What is CRM?

The abbreviation “CRM” stands for customer relationship management. The concept of CRM isn’t unique to the digital age, as we’ve always had to navigate the waters of customer relationships effectively. However, the “CRM” abbreviation has become synonymous with technology platforms that assist with managing customer contact and communication.

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, though, what is a CRM system?

How can you use it effectively?

With so many options, how do you identify the best CRM software for you and your team?

How Does CRM Work?

Good CRM software offers robust lead scoring capabilities, a record of all customer communications, and seamless integration with other marketing and sales tools (such as marketing automation, CMS, and meeting software). The goal is to centralize communication between your company and your customers.

Effective use of CRM technology helps sales and marketing teams work more effectively to ensure that customers receive a consistent message across platforms and get answers to all their questions.

What CRM is NOT

CRM is Not a Replacement for Target Audience Research

CRM can help you fine-tune your target audience, but you need to do your research before determining how to best use your CRM software.

Creating your target audience involves your potential leads’ overall demographic profiles, such as gender, age, income, and location. You also need to determine what type of behaviors they already engage in, like where you can find them online and what problem your product or services can solve. This occurs via researching historical data, current trends, and their attitudes about products and services like yours.

Once you know your target audience, you should have a clearer picture of how to use internet marketing to find and communicate effectively with them. Hopefully, this will result in them interacting with your CRM. Their interactions with your CRM can help you further refine your target audience, create your buyer persona, and better personalize your marketing to their needs.

CRM is Not One and Done

Like all aspects of marketing and sales, you can’t simply set up your customer relationship marketing software and call it a day. Use the data you gain to better personalize future messaging and help move your leads through the sales funnel.

CRM is Not a Way to Remove the Human Element of Relationship Management

No matter how well you know your customers, sometimes they can surprise you. They could ask a question you weren’t anticipating or have a concern that needs addressing. Having a person respond to these directly rather than hoping your CRM software gets it right can make a big difference in making a lead feel heard. And listening is essential to keeping customers happy.

What is CRM Used For?

The modern customer expects the brands they choose to understand their needs, personalize their content, and offer genuine value.

In fact, 72% of shoppers only engage with personalized content. They expect to see messaging tailored to their interests and needs. 90% are happy to share behavioral information if it makes their brand experience more efficient, affordable, and relevant.

If that many are willing to share the information, why do we still use external sources to learn about our customers? Even with advances in machine learning, leads lists often contain errors. There are few things more off-putting than receiving a supposedly personalized message that misses the mark.

Think of these errors in messaging like getting a birthday card with your name spelled wrong—from your spouse. And on the wrong day. That relationship is probably in trouble, just as your customer relationship could be if something similar happened with a marketing message.

With a robust CRM, marketing and sales can work seamlessly to understand each customer’s unique journey. Whether a lead comes in via the sales team or the marketing team, CRM records provide the source of the lead, the lead’s stage in the sales funnel, and a running record of any touchpoints between the customer and your company.

Transparent collaboration via CRMs allows marketing team members to see the results of their efforts and make any necessary alterations. The sales team has clear visibility into their sales pipeline and can identify opportunities to cross-sell or upsell.

CRM Integration for Marketing Automation

When CRM software is integrated into your marketing automation platform, you can capture leads from online forms, web traffic, and clicks via search engines or social media. Your leads provided this information themselves, so it’s probably on point.

You could use CRM and marketing automation separately. But when the tech combines forces, they become Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers—excellent movers and shakers on their own but truly never missing a beat when paired.

When thinking about CRM vs. marketing automation, especially if you’re choosing one or the other, consider what they do:

  • CRM has a narrower focus, primarily working toward sales.
  • Marketing automation is broader and can help with all aspects of your marketing objectives. Automation programs usually have built-in CRM

You can add these leads from your CRM software to various marketing automation workflows. In doing so, you can provide increasingly relevant content based on the sources of the leads, the personal information provided, and how your leads interacted with your marketing efforts.

What Metrics Can I Get From CRM Software?

Not only can you get practically all metrics you want from CRM software, but the software does it automatically for you.

