CRM Growth

So You’re Thinking About CRM Strategy…

Customer relationships are obviously the life-blood of every company – but many companies do not have a solid strategy for how to manage those relationships, which can start when a prospect begins thinking about the need for a specific product or service and can last for years after a purchase. In theory it sounds straight-forward, but in our experience we’ve observed that many companies do not have an effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy – or in fact any CRM strategy at all. In some cases they believe that acquiring CRM software technology is the strategy and are disappointed when it does not deliver the anticipated benefits.

CRM Strategy

What is a Customer Relationship Management strategy?  Simply put, it’s a plan to grow sales and improve customer service through a combination of processes, actions, and technology. It typically involves the marketing, sales, and customer service functions of a business and seeks to…

  • Provide an excellent customer experience at all touchpoints of the customer journey
  • Strengthen collaboration between sales, marketing, and customer service teams
  • Easily identify the most valuable leads and opportunities 
  • Keep track of leads and customers as they move through the funnel
  • Execute targeted marketing campaigns 
  • Generate reports and data insights to manage the business and guide the development of future strategies

Developing an effective CRM strategy takes a lot of thought and hard work. Some fundamental elements of that development process include the following:

  • Define your CRM strategy vision and goals:  How do you see a strategy contributing to the success of your business?  Higher sales, increased customer satisfaction, and increased customer retention are all examples of common CRM strategy goals.
  • Define your target customer with buyer personas: Create a buyer persona that represents your ideal customer. Make it as detailed as possible. Include information such as demographic and behavioral characteristics, as well as interests, challenges, and aspirations.
  • Define your customer journey: You need to know each and every step of the customer journey – and then ensure an excellent customer experience at each of those touchpoints.
  • Know your product or service: Take the time to revise and develop your product/service narrative and elaborate your value proposition.  What are the messages you want to transmit? What benefits do you want to highlight? Why should a customer choose you over your competitors?
  • Invest in software technology:  Leading solutions such as Salesforce, Hubspot and Marketo can be extremely helpful in implementing your CRM strategy. They are powerful tools that foster collaboration between teams, store customer data and keep track of all customer interactions. Define your CRM software needs by evaluating your existing business processes and getting input from teams. The main factors to be considered when choosing a CRM software are price, capabilities, and ease of use.
  • Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):  You need to be able to measure the effectiveness of your strategy, so set goals for each of your teams and then consistently measure their performance.

CRM Technology

CRM software solutions are powerful tools that foster collaboration between teams, store customer data and keep track of all customer interactions. But there are many CRM solutions on the market, and choosing between them can be a daunting task. 

It’s easy to start by looking at leading solutions such as Salesforce, HubSpot and Marketo and be wowed. The capabilities they offer, including integrations with other leading service platforms, are truly amazing.  After viewing a demo, many business leaders who are new to CRM software immediately imagine all of the possibilities and for good reason get very excited.

But then the real work begins. Most CRM solutions offer free editions – but the old adage holds true – you get what you pay for.  Then there are “Starter” subscriptions with relatively low price points, which may be a very significant upgrade over a company’s existing capabilities, but do not contain many of the features that generated so much excitement during the demo.  Getting those capabilities will likely require upgrading the subscription – at which point the prices can increase substantially.

So how do you determine the best solution for you and implement? The main factors to be considered are capabilities, price and ease of use.  Here are a few things to think about as you evaluate your options:

  • Understand how CRM solutions can generate value and determine what your company is ready to tackle first – you may not be ready for everything on day one.
    • Marketing: Drive effectiveness and optimize spend
    • Sales: Win more deals
    • Service: Create lifetime customers and maximize value
  • Define requirements. Do so by evaluating your existing business processes and getting input from teams. Determine what is required now versus nice-to-have – but importantly understand the implications of upgrading subscription levels later, when pricing will be higher.
  • Consider alternatives to the leading providers.  While Salesforce, HubSpot and Marketo are all excellent solutions, there may be other options that offer the same functionality at a lower price.  Of course it’s important to have confidence that you select a solution that will be there for years to come and provide you with the proper level of service, so do your diligence on company background, customer base and user reviews.  
  • How will the product be launched? Most providers offer on boarding services that may provide advice and guidance only. If your company does not have the internal resources to implement, consider leveraging a third-party channel partner who has product expertise and can do the actual work.
  • Who will manage the CRM solution once launched?  An internal resource will need to manage the business requirements and prioritize development with input from the marketing, sales and customer service functions. There will also need to be a resource to do that development work, and a technical resource that manages overall maintenance and integration with other company systems.
  • Who needs to be trained – and who will do so?  The roll-out of a new technology platform will likely mean big change for the intended users, so they will need to receive sufficient training in order to perform their jobs and fully leverage the product’s full potential.

