What I’ve learned about Customer Relationship Management

“Good and bad, I define these terms, quite clear, no doubt somehow,
But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
– Bob Dylan

A couple of months back I stopped taking on plain-vanilla copy jobs (mostly) and positioned the ‘pump as a resource for executing SME marketing plans, acquiring and retaining customers with a managed conversation across media backed by CRM software like Salesforce. And the grey hairs are starting to show already. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1. You can’t be a CRM guy and a copywriter at the same time. It’s like a kleptomaniac applying for jobs as as store detective. Since I started managing the whole kit and caboodle instead of just the wordy bits of a campaign, my £1000 a month Google budget has produced ZERO fresh leads. When people want a copywriter, they know what to look for, and if the site at the end of the AdWord doesn’t smell of inky fingers, they’re outathere. Whoosh.

2. CRM customers don’t come to you. Copywriting customers do; when you’re selling something that’s limited in supply to fewer than 30 a month (days) and there are 16,000 prospects within 10Km of you, it’s not too hard to stay busy. But tracking down CRM prospects needs proper salesy stuff like cold-calling and pavement-pounding; the clients that understand it are already doing it with someone else and those who don’t understand it don’t think it’s useful. Bleah.

3. There’s no opportunity for bullshitting. If you’re on a day rate or project fee for a creative execution, there’s always scope to apply creativity to your timesheets or dash off 1000 words of text in two hours (hypothetically). No such luck doing CRM. When you’re selling a campaign on the whole basis of measurability, clients use any deviation from projection as a stick to beat you with. Ouch.

4. CRM budgets start small and get smaller. If a campaign projected 2% response and £150K sales in a £1.5m pipeline and the response came in at 1%, that’s a reason to slash your budget by 50%. There can be no arguing, because you’ve given them that reason. Conversely, if it gets DOUBLE the expected response, that’s… also a reason to slash your budget by 50%, since it proves you could have got the original planned response rate with half the money. Measurability and accountability, right? Doh.

5. CRM has nothing to do with software. Actually, I’ve known this since 2001, but it’s always worth mentioning again. Since anyone with a remotely technical background will immediately think you’re talking about the latest release of GoldACTForce.com and the conversation will swing away from customers and towards database standards. If you’re designing a CRM campaign, forget the software and think about the customer needs and values. Aargh.

6. Software to assist CRM is only 10% as effective as you think it’ll be. Unless you’re marketing purely online – usually a bad idea – your software’s usefulness decays on contact with real-world problems like white mail, job moves, project ownership and client conventions. There are economies of scale but it’s damn hard to scale them. Huff.

That’s what I’ve learned so far. But hey, at least it’s more like having a ‘proper’ job!

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