Friday, May 24, 2013

Get a Database and Get in the Game!

With the advent of cheaper computing and sharper tactics, CRM has risen from the ashes of the promises it made in the 1990s.  While many marketers once associated CRM with meager results and NASA-level costs, the approach's full capabilities have come to the fore, with companies such as Amazon and Tesco serving as glittering examples of success.

And therein lies the problem: fledgling CRM marketers look at these paragons of customer focus and throw their hands up.  These marketers feel frustrated because their own systems, data, content, personnel or management can't live up to the very best the industry has to offer.

Well, quit feeling sorry for yourself and try anyway.  Here's how.

  1. Take a deep breath.  Rome really wasn't built in a day.  Trust me, I majored in ancient history.

    Amazon built itself from the ground up with an eye on integrating all of their assets around understanding a customer's needs.  Tesco spent millions on it over years.  They did not spring, as Athena did, fully formed from the head of Zeus (see, I wasn't kidding about ancient history).
  2. Instead of focusing on what doesn't work, look for something that you can make work.

    In my experience, marketers consider a lack of available customer data as a major roadblock to creating a successful CRM program.  Indeed, CRM lives and dies by available data.  (I stress available data because many companies have boatloads of data, but for technology, legal or just plain orneriness reasons, fail to make those data available to the marketing folks.)

    Other times, organizations struggle with wonky email service platforms (ESPs) or the high cost of direct mail.  As pretty much every Forrester Report recommends, operations such as CRM require support and evangelism from the executive team, and not all executives show interest in CRM.

    Recognizing these shortcomings, marketers should instead figure out what they can do that will advance a CRM agenda.  Don't have great data?  Use your ESP to generate preference data based on what people actually choose to read.  Don't have a great ESP?  Send out simple emails to see what topics, in general, drive interest and interaction.  Don't have executive buy-in?  Do SOMETHING and show off your results.
  3. Try something.  Try anything.

    Really, you won't know what you'll get with CRM until you try.  A colleague of mine used to say "anticipate the pain," meaning that marketers should accept that things will not work perfectly the first time out.  However, the possibility of failure should not pre-empt the need to try.

    The time for proper CRM discipline can wait.  Yes, you'll need to integrate data to enable single view of the customer which in turn will inform lifetime value and whatnot.  However, you first have to prove that you can learn about your customers and keep them engaged.  Once you take that first step, you have the opportunity to lobby for the resources you need.
Even Julius Caesar understood the groundwork necessary for successful CRM.  In his book "The Gallic Wars," he began by writing "All Gaul is divided into three parts."  In other words, Caesar started with segmentation.  Let's hope your attempt to build a CRM practice takes less than the 10 years it took Caesar to subdue Gaul.

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