Most organizations regard customer relationship management as something that starts once the customer is, in fact, a customer: someone with whom the company plans to create a long-lasting connection. But if you’re thinking about CRM only once the customer has started purchasing from you, you’re already a few steps behind and may find yourself running to catch up—not a great way to begin anything!
The truth is, CRM starts even before there’s an identified customer in view. There’s an expression that goes, “start the way that you plan to go on.” The way that companies handle their acquisition process tells you a lot about the way they will handle their customers right down the line.
Think of it for a moment in human terms. Everybody remembers how they met their significant other, lifelong friends, even colleagues and business acquaintances. The way that we meet someone influences the later ongoing relationship that we have with them.
Are customers so very different?
I’d like to suggest that they aren’t. You can implement an acquisition process that makes prospects and possible customers feel like they’re part of a cattle-call, or you can give them the sense from the beginning that they will be valued and respected by your company. The choice is clear.
So what is a responsible, efficient, and “good” acquisition process?
It’s a process that begins by automatically evaluating each individual lead source, rather than lead quality and performance in the aggregate. Aggressive acquisition practices can harm a company’s inbox delivery rates and even get it listed on email reputation sites; so proceeding with traditional acquisition processes not only makes your company assume a good deal of risk, but also tells potential customers that they are of little value to your company.
What happens if you implement the process is that you will automatically identify the sources of any risky leads and eliminate those sources, as well as identifying your best-performing lead sources and subsequently increasing budget to those sources. How? By turning off lead sources that provide a disproportionate number of high-risk leads before they injure your ISP reputation, and automatically throttling to receive more leads from your best-performing, clean, low-risk lead sources.
One of the things I’ve been talking about in this column for the last few months has been the importance of live data, and it’s just as important for the acquisition stage of your customer relationship to be using and responding to live data as it is for your ongoing CRM with established customers.
Many acquisition processes implement auto-responders for new-customer signups. That’s all well and good, but it’s time that we went beyond auto-responders. What that means is setting up a system to immediately nurture leads, and that system includes a cascade of behavior-based promotional emails. In other words, not every lead gets the same cascade—it depends on what the person did, requested, commented on, or filled out, just as once they become customers, people get cascades that react to the actions they take.
From that initial cascade you can move your customers neatly into a series of transition marketing cascades; but, again, it’s essential to go beyond the obvious. While you want to begin with the traditional mailings that introduce customers to This is the best time to incorporate live data into the mix. We used to think of transition marketing as introducing the company to the customer, but now it’s also about introducing the customer to the company, as you keep track of where and what your customer is doing, saying, clicking, sharing … and respond to all that data immediately.
Like all really great CRM, this concept isn’t just good for customer relationships, it’s also good for business. When it’s implemented correctly, you can see amazing results: using this process, companies have tripled their conversion rates while protecting their inbox reputations; and that makes everyone happy.
Essentially what this CRM-oriented acquisition process does is treat leads as valued customers even before they become customers. Which may be the biggest value of all.