cross selling and up-selling by leveraging past behavioral data and predictive models.
- Testing and learning constantly to understand behavior and determine what inspires it.
- Connecting the dots across channels to establish a universal understanding of the consumer, with an intent to deliver the most seamless, channel agnostic experiences.
CRM is not any but all of the above. Beyond the data, technology, and channel, CRM is truly the drive to provide consumers what they need when they need it, or even before they know they need it. It could be a communication, product or service that offers experiences and values at a time, at a location and touch-point of choice and if executed effectively, can ultimately make your customer a loyalist and maximize a lifetime value for your brand.
To shift a marketer’s mindset that CRM is only data, technology, or software, embrace these five principles:
- CRM is NOT a channel.
CRM is not a channel and cannot/should not be organized, planned and executed like one. You need to drive consumer relationship, meet and exceed expectations wherever your customer may be; online or offline, across social, direct mail and email. You need to leverage consumer data and insights from all channels and touch points and deliver the most immersive and relevant experience back through any and all of these channels, inspiring behavior through the journey. That is CRM.
- CRM is Consumer Relationship Management.
Stop calling it just “CRM” if it helps you. The acronym tends to restrict the scope and understanding of its capability. When you expand and think “consumer relationship management,” it is a whole different world. You quickly realize, it’s not a thing, but a philosophy that creates an outcome on many pieces coming together.
- CRM connects to everything.
You cannot establish the CRM capability in a vertical silo, it needs to be a horizontal orchestration within your org model that touches and connects with everything you do. The CRM function in your marketing organization cannot just be accountable for consumer segmentation and insights related to email and direct mail. The function should establish a universal consumer understanding across the ecosystem.
- CRM software/technology is NOT enough.
Establishing a life-long consumer relationship and loyalty is not just a technology problem. You need to bring the strategy, data and technology together to establish and operationalize a CRM capability. To do this:
- Establish an overarching consumer relationship and experience strategy. Set a clear definition of the business problem you are trying to solve, and of the identify the consumer behavior that is causing that problem and establish the eventual consumer experience you intend to deliver to change the behavior.
- Create a consumer data and segmentation strategy, one that is not isolated by channel. Remember that it is the same consumer, going through a unified journey to solve emotional and functional needs; a consumer does not differentiate between channels.
- Develop a connected marketing technology ecosystem that is focused on gathering consumer data from all channels and touch points and also has the ability within the content publishing engines to leverage that data and insight to drive a seamless, relevant and connected experience.
- Define what success looks like, by having tangible KPIs and a subsequent instrumentation strategy to capture data and measure results.
- Leverage agile ongoing operations to bring all these pieces together and communicate, engage and listen over and over again with agility and nimbleness.
- Lastly, no such thing as a “CRM Campaign”.
You market in a digital world, communicating and engaging with the consumer, to meet their emotional and functional needs. This effort requires data and science behind every conversation with the consumer agnostic of channel. We cannot fragment this effort into artificial compartments of a CRM campaign, Digital campaign or a Mobile or Email campaign. It needs to be one connected, seamless and always-on campaign/experience that applies data and insight to have a bi-directional conversation that fulfills needs and builds loyalty.
Advancement in data, technology and media has put the consumer at the center, giving them tremendous choice and control and expectations are high. This leads to a whole new world of “Consumer Relationship Management” as a fundamental strategy and objective, way beyond an individual tool or tactic as the acronym “CRM” may suggest at times. The sooner brands acknowledge and address that, the faster they will evolve.