Data: The Missing Link

Need a powerful, sustainable, winning strategy? Delight your customers. Ask them what they want from your company. Then consistently fulfill their stated demands on time and within budget (both yours and theirs).

Sound easy? It’s not. Fortune 1000 companies spend billions on CRM. Few CRM implementations are successful. Fewer realize a short-term return on investment (ROI). Companies that do succeed reduce costs and increase revenues to break away as industry leaders.

What lessons can we lean from examining their achievements, trials, and tribulations? At the core of these CRM initiatives is the right objective: Deliver the right messages at the right time from the right sender to the right recipient and in the right way.

What’s missing in the above formula is a key ingredient: the right data. Failure to collect and use customer data results in a disconnect between companies and customers. Rather than syncing agendas, we often presume to know what customers want based on market research and industry trends. Many of us in our ivory towers — or entrenched in the field — draw upon the same pool of available market data. Our sincere efforts to connect and engage individuals become less effective due to cookie-cutter approaches.

One-to-one marketing: Herein is the answer to so many of the problems we face daily. The term means something different to everyone. Fundamentally, it’s about using data for an improved customer experience — one that leads to wins all around.

For a simple example, look no further than a corner store employee who greets you by name. Is he telepathic? No, he simply asked you your name the last time you visited and was able to recall and use the information you willingly provided. A lifelong doctor knows you best. Why? Because accurate record keeping allows her to get smarter about your personal health and in turn address — even anticipate — your needs.

The bottom line is we need to get back to basics and focus on the right actions that will be visible and meaningful to customers. What is stopping you from doing what the corner store is doing? I often hear two common concerns: “We don’t want to upset the customer,” and “We’re not sure we’ll make use of the data.” Both can be easily addressed, and doing so may lead to positive change.

You Will Not Upset Customers

That is, if you ask in the right way. Most people will be happy to tell you how you could better serve them. You just need to make sure you ask them at a convenient time and explain why it is in their best interests. Every external touch point represents an opportunity to gain business intelligence. Consider all the opportunities your business has to collect data. Focus first on the quick wins to achieve gains with minimal effort (80/20 rule).

You Can Make Use of the Data

Email sign-up forms collect names and email addresses for you. Email marketing technology makes it easy to personalize messages, resulting in higher response rates. The addition of an email preference center (see my last article for examples) would allow your customers to drive their own experiences. They can tell you what they want rather than your guessing. What a powerful concept. Why not allow them to choose from your menu of available content topics to select their specific areas of interests? After all, irrelevant content is the number one reason for opt-outs.

Self-Evaluation (CRM Reality Check):

  • Do you know your customers by name?

  • Is every interaction with your customers timely and relevant?
  • Are you collecting actionable data about your customers?
  • Are you sharing data across departments for a 360-degree view?
  • Are you applying data to supply better products and/or services?

An old adage says, “Life is a journey and not a destination.” As marketers, we must continue to get smarter every day by learning more about, and responding better to, our customers. We must keep the lines of communication open and not be timid to ask for, collect, and apply data to improve customer satisfaction.

For more information, questions, comments, or any other feedback, please feel free to drop me a line or two.

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