Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can make a huge difference to your business. Indeed, in my e-book “What Is CRM and What Can It Do for Your Business” I list a range of benefits and show how CRM can significantly improve your efficiency, improve your customer satisfaction levels and improve your bottom line. So, it’s perhaps only natural that you may want to dive straight in and get going as quickly as possible, especially for the small business owner who is already doing a hundred different things.
But, this is the start of a new journey and getting to your destination is going to be a lot quicker if you take a little time to plan the route and perhaps take some guidance from someone who has already made the journey.
Some people really do believe that just buying software will be all that you need to change your world. Indeed, a lot of marketing bucks have been spent by the big software vendors to convince you of this very fact. In my opinion though, however good that software is, unless you have a proper plan in place you will run the inevitable risk of getting lost.
There are two very straight forward but hugely important components to get into place as part of your definition of a well-rounded CRM strategy:
• What relationship does your customer actually have with you, right now?
• How should you nurture that relationship from start to finish?
Those may not sound like earth shattering ideas but I believe that they are the fundamental foundations of CRM. Most businesses simply don’t take the time to think these through. Understand these two components and you will find that the tactics that you need, both in terms of business process and CRM tool set implementation, will fall into place much more easily.
Fortunately, although your business model may be unique, the actual journey that your customer will go through, in terms of recognising a need for a product or service, finding someone who can supply it, evaluating the offerings available and choosing to buy from you over someone else, is often very similar. I call this the Customer Engagement Lifecycle.
The Customer Engagement Lifecycle
Essentially, the Customer Engagement Life-cycle sets out the journey that your customer will go through from start to finish. It looks like this:
The above diagram is important as it illustrates several key points about the journey that your customers will take with you. First of all, it shows that your relationship with the customer starts long before the Sales Rep takes a sales call and it lasts long after completion of the first deal. Secondly, the journey is – or at least should be – iterative, leading to repeat sales and referrals to other customers.
Finally, depending on the size of your business, different parts of the process may be handled by different people, teams or departments. This approach should allow you to break down your CRM strategy into three bite-sized chunks – Marketing, Sales and Customer Service.
Plan to Nurture the Whole Relationship
The Customer Engagement Life-cycle is a useful concept for helping you to work out what your relationship with your customer really is at any point in time. Far too many businesses attempt to go from Know straight to Buy, ignoring the fact that a relationship takes time to build and the customer probably has a different agenda to you.
Note that I’ve emphasised the word “whole” above. Too many businesses view “nurture” as the campaign that you assign all of your cold leads to, so that you can send them that quarterly newsletter. That’s all well and good, but what about those customers who are in the late stages of buying, or those that have already bought from you three years ago? Don’t those relationships also need some nurture?
If you understand (or at least can accept for now) that this “Need, Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Complete, Repeat, Refer” life-cycle is probably the process that your customers actually follow when they build a relationship with you then your life in terms of setting a CRM strategy just became a lot easier. You now only have two simple goals to worry about:
• Understanding the stage that your prospects and customers have already reached
• Working out the easiest way to move them along to the next stage
I call this defining your Customer Relationship Nurture Plan. Once you’ve got that figured, all you need to do is implement a set of processes to follow that plan and then choose a tool that will help you to manage, track and measure all of the above.
That, in a nutshell, is what a CRM tool is designed to help you to do.
Find Out More
To find out more about how you can plan your CRM strategy, download our free white paper now: