A customer relationship management (CRM) strategy is a business organization’s plan to consolidate data from sales, marketing, and customer service and then convert them into actionable information using CRM software. Creating this plan requires you to review your business plan and consider your customer’s journey from prospect to client, but results in a streamlined process, making it well worth the effort.
In this article, we give you some tips to help you develop an effective CRM strategy for your business. You can also download our free CRM strategy worksheet and use it to take notes while you follow these seven steps:
1. Review Your Overall Business Strategy
Before you can create an effective CRM strategy, first review your overall business strategies. This will help you craft a clear vision of the results you want to achieve, which may include growing your business, improving profitability, lowering expenses, and increasing customer loyalty. You also must determine how to execute your plan and who will be part of the process. Below are some elements of a business strategy to consider before formulating your sales strategy:
Understand Your High-level Business Goals
Identifying the right high-level goals helps you form an effective CRM strategy that integrates your overall business strategy. A survey report from Clutch found that more than half of business owners do not create sales, marketing, and customer service strategies. The absence of a business strategy could lead to loss of productivity and poor customer experience.
To set the right business goals, take note of what you want to achieve within a year through your CRM strategy. Doing this will give you an edge over your competitors.
Here are a few examples of high-level business goals:
- Increase customer satisfaction survey ratings by 10 points
- Boost productivity and efficiency by 30% by the end of the third quarter
- Reduce customer churn rate to less than 5% after two months
- Surpass sales quota by 5%
- Develop a better collaboration system through quarterly team building activities
Develop a Unique Selling Proposition
A unique selling proposition (USP) sets you apart from your competitors and tells your customers why they should choose your company over others. Think about what you currently do or offer that similar companies don’t have. This should be the basis of your whole marketing strategy.
Here are a few examples of good unique selling propositions:
- Saddleback Leather: “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead” (highlights their 100-year warranty on their product)
- Tattly Tattoos: “Fake tattoos by real artists” (tells you that they offer temporary tattoos meant to look like real tattoos)
- Death Wish Coffee: “We produce the world’s strongest coffee” (backed up by a summary of how their coffee is made)
Define Your Value Proposition
A good value proposition is a statement that summarizes the specific results and value that a customer receives if they use your product or service. It is an innovation or a feature intended to make your company more attractive to customers.
Unique Selling Proposition vs Value Proposition
A unique selling proposition concerns a company’s unique qualities and the things that make it superior over its competitors in general. A value proposition, on the other hand, directly highlights how your business could improve your customer’s life or address their specific pain points.
Here’s an example of a good value proposition from sales expert Jill Konrath:
“We help large companies reduce the cost of their employee benefits programs without impacting benefit levels. With the spiraling costs of healthcare today, this is a critical issue for most businesses. One of our recent clients, a large manufacturing company similar to yours, was struggling with how to reduce spending in this area. We saved them over $800,000 in just six months.”
Here are some of the things to avoid doing when defining value proposition:
- Feature a lot of highly technical terms or jargon (“I am a certified portfolio construction specialist.”): Your prospect may not be familiar with these terms and may not understand their value.
- Focus on description of character (“An honest and trustworthy liability insurance broker.”): These are subjective and often do the opposite of instilling trust as they remind prospects of negative experiences.
- Limit it to a slogan or tagline (“We deliver results.”): The short phrases are great for making your company memorable, but they don’t speak to your value specifically to the prospect.
- Include an unbacked claim about your product (“#1 user-friendly marketing automation platform.”).
- List unrelated qualifications (“We have been in the industry for 37 years and have worked with hundreds of companies. Here is our list of clients…”): Your prospect needs to know what you can do for them specifically before they will care about your resume.
Know Your Customers’ Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is a fictional character that represents your ideal customer. Creating a buyer persona helps identify your specific target market, understand what your potential buyers are looking for, and provide your customers with what they want or need. In addition, it ensures that your sales and marketing campaigns are not wasted on the wrong leads.
When creating a buyer persona, include as many details as possible, like demographics, behavioral statistics, interests, challenges, values, and aspirations. To find out which elements to include, interview your staff, study customer profiles, or send out customer surveys. You can also create more than one persona, but ideally less than five.
Understand the Competitive Landscape
Knowing who your competitors are and how your business fits into the industry allows you to monitor trends, assess your company’s ability to maintain a competitive advantage, and make business decisions based on the situation. It also lets you see how your competitors are conducting their sales and marketing campaigns. Not knowing the competitive landscape puts you at a disadvantage because you won’t know how to compete with them.
To better compete, you need to know what your target market wants and needs.
2. Map the Customer Journey
The customer journey map is a visual representation or a diagram of a customer’s interactions and experiences with your business across all touchpoints. These may include your company website, social media channels, online reviews and mentions, paid ads, live chat, and email marketing. Mapping out the customer journey helps you uncover their common pain points and personalize or improve customer experience.
There is no specific pattern for customer journey maps. However, note that there is a different customer journey map for every buyer persona you create for your business. When creating this visual diagram, include your business touchpoints, stages of customer engagement, pain points, and the goals you want to measure.
The customer journey commonly includes these stages:
- Brand awareness
- Learning about a company, product, or service
- Brand comparison
Identify Current Challenges
Once you have outlined your customer journey stages, identify the obstacles in each stage that stop your customer from making a purchase. Detailing these challenges in the customer journey map helps to determine what actions you should take to address them and at what stage you should implement your plans. For example, you could set up a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page to address potential buyers’ questions about specific product features, pricing, and shipping costs.
