How to use your CRM for effective Marketing

Your Customer Relations Management Solution (or Contact & Customer Manager) is one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal. We’ve written frequently about why it is so important to have either of these systems. This article is about how you can use your system to run some effective marketing campaigns that strengthen your relations with customers, and drive sales.

Before you start using your CRM/CCM for marketing purposes, you need to make sure the data is clean and usable. By usable, we mean that your data is categorized and grouped in a meaningful manner. For example, you need to have your contacts grouped into leads, prospects, customers, clients, and advocated. Grouping contacts by areas of interest (e.g. business consulting, marketing consulting, event management, etc.) will also come in very handy down the line.

Depending on your line of work and industry, these parameters may differ; you may want to group your contacts by gender, age groups, or any other demographic information that’s important for your marketing programs. One other important grouping is by industry or business sector. In our case, we also group contacts by job function (e.g. marketing, sales, admin, finance, etc.) and level of decision-making (e.g. influencer, procurement, decision maker). It’ll be a huge effort to keep all of this continuously updated, but imagine the possibilities once you’ve gone through this exercise.

Let’s take our case as an example. We provide three core services; business consulting, marketing consulting, and event management. Each of these breaks down into sub-categories, such as social media marketing, direct & relations marketing, tactical communication plans, etc. Now combining these areas of interest with the type of contact and all the parameters described above, we can launch very targeted marketing campaigns to communicate just the right messages individually.

So for example, an email campaign could target the decision makers of leads and prospects whom we’ve been approaching to sign-up for our social media marketing services. By using these groups and categories, we make sure this promotion doesn’t reach customers or client’s who are already using this service. At the same token, another campaign could target HR managers of factories that need to manage large numbers of workers and very specific liability issues that are related to operating heavy machinery. Obviously, sending this campaign to the other group (the guys that are more interested in social media marketing) would backfire and result in a number of opt-outs, but this particular group (the HR managers will certainly be very interested to read more about what we have to say.)

Depending on the functions and features of your CRM or CCM, you can also perform a host of marketing programs that help you stay in touch with those that are important for your business. For example, if your system allows logging of activities (phone calls, meetings, visits, emails, etc.), you can program it to generate a group of contacts that hadn’t had an interaction with you for three months or more, and then send them an automated (but personalized message) promoting this or that, or simply reminding them that they haven’t visited your store in a while and that you have some great new product that you’d love to show them.

But that’s at the advanced level and comes later on once you’re more comfortable with the basics. To keep it simple and one-step-at-a-time, you can get started by doing the following:

  • Figure our which CRM you will use for marketing purposes. We recommend ACT!, Zoho CRM, or Business Contact Manager for Outlook. All three are fairly affordable (BCM is free) and don’t need a Ph.D. in IT to install and configure. You can even use Outlook, but we don’t recommend that as it’s not really that flexible in terms of creating custom fields. If you cannot be enticed to install a professional solution, we recommend you use an Excel files instead. You can use columns for customized data, and it’s easy to run e-mail merges in combination with Word and Outlook.
  • Consolidate all your business contacts into one Excel file. That includes not only contacts in your own address book, but the entire organization. This is really critical; you don’t want to leave out anyone important. Now comes the most boring and tedious part. You will find lots of duplicates, old, and incomplete information. It’s best if you take the time and effort to clean the data before importing it into the CRM/CCM. What you want to avoid at this point is the concept of “Garbage in, garbage out”.
  • Once your data is “de-duplicated” and all cleaned, you need to have your team go through each record (yes, we’re not kidding) and categorize them by relationship (lead, prospect, customer, client, etc.), areas of interest, and as many additional information as possible. Doing this now is much easier than later on. You should also add a field that indicates how you will address each contact in the future (salutation field). You don’t want to address someone you never met as “Hi Ali”, or someone who’s very engaged with your company as “Dear Mr. Mahmoud”. It’ll totally defeat the purpose, and which is to build close and direct relationships.
  • You are now more or less ready to go, and can start sending our emails that capture the attention of your audience. As a courtesy, you may want to send out a first emailing informing your contacts about the new system, let them know when and why they will be receiving emails from you, and assure them that they can opt out at any time. You might also want to grab this opportunity and build-in a table that shows the data you have on record about them, and ask them to correct or add missing data as needed. This is all very easily done now that you have the proper tools for this kind of direct and relations marketing.
  • To protect this massive investment (in time and effort) you’ve made so far, you need to assign a database guardian; a person in charge of keeping everything updated, and who continuously enters new business cards into the system. The guardian will also be responsible to update bounced emails by calling the recipient and asking for their correct data. He/she will also make sure that all other team members use the system continuously by feeding updates such as meeting minutes, phone logs, and any other points of contact made with the records on file.
  • Last but not least, don’t forget to make sure your data is backed up around the clock. Once a day will not cut it. If your team uses the system like they should, every lost hour can cost you an enormous amount of time and effort to rebuild and recover. Hence, your backup should be done hourly and on multiple devices, with one of them being preferably located off-site.

If you feel compelled to get into CRM/ CCM marketing but are a bit overwhelmed by what it’ll take to kick-start your program, we’ll be more than happy to offer our services. Our CRM consulting portfolio starts from choosing the best solution for your organization, to cleaning and important your data – and training your team to use the system from there onward.

About the Author

Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.

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