What are your insights around the development of CRM strategy and the implementation of technology solutions?

Growth Optimization

The Value of Fresh Thinking

For marketing-driven companies the value of fresh thinking can be enormous. There are innumerable examples of once-mighty brands that lost their way (and profitability) though complacency. McDonald’s was once considered an unhealthy fast-food choice and was exposed in the 2004 Super Size Me documentary. Harley-Davidson Motorcycle almost went bankrupt in 1985 due to product quality issues.  Both companies infused fresh thinking into their companies and turned around their businesses with new/better products and refreshed branding to support.

Those are just two examples from the mega-brand world, where in theory the management talent is top-notch and resources plentiful.  But if they could lose their way, what about the much larger universe of small and medium sized businesses?  While some are surely more agile and innovative compared to large corporations, others are challenged by talent and resource constraints.

For newer companies that rely on digital and direct response channels there tends to be a recurring theme: The founders start with a great idea and rightly focus intensely on go-to-market activities, with the primary goal of generating growth. A top priority is to establish a compelling brand identity, from which marketing campaigns are developed to generate leads and eventually new customers. Execution is sometimes handled internally, but frequently outsourced to agencies to leverage their resources and expertise. Everyone is heads-down trying to keep the train on the tracks and generate growth – resources are limited, and no one has the time to take a step back and identify opportunities for improvement.

In our work with such companies we’ve observed some areas where fresh thinking can really make a difference:


Considerable work may have been put into branding and messaging during the launch of the business – but does it still resonate?  For example, perhaps the target customer base is materially different than the original expectation.  Or maybe new products appeal to customer segments that were not anticipated at the onset.  And after the initial period of high growth, what has the company learned about itself that is important to its overall brand identity?

While some companies may have had focus on these important dynamics throughout periods of high growth and adjusted accordingly, others may have had less focus and evolved to a place where their branding and messaging is stale and ineffective.  A brand/messaging audit can go a long ways to identifying gaps and strategies to resolve.  


Every company has a multitude of data associated with its digital and direct marketing efforts and internal lead funnel, and the most successful ones consider that data to be an extremely valuable asset. They consistently develop reporting and analytics that generate insights, from which actions can be taken to increase marketing effectiveness.

For example, while a company may know the customer acquisition cost (CAC) of the pay-per-click search channel, do they know the difference between Brand and Non Brand search terms? Or within Non Brand, the CAC of the different ad groups?  It’s possible that the CAC of some ad groups might be incredibly high, and that money could be better spent in other channels.  Or what about after leads are acquired?  As we’ve written before, it’s critical that marketers analyze internal lead flow to identify opportunities to improve conversion rates and lower CAC.

But many companies do not leverage their marketing and lead funnel data effectively. Sometimes it’s not easily accessible. Even if it is, they may not have the right resources on their team to dig in and unlock the value their data asset holds.

Marketing Execution

In many cases companies start by outsourcing their digital marketing work to an agency – it’s a smart move when a company wants to get into market quickly and leverage the expertise, resources and infrastructure an agency can offer.  But over time some issues can emerge.  For example…

Does the scope of work agreed upon at the outset of the relationship still make sense for the business now?  Or does it need to be amended in terms of services, resources and cost?

Is the company effectively managing the relationship? This dynamic is incredibly important on two dimensions: First, the company needs to be sure the agency is delivering the agreed upon work with expected quality and timeliness. Second, the agency needs a strong internal partner to ensure that direction and priorities are clear and that they receive the support they need to be successful. 

Or does it make sense to insource some of the work, especially once one or more channels have grown and demonstrated their importance to the business?  Many companies find that having an internal resource focusing 100% of their time on marketing can yield big dividends compared to having the work done by an agency, where resources are typically responsible for multiple clients and may not have enough time to really dig in. 

These are just a couple of examples of where fresh thinking can make a big impact on marketing performance.  What examples do you have?


Don’t Forget About Your Internal Lead Funnel!

