Your CRM platform is not a strategy

Your CRM platform is not a strategy

contentgroup’s Lawrence Shelton reminds us that for all their technological bells and whistles CRMs can’t do one fundamental thing – write strategy.

Back in 2008, when most brands were just dipping their toe into this ‘whole digital thing’, I remember having to sign off content plans painstakingly written out in a Microsoft Excel document. This mega spreadsheet was the only option available to meet our planning needs at the time.

Implementation of course meant a human sitting with log in & profile details to all the platforms and live posting the content at the agreed time. A whole other world when you think about what we have available to us today at relatively low cost.

What these limitations did though, was force us to consider the strategy and intention behind every piece of content we created and delivered to the customer.

What did it say?

What time should we send it out?

Would it have an impact on behaviour?

Would it sell more products?

And should we use an emoji?

The scrutiny of every post against goals, objectives and overall strategy was ridiculous, but it made for better strategy development. That rigour in the early days of social media made for better thinking and a deeper understanding of the communities we were looking to communicate with. The intricacy of it all forced us to be better communicators.

Then, came the dawn of Social Customer Relationship Management platforms.

Giants in the industry like HubSpot, Salesforce and Hootsuite changed the dynamic in an evolving industry. Suddenly communicators had these tools to deliver on their digital ambitions. Tools that would allow them to plan long in advance, generate reports without effort and manage all accounts from a single platform.

Efficient, effective, and importantly easy.

Inadvertently though, the introduction of these platforms changed the dialogue around the boardroom table from “is our strategy working” to “are we optimizing the platform?”.

Suddenly metrics we could measure mattered. And that meant it was less of what we said, but how often people heard it, how many times they heard it and how much budget we had to make sure they heard it.

The difference, when you think deeply about it, is vitally important. We now have the ability to post months in advance, generate reports across platforms and track almost every click our customers make in our ecosystem (pending a cookie-less world). We fill in the blocks on the form and the software does all the work for us. We come back and take a look at the metrics before our monthly report to the board. But do we think strategically about it?

More and more we are looking at how we say things, rather than what we are saying. Chasing clicks over comprehension, reach over understanding and followers over fulfilment. Strategy is by-passed to make up the numbers.

Inadvertently we have left out the why we do things.

Now, I am not for an instant suggesting these platforms are not valuable in our pursuit of customer engagement. When correctly used CRM platforms are a gateway to customers unmatched by anything we have had before. But we need to have a strategy executed through the platform that contributes to the overall success of the business, not a platform strategy.

So how do we look to solve this?

  1. Work like it’s 2008 and write a comprehensive strategy document

Remove the platform from the equation, write a strategy document that meets the needs of an identified audience and solves their problems. Holistically, you may find that Facebook is not the only space that your target audience frequents and there may be a more engaging way to share your story.

  1. Ask not what you can do for your CRM platform, but what the CRM platform can do for you!! 

Make the online tools work for you
Master the CRM platform to better understand how it can enable strategy. If it doesn’t work ditch it. If it helps to solve the strategic problems of the identified audience, then use it.

As terrifying as it sounds to ditch a CRM platform, it may be the best solution to your strategic needs. If ditching is not an option a clear understanding of platform limitations may be a good plan B.

  1. Think outside the (CRM) box

Strategy before CRM Tools

Ask the question – where is my audience? Then unpack what is required to reach them, it may very well be something outside of the CRM platform reach. Then find a way to get to them.

However powerful and packed full of features the CRM platforms are, they do not have a “write strategy” button in any of the menu options. They are a blunt tool to be applied as required to solve strategic problems.


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