9 Reasons why your CRM sucks

Thumbs downI have been working with clients and their CRM programs for some time, and I have always been pretty amazed at how lousy so many of them are. Not that these companies aren’t interested in having more loyal customers (after all, loyalty = increased share of wallet), it’s just that other factors seem to come into play that impede that progress, or they just break some simple rules. So here are some issues with CRM I have come across, and a few suggestions how companies can improve their programs.

Oh, and before I begin, for the record, I want to be clear about what I believe CRM is for – it’s to build advocacy for your brand. In essence, it’s communicating with your 10,000 customers in a way that makes them feel like you’ve only got 10.

Okay, with that said, here we go.

9 Reasons why your CRM sucks:

mailbox1. You think CRM is a just direct mail program. How many times, as a consumer, have you received a direct mail offer from a company that ‘knows’ you, but they’ve sent you something ill timed (like a limited time, 15% off oil change coupon, the week after you got your oil changed) or offering you something you don’t want or need (like a product you’ve already bought)? The reason why this happens is that many companies believe that CRM is just a database for addresses, and to cut down on the cost of developing several communications, they use the entire list to blast out blanket offers.

I’ve been told several times to send out a direct mail offer with multiple offers to the entire list, because at least one of the offers applies to everyone on the list.

This doesn’t create customer loyalty. It’s an inauthentic offer that makes us feel like customer number 9,872.

garbage-can2. Garbage in = Garbage out. Many companies don’t do a good job of purging customers after they have bought a certain product or service. Generally because this is a manual process and some one just didn’t get to it. As a result, customers get offers for things they already have. What’s worse, the offers they receive generally offer a better deal than they originally received. This is a good example of how a company can actually pay money to piss their customers off. So always make sure that you have a quality assurance mechanism in place for data entry or find a way to automate it.

woman shouting3. You communicate too much. I hate to call a company out, but Amazon, if you’re listening, stop with the emails already. I probably receive an email offer once every two days from Amazon. I’m sorry, but I don’t read books that fast. If I did, I’d be much smarter. All this extra communication does is annoy me and makes me immediately delete your emails. Good thing for Amazon is that they’re too big to care. But if you’re not a monopoly, please heed this advice: Unless you’re my best friend (which you’re not), don’t talk to me all the time.

salesman4. Everything is an offer. If you want to build loyalty with me, offer me something that isn’t an offer. I wrote a post about this a while ago about the power of ‘Thank You’. If you want me to like you more, next time you speak with me, try giving me helpful advice on what I have just bought (reinforce my good decision to go with you), or give me something I’m not expecting, or, better yet, connect me to others who have bought the same thing. Perhaps we can build a community of brand advocates for you.

Win5. You use contests to collect addresses. Not good. More often than not people will enter your contest to win the contest. They have no interest in your products or services. That whole “No Purchase Necessary” thing is hard to distinguish between who is interested and who isn’t. But if you have to run a contest, here’s a good tip, start your list with with the people who actually bought something.

Of course another way to build up your list is to offer a discount on a future purchase, and don’t just make it a blanket offer. If possible, make the discount relevant to their purchase. For example, if you’re a cable provider, offer a free on demand movie or discount on a specialty channel. Don’t offer a 25% discount on your phone service.

stopwatch6. You think short term. Many companies make the mistake of believing that CRM is something that migrates customers from interested to engaged to advocacy in 6 months. It doesn’t work like that. How long do you date someone before asking them to marry you? CRM takes time. And remember the goal – advocacy. It may not mean an increase in share of wallet, but it could mean an increase in WOM and new customers. So don’t be pushy. Customers are a skeptical lot to start out with.

not-listening7. You didn’t talk to actual customers before offering them something. When you get together with friends and talk about companies, you either praise them or kill them with respect to their: customer service, call center, product, locations, parking, price, etc. Everyone’s got an opinion. So why is it that so many companies embark on CRM programs without talking to a single soul first? If you want to know how to improve your relationships with your customers, try talking to them. And here, qualitative trumps quantitative results. Get to know what your customers really want before you begin.

And don’t just use tools like Twitter Search, Google Alerts or BingTweets to eavesdrop on them. You can use those tools to find out if you’re doing a good job or not. But don’t use them as the foundation of your CRM program.

trespass_sign8. Your CRM program doesn’t include other inbound/outbound areas. Cardinal sin. If your call centers do not have access to customer information or if your direct mail agency doesn’t have access to what transpired on your Twitter feed, you stand a very good chance of making yourself look like you don’t listen. Make sure any time there is a communication with a customer that his/her record is updated (if it is relevant). If something was solved in the call center, but the customer’s record isn’t de-duped for it, they can receive a communication about the same thing, thereby eliminating the two-way conversation we’re all trying to create.

Life_Ring9. You’re not really listening or helping. This is my last point, but it’s pretty significant. One of the ways to build loyalty through CRM is to create a dialogue with your customers. If they feel like you’re listening, that makes them feel like they are important to you. Do not make the critical mistake of giving them avenues to reach you, like a call center, then putting them on hold for 30 minutes, making them listen to the pre-recorded message “You call is important to us…”. If you want to build some loyalty, you have to give them a reason to be loyal. And being helpful helps. Perhaps one of the benefits of your CRM program could be immediate access to a representative when they call, or anticipating problems they may have and delivering solutions to them proactively. Don’t make them come to you. Show them that you care.

In any event, what’s important to realize about CRM is this:

CRM is time consuming, frustrating to implement, and it costs money.

That’s why it’s so easy to do it badly or dump it when times get bad. But if Frederick Reichheld, the loyalty expert, is correct by saying, “the one thing successful companies have in common are customers who would recommend their company to others”, my question to you is, how can you not afford to do CRM, and do it well?