CRM metrics capabilities allow you to:

  • Estimate how much you spend on customer acquisition
  • Determine how many patrons are occasional shoppers vs. loyal ones
  • Figure out how many of those customers were brought in by your marketing efforts
  • Get an idea of how long an individual’s buyer’s journey took
  • Learn how much time it will take to see your ROI on individual patrons

This is a massive improvement from the days when brick-and-mortar stores had to determine how many customers were brought in via marketing efforts by counting used coupons. Additionally, back then, shops could only reliably track customer behavior if patrons used scannable loyalty cards or by getting to know regulars.

What Can I Do with CRM Data?

When used correctly, this type of software creates a robust CRM data pool.

In addition to further personalizing messaging to your customers, this data lets you learn more about your buyer persona. You can also prioritize some patrons and leads over others, and determine how to best communicate with your audience via social listening, among other benefits.

This data lets you figure out your CRM’s ROI (return on investment) and tweak your methods accordingly.

What Are the Best Steps Toward Getting the Most From CRM?

Even if you’re a CRM beginner, there are best practices you can follow to help you get the most out of your software. Going through these CRM steps can help you maximize your ROI, get leads, and keep your customers happy.

  1. Stop With the Silos: Let your marketing, sales, and other team members have input on how you customize your CRM system. While marketers are experts in marketing, they often don’t have the hands-on contact with customers their sales agents do. If your brand has brick-and-mortar locations, it couldn’t hurt to talk to them about what tactics have worked well for them, too.
  2. Use Your Existing Customer Info: Chances are you already have a lot of customer data stored. Don’t start from scratch! Import all that info into a CRM list and use your now-customized to create dynamic lists. If your current list is vague, don’t hesitate to send out emails with surveys, deals, and more to see how they respond.
  3. Integrate Tools and Apps: Good CRMs can efficiently work with other apps and tools to automate tasks and customer contact.
  4. Make it Yours: Not only can you customize messaging to leads, but you can customize what your dashboard looks like, how workflows are managed, and what analytics and other reports you see.

Trends in Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management is about making sure your leads have a great start-to-finish experience with your brand. As technologies evolve and customer expectations change, trends emerge and change as well.

Just a few popular trends in CRM are:

  • Chatbots: Chatbots provide automated answers to basic, common customer questions with the option of escalating to a real person if needed. Nearly half of consumers aged 30-34 would rather use chatbots than other methods of communication, and 44% of customers 45+ feel the same way. Chatbots benefit businesses as well, with billions of customer services hours and dollars saved across all businesses using them each year.
  • Voice Assistants: Like chatbots, people would often prefer to talk to a robot on their phone or home device than have to make a phone call, wait for an email response, or even make purchases on a screen. Integrating voice assistants with your site could increase your sales. Additionally, over half of consumers have heard ads on their smart speakers. They report finding them unintrusive and memorable — 53% said an ad on a smart speaker convinced them to purchase products.
  • Remote Capabilities: Historically, a lot of software existed only within the walls of offices. Today, CRM systems are usually accessible from anywhere, allowing your sales and marketing teams to work from home or on the road without skipping a beat.

Customer Relationship Management Software FAQs

What Kinds of Businesses Should Use CRM Software?

Businesses of any size and type can use CRM software. If you have customers, you need to keep positive relationships with them.

If you run a small company, CRM can help you grow your customer base by helping you tailor messaging to meet their unique needs.

Large companies can benefit from CRM software because it helps organize massive customer lists, provides filtering options, and more.

Both B2B and B2C companies can benefit from CRM platforms as well. For example, B2B companies can use CRMs for automated reminders about when and how to contact their potential or current partners, and B2Cs can use buyer personas perfected by their CRMs to increase their ROI.

How Do I Know Which CRM Software is Right for My Brand?

When selecting a CRM platform, you should first figure out your primary goals and needs. Compare the functions and prices of different CRM software systems, read lots of reviews, and discuss the options with any team members who will use the software. Ask other business owners about their CRM experiences as well.

Additionally, determine if you only want CRM or if you want an entire marketing automation system. These typically include built-in CRM software while also letting you automate many other aspects of your business.