Telling a Story with Your Customer Relationship Management Data

This post is an excerpt from our Digital Growth Summit event in Los Angeles.
Here are the digital marketing experts who contributed to this blog:

Tony Winders customer relationship management

Tony Winders
Principal Consultant
Marketing 2 Marketers

Ronnie Kassiff customer relationship management

Ronnie Kassiff
Marketing Manager
Digital Telepathy

Anita Taylor customer relationship management

Anita Taylor
Marketing Director
Hopscotch

Marc Kravitz customer relationship management

Marc Kravitz
CRM Solution Architect
Microsoft

Nick Metcalfe customer relationship management

Nick Metcalfe
Assoc. Director of CRM
Saatchi & Saatchi

Telling a Story with Your Customer Relationship Management Data

Our experts at the Digital Growth Summit share CRM best practices to help businesses tell a story with their data

Here are some key takeaways from the customer relationship management (CRM) best practices panel:

  • Remember the end goal
  • Decide what Key Performance Indicators (KPI) you need to measure and why. Reserve your time and energy for data collection that is actionable.

  • Create accurate buyer personas
  • Use them to shape customer relationship management practices. Ask them what they need, how they like to receive communications, and do your best to accommodate.

  • Evaluate your practices and ask if there’s a better way
  • Before you make a change, do a classic ROI calculation. What does your current system cost in dollars and manpower, and could a different solution improve upon that?

CRM is now integral to the entire customer journey and the way that businesses run fundamentally. —Tony Winders

Before we get started, I just wanted to read this definition of customer relationship management (CRM) that I picked up off of the Internet. It was published by Tech Target and referenced by Wikipedia and others. “Customer Relationship Management refers to practices, strategies, and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer life cycle with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention, and driving sales growth.” CRM has come a long way since the days of it just being a sales database. It is now integral to the entire customer journey and the way that businesses run fundamentally. —Tony Winders

Where do you begin with customer relationship management from the business perspective, operational perspective and technical perspective?

Take your data and really tell a story with it. -Ronnie Kassiff

I think that with relationship marketing, it focuses on the same concepts of literally any relationship whether it is personal or client. With the advent of better technology and better data, it really has become a requirement now for companies not just to project to 20 clients or 40 clients—now we are projecting to millions. I have worked with a lot of companies from Nestle to Disney and Playstation, and it always comes down to three elements for me. First is your data that you are collecting about consumers or customers. Second is deciding what you do with it. And the third element is communication. If you piece those together, that is your $64 million dollar solution. —Nick Metcalfe

I think one of the most important things with customer relationship management is really to begin with the end in mind. It is important to collect the right types of data in order to analyze it. So one of the best places to start is by asking yourself, “What are the basic KPIs that you actually need to measure?”

A simple example is that at our company, we have sales development representatives who are compensated based on the number of meetings they set up. If that is the KPI that people’s compensation plan is being measured by, then that has enormous implications for how you measure and track a meeting. —Anita Taylor

I really recommend utilizing the data in a way that is actionable, and one of the best ways to do that is through persona marketing. It’s taking that data and really telling a story with it. Who are the people that you are talking to, what are their communication preferences, what is a challenge for them, etc. Take all of that and wrap it up into a persona to help your sales team and marketing teams speak to them in a way that is helpful to them. —Ronnie Kassiff

From an enterprise perspective, it is important to set up a project governance and requirements early on. Not just the KPIs, but what are your use cases and what are the journeys that your customers can take? —Marc Kravitz

What are the differences between small business and large organizations with CRM? What are the distinctions between CRM and marketing automation?

