I’m sick of talking about CRM. And here’s why

It might be controversial, especially for an agency where CRM is at the heart of its commercial offering, but, I’m sick of talking about CRM.

What’s brought me to this point is that 2018 seems to be the year that brands increasingly take their retention strategies seriously. No problem so far. The issues arise because the immediate answer to retention is CRM.

Let me explain. It seems for many that CRM has become a pigeon hole for email, DM, SMS, customer apps and sometimes outbound telephone channels. This channel focus means brands increasingly neglect the key elements of CRM that deliver on lifecycle management. The reality is CRM means a lot of different things to a lot of people; but does not stand for one thing to everyone, and that’s why it tends to neglect the bigger consumer picture thanks to that narrow view.

We often receive SOS calls from clients with the brief of “kickstarting CRM”. Our reply: “Fine. Not a problem. But what do you actually mean by CRM…?”. The result is often a muddled time-consuming conversation that eventually ends up being about the most basic elements; a channel, comms and programme focus through traditional mediums (i.e. email, DM, etc.). It’s part of it of course, but it falls very far short of what we believe to be ‘true’ CRM. It’s at this point that we change the conversation to Consumer Marketing. The most important part of this is that the word Consumer comes before Marketing, and that’s where it stays. Successful Consumer Marketing programmes put consumer wants and needs at the forefront of what they do, and the only way that this can be authentically and honestly delivered is through the use of individual-level consumer data, responding to interactions and pre-empting next actions based on what we know about an individual.

But this is where the conversations get much broader than the traditional CRM channels, and as a CRM agency we’re hobbled. How can we remain true to a customer-first ethos, but restrict ourselves to the traditional remit of CRM? What if our loyal customer Dave only engages with content on Twitter? Does that mean he can’t be part of CRM’s scope? It shouldn’t mean that, and for us it doesn’t. But all too often for brands with rigid organisations it does; with roles and responsibilities carved up by channel, of which CRM tends to be an isolated one.

This is how our transition from CRM to Consumer Marketing agency is helping fuel some of the key successes of our Top 100 Brand clients. With traditional CRM being the custodians of some of the richest first-party consumer data, we’re helping our clients push CRM contacts into the most optimum and efficient channels for the consumer, at the right time with the right message.

It’s not all about new product launches to the whole base anymore. Today’s focus has to be on delivering relevance to audiences. Take the likes of Sara, Ali and Samira. Sara is hit with trade-in ads on Instagram because that’s where she spends most of her engaged time and she’s within two months of the average upgrade cycle. Facebook chatbots reach out to Ali directly to ask him how he’s doing after he recently had his second repair returned (so why would we talk to him about a new product launch…?!). Meanwhile Samira receives a push notification with a voucher to buy accessories for the newly launched product that she bought last week (again, she’s just bought it so why talk about it again?).

Crucially successful Consumer Marketing is also about how channels outside of CRM’s presupposed remit can fuel the activity within it. We’re talking about non-engagers to performance media receiving follow-up emails, customers visiting customer support pages on the website for a third time in a week receiving an outbound customer support recovery call and potential upgraders receiving a push notification when they click on an ecommerce banner but don’t purchase.

In essence, what we know as CRM, but what we at Flourish refer to as Consumer Marketing, should complete the digital consumer journey. It should drive a first party data-led strategy that blends with a complimentary performance media strategy. The traditional media-led approach, an inefficient drain on marketing functions’ budget, should be no more – as we focus on the known-knows.

If digital channels are the ruled paper, Consumer Marketing is the pen that dictates the mapping of the customer journey and First Party data is the ink that makes it all reality.

If you’d like to have a more informed conversation about customer retention, or would like to hear what Flourish has to say about Consumer Marketing get in touch with Rich James.