CRM has always purported to be about relationships, but it’s often used primarily for sales. That’s kind of a good news, bad news situation. The bad news first: CRM got a bad rap when it didn’t become a sales panacea (mostly for adoption issues). The good news: It exposed a void in the mix that marketing automation rushed to fill.
Marketing automation in tandem with CRM gives businesses the tools they need to build relationships. As any couples counselor will tell you, the key to successful relationships is communication, and marketing automation opens the gates to coherent, trackable and measurable communication with customers, without growing marketing department headcount in an unacceptable way.
Just because you can choose good tools, however, doesn’t mean the final product is going to be great. I have a neighbor who’s a DIY weekend warrior, and while he might be a great guy to borrow tools from — because he buys the very best! — his house looks like it’s leaning to one side and the paint is patchy. It’s not owning the tools — it’s what you do with them.
So having a good set of CRM and marketing tools at your disposal is nice, but it won’t get you far if you use them wrong. As has always been the case when new technologies become available, businesses have found ways to misuse them. Luckily, these misuses generally follow the same path. If you’re aware of these pitfalls, you can steer clear of them.
Following are four ways companies frequently fail when communicating with their customers.
Communicating Too Much
We all have friends who seem to live on Facebook or Twitter. Their constant posts are rarely about anything interesting, but through sheer volume they dominate your news feed to the point where you’re tempted to unfriend or unfollow them, or at least filter them out so you don’t have to see their blather. Over time, you learn to tune them out and skip over them as you scan your messages.
Guess what? If you’re hitting your customers and prospective customers with message after message, they’re tuning you out, too — even if what you’re saying has value to them. Just because you now have the tools to communicate with customer, it doesn’t mean you should do it compulsively and constantly.
You’re asking customers to give you the gift of their attention — a precious and finite commodity. Abusing that gift is going to backfire, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever get their attention again — at least, not through the media you’ve just proven you can’t handle.
Failing to Communicate at All
The flip side of this is being so reticent that your tools go to waste. It’s a smart thing to speak only when you have something to say, but that means you have to be on the lookout for things customers will want you to share.
This is where marketing needs free rein — and perhaps an editorial calendar based on product releases, events and awards. Customers don’t want a relationship — they want the benefits that relationship brings them (as CRM guru Mitch Lieberman has said many a time).
Thinking about what benefits the customer from communication with them can help you understand when to communicate as well as what to communicate. Which brings us to the next thing you should avoid doing…
Talking About Yourself Instead of the Customer
Most companies are really eager to talk about how great their products and services are. Guess what? No one cares — unless those products and services address their needs in some way.
If you want to deliver communications of value, turn the equation around: What need does the product I want to talk about address, and what does the story of that need look like from the customers’ points of view? Instead of talking about your solution, talk about the customers’ problem: why it happens, how it can be resolved — and how you can help with that resolution.
If there’s no problem to address, it should tell you something. One, you don’t need to communicate with the customer; and two, you may want to reevaluate what you’re selling.
Doing this is easier said than done. It takes some talent, empathy and creativity to tear yourself out of the role of someone marketing something and to imagine yourself in the role of a buyer – if only because you spend most of your day in the marketer role.
However, your company is not the most compelling character in a story you share with the customer — the customer is. If you can place a customer into your storyline as the main character and not as someone who stumbles in at the end of the story with cash in hand, it’s a lot more likely your communication will connect.
Failing to Listen and Learn
If you’ve been paying attention for the last six or seven years, you know that communication in the social era is a two-way exercise. Simply broadcasting your messages is not enough — you need to analyze the effects of those communications.
That’s something marketing automation applications can help with, by tracking responses to marketing emails; it’s also where analytics comes into play as you see the effects of your communications reverberate through social media.
Listening is a great thing. It allows you to understand if what you’re doing is working (if so, do more things like that!) or if it’s not (if so, stop it and try something else). You should treat it like the navigation system for your journey — it will tell you if you’re getting closer or farther from your target.
Amazingly, most companies don’t do this — they trust that their efforts are on target and they plod along, willfully unaware of whether what they’re doing is of value to customers or not. The companies that have learned to listen and analyze have the ability to tune their communications for maximum effectiveness — and to gain a competitive advantage.