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CRM Tools for Marketing, Part II

Along with providing a means for managing sales and customer information, CRM also enables businesses to market more effectively and efficiently.

By Johnny Duncan

As outlined in Part I, Winning and Keeping Customers for Life through CRM, a business plan must be developed that enables you to determine what you do, who you serve and what type of experience you want to provide for your customers. Once this foundation is established, a marketing plan will need to be created that will support your “niche”.

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  • First, a recap: CRM has been defined as the business process an organization performs to identify, select, acquire, develop, retain, and better serve customers. It is not really anything new to the sign professional; just a more defined, personalized way to concentrate on serving your targeted market and to support your business goals.

    CRM suggests that a consistent and positive customer experience across all channels and media and across all sales, marketing, and service functions can increase customer loyalty.

    CRM is not software. It can be implemented using resources you have in house, from spreadsheets to simple DOS-based cash register systems, on up through GoldMine, Act! and industry specific software from Cyrious to the more dynamic solutions used to run call centers. The only requirement is the ability to capture customer transactions and attribute them to specific customer identification.

    Finding your niche
    As discussed in Part I, CRM offers a system for tracking customers geographically as well as by customer’s tastes, needs and other important demographics which will help you with your marketing efforts. Before you can begin utilizing this system to its full capacity, you must first determine your target market and then begin collecting information from that market.

    You can usually determine the market you would like to target by examining past sales. Look at sales receipts and invoices from the jobs you’ve enjoyed the most and/or profited the most from. If these are the type of projects you want to attract for your sign shop or business, begin keeping a log of these types of projects.

    Keep all of the customer contact information from these projects separate from other customer information. Input this information into your CRM software or create your own filing system.

    In addition to contact information, include customer preferences (example: bought vinyl wraps for trucks, or prefers neon over LED), payment history (example: customer pays on time), and miscellaneous notes (example: customer liked our prices or customer recently had twins).

    The beauty of the CRM software available is that the work of organizing is done for you. Each time you go back to this customer profile, information is at your fingertips and some of the software will allow you to customize information to suit your needs.

    However, simple index cards and your own creative filing system will also work. Whatever you decide to use to input, store and track this information should be reliable because your reputation when contacting these customers is at stake if the profiles are not accurate and up-to-date.

    Not all customer information has to be from an existing customer, but should also include prospect information. Your goal is to convert prospects into customers and customers into long-term relationships. It is a continuous, ongoing building of your target market with the goal of servicing this market on a long-term basis.

    Included in your marketing plan are your goals for each client. You will want to specify these goals into your CRM system. Most software systems include a category for sales goals, but you can create them in your own system. The goals should be specific and measurable.

    For example, under the Goals category under customer Smith’s name, instead of “increase sales”, you might state the goal as, “increase repeat orders to 5 for the first quarter of 2005”. Or, instead of “convert this prospect to a customer”, you could write, “Send new catalog and contact at least 3 times this month to convert to new customer”.

    You will want to use your CRM system to support your marketing goals as well as to track progress. If you are tracking your goals using index cards or a written system, make sure that your notes are as detailed as possible. It is very easy to think that you will remember the conversation or the promised future phone call, but a week from now, you will wish that you had a more detailed note-taking system.

    CRM software such as Cyrious’ offerings and ACT! as well as others now on the market, offer categories such as “Return Call”, “Follow Up”, “Make Appointment”, and so on. Having these key buttons at your fingertips not only saves valuable time, but also insures that your note taking is accurate and detailed. The follow up prompts and alarms that some systems offer also helps to remind you to take the appropriate action.

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    Marketing vs. Building Relationships
    In the course of creating a marketing plan, some businesses can get lost in the tracking of numbers, forecasts, and conversions and lose sight of relationship building. CRM systems help you to not drop the vision of the relationship. By keeping defined notes regarding the profile of your customers and prospects, you will always have a fresh update of each stage of the relationship and will be able to customize your marketing toward that client.

    Having a relationship with a customer increases the chances of successful sales and you cannot have relationships with prospects unless you understand them—what they value, what services are important to them, how and when they prefer to interact, and what they want to buy.

    In the “old days”, manufacturers developed products and services and defined distribution networks, and then searched for customers. Just think of all of the product failures and short-lived successes that this model created.

    With CRM, product and service development has to follow the customer’s lead. That is why the more you interact with your customers and learn about them, the easier it is to pinpoint those of greatest value to your organization. This insight will eventually help you to quickly recognize those who look like your most valuable customers.

    As you begin to understand the importance of relationships with your prospects, keep in mind their specific wants and needs as you begin marketing to them. The information you’ve collected now can be used to make personal contacts instead of impersonal “notices”. You now have a full name that you can use to customize your letters to them as well as addressing them on the phone or in person (the two best means of marketing!).

    While we are not addressing specific marketing strategies in this series (many marketing articles can be found in the Business Development section of, you should know that other automated marketing features are offered in some CRM software.

    These applications provide the ability to create automated marketing campaigns and track the results. Generating lists of customers to receive mailings or telemarketing calls, scheduling automatic or manual follow-up activities and receiving third-party lists for incorporation into the campaigns are all typical functions.

    Remember that to market specifically to your prospects and customers needs, you will have to develop a good relationship to determine their needs and to formulate a detailed marketing strategy. In doing so, you will keep ahead of the competition trying to win the same prospects. CRM assists in this endeavor by organizing prospects and clients, keeping track of marketing efforts and goals, and providing a snapshot to keep you in line with your business plan.

    By creating a marketing plan that supports your business niche, you can use CRM to customize your data to give you the greatest edge in converting prospects to customers and then your customers to life-long clientele.

    In Part III, we will examine some of the sales techniques for converting your prospects into customers.

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