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I’ve been making a point in my journey as a writer for Econsultancy to investigate the many and varied terms in digital that I don’t understand.

As I am a relative newcomer to the digital marketing world, there are many. This is like a trial-by-fire. 

In my first few weeks, terms like CRM, CRO, iBeacons, retargeting and PPC all felt like an alien language. 

Thanks to these above investigations, I feel much more knowledgeable on each subject and can generally hold conversations on them for at least two or three minutes.

So that’s that then. My work here is done. Might as well chip off early and grab a sandwich. What’s that? I haven’t covered CRM yet?

Drat…

CRM explained

In order to discuss CRM (Customer Relationship Management) I’m going to use an analogy that may be helpful.

Say you’re a very good member of your family and you have 10 close relatives whose birthdays you remember. 

I’m already impressed. 

Say you also wish to send these 10 relatives birthday cards and presents. Let's say you not only remember their birthdays and their addresses but also important details about what they like and therefore what gifts and types of greetings card to buy them.

Now let’s say each one of these relatives finds a partner and starts a family. Suddenly you have 30 relatives whose vital details like addresses and birthdays you now have to store in your overloaded brain.

That’s when you start making sacrifices. Not literally, and not necessarily consciously either.

Birthdays are missed or forgotten. Cards and presents become less thoughtful. Relationships become strained. Aunties and uncles drift into that grey netherworld of people you’ve forgotten exist.

Luckily we have things like calendars and address books in which we can store all of the above information so that we don’t forget.

Unfortunately what we still don’t have is the time to complete the physical tasks of going to the shops, buying the cards and presents, wrapping them and taking them to the post office.

There is no way for us to store this information and have any tasks relating to this information be automatically carried out for us without having to leave the house and therefore saving us valuable hours of the day.

Now imagine you’re the manager of a small business, and your small business has 10 clients. 10 clients whose vital details you have stored in your head. Yeah you can probably keep track of 10 clients in your head. That doesn’t seem too difficult. 

Those 10 clients are your bread and butter. You probably talk to them everyday, you probably know very personal details about them, you probably even care about them as people.

Then your business starts growing. You attract more customers. You spend less time with each one individually and find that growth needs to occur in the other areas of your business in order to meet growing demand. Your time is spread even thinner.

Phone calls become infrequent, emails become curt, orders are fulfilled late, the clients with less of a budget become sidelined, forgotten about and eventually lost.

There is a solution. It’s called Customer Relationship Management.

Shame it can’t do anything for overlong metaphors.

Customer Relationship Management

This is the name for any system or model used to manage a company’s interactions with its current or future clients or customers.

This system is a piece of technology used to organise, automate and synchronise all of the customer facing areas within your company: from marketing to sales to customer service to technical support.

It gives you the time to develop other areas of your business, whilst giving you the reassurance that you’re not letting your existing clients down or responding to new enquiries in an efficient manner.

Other benefits:

  • It’s a place to store all of your clients’ information in one place, that’s easy to update and share with the whole team. The best systems also save any updates immediately.
  • Every member of your team will be able to see the exact point when your business last communicated with a client, and what the nature of that communication was. Do they need an immediate follow-up call? Does the relationship need a little rekindling?
  • CRMs can give you instant metrics on various aspects of your business automatically. Some programmes can even generate reports for you. If you have a complete and detailed CRM then you’ll be able to us this data to forecast and plan for the future.
  • You will be able to see the complete history of your company’s interaction with a client. Perhaps this can be a guide to how to approach future customers, or give you a run-down of where things went wrong if interaction was unsuccessful.
  • A good CRM will also be integrated with your calendars and diaries, relating important events or tasks with the relevant client. It can also suggest suitable times to contact customer and set reminders.

The future of CRM

In Juliet Stott’s article the six benefits of combining digital data with traditional CRM she lists how the customer experience can be enhanced through the use of CRM systems which used online, mobile and social data as well as traditional touch-points.

Celerity’s managing director, Jason Lark, has stated that companies such as Pizza Hut and Domino’s are able to identify individuals rather than just households, through harnessing social and mobile data, enabling them to target and create specific, timely offerings to maximise conversions.

Large international corporations can now have one-to-one conversations with customers through social media instantly. This personalisation can lead to bigger and more relevant rewards for the customer.

As channels or platforms change, the art of CRM doesn’t. Good CRM should be practiced whether it’s through digital means or traditional methods.

In conclusion

Putting the customer at the heart of your business strategy is the key to success. CRM allows you to do just that. It also allows you the time and freedom to concentrate on other areas of your business, safe in the knowledge that an automated system is keeping you and your team up-to-date and fully aware of your clients’ needs.

For further reading, download our Best Practice Guide to Customer Relationship Management in the Social Age

Further reading for beginners

During my first year at Econsultancy I’ve been making a point of writing beginner’s guides to any new terms or phrases I find particularly baffling, or that I might suspect other people may find baffling too. 

The following related articles should help clear up a few things… 

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 19 March, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

686 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Steve Smith, eCRM Manager at City & Guilds

Great analogy and article, very timely for us as a growing business and something that is high on the sales and marketing agenda to manage customers and their experience!

I would like to point out though, as good as most CRM's are these days without thought through procesess to support that CRM it will not work, no matter how much money is spent on technology having a firm foundation for success is critical to the long term CRM strategy.

over 2 years ago

Chris Michael

Chris Michael, Digital Transformation Consultant and CTO at CJEM

Great article.

I would add that a lot of marketing folk (especially in Financial Services) think that cold email is also part of CRM. It is not. Cold email is advertising - and requires a different approach from CRM.

I wrote a brief post here about this https://plus.google.com/105589336040714686583/posts/j34AtEEQjyY

over 2 years ago

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Julie Joseph

And like good wine, (customer) relationships get better with age!

Brand advocates and customer delight come with time.

Good read - thank you.

over 2 years ago

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Helcio

Great ! as a relationship manager this article help me a lot.tks.

over 2 years ago

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Mike Richardson

Interesting post. As time goes on CRM will act to save more time and increase productivity further, whilst also performing as a central hub for all offline and online data.

This already frees many companies to exploit new opportunities on exciting online platforms and focus more clearly on business strategy instead of working through paperwork.

We have loads of CRM resources on our site, take a look here - http://www.max.co.uk/crm-for-you/all-about-crm/what-is-crm

Mike Richardson
Maximizer CRM
www.max.co.uk

about 2 years ago

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Michael Draven

This is an interesting post. In 2013, the advent of social and mobile CRM has changed the way businesses operate. For 2014, the investment in CRM analytics and integrating business email will definitely bring all your customers and employees to a single platform. I have seen many CRM apps make waves during 2013 and one of those happens to be Banckle.CRM which is a great app to work with and offer good analytics as well as instant integration with your mailboxes. Check it out here: http://banckle.com/apps/crm.html

about 2 years ago

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