Karen Kidd is Commercial Planning Director at BJL, leading the agency’s effectiveness agenda. She works across our clients to deliver strategic marketing plans aimed at driving the best results. Karen’s also worked with brands such as Argos, Asos, Marks and Spencer, Magnet and Littlewoods. here Karen takes us through how to get the best out of CRM and it’s role within the customer journey.
CRM may be an age-old marketing discipline, but it’s often misunderstood or poorly defined by brands and their agencies.
When we start working with brands, many of them initially see CRM as a tool for pumping out offers, or a way of telling the customer what’s happening in the brand’s world. The question is how often are these push messages relevant to what’s going on in the customer’s world?
It sounds obvious, but it’s always worth going back to what CRM actually stands for. Customer Relationship Management means the customer should sit at the heart of everything, shaping a brand’s entire CRM programme. That’s why we’re such big advocates of flipping perceptions on their head, away from brand preoccupations and in favour of the customer’s perspective.
Brands that are winning with CRM display a deep understanding of their customers, beyond just their demographics, attitudes and behaviours. They excel at creating content and communications that people truly want to engage with, ensuring they become the most loyal of customers.
Think of the emails you get from your favourite brands. I’d hazard a guess that they enhance your experience, no matter what stage in the customer journey you’re at.
Whether you’re a longstanding customer or a newbie, CRM should never just be about sending emails to ‘Sell, Sell, Sell!’. CRM should really be channel agnostic, covering all the conversations that a brand is having with its customers across all platforms and settings. If you phone a company call centre with a query one day, and receive an email from the brand the next, you’d expect all of those communications to be joined up and relevant. Never underestimate the power of consumers to judge brands in an instant.
This thinking informs our industry-leading CRM work Asda. Yes, Asda’s brand values and business priorities are always front of mind, but we approach the CRM programme first and foremost by thinking about the customer.
By using data we build a detailed understanding of the customer at every stage of their journey with the brand. For example, when a customer interacts with Asda for the very first time, we will look at the different mindsets, challenges and fears we need to allay when they first shop with the brand, as well as the other brands they might already interact with.
A tailored ‘nursery programme’ of initial communications will help to nurture those customers through those early shops before a degree of loyalty and brand affinity is built up, and the tone and relevancy of communications will begin to change. In the same way that friendships evolve, so should your relationship with your customer.
Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, we can use data to identify lapsed customers and find those triggers that will help us to win them back. CRM should continually manage the customer relationship at every stage in between.
The tools for analysing data and applying insights are advancing all the time. At BJL, we’ve recently begun using our new Consumer Forensics tool, which involves looking in greater depth at the customer journey to find opportunities for a brand to make a difference in the customer’s world. It’s akin to us playing the role of detective, thinking carefully about what is relevant to customers at every point in their journey with a brand.
We’re starting to apply these tools to our CRM work for other clients such as Thomas Cook and Foxy Bingo too, using data to identify the right content and communications mix for building ongoing relationships with customers.
Data informs the strategy, which in turn informs the content and creative. Indeed CRM can provide brands with reassurance and remove the scope for subjectivity, as data guides nearly everything from subject line testing to which colours and layouts are most effective on a targeted website landing page. (We say “nearly everything” because as with any creative output, there is also a need for the ‘magic dust’ of great creative thinking).
But CRM also has the potential to bring together everything a brand does in its marketing function. A customer may register their interest in a brand after seeing a piece of advertising that grabbed their attention, but CRM will guide that customer into a deeper relationship and potentially lead them to purchase.
In our experience, CRM can make the advertising investment work harder: by making sure communications are joined up at every stage, we bring the brand story to life in every contact with customers. Similarly, customer advocacy for a brand on social media can often be traced back to a CRM activation and its role in driving loyalty and ultimately recommendation.
As we continue to invest in our CRM specialism at BJL, we benefit from bringing together in-house expertise across a wide range of areas, including data, creative and technology. That’s why we’re always innovating and pushing the boundaries in our CRM work, from introducing new tech into email to harnessing new channels which speak to customers’ changing behaviours.
CRM is both a quick win from a commercial perspective, and a vital long-term loyalty driver. To achieve success in both areas, brands need to continually focus on the customer, and continually look to add value at every stage of the customer relationship.