Yes, if you remember it’s only a tool. No, if you think it’s going to be a solution.
Spoiler alert: This paragraph is the only thing you need to read to get the TLDNR version of why your CRM tool is not the reason you’re unable to convert leads into customers. The Greeks killed the bearer of bad news, so don’t pull the plug on your CRM tool just yet. You’re disappointed by its conversion statistics, yet you’re succeeding at establishing new relationships with website visitors—even though you have a customer relationship management tool. What’s up with that?It’s not the fault of your CRM tool. Customer relationship management is about people first. Then it’s about processes, and the technology behind it. That CRM tool is technology—and it’s the last part of the equation. CRM has become, in many people’s minds, solution. It’s not. It’s a tool that can’t be used unless there’s a process determined by strategy.
How did CRM get turned into something so complicated that we believe the only way it can be done is with sophisticated software?
The coffee shop barista who remembers your name? That’s CRM. The 25% discount your dry cleaner gave you because you referred a co-worker? That’s CRM. The email you got from the plant nursery letting you know their shipment of Asian pepper plants just arrived? That’s CRM, too.
The elements of CRM are as simple as can be. Granted, it becomes more difficult to facilitate as your customer base grows. That’s when you apply technology. But that technology can’t create the relationships. It can only track them and help you facilitate them.
“We need to deepen the relationships we have with our customers,” an organization’s decision-makers decree. The IT department is consulted. A CRM software solution is selected, and it’s put in place.
Nothing happens. Sales don’t increase. Conversion percentages don’t go up. The sales department sees no change in the quality of leads they’re being sent.
The organization’s decision-makers are not pleased. It was a considerable investment. They decide that the IT department made a poor choice. Ultimately, they blame it on the software vendor. “Your CRM software solution is a failure,” they announce.
If a tool fails, it’s usually because it was improperly utilized.
What you do with it
CRM tools collect data. They don’t handle the actual relationships. You must. It’s still about people interacting with people. Just like the good old days before CRM tools, when a small business owner’s brain was the CRM tool.
She had a relatively small customer base. She knew their names, and she got to know their spouse’s names. Over time, she learned anniversaries and birthdays. And, she kept track of what they purchased.
All this data she has on her customers is valuable. But, it’s not going to do a single thing to help her grow her business unless she acts on it. Will her sales tracking determine a change in the merchandise she carries so she’ll sell more? Does she offer a birthday discount?
If she does, this small business owner would be delighted with a CRM tool. She could get all that data out of her head and collect even more if she wanted. The most important thing, though, is that she could rely on the tool to help her act on the data with confidence. The CRM tool would sift through patterns to find which person-to-person interactions:
- Attract strangers to visit her website
- Convert those visitors to leads
- Close the sale and create customers
- Delight existing customers so they become promoters
Then the CRM tool would help her find ways to automate the way she makes the person-to-person communications for these relationship-building actions.
It’ll never be automatic
What CRM tools do best is prime your pump. Customer relationships are complicated things. You’ll never be able to turn it into an automated process, and that’s why most people think that their CRM tool has failed them.
Yes, you can use CRM to automate part of the relationship—the part where the data tells you when and how to act. But, you still have to insert yourself so that you are the action. Otherwise, a customer rightly concludes that the “Dear Valued Customer” salutation means they don’t truly have a relationship with you.
They were just a blip in a database.
Focus on the relationships first
You’ll need CRM tools as your customer count grows. A spreadsheet just won’t cut the mustard, and you’ll appreciate the functionality that these CRM tools give you. Here’s the thing about those tools, though: they won’t use themselves. You must figure out how they can help you manage the relationships you build with your customers.
The technology will help you scale up and collect amazing amounts of information about your customers. How will you use both the information and the technology to scale back down? Because the number is never bigger than two: you and the customer.