Identify what a customer relationship management (CRM) is and what it does for the organization.
- When we look at the Back Office layer of the technology stack, one of the core components is going to be just how an organization keeps track of its customers. These days, that usually means a customer relationship management tool, or a CRM. While they've evolved with a lot of functionality, you can think of a CRM in its most basic form as a digital version of your traditional Rolodex. When you first find a sales lead or a prospect, you can enter whatever information you might have into the CRM, and that customer record continues to grow and grow.
You can capture information about the conversations you might have had, where and how you met them, what products or services they were interested in, what stage of the purchase they're in, and just about any other field of data that you'd like to collect. If they make it through the buying cycle and become a paying customer, you can add a history of everything they've purchased, and all of their interactions with you to that customer record. All the while, enriching that data set with more and more information. On top of all of that, there are lots of data providers out there that can sell you even more third party information.
As your CRM continues to grow, you'll end up with an ever increasing wealth of data to analyze and take action on. Just like other parts of the stack that we've looked at, there are lots of vendors out there for just about every price range and feature requirement. You've got Oracle and SAP offerings, Microsoft's Dynamics, Salesforce, Sugar, NetSuite, and dozens and dozens more. While they all differentiate, they also offer that common functionality that we just talked about. There's also lots of free or inexpensive offerings out there and they operate on different models and can fit just about any budget.
But this isn't a course on CRMs. So, as with the other technologies we've looked at, we're going to focus more on how they can integrate into your marketing technology stack. If you've been watching this course all the way through, you'll notice that we've already seen quite a few examples so far. Basically, the CRM is often regarded as the single source of truth when it comes to customer data. Now that's not to say that you won't have other areas within your organization that interact with and capture customer data. You can think of things like point of sales systems or customer support ticketing systems, loyalty programs, email marketing, and marketing automation platforms.
There are actually lots of places where customer data is generated or used. But by integrating many or all of those things with a CRM, an organization can have a comprehensive and clear view of all this information in one place. But the CRM isn't just a repository. It can and should be used to drive action. Most CRMs are designed to include sales functionality, which means that a lot of the steps through a particular sales funnel can be helped along with automation. For example, if at some point in your sales cycle, there's a step from a product demonstration to a followup call, your CRM can remind you of who needs that followup, or even set up that next meeting.
From start to finish, you can see just how your sales pipeline looks at every stage, and you can see the value of the opportunities, proposals, and sales that you and your team have been working towards. Of course, this extends into similar functionality when it comes time to offer services to your existing customers, post purchase. Think about something like an auto dealer that has hundreds or thousands of customers that it needs to keep track of so that it can send out reminders about everything from oil changes to hundred thousand mile checkups. This is also a good time to point out that there are lots of CRMs that have been developed and created specifically for different industries, and as you might've guessed, automotive dealerships are one of them.
More importantly, all of that data can be actioned outside the CRM as well. Earlier in this course, we looked at an example where we took a list from our CRM, and then used it to send out an email campaign, but only to people that matched certain criteria that we could make a special offer to. Taking that a step further, a bidirectional integration with a marketing automation platform can not only accomplish very similar things, but the marketing automation platform can raise leads and then pop them into the CRM as qualified prospects automatically, once they've reached a high enough threshold or a high enough lead score.
We also looked at how web and app analytics data can be inserted into a CRM to help us understand more about how that customer is interacting with our digital experiences. CRM attributes can also be fed back into those analytics tools, targeting and personalization tools, or a data management platform. It's also important to know that lots of digital advertising platforms like Facebook, Google, and more allow advertisers to upload lists of customers directly into the platforms for targeting.
Now, this allows you to craft a very specific message for a very specific group, but it also lets you leverage the other millions of people that you might be able to reach across those ad networks, through what are known as lookalike audiences. By defining a group of customers that you deem high value and sharing it with these larger ad networks, they can break down the common attributes and characteristics and then go out and find you thousands or maybe millions of potential customers that look like your own best customers. All of this customer data is ripe for analysis.
When you feed statistical modeling and analysis tools this kind of data, you can accomplish things like value to your segmentation or customer lifetime value modeling, where you're basically breaking down your best and worst customers, and looking for what attributes and behaviors can predict the highest value customers for your business. Once you know this, you can feed it right back into your activation channels, to make sure that your marketing mix is targeting not just any new customer, but the right kind of new customer. Customer relationship management systems are at the heart of understanding what makes a business or organization work, the people being served.
Hopefully this has provided at least a tip of the iceberg view of just how important a piece of your marketing technology stack a CRM can be.
NOTE: While specific software and platforms aren't endorsed, you will see how tools like a customer relationship management system and web analytics work in a successful marketing mix.
- What is digital marketing?
- Understanding the marketing data being generated
- Reaching customers via digital channels like social, search, and display
- Working with digital experiences
- Selling online with ecommerce
- Going mobile
- Measuring and optimizing with testing and analytics
- Running and operating a business with technology
- Storing and extracting data
- Learning and predicting with data exploration and modeling