M relationship with CRM started 15 years ago. Since then CRM has seen immense strategic and technical development. Let me take you on that development journey.
When I started, CRM was meant to automate and digitalise customer & internal work processes. The most common process to standardise was the Sales Lead Management process. Today, the Mega-Trends call this "Digitalisation or Automatisation" and Lead Management is called "customer lifecycle or customer value". Only personal information and basic sales data was collected and there was very basic analytics involved. Not many tools were cloud based and advertisement was mostly product management over the classical print channels and in store marketing. Trainings were already very important and were hold face to face supported by PPT training manuals and hands-on workshops. Such a worldwide roll-out meant a lot of traveling, even though the train-the-trainer method was already introduced.
With the popularity of the Web more sophisticated webpages with first e-commerce solutions and apps on new tablets were used in the market. First solutions for the synchronisation to your laptop or first tablets (i.e. outlook or offline editions) were introduced. This made live easier - specially for the sales reps on the road.
On the advertisement side the era of discount marketing started and is still strong in some industries. Customers are educated to wait for the low price periods like Black Friday, Winter Sales, Valentine's Day etc. Very basic content management features were integrated into the CRM tools. The first attempt to measure the Campaign ROI and build more accurate target groups reached their limits, but gave first feedback on the effectiveness of Campaigns. This short term thinking has its price: If you do huge discounts for black Friday, you don't have to wonder, if the Christmas business is not going strong. As psychological studies have proved, we take practical evaluations into account when making decisions, but ultimately our feelings decide. This was probably another the reason, why many brands refrain more and more from discount campaigns and started a more emotional brand management.
The next technological development followed quickly. 2004 Facebook was launched and social CRM became more and more important. Do you remember the 73927 apps on your mobile and the constant error message, that you do not have enough space left? Maybe that's why they are a thing of the past already, unless they bring a real added benefit to the customer. So this communication channel is only useful, if you have interesting content to share and link it to a call to action without being pushy.
On the training side, e-learning was the newest hype. To ensure the transfer into the daily business, e-tests where introduced. That is definitely cheaper, but not as sustainable as the former face to face trainings with hands-on workshops.
As companies and the society evolved, more and more customer information was stored and analysed. Business Intelligence existed before, but now Big Data was born and more powerful data storage and analytical tools flooded the market. With that, the amount of advertisement emails per customer came to a peak and content wise it was "one content fits them all". Already then the recommended contact frequency was a max. of 2-3 times from one brand per month. Remember the "mark as spam button"? Well I used it a lot and there was no legal ground to avoid those emails. This happened in 2018, when the EU released the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations).
Today we live in a world with information overflow. But "Predictive Analytics & Personalisation" is already supportive at our side. The customer segmentation even include personal interests, geographic data, income information etc. The toolbox is filled with product marketing, social media, influencers, events, online marketing and many other marketing activities. There is not ONE recipe for a successful relationship marketing. Even if for your industry social media is the thing, it might not fit to your corporate identity at all and will therefore not work for you. It depends on your industry, your company strategy and culture, the technology available to you, etc. etc. A campaign working in Germany does not necessarily work in Japan. Are you going online and use SEO/SEA or do personal relationships suit your business better?
CRM now stands for CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MARKETING and is the perfect marriage of data driven marketing and the traditional brand management activities. The art is to provide a global framework, that takes local circumstances into account and provide the customer the right customer with the right experience at the right time - the customer lifecycle 2.0. The technology only acts as the supporting tool to support data analytics and implement the strategy into the daily business.
We are "omnichannelling" and wear CRM on our wrists (i.e. Apple watch), interact on social media, inform ourselves online AND go to the physical stores. Soon we will use AR in stores, get our products customised thanks to 3D print and pay in cryptocurrencies. The future has already started and brings new challenges. However, I think, no matter how much the technology develops, we are and always will be human beings with feelings and thoughts, that no technology in the world can completely replace.
We sell a holistic customer experience and marketing actually already starts with the own employees. Never before did the different areas from HR, sales, customer support, training, analytics to marketing influence each other in such an extend. It is not surprising, that this resulted in more flat or even matrix hierarchies and a development towards an empathic civilisation.