The Last Mile Of CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is an offensive phrase to many marketing executives. Many of you have experienced the woes of over-amplified CRM budgets, failed change initiatives, and over-promised technology. Now, you may be riddled with data and analysis issues based on decisions made over the last five years.

Aberdeen Group published an insight report in June of 2002 that called e-mail marketing "The Last Mile of CRM." A couple of key points should be revisited today, based on the current environment. Aberdeen very eloquently laid out the argument that e-mail marketing is not a mainstay of CRM suites; rather it is a "point solution." Furthermore, most corporate CRM infrastructures can't support diverse, multi-channel corporate marketing, manage hosted services, and support all its needs. Rather, Aberdeen said humorously, most e-mail marketing departments in companies are "bringing a knife to a gunfight."

Do you feel that way? There are many messaging solutions now integrated into most applications, but marketers and corporations are not able to look across the organization and get a clear sense of all the complex messaging needs. Between marketing, sales, channel marketing, Internet marketing, site-triggered communications, behavioral communications, support-triggered communications and call routing/queuing for call centers, there is a lot to handle.



As Aberdeen predicted in 2002, now is really an inspiring time because the value proposition of e-mail marketing has emerged as a package of Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions. Aberdeen also said that e-mail marketing would be heavily adopted by catalogers, retailers, financial services, high tech, automotive and any other types of companies that require secure, online relationships.

So are we at this "last mile of CRM" as was predicted in 2002? Or, as we say at the end of consulting engagements, "Are we in a better place today than we were yesterday?" Let's think about this:

  • Technology solutions and decisions have become increasingly complex, and corporations are still struggling to make strategic decisions. Most companies have disparate messaging systems that support different parts of the organization, and only the most advanced can see true "lifecycle" messaging cross all touch points.
  • Relative knowledge and expertise is still nominal in most organizations, meaning companies still rely on external consultants to integrate decisions strategically and technologically. This can often lead to "point solutions" that solve today's problems, but that you'll have to pay for in a year or two.
  • The tenure of marketing executives has diminished over the last few years. Will our decisions live the approximate two years of a senior marketing executive's tenure? Your technology department and strategic decisions need to be defensible.
  • Decision-making is still not centralized. The e-mail marketing function is still owned by many people, and corporations typically struggle to integrate execution, customer experience and how a company should invest in the infrastructure.
  • Trends and awareness have risen so dramatically that everyone now has an opinion about e-mail marketing. Does this make us all experts? How do you make decisions that not only support business results but also the organization's opinion, while still protecting the customer relationship?
  • The view of the customer has changed. More and more companies are looking at long-term customer relationships. Are we in a place where we can deliver, manage and monetize all customer interactions and milestones over many years?

    Lots to ponder, lots of issues and my two cents. As an industry, we need to get past execution and beyond relevance in how we communicate with our customers. We must find a means of communicating the value at each stage in terms of costs, infrastructure needs and long-term gains. That is the only way you'll make decisions that will survive change. The "Last Mile of CRM" is not the technology decisions or trends for e-mail marketing, but rather your ability to support your decisions over time.

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