Give It One Finger Or The Whole Hand?

In conversation with a prospective client recently, the team was asked to justify the move to CRM and what that would look like. While I checked the calendar to be sure it was 2011 and not 2001, we moved to convocation about what CRM really means to brands and what is the best definition.

CRM is one of those arenas in our space that means different things to different people; ask five people and you will likely get opposing answers. We all know that CRM is an acronym for Customer Relationship Management but is it a software application? Is it a fancy name for an email program? A database/data-mining exercise? Is it a call-center customer service program? Is it just one of those cheesy catch-all phrases that folks throw around to sound more informed?

Well, what the heck is it?

We feel that CRM means the encapsulation of however you want to manage the DNA of your customer base. The program(s) that you use to connect with, manage, understand, migrate and communicate with customers is exactly what CRM is. You can choose to outsource that entire part of your business to an SAS vendor or you can devise you own internal strategy of multiple levers and channels such as email, display and re-targeting.

This particular client was looking for a one-step solution to having a (using air-quotes) "CRM program." Unfortunately, I think they had been sitting through too many software vendor presentations to think that CRM is a just a "PHD (Push Here, Dummy) program" in which you are one-button push away from having the magical monkey in your computer do all the work for you. This trigger-happy POV gave us some pause as we realized that you need all five fingers of the hand to make CRM work and can't just give the customer one finger and expect meaningful communication.

So what are the five fingers of CRM?

  • Thumb (The Anchor) acting as your website where your CRM efforts need to feed to keep it all working
  • Index Finger (The Worker) acting as Email, the most critical appendage of CRM
  • Middle Finger (The Utility) acting as your database, sometimes used for expression, other times as the stable and middle portion of the hand, conveying central control and even sometimes the leader
  • Fourth Finger (The Dexter) acting as Display media and the right-sided balance to Email and Web.
  • Pinkie (The Extra) acting as Mobile/Social and the little extra appendage that can be used to stick out and flair or not be used at all. Without the pinkie, the other fingers can still function and do their job...

Yes, of course, this is an over-simplified dissection of CRM efforts. However, if you can find the right combination of fingers, you will locate the right balance of CRM efforts.

For many brands a typical combination of at least four fingers is used for overall CRM efforts with the pinkie of mobile/social sort of hanging out there to be used when you really have a firm grip with the other four.

However, as a clever way to look at it, what if your middle finger is standing up on its own? That's your database! It's out there, making a statement but it has no support from your other fingers to help complement the communication. You can point with your index finger as your email and, using the stability and strength of the middle finger, you can begin to see how the utility of the database of customer info can help guide the way to a more engaging, targeted email.

What about the Dexter or the fourth finger, which represents display? Critical and needed, display can be a helpful appendage to the efforts, and make no mistake that the third and fourth finger typically move together, yet can work independently.

The thumb and first two fingers are the "graspers" and what gets most brands what they need overall. Yet, the complement of the last two fingers makes a complete hand and, by far, the most optimum solution for the full function of the hand of your CRM efforts.

Just for fun, for those on the wild side you can use just your index (email) and pinkie (mobile/social) fingers out there to make the ultimate rock and roll statement: m/

Seriously though, bear in mind that all four fingers of the hand can easily touch and connect to the thumb, which is your website and the anchor of all efforts. Whether you transact or not, remember that a very strong majority of customers will be using your website for a significant chunk of communication, information and expectation of the relationship, and no matter how strong your other fingers are, the anchor of the thumb is the great equalizer of the hand. You can certainly live without it, but it can be cumbersome.

If you think only one finger is the answer to your CRM needs, we can only hope it's the finger you can politely use in public!

For whatever it's worth, the strength of all five fingers working together shows strong and solid support of all of your efforts. Let it not be lost on you that all five fingers pulled in together make a fist ... now that's power!

2 comments about "Give It One Finger Or The Whole Hand? ".
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  1. Bill Harvey from TRA, Inc., September 21, 2011 at 8:40 a.m.

    Thanks for excellent article. I would suggest a sixth very important finger: TV. TRA now makes it possible for CRM to include TV by linking to set top box data at the household level with complete privacy protection to the consumer. Given the size of the TV investment each year, this is an important finger or perhaps a whole second hand. Best, Bill

  2. Kathleen Stockham from Compass Media, September 22, 2011 at 9:40 a.m.

    Thank you Bill.
    It's ironic as the President of Response Media, Josh Perlstein (my boss) challenged me that the "6th finger" needed to be mobile as social deserved its own finger. And while I know what finger most brands have available for social right now (grin) it is interesting that you bring up TV and the oft-discussed interactive TV component.
    Maybe it does need a whole hand....

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