When marketers talk about CRM, generally, they are either referring to the practice of CRM (customer relationship management) or CRM systems (tools that facilitate the marketing professionals to conduct customer relationship management).
If you look at it carefully, you will notice that these two are closely related. If you are thinking about crafting or refining a CRM strategy in your company, you would probably want to have a tool that helps you carry it out. But before we dive into all the technical details, let us start by asking a more foundational question – what is CRM, and why does your business need it?
What Is Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?
When you’re just a small business startup hitting the trail with a couple of customers, you probably won’t need any help with memorizing their details like what they do, how they became your customer and other specifics that compose the relationship between you both.
However, as your business starts growing, it will become a lot more challenging and a lot less viable to try to remember all the ins and outs of each customer. It’s just that by that time, there will be too many of them, and you won’t always have a direct and personal relationship with them no matter how hard you try.
The chances are that you will either end up forgetting the individual details and lose that nuance in your interactions with every customer. That’s the same as that customer feeling like just another faceless being among many (because now they are) and not getting the same level of attention and care that they used to earlier when your business was a startup. This will result in your relationships going downhill and your customers going away. Or you simply build a centralized system to manage those relationships effectively. This right here is what we call customer relationship management or CRM.
What Are the Benefits of Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?
Based on what we discussed above, you must have got a hint regarding how CRM can benefit your business. To summarize – it helps you maintain a more personal relationship with your customers, monitor crucial information such as past orders, past interactions, their budget and spend and typically lets you stay well-informed about who your business is serving, why, and how.
You must have heard business leaders talking about having the “customer-first” attitude or being “customer-centric,” but if you can’t even keep up with who your customers are, how would you possibly do that?
Moreover, interacting with customers has become a lot more complicated and disintegrated in this digital Web 2.0 era than it might have been once upon a time. Conversations can happen anywhere, across live chat to social media to email, etc. If you do not have a central place to record details of all these interactions with your customers, you might lose threads quickly, fail to follow up on conversations, and leave the problems unresolved as it wasn’t recorded who had to follow up on what, what was the last action taken, and what was the next step supposed to be according to the plan. Ideally, the platform you are using to manage all this data should be easily accessible to different teams like sales, marketing, and customer service, so that the members can log in easily whenever required, access data, record information, and smoothly handoff from one to another.
That’s where the CRM platforms come into play. You can undoubtedly use a spreadsheet or even a simple Word document to monitor your customers’ details if you really like a disappointment. But such documents will most probably become dull, heavy, and puzzling quickly, especially if numerous people are using them to write down information. Plus, needless to say, it will lack many features that an effective CRM platform offers, making the procedure of customer relationship management a lot easier and seamless.
What Are the Advantages of a CRM System?
While the features a CRM system offers will rely on which platform you choose, there are a few standard things that a reliable CRM system generally lets you do. These include:
- Monitor marketing and sales results: You can record exactly where and how you earned a sale, the worth of each customer or lead, the amount you spent on a particular channel (and the return), as well as other relevant information. CRM platforms can prove useful for sales teams by helping them understand their pipelines better and also enhance marketing forecasting by allowing them to obtain a better overview of the sales pipeline and process.
- Keep an overview of every type of interaction with each customer: Store every detail from post-sales follow-ups to customer service interactions along with preferences such as whether or not a customer has chosen to receive weekly updates via email. This allows all the crucial data to be stored in a single place, making it easier for the relevant teams to track, manage, update and access them.
- Organize and send to a custom mailing list or email: This feature is handy for marketing and sales campaigns. But if you don’t have a dedicated CRM system, doing this can be a very challenging and lengthy process. CRM platforms let you organize and make customized lists with a minimum effort.
- Boost synergy between sales and marketing teams: CRM systems let the teams share details of interactions with every customer, allowing one to pick up smoothly where the other left off while accessing all the relevant background details. These platforms also enhance regular communication across a company by making the process of recording the customer information simpler and leaving the co-workers with more time to spend on doing what they do best- actual marketing and selling.
