At most companies, customer relationship management is synonymous with software like Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. When marketers say they ‘do CRM,’ they usually refer to sending promotional emails, direct mail or SMS to a segment of their customer base.
While the emergence of CRM software has led to the rise of data-driven marketing, I believe that marketers should revisit the concept of ‘customer relationship management.’ In the consumer-lead world, the role of customer relationship management is no longer strictly about data, technology or channel. Instead, the ‘relationship’ in CRM should take center stage.
3 benefits of treating CRM as a business philosophy
Considering customer relationship management purely from a software perspective does both marketers and customers a disservice. Here are three compelling reasons why you should think of customer relationship management as a marketing philosophy instead.
1. "Campaigns" are dead.
The ubiquity of digital, mobile and social technologies means that consumers are always connected. As a result, the traditional concept of a CRM campaign—where you distribute a single piece of content to a segment of your customers or prospects— is no longer fast enough to meet changing demands. It’s not enough to plan what marketing activities you’ll be running three months from now. Companies must become an always-on partner to consumers, who demand more frequent, relevant engagement.
Connected consumers now lead the direction of marketing. To deliver the level and frequency of engagement necessary to connect with these consumers, companies need to deviate from the tenets of a traditional CRM campaign. Instead, developing a lasting relationship with consumers should become a priority. Doing so requires adopting a customer relationship management philosophy that goes beyond a single campaign.
2. Consumers crave conversations, not communication.
In the past, marketers saw their jobs as messengers of brand content—as the people who pushed promotional messages. The rise of CRM software was largely fueled by this push mentality since CRM software allows companies to compile transactional and demographic information and segment their campaigns based on customer data.
Today, digital technologies give consumers more opportunities and avenues to have their voice heard. Consumers have had enough of receiving one-sided messages—they want a hand in the decisions companies make. Marketers need to adjust by being more conversational, better listeners and less promotional.
3. Consumer understanding needs to be more holistic.
One of the main benefits of having a CRM system is that it allows you to record what consumers have done. This wealth of data provides a good starting point for understanding consumers, but it’s not enough.
To create content and deliver experiences that increase brand affinity, marketers need to understand not only what consumers are doing, but why. Unfortunately, CRM data doesn’t reveal the why behind consumer attitudes, behaviors and preferences. Companies need to develop a connected marketing technology ecosystem that is focused on gathering customer data from all channels and touchpoints. The goal is to leverage data and insight to drive a more seamless, relevant and connected brand experience.
Start prioritizing the "relationship" in customer relationship management
As you can see, now that we’re operating in a consumer-centric world, customer relationship management should be a fundamental strategy and objective. Today, managing customer relationships goes far beyond any individual tool or tactic that the acronym CRM may suggest. Adopting a broader view of customer relationships will help brand become truly customer-centric and will allow marketers to improve brand affinity, customer experience and, ultimately, sales.