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CRM success: It’s all about the strategy

Customer relationship management helps you manage your company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. And, a well-managed process helps guarantee customer loyalty.

The software you use is important. But unless you understand the strategies underlying the organization, automation and synchronization of your sales and marketing processes, you may find your

CRM program dead in the water – particularly if you failed to weave in appropriate customer-service and technical support. If you want to win clients, improve 0501Loy-300x119 your efficiencies and reduce costs – generally make your life easier and your enterprise more profitable – you’ve got to think through your CRM strategy.

Gartner released a statement that 2015 will be the year the CRM platform market reaches $27.5 billion worldwide. U.S. firms continue to implement CRM strategies to accelerate top-line growth, improve the customer experience and boost the productivity of frontline workers.

Gartner predicts that the percentage of companies with cloud CRM deployments will rise above 50% in 2015.

Compare your CRM approach with this list of five best practices to uncover weak points and opportunities to improve the odds of your CRM success.

#1 Be Customer-Focused

Don’t let the data get trapped in marketing. Create a customer-inspired culture by having a systematic approach to sharing customer insight. Develop an internal communication strategy and plan to articulate customer learning’s across the enterprise.

In developing the plan, recognize internal department goals, objectives and the decision-making process, and provide customer data to improve business decisions. In addition, keep management knowledgeable about CRM programs and their contribution to company goals – especially financial – this will help you buttress future budget needs.

#2 Be Relevant

Build a customer relevant relationship by using customer insight to tailor your message to address individual customer’s needs, preferences and interests. The result of treating different customers differently is an increase in the amount of customer trust and affinity with the company over the long term.

A study conducted by Pepper and Rogers Group found that the extent to which the content of a message is customized to the customer’s needs increases the customer’s relationship strength by 37 percent.

#3 Keep It Fresh

Continuously refresh and refine your strategy to stay in tune with the market and your customers. In business, change is the only constant; there is change in market conditions, demographics and psychographics, customer requirements, employee needs, company ownership, geographic span, store formats, competition, channels of communication and more.

The same goes for change in consumers’ expectations, shifting away from a desire for possessions to a desire for experiences. Overall, consumers are looking for the meaningful (which includes value and relevance). Monitor the change and the rising tide of your customer’s expectations and recognize when it’s time to re-engineer your loyalty program’s value proposition and communication strategy to be more relevant to your customers.

#4 Create a Dialogue

Starting a conversation with your customers gives you the opportunity to understand their lifestyle, life stage, needs, wants, aspirations and expectations.

There are myriad ways to gather customer feedback: focus groups, in-store intercepts, web-based surveys, customer panels, and telephone surveys, as well as internal customer-oriented indicators (e.g., repeat purchase rates, customer acquisition rates, sales and profitability by target customer segment, etc.). Each technique has its strengths and weaknesses in helping you build the total picture of the spoken and non-spoken messages from your customer.

Every arm of the company, from your management team to merchandising and planning to allocation, operations staff, and marketing will have a clear advantage over the competition when they are armed with a holistic view of your customer.

#5 Measure Success

Measure the company’s success from the customer’s point of view. Balance your internal measures of success with how your customer perceives your performance.

For most companies, existing internal performance metrics need to be enhanced to include not only traditional financial measures (e.g., year-over-year sales comparison, conversion rates, market share, margin, etc.) but also metrics that facilitate management from a customer centric perspective (customer acquisition and retention rates, customer satisfaction, brand health, lifetime customer value, customer segment performance, customer response, performance of your loyalty program, etc.).

Communicate customer metrics as foundation of the company’s growth and as a point of differentiation. Use CRM metrics in corporate communications, including the annual report and press releases to promote the health of the business.