CRM is Easy…

So why is everyone doing it so poorly?!

I’ll have to start this off with an admission, so that my bias is clear from the start. I’ve applied for dozens of CRM roles in the past few months, and I’ve made it to just two preliminary interviews. Frankly, it’s been a recruitment gut punch.

There’s nothing particularly enjoyable about regular cold rejection but getting knocked back is a part of life. Just lick your wounds, try to improve, and come back stronger. I’m okay with that.

The bit that is rankling with me though…

The thing that is sticking in my gullet…

The part that is winding me up good and proper…

The facet that is really yanking my chain…

The stingy salt in my wound…

…who on earth is actually getting hired when almost every company is terrible at CRM.

I can think of just two companies that are doing it well, and they’re both enormously successful businesses with a clear focus on data-driven decision making. Literally every other company with whom I have interacted in the last few years is apparently clueless.

And I stand by my headline – CRM is a simple thing. Send the right message, at the right time, to the right person, using the right medium. That’s it.

Let’s start with a gambling example. I’m a big fan of my preferred bookmaker, but they show no inkling that they know what I like to bet on. My favourite markets are test cricket and major golf events, but I can’t recall receiving any communication or promotion regarding those sports.

I love a special offer, but I don’t need one to respond to a marketing message. You could send me an email to remind me that the Ryder Cup is coming up, with some salient information and a few select prices, and I will almost certainly open it, read it, click through and bet. I would call that low hanging fruit.

A totally unrelated example of poor customer segmentation and content creation is Wickes, the DIY retailer. I’ve been renovating my bathroom and recently bought timber from them. I’ve had regular emails since, but they all have the same generic subject line. It is nothing relevant or customised to me, so why should I bother opening it.

Credit where it’s due, they provided me with good affordable wood in a timely manner, but now I have a negative view of them as lazy spammers. That’s the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve with Customer Relationship Management. I bought materials to build a stud wall, so I’m probably going to need to decorate next. How about telling me about your paint range?

Recruiters are the worst. It’s an endless stream of barely relevant guesses in the hope that they might get lucky. It’s like playing eye spy with my three year-old nephew. It doesn’t matter that eye’ve spied something beginning with P – he’s just going to guess everything he sees until my brain melts and I give in.

The brute force chuntering of an infant is adorable and weirdly effective, but it should not be emulated as a strategy for precision marketing.  

I appreciate there are challenges to running a sophisticated CRM program. At PokerStars I took the controversial decision to communicate in only eight out of the 29 languages we offered, because it meant reaching more than 90% of the players with around a third of the effort.

Letting people elect to play in their native tongue and then ignoring that choice is bad CRM, but you have to make the most of the resources you have. I ignored Hungarians the same way I never did anything for people that played 2-7 Triple Draw. There just weren’t enough of them to make it worthwhile.  

The point is, there are diminishing returns in trying to serve every niche. There probably aren’t that many people out there betting on international cricket, so it wouldn’t be worth the effort to build a dedicated campaign around it. But if you only ever talk about football then you’re going to alienate the customers that aren’t interested. You need to find the middle ground.

For me, you only really need a few skills to succeed in CRM:

Be data savvy. Then you can identify the opportunities and work out if they’re worth pursuing.

Be creative. So that you are able to try new and interesting messages that engage your customers.

Be methodical. So that ideas are properly tested and implemented.

Looking at my email inboxes, those abilities must be in very short supply. Either that or companies don’t understand how to get the best out of their marketing tools. They’re recruiting for technical expertise with CRM systems they simply aren’t ready to use. To misquote the great monorail salesman Lyle Lanley:

“A company with Salesforce is a little like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it, and danged if he knows how to use it!”

Unfortunately, my lack of experience with these cutting-edge SaaS platforms is going to hold me back in today’s CRM labour market. And while that is the case, the crisis of crap CRM is set to continue.

Bobby’s Bets

I lost £20 on betting on India in the third test, but then won it back betting on them in the fourth. I probably would’ve done the same in the fifth test, but the Indians decided to use Covid as an excuse to walk away while they were ahead. A very disappointing outcome, but very unsurprising given the weak governance of the sport.

I got a £5 free bet to use on the weekend’s football and wasted it betting on Spurs to win. I am a bad football punter.

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