The New CRM: Connected Relationship Marketing

Customer relationship management practices created for the offline world have inevitably spread to digital marketing channels, with consumers now interacting with your brand across a number of platforms: mobile, web, social media, call centers, brick-and-mortar stores, email, video ... you get the idea. And they've now come to expect a seamless brand experience, no matter what the medium.

A savvy brand makes this look easy by providing consistency across channels, something that customers aren't necessarily conscious of until, that is, the inner-workings of your CRM and multichannel program break down, revealing their vulnerabilities and inconsistencies. (I'm suddenly reminded of a magnet on my grandmother's refrigerator: "Housework is something you do that no one notices unless you don't do it.")

CRM systems offer brands a host of invaluable metrics -- clicks, responses, leads, purchases, revenue, user behavior, preferences, trends, and so on. The system breakdown, however, tends to occur when a brand fails to make those golden analytics actionable. This sea of data is the key to connecting customer information with a relevant and consistent multi-channel experience. It takes work offline, online, a little bit of help from technology, and some internal cheerleading, but the following four steps should put you well on your way to channel connectedness.

Think about business goals, not quick fixes

There's always something that can be updated, fixed, or simply made better. But before you get too trigger-happy; start by prioritizing. Think about your ultimate business, revenue and brand goals. How are your current marketing campaigns really affecting your bottom line? There's no point in investing in mobile marketing if your website conversion performance is poor. And it makes no sense to launch a new email marketing campaign if your message isn't clear. Start from the top down: uncover your issues, achievements, successes, trends, and gaps through your CRM data. If your business goals are clear, these data will steer you in the right direction in making program adjustments that will support them.

Be risk aware, not risk averse

If you're a multichannel brand with millions of consumers, connecting all of this data strategically and successfully can seem, well, scary. But as marketers, we've got to face this head on and be willing to make a mistake or two along the way. This means not being wedded to specific ways of doing things because that's the way they've always been done. Consumer profiles and behaviors change over time because the way consumers receive information changes over time. As a result, approaches that once worked may fail, but consider this a learning opportunity: Was the messaging wrong? Is the approach outdated entirely? Or was it the medium, the targets, or timing? Try again. Don't steer clear of updating and re-testing less-than-successful campaigns, or implementing ideas that may seem a little crazy; the data won't lie. Using CRM correctly and in a truly connected manner may yield different results. Being able to target the right messages at the right time will help you better evaluate the true consumer response.

Use the newfound power of Mobile

The surge in mobile commerce is a golden opportunity to not only gather more personalized consumer data, but to start out strong on a new platform by using this information to connect to consumers in a meaningful and effective way. That will help you stay ahead of the CRM curve, as well as your competitors.

Mobile devices are an extension of each consumer's life -- set up and customized to their lifestyle, needs, and preferences (can we say CRM goldmine?). And because you've already been collecting data on them for quite some time, you can use this additional CRM intelligence to better cater to your consumers' experience with your brand, all the while gaining new insights and behavioral data specific to the small screen. If mobile marketing is high priority for you, there's no better time to clean up and use your CRM data to ensure mobile commerce domination. It's a blue ocean out there, to say the least ...

Align and use all your data, in real time

That's right: real time. While CRM practices were born and bred in the offline world, technologies that marry offline, online and mobile consumer data already exist and will help you achieve better CRM and multichannel marketing outcomes. Better targeting, better personalization, and a better connection with consumers, across any medium, consistently, and at the right time. The benefits of this are obvious: improved brand retention, loyalty, and customer lifetime values, increases in revenue per visit, and a truly connected multichannel experience.

Remember that your CRM technology is great for gathering and mining data, but that it doesn't help when it comes to implementation. So, do your research to find technology that does. From there, you can sit back and observe your newly connected brand while your consumers repay you with loyalty, and your competitors fade into the background.

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