- Automate multiple time-consuming tasks: For example, lead management, contact management, reporting (yet another tedious task to perform manually), and combining with other systems you might be using to take care of business processes such as project management tools, email systems, calendars or scheduling tools, etc. While not all CRM platforms have to incorporate automation, they are increasingly doing it as standard. And if your CRM system offers automation, it can indeed save you plenty of time that you would’ve otherwise spent on different tasks.
Some Other Relevant CRM Terms
While learning all about CRM, you might come across these terms:
- eCRM: Electronic customer relationship management or eCRM refers to CRM with regard to internet-based channels such as websites, emails, and online chat. But since interacting digitally with the customers is more of a rule than an exception now, people have usually started using the term CRM to refer to online customer relationship management. However, there might be instances where the term eCRM pops up or is used to differentiate between online CRM and other offline methods.
- Social CRM: Just like eCRM, the term social CRM refers to interactions with customers through social media channels. Back then, people had just started building strategies and searching for systems that incorporated social media channels in their customer relationship management. At that time, social CRM was less standard, but now it is the new normal, and the majority of CRM platforms include social channels by default. Nevertheless, if you happen to run into this term, you know what it means now.
- Cloud-based CRM and on-premise CRM: Cloud-based CRM systems store their data on a remote server rather than on a server owned by the organization using it. Here, a third-party company maintains the storage, manages software updates and installations, and gives hardware maintenance, backup and security.
On the other hand, on-premise CRM is hosted on the server and premises belonging to the company, requiring them to purchase and maintain all the related software, hardware, and licenses.
- Operational, analytical, and collaborative CRMs: These are regarded as the three main types of CRMs.
- Operational CRM: These are designed to automate and improve front-office business operations such as customer service, marketing, and sales. Operational CRMs are primarily a standard CRM platform and probably what most people imagine when they think of a CRM.
- Analytical CRM: As its name indicates, they offer features and tools similar to what an operational CRM system offers, but they focus more on analyzing customer data to extract information and useful insights that can help improve customer acquisition and retention. Think of it as if operational CRM systems give you the “what” and “who,” analytical CRM platforms provide the “why” of your customers.
- Collaborative CRM: They focus on combining the front-office and back-office communications (including stakeholders such as distributors and suppliers) to provide a smooth multi-channel customer experience. They emphasize simplifying communication between different teams and departments and encouraging a customer-centric culture throughout the company.
What About DMPs and CDPs?
CRM platforms are not the only ones dedicated to tracking customer data. You might be thinking – what about DMPs (data management platforms) and CDPs (customer data platforms)? Would these alternative platforms suit my requirements better? Or perhaps you are just curious to know what are the main differences between these platforms in the context of managing your relationship with customers?
Primarily, a DMP platform stores and handles audience data for ad targeting purposes. Therefore, its focus is more on audience segments than individual customers. Typically, these tools fetch and store third-party data only and can’t store personal data. So these are indeed beneficial for targeting, but you cannot interchange them with a CRM.
In contrast, a CDP platform processes and combines many more massive amounts of data compared to a CRM system.
CDP platforms can consolidate customer data of all types and sources, whether structured or unstructured, internal or external. This enables you to make a much broader, almost 360-degree view, to understand your customers better, and even take action in real-time.
Above all, a CDP system can consume and consolidate data derived from a CRM platform, meaning these two can work together, in case you already have a CRM system and are assessing the caliber of a CDP platform or simply researching their suitability.
Wrapping It Up
If your business is expanding and you wish to maintain the same level of direct and personal relationships with your customers that you had when your business was just a startup, you need to have a proper customer relationship management strategy and also invest in a reliable CRM system to ease the process. Now the type of CRM platform you opt for depends on your business’ needs, the channels you are combining, and the type of insights you want to get. However, customer relationship management is a must-have if you genuinely want to stay well-informed of your customer relationships and interactions, connect the dots across multiple channels, integrate your marketing and sales, and typically deliver an incredible customer experience to distinguish your brand from the competition. So go ahead and get started with CRM right away!