By Bianca Dowling, CRM planning manager, Occam – a St Ives Group company

As a driver of long-term business strategy and ROI, CRM (customer relationship management) is climbing up the corporate agenda. Just as with other aspects of data strategy, however, establishing the link between customer information and its commercial use can be hard to fathom.

CRM planning provides that link between insight and communicating effectively with your customers, and business bosses are taking notice of the gold dust it can sprinkle on their bottom lines.

So let’s take a look at five aspects of CRM planning that smart marketers and management teams should be aware of:

What is CRM planning?

The late, great Steve Jobs once guided business leaders to ‘Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.’

CRM planning provides the crucial insight into what your customers want to hear and how they want those stories to be told. Knowing this link will, as Jobs advised, allow you to tell customers what they need before they need it.

Ultimately, insight supplied by great CRM planning enables end-to-end customer interaction and strengthens relationships. The process also considers both business objectives and customer satisfaction, producing vital input for marketing strategy.

A good starting point is the creation of a Single Customer View, pulling customer data from disparate sources across your business into one repository. This can then be used as a cost-efficient and effective way of communicating with customers as individuals, bringing an end to the days of scattergun mass marketing, and powering relevant communications that people are delighted to receive.

How does it fit into my marketing activity?

The role of CRM planning it not to overhaul the entire CRM function within a business, but to improve its efficiency and ensure customer data is working as hard as it possibly can.

Good CRM planning should underpin all other marketing strategies. CRM gives a view of everything connected with the customer. Above or below the line, on- or offline, CRM planning is the foundation of an omnichannel focus that relays the right message to the right person, at the right time and at the right frequency.

By better communicating with more engaged customers, your business will secure a better ROI. This is less likely to be achieved without CRM planning underpinning other marketing activities.

Should I outsource it?

To improve performance, your business must place CRM planning at the heart of everything it does to help you gain a deep understanding of your customers.

As with any specialist skill, the analysis and application of data and insight to determine a customer’s wants and needs requires expertise and experience. By outsourcing your CRM planning, as well as database building and management, you will engage a scalable pool of skilled professionals who can focus on people one to one and build longstanding – and profitable – relationships.

What should I do with digital data?

Everything you possibly can! Digital is the future and, when encapsulated within a CRM strategy, it adds an invaluable layer of online knowledge to other aspects of customer insight. Data gathered through digital channels is crucial to having a holistic picture of the individuals buying your products and services. You can communicate with customers when you already know they are more open to being contacted.

Combining on- and offline data insight will aid total understanding of all the different paths to purchase people now take in a fragmented marketing landscape. This is a critical building block of your overall CRM plan.

Isn’t CRM outdated?

CRM as a discipline may seem almost prehistoric to those of us who remember the days of Customer Retention Marketing. But CRM’s scope is now wider and covers a business’s end-to-end relationship with a customer, evolving to embrace all touchpoints and trigger points in the customer lifecycle.

Marketing professionals from across the industry – agency, supplier or in-house – can tend to jump on board with the latest fad and overlook longstanding, proven marketing techniques. CRM, however, has remained firmly on the corporate agenda and is only growing in importance.

Many businesses have a CRM function, with the financial services industry a good example of a sector getting it right, but too many still ignore the potential pot of gold in their databases. You need to ensure the right processes are in place to deal with all of the information being fired at your business through its entire range of touchpoints.

Bianca DowlingBianca Dowling
CRM planning manager, Occam – a St Ives Group Company

Described as bringing “intelligent excitement” to all projects she works on, Bianca’s level of pro-active problem solving coupled with a real passion for the challenges faced when using data insight in a practical and strategic way bring a unique and irreplaceable blend to every Client interaction.  Built on 13 years of senior level engagement in Direct Marketing, Bianca’s skills have been honed through a combination of working client side with the likes of Readers Digest and AXA through to Agency side where she is currently driving forward the Planning function within Occam and Amaze One.  Her education is never forgotten as she routinely brings the knowledge gleaned from her BCom in Marketing and Business Management to provide a solid foundation to the support for all her clients.

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