In some restaurants you’ll occasionally come across a waiter who, without even knowing the term, is almost acting like a walking, talking CRM.
These are the waiters who can distinguish a regular from someone who’s coming to the restaurant for the first time, and suggests their favourite meal even before they order it.
Or, better yet, they’ll suggest a special item given they know something about the customer’s taste.
They may even ask a personal question about the customer’s life. The relationship has been developed enough that this feels natural and authentic.
CRMs are all about collecting, managing and using data to better understand our customers and to improve everything about the experience they have buying products and services. That means it’s not merely a business-to-business (B2B) tool.
This is easy to overlook because the worlds of B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) sometimes look so different.
In B2B markets, a single sale might take months or more than a year, but it could be worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
In B2C, individual purchases might not be as high, and the selling process typically takes a lot less time.
It might be easy to identify what both markets share if you think of what selling is like without a CRM.
While the waiter in our restaurant example can get to know customers over time, things change when the waiter gets sick, and suddenly the customer is treated like an unknown entity by another member of the staff.
Without a CRM, you’re building customer relationships from scratch each time they connect with your company. This can become even harder to manage when the experience they have with you is primarily digital (as in e-commerce transactions).
A CRM allows both B2B and B2C companies to not only remember who their customers are, but what matters to them.
Here are a few other nuances that those using a CRM in B2C should keep in mind:
Selling in B2B often involves a series of hurdles, in which a rep makes initial contact with an employee at a company and then, if all goes well, meets with the decision-maker who has the budget and authority to sign off on a purchase.
Buying committees in B2B can include half a dozen people or more in some cases. In B2C, you’re not necessarily dealing with as many group decisions.
If you’re selling products aimed at families, you might be trying to win over a set of parents, or just one of them. Same goes if you’re selling homes, a car or other big ticket consumer product.
This means that, rather than focus on the hierarchical account structure that’s typical in B2B, you’ll treat each lead as an individual. It also means you’ll likely be dealing with a lot more leads than a B2B firm, so you need to be able to manage them accordingly.
As you use CRM more regularly, for instance, you’ll get a better sense of who represents higher-value customers and how to prioritize your selling efforts accordingly.
Beyond having sales reps cold-call or send email to potential customers, a lot of leads in B2B come through some fairly standard channels.
These could include a landing page that outlines a special offer or promotion on a particular product or service. A lot of B2B firms also offer assets like eBooks that can be downloaded in exchange for their contact information.
B2C firms have the potential benefit — and challenge — of generating leads through a much wider variety of channels.
There are standbys such as email and social media links, but also more consumer-oriented channels such as TV and billboards.
This makes CRM even more important, because B2C firms need to make sure they optimize their marketing mix and spend more in the areas that yield actual results.
CRM can also help B2C firms track the various types of customer data they need, from “likes” on social media posts to visits to their website.
A B2C firm may not employ sales reps the way a B2B firm would, but they need people just as much in other areas.
A consumer-oriented firm may get a lot more inbound calls than a vendor pitching its wares to the enterprise, for example. There might also be a number of questions or clarifications around the product before a purchase is even made.
This means a B2C CRM will have to integrate well with tools that are used by a call centre or customer service team, and that the company needs to be equally agile on responding to customers through other channels, like social media.
If you can get this right, CRM can also be a huge part of driving memberships in loyalty, rewards or referral programs. You don’t really see those kinds of programs in B2B, but they can be key to long-term B2C success.
That’s because, unlike B2B, B2C sales cycles are shorter, and the potential to drive repeat purchases is higher. If you can interest customers in loyalty programs, those repeat purchases become even easier.
A B2C firm’s customers may base their purchase decision on their emotions. They might feel a pair of jeans will look good on them, for instance, versus a B2B purchase that’s based on how it will help an entire company.
Unlike a B2B decision maker who is well aware they are being pursued by a sales rep, consumers may be less aware that there’s a CRM in the background helping a company learn more about them.
That means you have to use CRM data in a way that feels as natural and helpful as a waiter in a restaurant — demonstrating you know them, but not in a way that seems intrusive or inappropriate. You want to make them feel like a regular. And if you use CRM to do that at scale, you can get used to regular reports of business growth.