Customer relationship management (CRM) is clearly synonymous with a very specific type of marketing and sales software use by most brands today. (We’ll give you one guess.)
But the approach itself is far more successful for organizations and marketers when they utilize a collection of proven technologies in their martech stacks — not a single solution.
Sure, customer relationship management software (CRM) is still a crucial element of the modern technology stack. In fact, CRM technologies are still the centerpiece for many companies stacks. However, it’s no longer the preeminent platform it once was.
Today, an effective, scalable customer relationship marketing strategy is one that incorporates an assortment of advanced marketing systems with advanced CRM features.
Ones that, when used in tandem, lead to high-quality customer interactions and, ultimately, help you grow retention, loyalty, satisfaction, and lifetime value, among other metrics.
The most important of these marketing technologies? A single source of truth that unifies all your customers’ first-party data and enables efficient data activation.
Before we break down this martech and bestow our best practices for your own customer relationship management efforts (and business strategy at large), though, let’s explore why the approach is such an essential one for all companies’ marketing efforts today.
Why a customer relationship management strategy is critical for your business
The concept of building and managing customer relationships to achieve core business goals and improve the marketing and sales process (and outcomes) isn’t a novel one.
All one needs to do is look back to this extensive customer relationship marketing research from Harvard Business Review contributor and business expert Barbara Bund Jackson.
While Jackson’s study pertains to selling to industrial brands, she shares a customer relationship management insight that still holds true today, decades after her analysis:
“[S]uccessful relationship marketing … takes coordination on the part of the seller of resources and tools to meet the customer’s future as well as its immediate needs.”
Translated slightly to apply to all organizations? Your marketing program needs to focus on winning new business in both the near term (through a robust customer acquisition marketing strategy) and long term (through ongoing customer relationship management).
The pros of keeping both the present and future of your marketing strategy top of mind simultaneously means you can develop more meaningful connections with your audience and show them you care considerably about the quality of their customer experience.
Just look at the rewards companies have reaped from this approach:
- 70% of marketing leaders said they’ve been able to leverage AI to improve the post-sale experience for their customers. — 2018 Quantcast and Forbes Insights survey
- 59% of our data-driven marketers think the use of audience analytics leads to greater customer relationships and engagement. — 2018 MIT SMR Data & Analytics Report
- 70% of CMOs indicated the primary function of their teams today is to secure long-term customer relationships through lifecycle marketing. — 2018 Dentsu Aegis CMO survey
Notice a commonality among these statistics?
The marketers polled all detailed how top-tier martech helps them advance their customer relationship management strategies, meet (and even exceed) customer expectations, sharpen their sales funnels, and, more specifically, enhance key facets of their marketing.
How customer relationship marketing can improve retention, satisfaction, and loyalty
The rationale behind building relationships with customers is evident. But what specific metrics can a renewed focus on customers help grow? Three important ones come to mind.
Roughly two-thirds of marketing executives (67.7%) forecasted strong customer retention numbers in 2020 — an increase of nearly 30% from these CMOs’ 2019 projection.
The likely reason for this rosy outlook?
Many (if not most or all) of these marketing leaders have plans in place to develop stronger connections with their customer base by leveraging not just their CRM tools and marketing automation tools, but a host of other martech.
(The latter of which is accomplished with our out-of-the-box churn-propensity model.)
This proactive audience analysis and prediction, in turn, helps these marketers revamp their retention marketing campaigns (or lifecycle orchestration strategies, for those who’ve evolved from campaign-oriented marketing).
What’s more it helps them identify avenues to deepen relationships with their customers.
With this rise in retention often comes greater customer satisfaction. But as with all other metrics, one month of improvement isn’t the goal. Steady, long-term growth is the goal.
Thankfully, the more you strategically engage your customer base, the more likely you are to experience this kind of growth in satisfaction across your segments over the long haul.
Customer satisfaction may seem like a flimsy, vague marketing metric. Recent research has shown, however, it’s actually a paramount one for brands the world over today.
A University of Technology Sydney report found customer satisfaction is the top business metric for companies in eight countries across the globe, as it’s regularly incorporated in 53% of these organizations’ marketing-mix decisions.
So, what makes satisfaction such a big barometer for brands’ success? In short, it’s indicative of the efficacy of their lifecycle orchestration strategies, customer service teams’ day-to-day efforts, and even sales reps’ ability to help current and prospective buyers.
In other words, satisfaction impacts every part of a business. When your customer relationship management efforts are strong, invariably, so is your audience’s satisfaction.