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How to get your name in search results in 10 days

googleGetting your name into search engines can be extremely beneficial. It’s how employers do more research in potential employees. It’s even a way some people check out people they’re dating.

When I talk to folks outside of the marketing community, the question of personal brand or reputation comes up frequently. They tell me that they’ve Googled their names to see what comes up. Most of the time, nothing does, or very limited/obscure stuff. If you’re concerned about what’s coming up in search (or not coming up) this post is entirely about getting your name out there, in a positive way.

Here’s what to do:

1. Buy the URL of your name.

This is really easy to do, and it will cost you about $10 a year. Unless you’ve got a popular name, it should still be available. Even if you do have a common name, you can still buy URLs with alternate extensions, like .net or .ca. Here are a list of sites that allow you to search for your URL and buy it:

Netfirms
Network Solutions
Go Daddy
Register.com

2. Create a website

Whether you got your URL or not, you can still get your name up in search rankings if you start a website. Sounds daunting, but it really isn’t. In fact, it’s really easy to do, it’s free and doesn’t require any technical ability whatsoever. Here are a list of free website/hosting sites out there that are extremely useful.

Weebly
Webs
Wix
Jimdo
Synthasite

Once you’ve gotten to one of these sites, you’re probably wondering what the hell to post. All you really need to do, if you want to do the bare minimum, is post one page. If you want your ranking to reflect your career aspirations, then make sure the copy you write sounds like to first paragraph of your resume. If you want it to be personal, then write some copy that’s more personal. It’s also good to write in the third person. It sounds more authoritative in a search result.

3. Get Linkedin

When you Google my name, the first result is my Linkedin profile. If you haven’t heard of Linkedin, it’s the Facebook of the business world. It’s free. It’s also easy to build a profile and, if you want it to, it will automatically search your address book for people you know and can link to.

4. Start a Blog

This is asking for a bit of a commitment, because blogs are time consuming. But really all you need to do is post something once a week. Is that too much to ask for – 200 words a week? Blogs are terrific because they are indexed by both regular search engines and blog search engines. I’d recommend that you register a blog under your name and focus on areas that you know something about. Remember, go back to what you want your search results to say about you. If you want to be seen as an incredible chemical engineer, then probably best to stick that topic instead of why pancakes beat french toast. Here are a list of great, free blog sites:

WordPress
Blogger
Blog
Shoutpost
Typepad

5. Make some comments

Another easy way to get your name out there is to comment on articles and blog posts. Probably the top 25 out of 50 search results that come up for my name are comments I made. For many sites you have to register to leave a comment. Make sure you enter your name for your username, and be smart about your comment. Just because it’s easy to comment doesn’t mean you should be flippant. Whatever your comment is, it will live in search results for a while. And the simple rule is, the more famous the article, the better your comment will do in search rankings.

6. Be a critic

I started a profile on Amazon a while back and made wrote a review on a book called Made to Stick. I’m amazed that the review appears so high in search results. So if you’ve read a book or two, bought a TV, played a game or traveled anywhere, write a review about it on a popular site (Amazon, Best Buy, Tripadvisor, etc.). It will get indexed for search.

7. Be shameless

By now I am sure you’ve heard of Twitter, the microblogging tool that’s taking the geek world by storm. What you’ll notice is that the folks who are really good at getting followers always post helpful links. Do the same. But every once in a while, post a link that goes to your website or blog. If you’ve got something interesting for people to read or see, they’ll follow you. You can also post your blog or web URL when you make comments. If it’s too long, just go to Tinyurl to shorten it. You will also want to ping search engines when you have a new post to your blog. Here are some popular tools:

Feedburner
Pingomatic
Technorati

8. Be consistent

Building your online brand isn’t tough, but it takes consistency to make sure it stays where you want it to be. If you follow all of the previous steps and drop them all a month later, rest assured your search rankings will fall into obscurity. Also, everything is time/date stamped by the search engines. If someone does a search on you and the most recent thing is from 5 years ago, what does that say about you, other than you’ve been living in a unibomber shack in the woods.

Some of these steps will index quicker than others, but rest assured, you’ll see your results change in about 10 days.

Are you Loopt into Blip.fm?

PC World magazine has just come out with a list of 10 web sites that will matter in 2009. I always take these lists with a grain of salt. Generally about one in five seem to really break through and capture our collective attention – and our fascination period with these new sites also seems to be waning. I read an accompanying article that’s already throwing Twitter under the bus. So, it makes me wonder how impactful these new sites really will be or how long they’ll be around before we apparently tire of them.

Most of the sites listed represent a continuing evolution in social networking, which you’d expect. The two that really got my attention were Loopt and Blip.fm.

Neither are groundbreaking, but they’ve combined new technology with social networking – and they’re both dead simple to use, which always leads to higher adoption.

Loopt is meant for download to your iPhone. It uses GPS to show you where your friends are at any time. It also allows you to see what their preferences are with respect to shops, restaurants, etc. As an app for the iPhone it almost has to be easy to use and I think it will be very popular – if you want your friends to always know where you are (I don’t. But hey, I’m an old curmudgeon).

Blip.fm kind of reminds me of last.fm but it has a cool twist to it. The songs you listen to are brought up by other DJs (what they call every member) on the system. Basically it’s a huge referral system for songs circulated through a Twitter feed. Of course, you’re also given the opportunity to purchase the mp3 from Amazon while it’s playing.

So enjoy these new sites. But I guess the lesson to learn is – don’t get too attached. Tomorrow, they’ll be so yesterday.