I previously wrote an article entitled “To CRM or not to CRM – that is the question”. In the article I discussed the pros and cons of putting together a customer relations management (CRM) program, and I challenged whether a simple email marketing campaign might make more sense for certain brands. While a CRM initiative will be more costly in terms of time and expense, there are instances when building a database and conducting targeted, personalized marketing will be essential for your brand.

One blog post I recently read asked the question “Why is CRM important?” The answer given was simple and accurate – “because there is no greater feeling in the world to a customer then being understood.” A CRM program is more than just a customer’s name and telephone number – it’s a roadmap of your customer that will lead to continued brand loyalty and trust. The CRM program should track your customer’s personality, their preferences, how they like to be spoken to, what they value, and so much more.

In order to be successful in a competitive environment you must know your customers; you need to know who they are, where they are, and how to communicate with them. If you are in a position where sales support has been pulled off your brand or the sales-team is just not effective enough, your marketing team will need to have a non-personal promotional (NPP) plan put in place.

Initiating and getting people into your program is done through a series of “on-ramps”. Several different on-ramps will need to be created in order to start feeding your database. CRM on-ramps come from various sources; the easiest is a lead-capture form on your website, either through a pop-over or banner on the home page. Visitors to your site will fill-out your form to receive additional information from your brand, and the visitor’s information will feed directly into the database. Additional on-ramps could be created from lead-capture machines at conference booths or other live events such as product theaters and dinner meetings.

If you have customers register for your programs ahead of time, your registration portal should feed directly into the database as well. Aside from transactional emails back to these registrants, such as confirmation and reminder emails, as part of the CRM program you should regularly be contacting these attendees to try and pull-through the information they were taught at the program. You spend so much time and money producing the programs and trying to get your targets to attend, you need to make sure the information discussed is retained by the attendee. The best way to do this is to make the messages iterative, multi-channel and provide the customers with multiple touch points – all of which are easily done through the CRM program.

The overall objective of the CRM will be for you to have a better understanding of your customers and to give them the type of messaging they need to better understand and engage with your brand. Everyone learns differently and there is no “right” or “one-size-fits-all” approach to education; some people respond better to case studies, some to videos, and some to opinion leader testimonials. You probably won’t know this about your targets in the nascent stages of the program until you have enough data to segment them, but after a while, you will be able to sort them into ethnographic/demographic (or both) groups and create a more personalized message that they can better relate to.

In summary, your business is driven by relationships with your customers, and you can’t build a relationship with them without understanding their wants and needs. A proper CRM program will help you learn more about your customers, what they need from you, and how best to provide it to them.