Relationships aka CRM

Don’t mix relationship building with CRM, related? – yes; the same? – certainly not. CRM what it is and what it is not.

Today no company can survive without efficient CRM mechanisms – yet every boutique will die, if CRM mechanisms are implemented and used as they come, usually.

CRM has various sets of mechanisms at hand and mainly serves to:

  • Increase sales
  • Increase customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Identifies key trends within and outside the organization
  • Improves campaign efficiency
  • Improves relevance of the organization

The problem lies in the different angle you look at, when talking about CRM.

– For any HQ, CRM means to create a segmented, uniform and standardized way of communicating to and interacting with its customers and prospects in order to be able to predict what there next purchase will be and to target them with as targeted messages as possible – in full coherence with the Marketing and Communication strategy, ideally on all communication channels in order to not miss out any occasion.

On a larger scale, for huge companies with giant data sets, there is no sense in breaking down the segments to smaller countries and the way locals tick, as return on the investment will be lowered, for smaller companies a similar problem occurs, they do not have enough data to really simulate a local behavior and thus act blind when it comes to the activation of customers.

– For any Boutique CRM means to establish vigorous relationships on the most personal level possible, in order to create a privileged connection with a person, who is local, interested in the brand and connected to its products. Whether the person has spent, will spend, has the means or maybe will have the means to offer him(her)self a product today is secondary.

So, CRM, roughly speaking, on HQ level is ultra strategic and impersonal and on a local level is hands on and very much personal. – And this is todays dilemma in most of the companies I know.

Relationships not CRM, today, are key.

Without relationships and a strong anchoring in the local community your business will die sooner or later. Sooner when SARS, Eyjafjallajökull, bird disease etc. hit again or later if you become irrelevant as a newer, better, hipper player enters the market. Thus, the basic idea of CRM on boutique level, besides to create true advocates to a brand, is to find out today, to whom to invoice tomorrow.

HQ CRM department could be a strong tool in a boutique as those people could provide you with the necessary data on whom to target how, when and why. To be able to do so HQ CRM would need to have a scientific approach to CRM in terms of segmentation and analysis of the existing data – for me ideally in using social network analysis, pushed to a local level. I say would a lot, because most of the time they do not really know what they do, besides analyzing the numbers of birthday cards you have sent.

Social network analysis (SNA), by the way does not necessarily focus on social media, it should focus on local networks of people living in an area, today though it became a custom to take the easy way – Google analytics, Facebook and Instagram. Unfortunately, this creates only filter bubbles and pays not credit to the reality. In using SNA, a CRM department would ideally identify key players, key institutions, key partners within a determined local space in order to help target, establish and triangulate relationships with people and institutions. This knowledge is based on the analysis of any publicly available data (and Social media only can be a small part of it)

So, let us assume you have not such a performing CRM department at hands, as may be 99.9% of the competitors of yours, what can you do?

Observe and analyze – people, competitors, newspapers, business clubs, cultural events, country clubs, … in short observe and analyze all the potential stakeholders, who could be of interest one day or another. Find out who knows whom, what are the networks, who are the social butterflies in your community, how can you create touchpoints with them and more importantly how can you reach them with relevant messages to them, not you, sent out in a way they like to be talked to not a way in which you like to talk.

Establishing trustful relationships on a local level means to drill very thick planks.

What I do is, even though in my operation today I make wonderful turnovers with tourism, to force my team’s focus towards the establishment of the strongest personal ties possible – with locals, prospects or clients, very young or adult no matter whom. We used this natural flow as a starting point in our boutique that opened some few years ago. Today we start slowly to feel the respect, passion and genuine interest in our community being mirrored back by a lot of people. It is somewhat overwhelming, and it is a thick plank we drilled and will continuously continue drilling. The secret to success is to have established the relationship to someone before you do business – the longer before you have done this the stronger and the more reliable your relationships become.

Personally I do not believe in CRM as executed by large companies today, I think what CRM departments do today, at best, is cheesy, because the mayor part of CRM Managers today are excellent in technology and have outstanding skills on the matter, yet they lack a deep understanding of the practical side of everyday business and on top the more luxurious the product, the further away they are from the customers real life, plus and this is a systemic mistake again, HQs have to deliver global solutions, boutiques and stores have to deal with local and individual topics. But I am a fanatic of branding communications and the tailormade building of relationships.

Branding defines the value of a brand, expressed by its desirability and measured as “How much does it cost you to establish the perception and desirability of a brand A able to compete with brand B?”

I am not an expert of branding, but I know those guys are strategists and consequently highly controversial if successful, as in order to make a brand recognizable, it needs to be shaped. Shaping means cutting and adding, which means that we on our extremely commercial and sometimes culturally encrusted level jeopardize the efforts made, because we realize new ways too late, are resistant to change or stuck in our ego-trip, believing that we have THE vision for the company.

If you want to do something right, re-question the strategy internally until you fully understood it, then consequently apply it as if you were a machine. The sooner you are able to breath the new direction the sooner you will be credible towards your prospects and customers, meaning in building relationships, and this my friends is our main job. You won’t wag the dog.

During the early 2000s some quite smart guys wrote a wonderful little book and called it the “Cluetrain Manifesto”, there a lot of the possibilities of relationship building are anticipated, as well as possible mistakes, which still today are happily applied by many…

Building relationships is so incredibly easy – just do it. Go with the flow and always think customer first. Relevant is what his/her needs, beliefs and convictions are, not yours. That is one reason why you never discuss politics and religion.  The second one is that representing the brand and you shall not have an opinion.

All you really have to do is to connect to the person in front of you – verbally and non-verbally, you care endemically for this person expressed by the way you do things according to her/his needs beliefs and convictions and then you take the lead as you have an agenda, which always must be to establish trust into you and the brand. Into you by the way you act and care, into the brand by transferring the stories the traditions the craftsmanship in a way your conversation partner is interested in and understands, then find out what (s)he really, really desires and give it to them.

To do so at a certain moment you must take the lead and give the direction of any conversation in the larger sense. You have to address the person in a way he/she understands and favors if you want to be heard and you have to plan these interventions sometimes way ahead.

To do so simple it is. Besides the implementation of the CRM strategy adapted to your customers individually, you must note somewhere their story, who they are, what they like etc. And in short anything they share with you freely. This information helps you to find personal messages later on. Of course these information do not belong to you, but to your employer as the customer interacts with the brand not with you, you just happen to be the intermediate – consequently these information never leave the store or boutique and are stored away in the vault according to the security and data protection guidelines your company certainly has established (and to whom I consult you to cater religiously).

All there is needed then is perseverance in the sense of interacting regularly with your customers and prospects.

One word on so called “one-time customers” – they do not exist. They may be won’t come back to you, but they will come back to the brand, they will, the better and the more personal and honest the interaction with them is, even between continents and years, talk about it and spread the news and send their network to you and this I could prove.

The thing is that once you have prospects thanking you in May for a handwritten Christmas card they received 6 months ago, considering a moment you shared together eventually even a year prior, recalling a good time for them, you can be sure you do something right.

Always remember, they do not NEED to buy with you, they WANT to buy with you.

Your job is to recall this to them regularly and in a smart way.

 

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