Things that you think you want to do five years from now may influence your design. -Marc Kravitz

The output is the same, although a large organization may have more people, more influencers, more decision-makers and more stakeholders at the stakeholder level. But ultimately you are coming up with the same output. In that sense, it doesn’t matter whether it is an enterprise or a small business. It is important not just to think short-term about what you are trying to accomplish this quarter or this year, but also to think about a long-term path for where you want to go in the next two, three, four, five years. Things that you think you want to do five years from now may influence your design. —Marc Kravitz

It is a long process in enterprises and takes a lot of time to collaborate. In a smaller organization, you can move more quickly with what needs to be done and execute it faster. —Nick Metcalfe

The other big issue at businesses with more complexity is the legacy systems, which somehow have to be integrated with the CRM. It can get really messy. —Anita Taylor

I came into this company when their customer relationship management had already been in place for a few years and everyone was doing their own thing. It was completely incoherent if you looked at it from a larger perspective. What one salesperson was doing might make sense to him or her, but if they were to leave, then no one would have been able to make sense of what it was. Have clear rules and make sure that all of the terms are used the same throughout. —Ronnie Kassiff

Let’s talk a little bit more about setting up personas. What goes into that? How many personas make sense for what kinds of companies? What does that process look like? How do you guys use those personas and react to those personas based on behavior?

Talk to as many of your target customers as you can. -Anita Taylor

One of the best ways to get really accurate personas is by surveying your current clients that you want more of and not the clients that are difficult to work with. Survey these great clients and find out what success means to them, what their demographics are, what their day-to-day issues are in their current job and how you can help them as a company. From there, you will see a lot of patterns and you can narrow those down to a certain type of persona. The number of personas depends on the size of the company. You also want to see where they live, and if they live primarily on Facebook, then you want to focus more of your ad buys there. —Ronnie Kassiff

Make sure that you are mining your data as a starting point and also make sure that you are talking to people. Talk to as many of your target customers as you can. They are surprisingly forthcoming when they know you are not there to sell them. —Anita Taylor

Personas can also help your sales team. We had a persona at a company I worked with that we called “Owner Owen.” He was a young owner of a company, you pick up the phone and call him but he hangs up. You send him an email, he unsubscribes. He is the type of person that doesn’t like to be contacted very often unless it is something very high level, important, and quick. He will be off the phone in two minutes. That is something where it can help a salesperson to know that and say, “Okay this is an Owner Owen, so I need to not call him at a busy time and just send him an email that says, Hey when you can chat? Here is my number.” —Ronnie Kassiff

What CRM best practices do you suggest for businesses?

Unstructured data is practically in-actionable. -Marc Kravitz

It is all about making sure that you can connect data (including behavioral data), decision science (what is that next logical ask?), and the communication (email, social, postcards). Too many companies focus on one of these aspects without combining all three. —Nick Metcalfe

You can never underestimate the power and proliferation of dirt, and by dirt I mean that salespeople in general are notoriously not detail-oriented. Things have to be made as simple as possible for them if you want them to do what you want them to do. You need to set up your customer relationship management systems very clearly so that everyone follows the same process, so it is easy to use and easy to keep things uniform. —Anita Taylor

Unstructured data is practically in-actionable. You need to make sure that data is collected and is usable. —Marc Kravitz

You can also create automated tasks on the backend, so if a salesperson puts in that this person was “busy” when they called, then you can automatically on the backend create a task that says “Call this person next week” as a reminder to the salesperson. —Ronnie Kassiff

From a CRM perspective, one of the values of a customer relationship management platform is that you can transition the customer to be a service customer. Not every sales transaction leads to a customer that you would necessarily service, but if you are selling a product or service that needs service then you can transition those customers. In a CRM system, you can aggregate all of that data and from the 360 degree view you have a picture of what they have purchased, pitched, what products have been marketed to them, and you have the service perspective of what they have to say about services, any problems they experienced, and how they are being treated after the purchase has gone through. —Marc Kravitz

Where do you see CRM going in the future?

From the customer standpoint, CRM means better relationships. -Nick Metcalfe

I think that this is going to continue with blurring the lines between CRM and marketing automation systems. A lot of the systems coming out right now are an integrated version of the two rather than having a separate customer relationship management system and a separate marketing automation system. For example, HubSpot and InfusionSoft are both two-in-one. —Ronnie Kassiff

I think in the future a lot of it is going to be about making data actionable and being able to pull data out of all of your systems and bring it together. —Anita Taylor

The future of customer relationship management is going mobile and self-service. Organizations want to drive customers or potential customers to websites and be able to collect data there. —Marc Kravitz

From the customer standpoint, it is better relationships. But I see the dark side too. There is a creepy factor when I can see that you spent 1.2 minutes outside of my store. So it’s about figuring out a way to balance that. —Nick Metcalfe

What are the challenges involved in coming in to an organization that has a legacy system when you want to move into something that isn’t a legacy system?

