Call it what you want. Customer Relationship Management. Trust Relationship Management. Experiential based marketing. Brand Advocacy. CRM is about delivering relevant experiences through interactions that sense and respond to the many ways customers want to engage and buy today. Yes, CRM has been around for a while. But the CRM as we know it no longer exists. Why? Because today we’re in an environment where customers have a greater voice in how the brand is communicated and where potential relationships reside in a highly distributed environment.
CRM today is completely different. Different in how marketing strategy is crafted. Different because now the customer experience is the essence of the messaging and content strategy, as well as longitudinal program design. The data platforms (because after all, sensing the customers’ needs must be grounded in relevant data) are starting to link identifiable data to unstructured digital data to aggregated market level and competitive level data.
Just as marketers are focusing on the evolution of social and mobile and what it means for their campaigns, we must now take a look at the evolution of CRM, and what it means for our brands. Without a “true” customer experience strategy, actionable data, and a campaign management layer that integrates across search, site, database, mobile, and social, you will miss out on the opportunity to connect and understand at every touch point. Here’s what you need to do:
Embrace customer centricity
CRM isn’t about hyper targeting and it’s not just about value-based segmentation. Typically, when we think about segmentation, we think about customers in terms of their lifetime value to the brand or propensity to do something for the brand. That no longer works – instead, you have to start thinking about how to position the brand to provide value to the customers.
CRM is about insight that determines the most important messages, the content, and the offers that move different customers along their individual journeys. As marketers, we’re so used to dealing with aggregates; generalized profiles and personas and customer journeys that map out key moments throughout the buying cycle. It is not that easy. Why? Because today, customers are in the driver’s seat; they determine when they want to talk to you and who they want to speak with. Marketers must embrace customer centricity. If your marketing isn’t meeting customers’ expectations, they’ll simply go elsewhere, whether it’s to a company that’s on Twitter or a website that’s mobile optimized.
Treat your customers like people, not targets
The challenging part of CRM is that is that your brand is attempting to build relationships with people that you’ve never met. When asked about their customers, many marketers will look through their database and give you a name, location, and how long they’ve been a target. But superior CRM means going beyond basic demographic information and insights that have been gleamed from the past (such as the past lifetime value of a customer). It means analyzing insights from what consumers are doing now, in this moment: what they’re talking about, what they’re sharing with one another, and how they’re sharing it. You may call it real-time, but I call it reality.
Get outside your database
When most people think about CRM, they think in terms of outbound communications or interactions with people who are in their marketing database. The challenge is that most, if not all, brand interactions that you have with consumers are not initiated in the marketing database or from your brand’s website. It starts with consumers searching for information on the web, discussing something with their peers (online or offline), and third-party sites. The automotive space is a great example of this, where consumers often look to trade journals or consumer reports for insights on what to buy. Ultimately, whatever industry you’re in, you need to figure how customers are learning about your brand – and build your relationships with them through those channels.