CRM: Management, Marketing or both?

The acronym CRM is a confusing one. Many people say it stands for Customer Relationship Management, while others suggest Customer Relationship Marketing. Let's take a look at how both of these acronyms are playing out.

Customer Relationship Management

In the mid-'90s while many of us were working on Marketing Information Systems (MkIS) to support focused customer strategies, most software and systems vendors were busy building and selling "Customer Relationship Management" software as a way to capitalize on the growing interest in the acronym "CRM." Fueled primarily by this influx of CRM software and systems, most people began to accept that "CRM" stood for Customer Relationship Management, and began their attempts to manage relationships with customers. Most organizations taking this approach have found that their CRM initiatives have failed to live up to expectations--both financially and with stronger relationships with their customers.

CRM--as defined through systems and technology--relies heavily on customer data, information, buying patterns, and the like. It assumes we're able to gain the data we need to do a better job of "managing" the customer's needs, values and expectations with our business. However, customers don't tell us everything and assuming they did; there are so many external factors that will influence a purchase decision or loyalty to the business, we could never hope to have databases large enough or powerful enough to allow us to manage relationships for any length of time with any sustainable success. We try anyway. As a result, most of us are data rich and information poor and have learned the hard way that CRM is not about systems and technology. High hopes that having more customer data would lead to more effective and targeted marketing programs that would lead to higher revenue for the company have not materialized. Only capturing the data and trying to sell the customer more things doesn't do a darn thing improve the relationship-a the fact that many have learned the hard way.

Customer Relationship Management is perhaps a misnomer. A better term for the systems and technology aspect might be Customer Information Management.

Customer Relationship Marketing

The term...

Overcome CRM Challanges: Address People, Process, and Technology

Adopting a customer-centered marketing strategy sounds simple. Focusing on the customer's needs, values, and expectations, and subsequently providing value for the customer, is a goal to which many companies aspire, but far too few deliver. The key to successful implementation of a customer-centered strategy comes with the realization that technology alone cannot solve any problem without the people and processes in place to make it actionable. The reality is most companies don't have an integrated infrastructure--technology, people and process--in place to support such an initiative.

Nearly every company focuses on the technology component of the infrastructure and assigns the people and process portions to a lesser level of importance. Technology rarely prevents a customer-centered initiative from being successful. More often than not, human behavior and organizational process are the inhibitors to success.

So, how can you ensure success with such an initiative?

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Have your employees proven themselves willing change the way they work, if necessary, to provide better service to the customer?
  • Is your entire company well-trained in the art of customer service, and is everyone customer-focused-regardless of their contact frequency with the customer?
  • Do you have all the data about your customers that you need?
  • Are your systems capable of supporting your goals and objectives, in line with your customer's expectations?

If you have found that you can't answer "yes" to each of these questions, you are not alone. Nevertheless, you have taken the first step in recognizing and accepting your company's shortfall, as it relates to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities. To get back on track, keep in mind the three dimensions of CRM: technology, human behavior, and organizational process.

Technology: Data, Systems, and Information.

If you are going to be effective in implementing a CRM strategy, you're going to need many different datasets. Data not just about your customers and their purchase patterns, but also data about your products and services, your prospective customers, your competitors, the market, the economy and perhaps the regulatory environment. Next, quality technical capabilities are a must. To be most effective in accomplishing your strategies, you will need to be able to gather,...

Playing Games with Wireless Advertising

I read an interesting article the other day about wireless advertising. The article featured a firm called Mobliss (now PressOK Entertainment) that is fast becoming what some industry experts believe to be one of the leaders in the delivery of wireless advertising. They may very well be on to something.

Mobliss founders have developed a pretty unique business model that delivers advertising, with permission, to those looking to "save time or to kill time." Mobliss, which views itself as a media company, has bet on the "kill time" approach to engaging the consumer. Through the use of gaming and entertainment-oriented content, Mobliss can deliver promotional messages with to wireless devices. These promotions can also be targeted, relevant and location-based. The firm has partnered with gaming and entertainment providers-Group Lotto and Tribune Media Services, among them-- for branded content.

It works by offering a variety of message opportunities--from contextual advertising to mobile alerts--to those accessing the Mobliss servers. One example is their recent partnership with 1-800 Contacts where users, after playing the word unscramble game, Jumble, are presented with an opportunity to call 1-800 Contacts to order contact lenses. In this case, the campaign is even integrated into the game, with the word "vision" as one of the jumbled words. Like other web-based marketing programs, Mobliss promotions can be tracked and are measurable in a variety of ways.

As I read this article, I couldn't imagine anyone sitting around playing games on their cell phones while killing time. I then remembered; the day prior I was sitting in the airport waiting to pick up a friend and found myself, for the first time, playing a game on my cell phone. The difference is that my game is loaded on the phone and doesn't cost anything to play. To take advantage of these other games or entertainment, it requires a connection to a server, and that means I'm paying for the call and the data transfer. Call me cheap-make that "frugal"-but, I'd never do it as long as the wireless pricing models are as they...