Applied CRM: Building Revenue With Customer Relations
Healthy customer relations equals customer profitability. Gaining new customers is expensive, so making the most of your current client base is imperative to the solvency of a business as well as its short-term liquidity. At the heart of thriving customer relations is customer relationship management, or CRM, which includes business strategies and software that share a common precept: Make the customer happy and enjoy increased revenue for the effort.
CRM facilitates positive customer relations by collecting data to help a business deliver what customers want when they want it. Gartner, Inc. — one of the world's leading information technology research and advisory firms — projects that CRM will be a $36.5 billion market by 2017, making CRM a cornerstone of successful business strategy. Take supermarket reward programs, for example. By incentivizing grocery shopping with a point-based reward system, supermarkets increase revenue through repeat business, or customer loyalty — CRM in one of its simplest forms.
But CRM isn't limited to the virtual currency of a rewards program. Creating customer personas, engaging current and potential customers via social media, and CRM software systems all play an integral role in cultivating a comprehensive approach to CRM.
Think of a buyer persona as a composite character profile, one that represents your ideal customer based on information gleaned from market research and data from existing clients. The profile created from this data helps you create marketing programs, sales approaches and product offerings geared toward the type of customer you want to appeal to. Buyer personas target the specific needs of your customers, increasing the effectiveness of your business's social media campaigns, content creation and product development.
Buyer personas are semi-fictional, and creating one is similar to role-playing. Ask the fictional customer questions concerning his education level, job title and income. Then create a personal background for your hypothetical ideal customer, compiling information that includes age, marital status, number of children and any additional information you can use to improve the goods and services your business offers.
Buyer personas often cover swaths of macro data, but the more detail you have on your hypothetical ideal customer, the better you can design programs that target your existing and potential customer base. CRM services offer buyer persona templates and sample buyer personas to help guide you through the creation process.
CRM software offers a host of benefits not limited to customer-client interactions. In addition to facilitating the general goals of profitable customer relations, CRM platforms manage customer data, track and automate sales, gauge the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and track business-vendor interactions. And when it's time to compile client data, CRM software's back-end analytical engine actualizes customers' purchases and interaction histories, streamlining them into summations you can use to generate leads and personalize the customer service experience.
Good CRM software is scalable and customizable — small and large businesses alike can benefit from CRM tools and applications. If you have a small- to medium-sized business (usually less than 250 employees), consider Salesforce, an all-in-one cloud-based CRM platform known for its intuitive user interface and reasonable price point. If your business has 250 or more employees, or annual revenue equal to or greater than $22.8 million, see what Oracle CRM offers. There is also an array of free and open-source CRM platforms you can use to familiarize yourself with the software before making the decision to invest in a full-service program.
Social media enables businesses to engage current and potential clients in real time. For example, you can track and address complaints as they're voiced — the customer doesn't have to navigate a call menu or send an email, and you can respond accordingly with expediency, letting the customer know you're actively managing their concerns. Other benefits of social CRM include increased exposure, easier delivery of outbound marketing messages and simplified support access for the consumer.