In many organizations the work of marketing stops after a lead is generated. Money has been invested to generate responses and marketers have a clear understanding of their Cost Per Clicks and Cost Per Leads.  Eventually, assuming attribution is properly set up, they will know their Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), and can optimize their multi-channel marketing mix accordingly.

But frequently marketers do not have a detailed understanding of exactly what happens to their leads after they are generated – how the proverbial “sausage” is made “down funnel” in their company’s sales operation.  Without such knowledge marketers are unable to optimize their marketing efforts and maximize ROI.  

For example, one of our clients called leads after they were generated – but our analysis found three distinct marketing segments of leads that were being called only once or not at all.  After it was determined there was no reasonable justification for this unusual approach, the leads then received the normal contact strategy, which generated $3 million incremental revenue for the client. All it took was some curiosity and post-lead analysis – talk about some low hanging fruit!

Every marketer should want to have a deep understanding of down-funnel metrics at the marketing segment level – and the corresponding ability to recommend changes to improve performance.  Better down-funnel performance decreases CAC and improves ROI – which creates opportunities for marketers to expand their efforts and drive more growth.

But there are many reasons for why marketers typically don’t focus much down funnel. Maybe they are too busy – or simply consider it someone else’s job.  Perhaps the sales and operations teams discourage them from poking around their business.  It’s also possible the data and reporting doesn’t exist at the marketing segment level.

Whatever the reason(s), it’s the job of the Executive Leadership team to remove those barriers and empower marketers to fully optimize their marketing spends and drive growth. 

What are you doing to ensure that leads are optimized throughout the funnel?  What approaches have been the most successful?

Growth Optimization

The Value of Customer Lifetime Value

How much can you afford to spend to acquire a new customer?  It all depends on how much value a new customer generates for your organization.  Some companies have very expensive products that yield sizable profits, so they can afford to spend tens-of-thousands of dollars to acquire a new customer; others may be on the opposite end of the spectrum and can’t pay much at all.

The best practice is to start by measuring the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) of your customers.  Simply put, it’s the amount of Profit (Revenues – Operating Expenses) you expect to earn during the course of your relationship with a customer – from the first purchase to the last.  (More sophisticated companies also include a timing element of when that profit occurs).  When CLV is clearly understood, marketers can then set Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) goals that will provide an acceptable return on investment (ROI) to the company.

Let’s start by looking at Revenue. So you acquire a new customer and then what happens?   The answer varies widely based on business model – here are a couple of examples for illustrative purposes:

  • A new customer purchases 50 hours of tutoring services for their child.  How many times will they renew, if at all?  Is there a younger sibling that will need tutoring in a year or two?  Will they refer other families to the company?  (This referral dynamic was incredibly valuable to one of our clients for whom we built a CLV model – 30% of all new customers eventually referred another family, who in turn would purchase, renew, and make referrals of their own).     
  • A subscription service (e.g. streaming audio or identity protection) acquires a new customer.  For how many months will they pay the monthly fee before they cancel, if they cancel at all? Can they be upsold or cross-sold during the relationship?

Of course the activity of one single customer doesn’t really matter.  What’s important is the aggregation of customers to get a big-picture view of average customer revenue.

Operating Expenses are the second important component of CLV – what does it cost to actually deliver the product or service?  Depending on the business model this can include many different factors, ranging from manufacturing to distribution to servicing costs.  Like with revenue, what’s important is the average customer operating expense.

Bringing it all together, the CLV of an average customer is the average revenue minus the average operating expense.

Implications for Marketers

The first and most obvious implication is that CLV, along with guidance from company leadership, will determine Customer Acquisition Cost goals.  For example, let’s consider two companies, each with $1,000 customer CLV.  One company is highly focused on profitability, so sets a CAC target well below the CLV – maybe $350 – and earns a healthy return on its marketing investment.  The other company, however, is highly focused on growth, so is willing to pay a lot more – maybe even up to $1,000 and simply break even.  We’ve worked with both types of companies – the key is to ensure that both customer CLV and company goals are clear.   

The more nuanced implication is at the segment level, where CLV may vary widely. For example, you might find that younger customers have significantly higher (or lower) CLV compared to older ones. Or you might find differences based on acquisition channel – maybe digital generates a very different customer compared to traditional channels.  You just don’t know until you look at the data.  But if you can find meaningful differences (upon which you can execute), then you can optimize your marketing by setting CAC goals at the segment level.

