The Feeling of CRM

Feeling CRM Bernese Mountain Dog

What exactly is the feeling of CRM? Does it have a feeling, or is it just a communication industry buzz phrase? I’m certain that it does have a feeling, and an important one that can help measure how effective a CRM is. The way I experience it, the feeling of CRM comes from when I know an organization remembers me. Not just knows my name and email address, but actually recognizes me as a person beyond just simple data points. It’s a similar to the feeling I get when a server at my favorite restaurant knows I’ll like today’s special. I’m not just another three-top who need water and bread, I feel welcomed and appreciated. The feeling is amplified even more when it happens someplace unexpected. I want to share an example of the feeling of CRM, and how it relates to my dog Poe and me. That’s him above, and he’s pretty small.

Small things can seem big

He really is small for a Bernese Mountain Dog – he only weighs about 80 pounds. He has a littermate who is up around 130 pounds, and our neighbor down the street has one that weighs 145 pounds. Poe always had some pretty bad stomach issues, and it took us so long to find something he could eat, he was sort of malnourished through his growing years. He’s great now and he runs around like a puppy even in his 6th year. He’s tall and thin and to many of the other dogs in the neighborhood he’s gigantic. But to us and the other Berners, he’s the small one.

Wasn’t this about CRM? (It’s coming)

To keep Poe healthy, he needs special food, so one day I tried a new local shop that will place the order for me when I need it. The trick is I have to call them a week ahead of time so they can place the order and have it shipped. Sadly, over the holiday I wasn’t paying attention and I forgot to order. We ran out. The only thing to do was to go to the shop and get something else for him to eat, and place the order for the following week. He’ll have some “issues”, but he’ll tough it out. Mountain men are tough, so are mountain dogs, right? I walk into the shop and get ready to explain the situation and the owner says “I thought you’d be here soon. I ordered your food, are you ready for it?”

Here’s The Feeling of CRM

What? You have it already? Here? Now? “Sure. It’s over there on the shelf ready to go.” Keep in mind this isn’t a big store with tons of storage, and I don’t get a small bag of food. Any kind of space is at a premium, so there’s not much room for a big custom order for a guy who may not come back. The owner went on to tell me that after I ordered it the first time, she figured it would take me about six weeks to go through it, so she made a note on her index card about me to reorder. I looked at her card and saw the notes she must have jotted down after we first talked. Bernese, sensitive belly, bison food, 6. She also had information on some other options that I could think about, and told me she was testing them out on her own sensitive dogs to pass the in-house taste test. I was stunned.

At that moment it was clear to me that she knew exactly what I needed from her shop. With those few bits of information she made a simple plan to supply exactly what I needed at the right time. She didn’t sign me up for a birthday list, or have me fill out a long form with checkboxes. She didn’t send me a newsletter with fun dog facts and a pet crossword puzzle. She listened, and planned to be ready when I came back. And now I always will.

Create the Feeling of CRM

What she did was very small, but to me in that moment, I felt my business was important to her. It felt huge. It seems simple, but in six years, no other pet store has been able to do this. Of course I started thinking about CRM (wouldn’t anyone?) and how her note card system was so effective at making me feel important. She didn’t track everything about me, just what was important for our interaction. Special dog food, in six weeks. Most people will say that this is a simple need, with simple data, and a simple solution, and I totally agree. But in my mind this idea runs wild when I think of organizations that know volumes about me, but still can’t send me an email instead of calling me. Who repeatedly send me renewal notices after I’ve already renewed. Who still ask me to volunteer in Maryland when I moved to Colorado over 20 years ago. Who am I to them? Do we have a relationship at all? I don’t have that feeling of CRM with them.

With a deluge of data it’s easy to get dreamy in the details of mining, segmenting and cross-matching, so it’s important to remember that for every data point, there is a person connected that comes to you for a reason. What is that reason? How do you serve their needs? How can you deliver an experience that helps them realize that you really know them? How do you connect your goals to theirs, and create a shared journey that you travel together? It can seem like a monumental task when you look at an entire mailing list, but it doesn’t have to. Try to think of an individual with specific needs that you can serve, and then search for more people like them. Instead of creating a marketing segment, you’ll be creating a group of people with similar interests, and you’ll be able to build your relationship with each of them every time you interact, and create a strong feeling of CRM that will last for years.

Wrapping it up

Here are the points I hope you extrapolate from my silly true story:

  • Constituents are individual people, not list members, and you actively craft the relationships you have with them
  • A relationship isn’t a marketing segment, it’s understanding someone’s needs and how they relate to yours
  • Understanding someone else’s needs makes them care about you and will make them a friend for life
  • The feeling of CRM is measured by what your constituent feels for you

Is this a gross oversimplification of a complex topic? Could be. But I know where I’ll be getting my dog food, and I know exactly why. And from this simple lesson I know exactly what types of relationships I should be building.

About Bryan Giese

For the past 20 years Bryan has focused on one goal: Create experiences that establish a relationship. Whether working on application and web interface design, health education portal program experiences, or direct mail relationship marketing, he designs a full experience that brings people in, makes them feel welcome, and let’s them interact with a program for a long-term relationship. He has worked in every step of the process from creative design and development, to strategy mapping and content creation, optimizing each component to contribute to the full vision.

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