Loyalty programs are how many companies — both B2C (to generate repeat customers and better engage subscribers) and B2B (to ensure greater customer retention and gain advocacy from clients) — evolve their marketing strategies and improve sales cycles.
As Harvard Business Review’s Rob Markey wrote in his exhaustive overview on the importance of prioritizing customer loyalty, brands that do thrive.
In fact, loyalty ‘leaders’ generate 2.5 times more revenue than competitors, he noted:
“Building the case for customer value should be easy,” said Markey. “When a company focuses on loyalty, it makes customers’ lives so much better that they keep coming back, and they bring their friends.”
You don’t earn brand evangelists by ignoring your top customers and presuming they’ll continue to buy from you no matter what messaging (or lack thereof) you share with them.
They become such — and tell their networks about how much they love you (oftentimes on social media) — when you get them in the proverbial door of your loyalty program and continue to delight them with custom-tailored, well-timed, personalized marketing.
Customer relationship management in marketing: 3 essential best practices
You know the (many) reasons why customer relationship management is such a critical undertaking for your organization. Before you start (or restart) your strategy, though, it’s worth learning how other businesses thrive with their efforts.
#1: Unify all your data in a centralized database.
Google VP, Media Platforms Sean Downey said it best regarding brands’ data-driven marketing strategies today — and the ever-essential role of unified data (i.e., much more than just basic contact information) in said approaches:
“Our most important job as marketers is to know our customers and build relationships with them. And if you don’t unify your customer data, you can’t do that.”
There’s no better marketing technology for your martech stack than the CDP.
The platform doesn’t just unify first-party data from your myriad channels and systems.
It also simplifies activation of that integrated customer data across marketing channels.
With this data access and capacity to utilize it in your various lifecycle orchestration activities, you have the wherewithal to keep your customer relationship marketing moving in the right direction.
(In other words? The CDP is the furthest thing from an old-school contact management system — and is now martech every enterprise brand needs to succeed.)
#2: Communicate in a highly calculated manner.
Regardless of the type of CRM solution you employ, the solution pales in comparison to a pure-play CDP in respect to the aforementioned data activation capabilities.
But your CRM platform still plays a pivotal role in communicating with customers.
Let’s fast-forward to when you onboard your very own CDP. (Great decision, by the way.)
Ensuring clean, up-to-date CRM data means that information is accurate when synced into your CDP of choice. It also means you have the opportunity to know where customers are in their buying journeys and, in turn, deliver the most applicable messaging possible.
Sometimes, this will be personalized discounts to segments who typically purchase when given deals of certain sizes and for certain products or services accounting for the frequency with which they make those purchases (i.e., once a week, every two weeks, etc.).
Other times, this will be content marketing plays like on-site dialogues for frequent and high-momentum visitors or asking prospects on your site if they need any assistance or information about your niche products and services to aid their purchasing decisions.
Whatever personalized and individualized marketing approach you put into play, just know it requires a concerted focus on your audience and their behaviors, attributes, and other insights to hit the mark and, therefore, enhance customer relationship management strategy.
#3: Constantly refine your core CRM processes.
Spoiler alert: Your company’s distinct customer relationship management processes will differ from just about every other organization out there today.
Your primary objective will be the same: to continually address your audience’s needs to gradually earn their customer loyalty. But the means with which you augment your relationship marketing approach will vary significantly, even from competing businesses.
It’s up to you and your leadership team — including and especially your CMO — to determine the best plan of action to retain existing customers, keep them content at all times, and ensure their issues are always resolved promptly and thoroughly.
One thing all leading brands across industries today implement in their marketing programs to consistently improve their customer relationship management is the CDP:
- Unified customer information first-party data in a CDP allows for in-depth analysis of segments to determine the best mediums, channels, and times for sharing messaging.
- This analysis allows for real-time cross-channel marketing that can be executed with ease and efficiency, thanks to the direct connections with other martech in one’s stack.
- This activation leads to more sales or, at the very least, more customer insights and information that can inform marketing teams’ future, targeted data activation efforts.
- This new, post-activation data syncs back into the CDP and dynamically updates contacts’ customer profiles and, in turn, the segments in which they’re included.
That’s the simplified circle of life(cycle marketing) for companies that invest in the CDP.
And it’s the key component to ensuring their marketing teams are able to continually develop new and sustain current customer relationships and meet their core KPIs.
A win-win for both your customer base and your brand.
Download our eBook to learn how more strategic audience engagement can improve your customer relationship management strategy — and bottom line.