When you first start out in business, you can probably manage to keep all of your customers or clients top-of-mind … because you don’t have that many. At this stage, sticky notes are your best friend.
As you become more established, your customer base grows. It becomes harder to keep every customer and prospect straight. Contacting them at regular intervals to follow up on something they plan to buy or have already bought gets trickier.
Once you're there, you need to find a tool that will help you stay organized and on-task. Thankfully, there’s something called CRM or Customer Relationship Management.
A Refresher on CRMs
A CRM is a customizable technology that allows you to keep track of all of your customer’s interactions with your business, from the first time they visit your website to the last time they made a purchase. It includes details like their contact information, their buying preferences, and notes from every conversation you've had with them.
You can tailor the information you enter and retain in your CRM however you’d like. Collect as little or as much information as will help you serve your customers better and convert prospects more efficiently.
Customer Relationship Management is just that… managing relationships with your customers. You’ll see a variety of benefits in your business once you incorporate a CRM. These include:
- Happier Customers. A CRM stores a customer or prospect’s digital interactions with your company. It can see the blogs they read, the emails they opened, the pages on the website where they lingered. This allows messaging and offers to be tailored to the customer. Customers receive information regarding products they actually need and aren’t bothered with what they don’t.
- Higher Productivity. Every moment your salesforce spends on administrative tasks is time away from prospects. With automated tasks like call and activity logging and reporting, your salespeople can spend more time doing what they do best. Plus, they can set notifications as to when they need to follow up with prospects, and make notes of personal information they receive during an interaction, so they can personalize the next conversation.
- Increase Teamwork. Perhaps your salespeople don’t work alone. Maybe you have a sales development rep (SDR) who spends their days prospecting and qualifying leads before passing them along to an account executive (AE). This tool improves communication and allows the handoff to be streamlined and efficient. It also helps when you’ve got a salesperson on vacation and a team member needs to follow up on a lead.
- Hard Numbers. Need to know how your salespeople are doing? You’ll receive data on their conversion rates, average deal size, time to close, and much more.
As you grow and take on more prospects and customers, a CRM can be your lifeline. But only if you use it right.
What is a CRM strategy?
Let’s say that you wanted to hang a picture in your living room. You take a nail, line it up in the wall, and then grab a hammer and whack at the nail with the handle while you hold the head of the hammer.
You won’t be hanging any pictures that way and chances are, you’ll have to repair the drywall to boot. Even worse, what if you have a hammer but leave it in the toolbox and just hit the nail with your hand?
You’ve got the right tool, so why isn’t it working? Because you aren’t using it properly (or at all). Without a strategy, no tool in the world will be right for the job you need to do. The same goes for a CRM.
So, what is a CRM strategy?
A CRM strategy is a plan that your entire company adopts to help increase productivity, efficiency, and profits. It’s an organization-wide belief that customers are the lifeblood of your business and building relationships with them and then nurturing those relationships, is the fastest path to success.
Ideally, you’ll develop this strategy prior to purchasing your CRM software. This will allow you to choose the tools, capabilities, and price point that’s best for your business. Without a strategy, your employees may become overwhelmed by all the possible functions and fail to use it at all.
How do you Develop a CRM Strategy?
A CRM Strategy has everything to do with your company and your needs. The strategy (just like the tool itself) is not a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why it’s so important to take your time developing a CRM strategy. Before you get started, you’ll need to determine three things:
- What are you hoping to accomplish? What goals have you set for the company? What do you want to get out of your CRM?
- Who are your customers? What does your ideal customer look like and how do you reach them?
- What does their buyer journey look like? In this day and age, customers can interact with your company in multiple ways. You’ll likely have different buyer journeys depending on the type of customer you’re working with.
Now that you’ve done the work and have a better understanding of your company, your customers, and your needs, you’re ready to develop your strategy. You can use an existing CRM Strategy Template or just make sure you incorporate the following into your plan:
- Include your employees. You can choose the most amazing CRM in the world — with all the bells and whistles and the price tag to match — but if your employees aren’t on board both in their mindset and their skills, it won’t matter much. Help your employees understand why they’re using a CRM and the benefits to them and to their customers. When they grasp how much easier it will make their jobs and how much more successful they can be, they’ll be eager to use it.
- Provide the proper training. Show them how to use the system so they feel comfortable navigating through the CRM and get their feedback as to what would make it better.
- Find your voice. The CRM platform can be used to communicate through email messaging and other content from the beginning of the prospect’s journey all the way through the customer’s lifecycle. That’s why it’s so important to decide early on what your tone and communication style will be. Are you casual or formal? Humorous or straightlaced? Determine this at the beginning and make sure that every employee adheres to the decision.
- Determine your KPIs. You need to clearly define your key performance indicators and then communicate them clearly to your team. This ensures that everyone knows what’s being tracked and how it will factor into their performance assessments.
- Decide who is doing what. With any team, responsibilities must be clearly assigned so no one thinks someone else is handling them. Figure out who will own what roles within the CRM system and then communicate them clearly to the individuals involved.
These guidelines will help you develop a CRM strategy that works for your business.
CRM Strategies that Work
Remember, there is no cookie-cutter CRM strategy that will work for every business. However, there is a world of CRM strategy examples out there you can learn from and be inspired by.
Do a bit of digging and you may find a company in a similar industry, but perhaps a different market, you can emulate. Or, you may find an entirely different business out there whose strategy can be tailored to fit your needs.
Let’s take a look at a handful of examples:
Airbnb Saves With Automation
Customers are assisted through automated communications during their buying cycle which limits the contact between employees and customers to streamline the experience. In most situations, no employee-traveler interaction is necessary.
It uses its CRM to:
- Suggest comparable accommodations in the area by email when a customer is searching
- Retarget the customer through Facebook ads
- Send notifications through email, SMS, and the app during the reservation process
- Email the customer once the reservation is made to encourage them to become an Airbnb host and rent out their own home while they’re away
- Send a survey after their trip to evaluate the accommodations
This automation frees up employees to focus on building brand awareness and strengthening the Airbnb community.
Sephora Creates Community, Inspires Loyal Customers, and Sells them What They Actually Want
While many companies have created loyal followers, no one does it quite like Sephora:
- It takes the time to get to know its customers and then utilizes its CRM to track this information. This allows it to segment its customers into different groups and then target them with personalized offers based on their preferences
- It fosters an online community allowing customers to interact with both the company and with fellow beauty enthusiasts and providing content relevant to its members.
- Sephora then encourages customer engagement and purchases with a tiered loyalty program. This rewards its most loyal customers with personalized gifts, offers, and discounts. With three levels, it has created excitement and exclusivity around its loyalty program which helps to boost sales and retain customers.
And it couldn’t do any of it without its CRM.
Wells Fargo Manages Customer Feedback
With so many ways to contact the company, Wells Fargo utilizes its CRM to respond quickly to comments and complaints and then logs the conversations in the customer’s record. For example, when a customer comments on one of the company’s social media accounts, a customer service agent is notified and can formulate a response in real-time.
Their CRM connects platforms to streamline communication and provide excellent customer service.
One Tool to Rule Them All
Hopefully, your business will reach the point where sticky notes no longer cut it for keeping track of your customers — if it hasn't already. When that happens, a CRM is an essential tool for establishing and maintaining relationships with your customers.
It will help grow your business and make life easier for your employees and your customers — but only if you use it right. Determine your CRM Strategy early on and let it guide the solution you choose and the way that you interact with it. When you have the right tool for the job (and you use it properly) you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can grow.