Why You Need a CRM Strategy — and How to Create One
By Kathleen Garvin
Every business with a CRM solution needs a CRM strategy.
Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and enterprises use CRM platforms differently. Therefore, you need to consider your company size, budget, and goals before you choose a CRM solution. This will help you decide on the software — not to mention plan size and price point — that will work best for you.
During the decision-making process, you need to formulate your strategy for its use as well.
With a solid CRM strategy in place, you can collect detailed, in-depth customer data and use it to streamline your communications and overall business practices. This data will empower all parts of your company — customer service, sales, marketing, and other departments — and better serve your customers, too.
Let’s jump into CRM systems and strategies, and discover how to create a plan for your particular business.
What Is a CRM System — and Why Is It Important to Have One?
A customer relationship management (CRM) system is software that helps businesses manage interactions and relationships with external contacts, including leads and customers, from one centralized platform. Companies use such systems to store contact information, manage touchpoints, create personalized email drip campaigns, predict future sales, offer tailored recommended products, guide customer service interactions, see a contact’s entire customer lifecycle, and more.
When a company uses a CRM system, it can manage its entire customer journey across marketing, sales, digital commerce, and customer service. Customers experience a smoother path to purchase and more personalized service because the company tracks their history and preferences. Everyone within the company has a single source of truth for customer data, which helps reduce errors, lags in service, and frustration.
This customer data is invaluable for companies, and customers expect companies to act on the information they give them. In one survey, 63% of customers reported they wanted personalized recommendations and they were willing to hand over their data to get everything from special offers to exclusive deals. Furthermore, Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” report reveals that 62% of customers expect companies to adapt based on their actions and behavior.
Using CRM software provides a win-win situation for both companies and customers. But like the majority of business software, it’s most useful with a strategy to go along with it.
A CRM Strategy Is Essential
A customer relationship management strategy is not one-size-fits-all, especially when it comes to your CRM technology. Depending on how big or small your business is, you want to tailor your CRM strategy to fit your company and best serve your needs.
For example, it doesn’t make sense for your small business team of five to pay for 50 users, or seats, on a CRM platform. While you want to be able to scale up when appropriate — if that’s in your business plan — you need your CRM software to fit your current needs. Furthermore, small businesses use CRM platforms differently than enterprises do, so those CRM strategies will differ.
One type of CRM system and strategy won’t make sense for all businesses unilaterally. Your platform is like your vehicle, and your strategy is your roadmap.
Three Tasks You Need to Do Before You Create a Strategy
Before you decide on a CRM software, you need to have a firm idea of what you want to do with this system. This seems simple enough, but it’s worth stating.
Your software won’t do you much good if you implement it and then fail to use it. Now’s the time to get strategy-centric. Before you create your CRM strategy:
Outline your company’s goals
Identify your customers
Understand your buyer’ journey
1. Outline Your Company’s Goals
The first step in building a CRM strategy is to figure out your goals for your CRM platform.
What are you hoping to get out of a CRM system? Your goals can range from those appropriate for a small-time, local store looking for a glorified Rolodex to a large, streamlined, international ecommerce operation. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar store, an online-only operation, or a hybrid setup, you need to be clear on what you want to do with your information and why.
For example, a neighborhood cafe may want to register customers, keep tabs on return visitors, and institute a rewards program. A global ecommerce site, on the other hand, may have a more complex, multistep process in mind when it comes to courting, retaining, and growing its customer base. The nonprofit National MS Society, for example, organized its team members and crafted a CRM strategy to create a business- and mission-aligned workflow.
2. Identify Your Customers
3. Understand Your Buyer’ Journey
Is your target consumer someone who needs at least five touchpoints before they make a purchase, or will they convert with a one-time, personalized 30% off coupon? Similarly, can you reach them with ads on social media, or do they respond better to in-person, one-on-one marketing initiatives?
As your customer base grows, you will have different buyer journeys for your different customer segments. This is because you likely have different types of customers who interact with your company differently. Imagine the customer journey for a retired teacher who prefers in-person interactions and wants to learn as much as possible about your products. That journey is going to be completely different compared to the journey of the parent of a toddler who works two jobs and needs the product to work effortlessly.
Research each buyer’s journey. Dial in on their lives and needs so you can best reach them.
CRM Strategies for Businesses of All Sizes
CRM Strategy for SMBs
If you need more of a 101-type of approach to CRM strategy, here are some points you want to address.
1. Get Your Employees on Board
If CRM software is new territory for your team, introduce them to the platform. Once they become acquainted with the platform and how it works, establish it as a fundamental organizational tool. Offer extensive training and assign one or multiple team members the role of CRM expert. When anyone has a question about how to use the platform or its features, they can go directly to their in-house expert for fast explanations.
2. Establish Your Why
Make sure your colleagues know why it’s important to collect lead and customer information, keep it accurate and updated, and know how you want to use it. This is especially useful across departments; if marketing knows certain information that can improve retention and logs it in the system, this is beneficial for the whole company. You can also implement a commission calculator in your CRM platform, adding a clear incentive for the sales team. A team that understands the benefits of a CRM will certainly be more dedicated in using it.
3. Fine-Tune Your Tone and Messaging
Depending on your organization, you may want to delegate this task to the executive team or an in-house professional, or outsource it to a specialist. Because your CRM platform can be used throughout the customer lifecycle, you want to set your tone before you start crafting email messages and other customer-facing content. Your company’s tone is how you speak to customers: Is your company serious, sarcastic, funny, or optimistic? Do you ever use internet-friendly abbreviations such as “lol” or do you stick to strict grammar rules? Make sure a certain standard is kept the same across the board.
4. Establish KPIs and Core Processes
Determine your key performance indicators (KPIs) and share them with your team. That way everyone understands what’s being tracked and measured to identify success.
You should establish who’s in charge of what, whether it’s entering customer information, programming email drip campaigns, writing customer service responses for chatbots, and more. Once your staff knows who or which department owns what, they are further empowered to better collaborate and communicate with one another.
CRM Strategy for Enterprise Businesses
Once you’ve mastered the ins and outs of introducing a CRM platform to your team, you’re ready for the next step. Alternatively, perhaps you’re a larger, more established organization that needs additional pointers. At that level, it may also make sense to onboard a more robust system to streamline customer data, deliver multichannel experiences, and create a single source of truth.
Either way, here are six next-level considerations to address in your CRM strategy.