It comes down to business value, and it can’t just be because it’s old. -Anita Taylor

It comes down to business value, and it can’t just be because it’s old, it’s archaic, it’s sucky, and I hate it. Because they don’t care. I think that you have to put together a strong business case for how that is going to actually improve the business. It needs to come down to, “These are the types of things that we cannot do that our competitors are doing, and this is what the cost is.” —Anita Taylor

You should do a classic return-on-investment calculation and figure out, what does it cost to maintain this legacy system or extend the legacy system—because there is always some kind of cost—and then compare it to what it costs to move to an online marketing provider. —Marc Kravitz

I would also take man hours into consideration, because if you have someone working full time to send these emails out every week and they are doing it manually, then you can show them, “Listen, this can be automated and free up this person in this department to do so much more.” —Ronnie Kassiff

Is there a solution on the horizon to tie together all of the disparate CRMs? Do I have to use the same email everywhere, or else you won’t know I am the same person?

If you look at customers by household, that is the easiest way to simplify. -Nick Metcalfe

This is where I would really recommend HubSpot. It can show you that one person is really similar to another and alert you to look into it. If you want to see different devices of the same person, I know that InfusionSoft automatically connects the email that was opened on the computer and on the mobile device to the same person so you can get richer analytics through there. —Ronnie Kassiff

There are some actions that you can do to collapse, but sometimes there is an issue with shared computers, cookies, etc. If you look at customers by household, that is the easiest way to simplify. —Nick Metcalfe

How are we using this data to connect the customer experience? And what about the daytime management platforms where you are now bringing the whole digital and customer relationship management world together?

I can’t know which salesperson has talked to which customer unless I manually dig through the records. -Anita Taylor

There are some pretty sad statistics on that. I read that only 26% of companies are planning to improve their customer experience over the next year. We get 400 messages if we visit one site because it’s not connected, it is more of a spray and a blast. So if companies could really tie that together, that experience would then be improved for sure. —Nick Metcalfe

Most of us are doing it badly, even those of us who are trying. The reason is that the data is not automatically sitting there. Even using HubSpot as an example, I can’t automatically know which salesperson has talked to which person unless I am manually digging in the records and looking. When you are doing campaigns, especially at scale, you can’t look at 14,000 names to see which ones have done what. I think that we can all do better, but I think that the reason it is not being done well today by most companies is because it’s really hard and we don’t have the tools to make it easy. —Anita Taylor

You can also do social monitoring. You can look at personas, you can look at negative mentions of my product, negative mentions of my industry, negative mentions of my competitors. —Ronnie Kassiff

Are there any CRM pitfalls to avoid, red flags, horror stories, worst practices?

The most common issue that I see is people getting a CRM or marketing automation system as a knee-jerk reaction. -Ronnie Kassiff

The challenges are siloed. You can’t really connect all of the dots that you need to connect. —Nick Metcalfe

I think the worst case is actually not high tech at all—it’s low tech and it’s very common and very benign, which is that when you implement the system there is a big “hoorah” and there is training and it’s all great. Then as the months and years go on, there is benign neglect and no one is really monitoring the system to see what is in there and no one cares what is in there until the day that you are trying to do some data analysis and you realize it is all garbage. Then it becomes a problem. After it has built up for 20 years and the data is useless, then it becomes a C-suite level problem. —Anita Taylor

The most common issue that I see is people getting a customer relationship management or marketing automation system as a knee-jerk reaction, saying, “Oh, my competitors have this. They are doing all of this stuff so we need this,” but then they let it die or turn into garbage. You need to make sure that if you are going to invest, you have a clear plan and goals that you are building towards rather than buying this piece of software without understanding it or utilizing it. —Ronnie Kassiff

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