"As the world goes social, customer relationship management (CRM) has to get more personal. We can no longer keep our customers at arm's length. For years we have focused too much on the management of our customer relationships, and we now need to focus much more on the relationship part, we need to collaborate, we need to inject a sense of mutual benefit into everything we do with our customers." -- Jim Davies, Research Director, Gartner.
When you think of customer relationship management, it's likely you think of large implementations of expensive enterprise software from the world's largest technology companies. Or perhaps you eschew software and think about some of the cloud-based CRM offerings. But most likely you think about some form of technology for managing various customer touch-points -- process-driven, rules-based technology.
And while this classic definition (rooted in the late 1990s) still has some merit, the "social CRM" movement -- moving from transaction to interaction -- has pushed it into the 21st century.
While CRM has been about managing cross-channel, online, and offline touch-points, by and large it has excluded mobile marketing from the mix. In its nascence, mobile marketing was siloed, primarily campaign-driven, and loosely integrated within the marketing mix. However, smart companies are recognizing the benefits of using mobile as a foundational element of a multi-channel marketing strategy, and are tightening the connections between CRM systems and mobile-marketing platforms.
Why do mobile and CRM work so well together?
- Value in, value out. Mobile can be utilized on both the front-end and back-end of a CRM database. On the front end, it can contribute vital customer information based on mobile interactions; on the back end, the intelligence within a CRM system can be used to generate highly-targeted marketing and advertising communications.
- More responsiveness translates to more data and more action. With mobile, brands are communicating with their customers on a highly personal medium, their mobile phone. This intimacy builds a direct connection that is more immediate, and thus, more responsive (and the opt-in nature of mobile ensures this responsiveness; if brands are hitting customers with irrelevant content, they will simply opt out). The increased responsiveness allows for rich, deeper interactions and the collection of actionable customer data.
- CRM: Conversations, relationships, mobile. More than any other customer communications medium, mobile engenders conversations -- and conversations are critical to building customer relationships.
Let's use a major retailer as an example. The company has a robust CRM infrastructure and already touches its customers and prospects across the usual channels: broadcast, print, online and display advertisements, hardcopy mailings, email, and an online store. Bringing mobile into the mix provides a number of valuable features and benefits:
- In-store "calls to action" create conversations and actionable data. An in-store display invites customers to participate in a giveaway via SMS or QR code. The customer has a chance to win valuable prizes; the retailer gets valuable data by passing the registration information straight into a CRM system. The CRM system generates a PIN for the brand's web site, and the customer registers for the site and sweepstakes, providing further valuable information. It's important that the customer get something of value -- in this case, the chance to win a sweepstakes -- that is worth in their mind the personal information they must share to enter.
- Mobile provides real-time data for multi-channel data aggregation, acquisition, and analysis. The retailer publishes various micro-sites and drives customers to them via SMS campaigns using various calls-to-action in different media. The micro-site usage data is captured and reported to the retailer's CRM system for cross-channel marketing analytics. The retailer captures SMS campaign user opt-in via Web and email, conducting further campaigns to opted-in users.
- Making changes in real time. Aggregated data can also teach valuable, timely lessons: the retailer can optimize campaign elements based on results and consumer behavior. What content was most compelling? What elements drove the most consumers to opt out? What day and what time of day did they respond?
In the age of social CRM, smart brands are integrating mobile, the most social of all marketing channels, into their CRM systems. Mobile adds tremendous value on both the front-end and back-end of CRM by quickly creating new conversations that feature critical, actionable customer data that can't be replicated through other channels.
Eric Harber is President and COO of Hipcricket.
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