Welcome to edition 3. You made it. Proud of you.
Time to talk CRM, or, Customer Relationship Management.
Here’s a few wrong answers for what CRM stands for:
Crappy Ramen Meal
Climbing Red Molehills
Cutting Red Meat
Centaurs Riding Manatees (could you imagine?)
Reply with your wrong answer. My favorite ones get shared in next week’s newsletter.
What is CRM?
It’s a practice where an organization is, well, managing it’s customer relationships and interactions. It’s absolutely integral to any business. CRM involves technology, organizational processes, strategies, and tactics. In a google search, you’ll find plenty of results for CRM software or platforms as well as process maps and philosophies on acquiring and growing customer relationships. CRM software has been around since the ‘90s and has really become a powerhouse industry in the last decade.
CRM is also a bit of an umbrella term in marketing and sales. Email marketing, sales automation, and even order fulfillment are often considered part of CRM or CRM software. So CRM applies to both marketing and sales activities and the topic can easily weave in and out of those functions. I’ll cover a bit of the processes, use cases, as well as specific CRM companies in this newsletter.
The Benefits of CRM
CRM impacts everyone in the business. In most cases, however, CRM is talked about in the context of marketing and sales. Those are the 2 main functions who are directly responsible for getting new customers and keeping them happy. So it benefits them the most!
Developing strategies, processes, and using CRM technology allows you to connect with customers at scale. There are thousands if not millions of potential customers out there for any given business. CRM helps marketing and sales provide relevant and timely messages to customers.
CRM software allows you to collect and analyze thousands of datapoints on your customer to help make smarter decisions. This includes basic info like name or email or job title and can also include more contextual information like length of time as a customer, reason for leaving, or total budget.
As your customer changes, so should the system in which you manage them. Analyzing your CRM data can provide a ton of insights such as:
best channels to get new customers
top job titles to target
ideal cadence for sales communications
the right content for returning customers or website visitors
Mind you, CRM software answer all this on day 1. It takes a lot of TLC to keep your CRM system up-to-date with your shifting business strategies. New datapoints must be defined and collected, people run the analysis and reporting, and incorrect information must be fixed or deleted. Fortunately, all you really need is a prospect’s email or phone number to get your CRM going. As the business grows, so should your CRM and the kinds of data you collect and utilize.
Here’s a cool visual on what CRM can enable (from Preact CRM):
All this information combined with the ability to automatically contact the customer allows marketing and sales to do some pretty cool things. They can now personalize the customer experience at scale, delivering timely and relevant messaging.
CRM sounds like the greatest thing since sliced bread but how does it work???
(For this section, I’ll just be talking about CRM software, where it’s more of a ‘thing’ and less of a ✨concept✨.
A CRM collects the activities of your customer across a variety of channels and touchpoints. This can include:
last webpage visited
phone call or email to business
original source before visiting website (like social media or an ad)
The software will have functionality to collect this information like the ability to create landing pages, launch a newsletter, build custom forms, or input tracking URLs for specific webpages. This is a huge part of lead generation where the primary goal is to acquire potential customers.
And all that data can define tons of useful things for marketing and sales such as:
Lists for audience segmentation, email, and reporting
Criteria for marketing automations
Criteria for internal alerts to sales
Here’s what that could look like in real life (from Keap):
Suppose a local resident is looking for someone to paint their house. They contact a remodel and repair business, which asks about the reasons for the paint job, the planned budget, and the location of the work. All of this information goes into the company's CRM.
If the potential client indicates a specific reason or timeline for the paint job and also mentions their house is in need of more repairs, the business sees the full opportunity for a sale. This may trigger a series of events, from an automated email with a video showcasing the company's work to a follow-up call scheduled for 48 hours later. If the CRM shows that the person revisited the company's website, another chain of sales steps may be triggered.
Conversely, if this lead offers information that suggests they're now looking for paint at local stores to do the work themselves, this lead might fall out of the funnel. In that case, the CRM will downplay the lead and direct the sales team's time toward more likely prospects.
In the end, that's one of the biggest benefits of a CRM system: it aims a company's time and efforts in the most profitable directions, rather than in a scattershot “talk to everyone and hope for the best” approach.
Some random thoughts and experiences on CRM:
I’m a fan of HubSpot. I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again. Their CRM and larger platform is very well-built for growing businesses and especially those who may not be experts on CRM or marketing automation. And they’ve been adding a lot more complex tools for the advanced marketers as well.
I’ve also used Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 360, Mailchimp (I think that’s considered a CRM now), and a few others. All have their strengths and weaknesses.
I can sometimes fall into the trap of pushing every marketing and sales activity to be owned and operated in the one CRM platform. After all, a single source of truth can be incredibly valuable. But it’s important to think critically about what is best for the business in the long and short term. Sometimes opting for other solutions outside of your CRM in the interim can seem like a hassle but may result in stronger technology or systems decisions over time.
Data hygiene and management are so important here. Take the time to decide what datapoints or properties are most important to track for marketing and sales. Yes, teams often have to move fast, but the extra hour or two spent to define and implement these in the CRM can save thousands of hours (and dollars). This is one way of setting up and adapting your CRM over time. It should change as your business does.
Play around in the data. Build reports and dashboards in a CRM platform and try to connect the dots for how your customer is evolving. Somewhat related: some of the best advice I got was when I was an intern at Acxiom. Our division president told me to get a master’s in marketing analytics and I could name my price in 5 years. Well that was about 5 years ago, I didn’t get the master’s, and he was absolutely right. Oh well.
The industry has exploded in the past decade and with the advancement of AI and rapid acceleration of small businesses, CRM is approaching its next wave of innovation.
You can create an infinite amount of automated interactions with your customer. But that doesn’t mean you should.
Overall, CRM is an insanely large part of marketing. I’ll probably talk about data management, automation, and marketing technology in future editions. Check out some of the resources below and I’ll catch ya next week!
Additional resources and specialists of CRM
The Complete History of CRM (Salesforce)
Best Practices for Data Hygiene (Forbes) - not directly about CRM but helps emphasize my point on maintaining your system as it grows.
The cost of bad customer service - CRM would help! (Bloomfire)
2021 CRM Trends (ForceTalks)
How to build a Twitter CRM in 30 minutes (Samuel Thompson)
Natalie Furness shares content on MarketingOps, SalesOps & RevOps.
Chris Zullo is a Salesforce expert