Does your company have a solid understanding of CLV?  How do you use it in your role?

Direct Mail

Direct Mail is Alive & Thriving: The 5 Keys to Success

Once upon a time direct mail was king. Then the Great Recession hit in 2008, causing many companies to significantly reduce marketing budgets. With the advent of the Internet and digital marketing channels, these lower costs channels started to dominate. Direct mail was slashed heavily, and in many cases abandoned entirely. Direct mail was declared dead by many and the Internet reigned supreme. But is direct mail really dead?

While the overall volume of direct mail is surely down compared to pre-recession levels, the USPS reports that it has steadily (since 2009) delivered 80 billion pieces of standard class direct mail each year. And as the volume of transactional first class mail (e.g. bills and statements) continues to decline, that means there’s less competition in the mailbox.  This evidence clearly suggests that direct mail is not dead, but instead is alive and thriving!

Direct Mail Works
While digital marketing continues to be a primary focus for many companies, savvy multi-channel marketers have proven that direct mail can be a very effective part of the overall marketing mix – how else can you explain 80 billion pieces per year?

It’s really fairly simple: For companies looking to grow, digital marketing can typically only take them so far. Moreover, the ROI of digital investments on the margins may be quite low (e.g. portions of Non Brand PPC) – and in some cases is very difficult to measure at all (e.g. display). As a result, marketers continue to invest in direct mail – the ROI can be very high and it helps them meet their growth objectives.

Here are some other compelling advantages of direct mail compared to digital:

  • Direct mail is tangible – it can be retained by the recipient for a long time, given to others and is a key element for branding
  • Direct mail is more effective in driving calls-to-action
  • Direct mail is highly trackable and measurable

5 Keys to Direct Mail Success
Marketers can establish and scale a successful direct mail programs by focusing on 5 key factors:

  1. Targeting: The audience you mail to is by far the most important factor in direct mail, and in today’s data-rich environment there are many new ways to target the consumers or businesses most likely to respond and buy. Many mailers start by testing rented lists with characteristics that match their target audience – for example magazine subscribers (e.g. Runners World) or lists developed based on transactional behavior (e.g. recently purchased hair care products). Financial institutions use credit data extensively to source prospects.  And in this age of Big Data, there’s never been more options to efficiently append a variety of additional data attributes to prospect lists, ranging from traditional demographics to the emerging new class of online digital behavior. Mail selections can then be tested and refined using this data – either via simple segmentation or more sophisticated predictive modeling. Get the targeting right and you’re well on your way to having a successful direct mail program.
  2. Great Creative & Compelling Offers: Consumers are most likely to respond to packages that stand out in the mail with compelling design and offers, and with messaging and calls-to-action that are easy to understand.  One key challenge for every company is attaining the right balance between being “true to the brand” and maximizing response rate – those two goals sometimes conflict.
  3. Continual Testing: Successful direct mailers are always testing against their control position, whether it be creative, offers, lists, calls-to-action, response channel options, etc. Testing generates the insights required for program optimization – the winning tests become the new control.
  4. Analytics: Data analysis is key to optimizing direct mail. The goal is to analyze campaign results immediately to understand the performance of creative, offer and list tests.  While basic reports will typically provide the results of tests, great direct mailers will also do deep-dive analysis of data sets to develop additional insights to drive future marketing.
  5. Cost Control: While mail is a relatively expensive impression (but high response rate compared to digital), tight program management can reduce costs and improve ROI. Once a program is established, there are many opportunities with suppliers (e.g. list owners, list processors, letter shops) to negotiate pricing. You can test “cost save” versions of control packages – for example can you maintain response while reducing the package size or eliminating an insert? When campaigns are large enough there are ways to reduce postage costs. Great direct mailers (and marketers in general) are always reducing cost wherever possible.

Is Direct Mail Right for Your Business?
If you’re not mailing today, consider testing the channel to see if it will work for your business.

  • For companies that mailed in the past but stopped, so much has changed in recent years, especially with targeting options in the era of Big Data.
  • For companies that have never mailed, especially those that started in the Internet age, you might be very surprised at how mail can help you grow.

If you’re mailing today but not happy with the results, review your targeting, creative and your partners to see if the problem isn’t with the channel but with one of these three areas.

Want to Learn More About How Direct Mail Can Help Your Business Grow?
DIRECTed Consulting can help you understand your options and develop a strategy that’s right for your business – please contact us today for a free consultation.