Rethinking CRM to Supercharge Engagement


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An estimated 20% to 70% of customer relationship management (CRM) projects either fail to improve company performance or result in losses. Too many brands aren’t seeing the benefits of CRM because they don’t align their CRM strategy to their marketing strategy. They get lost in the capabilities of CRM’s related tools and techniques.

Brands that recognize CRM as an enterprise-wide effort to build positive, emotionally connected relationships are more likely to meet their short- and long-term marketing goals. It’s time for brands to think of CRM as more than data, tools and workflow. An effective combination of loyalty, customer experience and branding—delivered in personalized ways—is the key to unlocking greater engagement.

Get strategic and aligned

To deliver returns on CRM investments, brands should align their CRM approach with their growth- marketing strategies.

Let’s first address short-term strategies: It’s useful to think of engagement strategy as the CRM-based marketing discipline that helps build brand devotion with your customers. Your engagement strategy and plans may deliver on goals like brand engagement or loyalty program engagement. These drive the core brand and loyalty objectives on which CRM-based engagement activities are constructed.

For long-term strategies—let’s call them road maps—track the CRM strategy to broader ambitions or goals the brand isn’t capable of delivering today. While it does involve increasing your CRM maturity, this is not what drives the road map. Your road map is designed to deliver on larger ambitions of your brand or loyalty strategy but can also be developed to include related strategies like omnichannel marketing or customer experience (CX).

The key is creating achievable milestones that incrementally help you realize your ambition. What customer interactions or experiences do you want to unlock, and what’s needed to accomplish this? Data? Technology? New ways of working? All are necessary to advance your goals.

Once you have strategic alignment, additional work is needed to find the value exchange that builds brand devotion with customers.

Keeping an eye on short-term engagement planning

Once you establish which criteria move people along your brand’s customer journey, prioritize your marketing tactics to move your strategies forward. A comprehensive engagement plan should leverage existing CRM capabilities or easily achievable enhancements. Construct your plan around these core elements:

  • Objectives. Quantifiable objectives keep tactics focused and hold teams accountable. They should be marketing objectives—such as acquisition, retention and program engagement metrics—or completion of high-value behaviors, e.g., downloading your brand’s app.
  • Value proposition. Customers choose to engage with your brand or loyalty program for more than the rational benefits (e.g., points or discounts). Make sure your brand’s value proposition appeals to a wide range of customer needs and desires.
  • Enablement. Be specific about delivering and assessing the engagement strategy you design. How will you measure success? What strategic learnings will be gathered and how?
  • Personalization strategy. Segmenting customers and then strategically targeting those segments with corresponding value elements will drive your brand’s core objectives. However, remember that more personalization isn’t always better. You only need to drill down to the level of personalization detail that will yield a lift in performance. So avoid the temptation to burn resources achieving what’s possible and focus instead on what’s critical.
  • Interaction design. Stay intentional about how interactions are handled at critical moments of the customer journey. What experience do you want to evoke, and what does that mean for content, channel, and timing?

Taking a long-term view of your capabilities

It’s easy to get caught living year to year from a planning perspective. Challenge yourself to identify how your capabilities can evolve over time to keep pace with consumer expectations—and advances in technology and techniques. Marketing, data and technology teams must collaborate on a longer-term vision to align on a shared road map. Here’s a framework to provide structure to that vision:

  • Phases: Create a horizontal map of key milestones. Even better, craft maps based on specific brand, loyalty, or CX milestones. Achievability is key, so be mindful of budgets, bandwidth and competing priorities.
  • Evaluation categories: Identify key aspects of each milestone to keep in mind—e.g., customer understanding; meaningful interactions; and measurement, learning, and optimization. Parsing out your process into discrete sections will help you determine the best approaches to meet your targets.
  • Use cases: Develop use cases that support the perspectives of your target consumers. In other words, from the consumer perspective, what behaviors, attitudes and beliefs would help achieve your goal? For example, say you’re a major bank and your milestone goal is to boost the number of consumers who apply for consumer loans. Your use cases should reflect the perspectives reported by the customers you want to reach: “I’ll feel more confident about applying if I can first calculate the projected monthly payments. I need to feel confident my information won’t be shared or resold. I believe this bank is strong and stable.”
  • Capabilities needed: Identify the data, technology features, or ways of working that would scale and sustain the delivery of the use cases. Then look at those capabilities from multiple perspectives: data collection, data curation, decisioning, content design, channel delivery and measurement.

To open up the world of possibilities enabled by modern CRM, engagement strategies must move beyond behaviors to consumer attitudes and beliefs at the individual level.

Rooting engagement strategies in customer needs helps you connect CRM features and functionality to the full range of reasons consumers seek out your brand. Identify and leverage the various brand, content and experience elements available. Then strategize on how to deploy those assets to influence the way your customers think, feel and engage with your brand. That’s the path that leads your brand closer to genuine and durable brand devotion.

Joe Rueckert
Joe Rueckert is senior director of Strategic Services for The Lacek Group. For more than 30 years, The Lacek Group has been innovating the art and algorithms of brand devotion. Joe and his colleagues help world-class brands identify their highest-potential customers, engage them across channels throughout their lifecycles, personalize each relationship for optimal long-term results, and measure the true effectiveness of those efforts.


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