Brands Have Lost Control, and It's OK

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Susan Oblak, VP of marketing, Scribe Software
Susan Oblak, VP of marketing, Scribe Software

Customer engagement is fast becoming a key priority of every size businesses everywhere. Customers today prefer to self-select their experiences, and with five billion smartphones combined with always-on social capabilities, they have the power to select the products and services they want, when and where they want them. While most marketers understand the value of long-term, engaged customers, they also see the loss of direct brand control in the new customer-driven world as a massive challenge. It's no longer enough to aggregate broad demographic data before sending semi-personalized marketing and sales material; now, the experience must be personalized regardless of touchpoint, a point validated by an Econsultancy report showing that 94% of companies surveyed believe that personalization of the customer experience is “critical to current and future success.”

Moreover, a recent Gartner enterprise software forecast predicted that customer relationship management (CRM) will increase to a $36.5B worldwide market by 2017, showing that enterprises realize that their most valuable assets are solid, long-term customer relationships and they plan to continue investing in those relationships. The key to effective customer experience personalization and ultimate success with today's social customer involves—among other things—an understanding of three items: relying on CRM as a system of record; integrating social data into that system of record; and using CRM to fuel the company's system of engagement.

Understand the role of CRM as a system of record

Today's CRM systems serve many purposes and many departments within an organization.  Two of the most common purposes build off one another to provide value back to the business are: 1. using CRM as a system of record that acts as the customer data hub; and 2. using CRM to fuel marketing automation to better reach customers with appropriate messages, offers, and information.

A system of record is the hub that contains all of your data, including purchase and payment history, a record of transactions, previous interactions, and more. Understanding CRM as a system of record is important because what businesses think customers want and what customers actually want can differ drastically.

By leveraging key CRM data about sales history and monitoring customer habits across channels, including social media sites, a company can learn where their customers' interests truly lie. Interactions between individuals and companies that are initiated by the company but driven by the individual's actions as captured in CRM records create successful relationships and repeat customers. Even more successful are interactions driven by the combination of CRM records and social data, which requires integrating the systems to aggregate all relevant customer data in CRM—creating the ultimate system of record.

Integrate social data to inform CRM

To effectively attract and engage customers, marketers must integrate social data into the core CRM system to facilitate using both types of information. Leading CRM solutions now provide businesses with the ability to integrate social data into CRM seamlessly, providing a vehicle to monitor sentiment about company products and services, product reviews and more. This integration also allows brands to establish two-way communication by responding to these consumer conversations. However, this type of integration generally only works when users purchase multiple products within the same established ecosystem.   

For many companies, committing to a single ecosystem is not preferable and a best-of-breed approach better meets the needs of the business. Companies using a best-of-breed approach can now leverage data integration platforms that offer prebuilt connectors, APIs, and CDKs, which allow them to seamlessly integrate an array of applications and make them work like a suite. Whether you decide to stay within an ecosystem or branch out using integration services and solutions, integrating the CRM system of record with new social data will enable you to get the holistic customer view needed for effective personalized outreach efforts.

Understand how CRM powers a system of engagement

Once relevant social and customer information is captured in the system of record, CRM's role shifts to one of engagement as companies integrate the newly combined data with marketing automation solutions. This additional integration allows marketers to initiate personalized and meaningful interactions with the customer, such as sending the customer exclusive offers based on their purchase history or delivering them to a customized landing page based on previous actions. Personalized engagements like these, fueled by CRM, increase the success of marketing campaigns and drive customer loyalty.

Today's customers now are in the driver's seat; they have the tools, services, and channels to sculpt the experience they want from brands. As companies focus their marketing efforts on engaging and retaining customers with relevant interactions rather than just managing basic push communications, the power of the customer takes center stage. By using CRM, social data, and marketing automation to fully engage in a collaborative conversation, companies not only hear the voice of the customer, but also enjoy streamlined marketing efforts that focus on what the customer truly wants: a win-win for everyone.

Susan Oblak is VP of marketing of Scribe Software

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