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.
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 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?