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Loyalty trends and best practices

A Way to Think About Modern CRM

by Jose Cebrian
July 31, 2017
A Way to Think About Modern CRM

Originally posted on MarTech Today.

When viewed in comparison to the paid media evolution over many generations, from newspaper to radio to TV to the many digital formats of today, customer relationship management (CRM) is considered less than sexy — even antiquated, in some circles. I beg to disagree.

Mass media and top-of-the-funnel tactics are critically important to grow a brand and a business. From the agency side, the big dollars associated with them are also attractive. But CRM is exciting, too, for many reasons. Here, I’ve outlined a few.

CRM is multichannel

No longer confined to direct mail and email, CRM encompasses push and in-app messaging, SMS, addressable display and social, as well as messaging apps embedded on your site or in platforms like Facebook Messenger. The channels you use will depend in part on the data you have today, but over time, they will expand.

As you move into new channels, think about them as part of your overall customer relationship management, not just a single channel that sits in its own silo.

Modern CRM is powered by a nimble data layer

At the core of any CRM program is a robust set of customer data. By itself, that concept isn’t modern. What is modern is the proliferation of the types of data that are brought into the database and the speed with which the data are processed, models revised, and decisions made.

Modern CRM combines the historical demographic and purchase history with cross-channel permissions and engagement across all channels, from the perspectives of both marketing and customer support. It allows for personally identifiable information (PII) and anonymous data to be stored until a link between the two can be found and then connected to enhance knowledge.

What’s more is that modern CRM is powered by data across all of an enterprise’s business lines –- whether they are products, brands or drugs –- from both a B-to-B and B-to-C perspective. This consolidation gives companies the ability to look at the entire customer base and leverage information learned in one place for another purpose within legal boundaries.

In addition to storing all of the data, the ability to quickly and easily access the data, nearly anywhere, anytime, is a key tenet of modern CRM. Speed and value have a direct correlation and are always dependent on the frequency with which source systems get updated.

But the point is that modern CRM is expected to leverage the latest enterprise data at every touchpoint.

Modern CRM uses consolidated decisioning logic

Having access to the latest enterprise data at each touch point is important, but we need to know what to do with those data. Should we make an offer, show a brand message, do nothing? Moving further, if the decision is to make an offer, the offer should be consistent regardless of channel, and it should be subject to constant testing to get the best outcomes.

This is often powered by enterprise decisioning tools, such as Pega, Oracle RTD, and others. These tools have historically been used for “inbound” marketing (e.g., call center), but they are now able to power outbound messaging as well.

They can determine whom to target AND what to show the target. They can be used for stand-alone campaigns or simply to power a portion of, say, an email message. For example, you might send a normal email campaign in a template. The main content block may be the same for everyone, but the smaller components are powered leveraging enterprise data at the time of open.

Modern CRM focuses on key KPIs across channels – not specific channel metrics

For all this technology and testing to be useful, we need to measure what matters. If you think about all the micro-measurements that can be made across direct mail, email, push, addressable display, site, call center, and other media and channels, there are tons of channel-specific pieces to watch for and tune.

But from an overall business perspective, we care about some higher-level metrics. So, as you move your CRM program to be more modern, I challenge you to elevate your KPIs to the key customer metrics for your business. Channel-specific metrics are important too, but overall outcome is more important.

Nota Bene: As you embark on more addressable media campaigns, you will need to adjust how you attribute lift of incremental channels to create reach and frequency. That’s because data must be matched to the publisher, and not 100% of records will be matched. Nor will you normally get impression data back at the individual level. Thus, you will need to be clear on how you measure lift of two or more channels working together.

CRM includes loyalty

In many companies, CRM and loyalty data are stored in different places, and that issue may be replicated across different brands.

CRM and loyalty tend to be completely different programs. The reasons for this are often organizationally based, which is a big issue that we can’t tackle in this article. Suffice to say that, while loyalty programs have many factors that make them special (currency vs. no currency, tiers, accounting, platforms, etc.), the key concept is that loyal customers are a segment of your existing customers.

Yes, there should be initiatives that are specific to loyalty programs, but modern CRM takes into account loyalty data and desired next action for every touch point or campaign. Further, the idea is to turn new customers into loyalists — two points on the same continuum, not two points in different programs.

CRM has an important impact on acquisition

Your customer data allow you to identify your best customers and to develop a customer strategy to get more customers like them. This information should power your acquisition media, which may in fact leverage the CRM data itself for look-alike models.

Then, when people are on owned properties such as your website, your ability to entice visitors to sign up, fill out, download, buy, etc. are enhanced by what you know about what has worked before.

Who among us has not seen search or display drive traffic that only results in a cookie? CRM data and the knowledge of what has worked at the enterprise level, in conjunction with enterprise decision-making, allow us to make the best choices to convert a browser or prospect into a hand-raiser, a customer, or a full-fledged advocate.


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Jose Cebrian is Vice President and General Manager of Email and Mobile Messaging for Merkle. He came to Merkle after spending nine years at Acxiom, where he grew to Managing Director, Global Client Services for Digital Impact, Acxiom’s email and SMS division. Jose led a global team responsible for optimizing interactive direct marketing campaigns across the web, email, and mobile.


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