Balancing Act of Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Jun 04
2014

crmEffective Customer Relationship Management, or simply CRM, rests on three critical pillars: process, software and integration.

All three components are mutually inclusive and each should be planned and implemented with the other two in mind.

CRM Process

The process of managing customers, and firm’s relationships with them, largely depends on organization’s size, sector and maturity level. In other words, it’s closely tied to sales, marketing and post-purchase customer service, follow up strategy.

Smaller or relatively new companies might prefer a heaver focus on a more aggressive lead generation and direct selling program. In which case the CRM process would reflect a heavier emphasis on outbound, push marketing and top of the funnel tactics. On the other hand, more mature and larger enterprises might target its efforts on all stages of customer purchasing process. And depending on which phase of the buying lifecycle (Awareness, Interest, Research, Comparison, Purchase, Service) a potential customer or existing client is located, highly specific communication approaches come into play.

Defining a comprehensive process for lead generation, nurturing and post-purchase service follow up creates a robust customer relationship model and ensures strong results and long-term commercial output prevail.

CRM Software

After CRM process is thoroughly mapped and analyzed, considerations and steps towards which software should power the defined process are put in place.

CRM software varies from open-source and free, such as vTiger or SugarCRM to paid and server-based, such as Microsoft Dynamics, to cloud-based and relatively costly, such as SalesForce.com

Although free CRM packages do exist substantial time and effort still has to be exhorted on configuring and customizing the free open-source CRM system to unique business needs of a project or an organizational structure at hand.

CRM Integration

Today more than ever accelerating advances in technology plus vast availability of consumer-generated data empower the process of managing customer relationships.

Core marketing strategies of segmentation, differentiation and targeting benefit a well-implemented system, which has been comprehensively designed with regards to its process and equally fittingly configured using the right software.

By following all local privacy laws and industry best practices, ethical CRM integration can be achieved by connecting internal customer databases, which contain past customer touch-points, with external consumer data, which delivers relevant customer usage insights from outside sources such as social media, web browsing and third-party vendors.

But since different types of data gets modeled, integration is perhaps the stage that is the most difficult to achieve. Resulting benefit derived by aggregating these various data types into one coalescence, however, is truly valuable.

Ultimately, the end result of CRM integration is marketing automation. But let it be the focus of the next article.

Should you wish to explore CRM in greater detail, feel free to contact me anytime.

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