Digitally-charge your CRM program

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Too often, marketers limit themselves to an outdated, simplistic and less effective CRM approach. It's time to usher in a digitally-charged CRM that utilizes the most powerful strategies and tools available, and achieves great marketplace success.

Many CRM programs consist only of outbound e-mail or direct mail, despite consumers becoming increasingly more engaged with new digital channels (“I never check my e-mail,” says my teenage daughter). Instead, we should fully exploit opportunities through digital tools, such IM and widgets, mobile and social media, building concurrent elements that maximize effectiveness.

Here are seven ways to seize the tremendous opportunity of digitally-powered CRM:

1) Think CMR. The term “Customer Managed Relationships (CMR)” recognizes that consumers exercise more control of marketing interactions. Studies indicate the more control you cede—letting consumers select their preferred communication channels, content they want, how frequently they hear from you—the more they opt in and engage.

2) Detach and distribute. Maximize interaction with your brand by providing portable content, tools and experiences, that travel with consumers wherever they go (e.g., mobile), according to how they choose to receive it (across e-mail, mobile, social, etc.). Place your content and tools on 3rd party sites. 

3) Marketing as service. Deliver marketing content that consumers see as providing real value and relevance. Communicate with a helpful, customer-centric voice to deliver content or tools that deeply engage, provide a tangible value-add, and build a strong ongoing relationship.

4) Be “social.” Create community areas on your site and on social destinations (e.g., Facebook) where your target congregates, to facilitate sharing. Actively participate in community discussions, like engaging customers in product discussions, and enriching the dialogue by inviting feedback or input.

5) Measure more than 1 to 1. To quantify CRM's incremental value, compare sales of a control group of customers that don't receive your program with those who do. Also track word of mouth, viral and advocacy effects, through quantitative social media measurement tools and qualitative surveys.

6) Beyond consumers. Expand CRM to incorporate key constituencies, such as employees, distributors, retailers and other gatekeepers. Linking CRM to multiple influencers builds stronger customer relationships and increases CRM performance (e.g., consumers receive your CRM and subsequently seeing a related in-store display). 

7) Identify advocacy potential. Identify your database's most valuable and loyal customers. Treat your most valuable customers like VIPs. Invite loyals to be advocates or ask their propensity for word-of-mouth. Identify influentials in social media, empowering them as potential advocates, too. Time your communications when customers are most passionate about your products. 

Consider these digital opportunities to enhance your CRM to ensure you achieve the best possible results in an evolving marketing environment.

Michael Maher is senior partner, director of client services at Greater Than One, a digital agency.

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