- Customer relationship management (CRM) is essential to sales, marketing, and customer support.
- CRM software can help to automate data collection and analysis so your teams know exactly how to personalize service to each customer.
- CRM software provides insight into your customers and target audience, thereby allowing you to improve marketing campaigns to target likely conversions.
- This article is for small business owners and marketers who want to use software to streamline operations, increase sales, and improve marketing.
For marketing to be effective, it has to get the right message in front of the right audience at the right time. To do this, you must have a solid understanding of potential and existing customers' needs and then create marketing campaigns that address those needs. CRM software and tools can help marketing teams collect and analyze audience data to build more effective marketing campaigns.
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What is CRM?
CRM stands for "customer relationship management," which describes the process of managing interactions with current and potential customers throughout the sales process. The goal of CRM is to improve business relationships with customers. CRM encompasses all of the strategies, methods, and processes that involve using data to develop, improve, and manage customer relationships. It also describes the software, technology, and applications used to support CRM.
What is CRM software?
CRM software refers to the software, applications, and technology that help organizations collect, organize, and analyze their customers' data for the purpose of managing customer relationships. CRM software makes up part of the CRM system, which stores data collected on current and potential customers. This data is collected and tracked at every point of interaction with the customer, such as when they share their contact information, engage with marketing campaigns, communicate with customer support, and purchase a company's products or services.
Different departments within an organization can use CRM software in specific ways:
- Marketers can pull details on customers to create targeted marketing campaigns.
- Sales reps can use previous purchases and interactions to put together customized offers before contacting customers.
- Customer support representatives can use customers' backgrounds and contact information to provide a higher level of customer service.
Key takeaway: CRM software captures useful data for marketing teams, sales teams, and customer support representatives.
What is CRM in marketing?
The more you know about your customers, the better the advantage your business will have over the competition. Knowledge gleaned from customer data allows your company to improve and focus its sales and marketing efforts, and helps you grow your business. CRM enables you to collect and organize customer information and identify customers' preferences (e.g., what products they need and prefer, the solutions they are seeking, or their areas of opportunity or weakness). It also provides the information required to tell customers and prospects what they need to know about your products or services.
Using CRM in your marketing benefits your business by helping you do the following:
- Get a better sense of your target audience. The CRM centralizes customer information, allowing you to develop a complete picture of your customers and track any changes as your business grows.
- Target specific customer groups. When you know your customers' backgrounds, interests, and purchasing histories, you can focus your marketing efforts on the customers who would be interested in the message.
- Find new customers. You can use what you have learned about current customers' preferences to create targeted marketing campaigns for prospects with similar interests.
- Identify audience trends and preferences. CRM software helps you uncover patterns in the data to learn what your audience likes, thereby helping you connect with your customers.
Key takeaway: CRM software can improve marketers' understanding of their target customers and allow them to segment their audience for marketing campaigns.
6 CRM features to improve marketing campaigns
The specific CRM tools a business uses for its marketing campaigns will depend on the industry and size of the organization. However, most businesses will benefit from the following features:
Centralized location for audience data
CRM software stores and organizes customer data (e.g., contact information, phone calls and emails, customer feedback, sales activities) in a centralized location. Creating a central repository of customer data helps you find, organize, and analyze customer information as you collect it, as well as uncover trends, patterns, and insights (e.g., the most popular products, the most effective marketing messages, customer demographics).
Segmentation and targeting of customer groups
CRM software enables businesses to segment customers into groups according to a wide range of characteristics, such as demographics (e.g., age, geographic location, job role, industry, company size) and activities (e.g., recent and past purchases, email response rates, social media activity, personal preferences). This information enables marketers to create very defined customer profiles and then personalize their marketing messages to target very specific groups of customers. Marketers can also create targeted business-to-business email marketing campaigns, which can increase subscriber numbers, email marketing metrics, and revenue.
Creation of personalized content
Because CRM software provides a wealth of information about your customers, you can customize communications to each person you contact. People dislike impersonal marketing messages that begin with generic introductions like "Dear customer." You can pull information from your CRM software to create communications that address potential and current customers by name. You can also include the customer's position and company to truly tailor the message and grab their attention.
Having other information about the customer, such as their purchasing history and preferences, as well as notes on previous communications, allows you to craft a message tailored to each customer. For example, you could discuss ideas and opportunities, provide useful and helpful information, and guide the conversation to suit a specific customer. This level of personalized content results in increased response rates, more positive brand perception, and higher revenues.
Seamless connection to marketing channels
Using CRM software, businesses can share customer information across all departments within an organization, such as marketing, sales, and customer service. When these departments share access to audience data, it makes it easier to uncover customer insights and create personalized communications. Without a CRM, it's easy for data in different departments to be duplicated, overlooked, or lost, but a company-wide CRM allows the marketing team to create and use customer reports that contain complete information. It also ensures messages are consistent and focused within specific channels.
Ability to create, test, track, and improve marketing campaigns
Your business can use the information a CRM collects to create targeted marketing campaigns, test campaigns and different elements of those campaigns (e.g., headings, offers, graphics), and track the results of each campaign. Using a variety of metrics – such as email open rates, new subscribers, and purchases – you can evaluate how each campaign performs and then adjust it to improve results (or cancel campaigns that are clearly not getting results). This will enable you to make the best use of your marketing budget.
Another benefit of CRM software is that you can reuse marketing campaigns that have proved effective in the past. You can use the data and analysis from previous marketing campaigns to demonstrate their success, thereby removing any guesswork about where to spend your marketing dollars. The ability to recycle campaigns, templates, forms, and other marketing materials for new customers and markets will improve the efficiency of your marketing resources.
Tools to support business growth
By using CRM software to collect audience data and learn more about your current customers, you can apply your research to find and communicate with potential customers in existing and new markets. You can also improve customer loyalty by using the information you have collected on your customer base. Small businesses that do not have large marketing budgets can use CRM software to stretch their resources and support business growth. Rather than marketing to large swaths of potential customers, a small business can identify the people who are most likely to buy its products or services and focus marketing resources there.
Key takeaway: CRM software can boost marketing campaigns by contextualizing customer data, personalizing marketing materials, and testing new iterations of campaigns to optimize performance.
Choosing the right CRM software for your business
There are many types of CRM software packages, and although they offer a lot of the same features, companies have different needs for their CRM. Ask the following questions to help determine your business's CRM needs:
- Will you use CRM software primarily for marketing, sales, or both? The software you choose might depend on which teams in your organization will need or benefit from customer
- What level of complexity does your business require? Some businesses might benefit from using a simpler CRM that they can adjust as they grow.
- Which marketing channels do you use to communicate with your audience? It would be ideal to use CRM software that integrates easily with your most widely used marketing channels.
- Do you want your CRM software to scale? You will likely find new ways to use the data from your CRM as your business grows, but you might never need some features offered by higher-end software.
Key takeaway: The right CRM software for your business depends on your unique circumstances, so make sure to evaluate your business before selecting a system.