Tomorrow's CRMs, Today

Some variation of customer relationship management solutions (CRMs) have been available to the business community for years (decades really), but the software segment has redefined itself of late and in some terrifically exciting ways.

Most notably, today's best-of-breed CRM tools account for, and directly address, the dramatic influx of social media activity and the important 'events' (citations and validations, et al) occurring on these consumer-facing networks. They also provide businesses with incredibly granular-levels of data on client relationships and the essential communication that must take place, and can connect to a wide-variety of third-party systems (e.g. billing, project management and email) to help businesses make the most informed decisions when it comes to interacting with clients and driving future business growth.

Today, the success of a company depends in great part on how it deals with its customers in whatever way the customer demands and based on whatever type of customer or client they are. Essentially, the definition of customer is changing too. Since repeat customers traditionally spend more than new customers, it's not just wise to invest in CRM software, but to also commit to its use and train employees on how to best leverage these systems' many capabilities. Integrating a CRM into existing business processes is not for the faint of heart. It could prove disastrous (or at least wasteful) if done improperly and without a clear objective. But bundling and merging a CRM with existing business processes is increasingly palatable for a greater number of enterprises - more so than ever before. Here's why:

Customers Matter

The aim of a CRM implementation should be to improve the level of satisfaction of clients interacting with a business. There is no better way to do that than through a deep integration with email.

Email marketing platform Campaigner, for example, noticed that many of its customers were struggling with CRM services. Its next logical step was to build its own CRM platform. The new CampaignerCRM (released in Sept. 2012) provides all the data aggregation you would expect in a traditional CRM, but also relies on its back-end email technology, which enables customers to draft, schedule and send email marketing campaigns.

Previously, customers were forced to use two separate, standalone products and attempt to make them work together. This was difficult and frustrating. With CampaignerCRM, however, users are able to trigger automated emails as either drip marketing campaigns or ones based on user activity. Users can also leverage the service to extract customer names to build email lists, which can be either simple (e.g. location based) or more complex (e.g. based on specific triggers, such as opens or ignores).

Relationships Matter

As much as CRM is about customers and their needs and wants; it is also about relationships. Businesses should seek out "good" relationships with customers. The only way to do that, of course, is to nurture it.

Affiliate network Clickbank, for example, integrated with Infusionsoft in May 2012, offering marketers an end-to-end system for monitoring and nurturing customer relationships. Information from ClickBank transactions can be automatically passed into the CRM. The integration also institutes triggers for post-purchase follow ups, creates targeted upsell messages and more. "This partnership was a logical step for us, given that so many of our clients and prospective clients already use Infusionsoft and can reap immediate and measurable business value by streamlining their sales and marketing processes across the two systems," said ClickBank CEO Brad Wiskirchen. "On the flip side, there's also enormous payoff for Infusionsoft users who can tap into an extended ecommerce sales channel through the ClickBank network."

Management Matters

While customers and clients will benefit from a personalized experience with your enterprise, CRM is also about in-house management. If a business doesn't have the resources to capitalize on improved processes, then having a CRM initiative doesn't hold much appeal. Position your company for a win by connecting CRM objectives to marketing objectives.

Take Raven Internet Marketing Tools as an example. This company recently released a contact relationship manager for search engine optimization and social media campaigns. The solution enables marketers to research and communicate with website owners (for link-building efforts) or influential social media users and writers.

Much like other CRM solutions, Raven's CRM integrates leads through third-party vendors, such as the Wufoo form builder, and email service providers Campaign Monitor and Aweber. The solution is ideally designed for larger SEO and social media marketing groups where high levels of collaboration and review are required.

"Previously we would facilitate link building with a spreadsheet log and dozens of back-andforth emails, not anymore," said James Agate, managing director of Skyrocket SEO in the United Kingdom. "We get to keep everything in one place, track performance and keep a record of the links acquired automatically. Raven Tools' new CRM feature, plus their existing Link Manager feature, equals a major efficiency win for us."

Get Ready for Tomorrow's CRMs, Today

With regular innovations and a huge potential impact on the success of digital enterprises today, the customer relationship management software vertical is an exciting one to watch. Stay in the know with Website Magazine's Software Everywhere channel and get your business ready for tomorrow's CRM.