Create a Content Plan
For every touchpoint in the customer journey, you need to provide different types of content that support your prospect. It could be a how-to guide or educational e-book that helps a prospect address a pain point. You could also provide product guides, webinars, or ads for another one of your products for customers.
3. Establish Sales Channels & Sales Process
Sales channels are the avenues you take to distribute your products or services to a market. Some businesses sell directly to consumers, while others go through various sales channels, such as distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. The structure of your sales process will depend on the type of product you sell and to whom you are selling.
Sell Direct to Customers
Business-to-business (B2B) companies typically sell their products directly to consumers or another business in a process called direct sales. Such transactions can be closed in person or via direct online purchase. In this process, your company handles the product creation, supervision of the sales process, and hiring and management of the sales team.
Advantages of direct sales include:
- Increased control over the sales process
- Opportunity to receive direct feedback from customers
- More control over the selling price
- More time for selling
Sell Using a Distributor or Reseller
Larger businesses benefit from channel sales, the process of selling products via distributors, retailers, or wholesalers. Here, your company does not interact with the consumers, and the resellers get a percentage of the product sale. While this may leave you with less control over the sales process and thinner profit margins, it could also open more opportunities to scale your business.
Advantages of channel sales include:
- Reduced expenses for product sales, marketing, and distribution
- Increased chance for growth via new channel partners
- Cost-efficient expansion through established partners
Define the Sales Process
The sales process is the set of steps needed to move a prospective buyer from brand awareness to the stage of a closed sale. It is essential to define your sales process because it is crucial for the growth of your business. You can also leverage your CRM software’s capabilities to track a prospect’s movement through the eight stages of the sales pipeline.
Common pipeline stages:
- Qualifying and managing leads
- Initial meeting with the prospect
- Defining prospect’s needs
- Making an offer
- Closing the deal
- Delivering the product
4. Understand Organizational Dynamics
Organizational dynamics involve the process of managing and strengthening employee resources within a business or organization. To facilitate smoother implementation of technology, you need to onboard relevant employees in your company’s CRM strategy, including the process of selecting a new CRM or switching to another platform. It is important to know who will access the CRM and how technological changes affect your team.
Evaluate Cultural Readiness
Take time to assess your team’s readiness to use a CRM before implementing the software. If some employees have already experienced using a CRM, find out what platforms they have used, what their positive and negative feedback is, and how the tool helped improve their jobs.
Identify CRM Roles
Determine the employees in your company who will need access to the CRM and what levels of access each person needs. It is also important to designate a CRM administrator who understands the software and the business process very well. You can also hire a CRM strategist or a consultant who will manage CRM strategies for your business.
Align Sales, Marketing & Customer Service
Sales, marketing, and customer service are usually the departments that most often use a CRM. You need to bring these three departments together to have a better understanding of how each will use the software and what tools they will need.
Remember that the CRM centralizes data from different departments to provide you with a holistic view of your customers. This facilitates smoother cross-department coordination and faster decision-making.
5. Define Team Goals
Setting individual goals for your sales, marketing, and customer service teams helps set employee expectations. The goals that you set for these teams should align with your overall company objectives. For example, you can utilize your CRM to track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. You can also determine if the solution you are using can deliver the required number of automated emails for a particular project.
Set SMART Goals to Effectively Track Performance
The goals that you set for your business should be SMART: (S=specific, M=measurable, A=achievable, R=relevant, and T=time-bound).
Here’s an example of a SMART goal:
- Specific: Increase website traffic by 20% by the end of December 2021.
- Measurable: Aim to increase the number of annual visitors from 50,000 to 60,000.
- Attainable: Last year, we published popular topics and implemented search engine optimization (SEO) strategies that contributed to a 15% increase in our annual website traffic. We believe that a target of 20% is achievable this year.
- Relevant: Increased website traffic will lead to better brand awareness and more money for our company.
- Time-bound: Our deadline for this goal is December 2021.
Establish Key Performance Indicators
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable elements that measure your company’s performance against your set goals and objectives. They could include growth in revenue, net sales, average conversion time, number of contracts signed, and monthly website traffic.
You can track these metrics and generate reports using CRM analytics. It is a good idea to use between five and seven KPIs to monitor your plan’s progress.
A CRM like Salesforce Essentials can help you track metrics, such as the number of meetings that a salesperson needs to set to close the number of deals required to hit the quarterly quota. Other KPIs that you can track using this tool include pipeline deals, individual sales, conversion time, and lead qualification percentage.
6. Define the CRM Components
In this stage, you define the granular components of the CRM strategy. It includes determining your contacts, leads, prospects, and opportunities. This process also involves the creation of pipelines and deal stages.
Define Contacts, Leads, Prospects & Opportunities
How do you know what makes a good contact, lead, prospect, and opportunity? Determine how each person or company falls into the categories above. For example, a contact is a person that you have done business with in the past, and should have a full name, email, and phone number. On the other hand, a lead has not worked with your company yet but could have business potential.
A prospect is a potential customer who fits your target market and has the power to initiate a purchase. An opportunity is a prospect who has shown interest in your product and is ready to make a purchase.
The best CRM software helps you identify if a contact is a lead, prospect, or opportunity based on specific properties. Each CRM solution has a different definition of these components. For this reason, how you define these categories will depend on the brand of CRM that you use.
Create Pipelines & Deal Stages
Pipelines provide a visual representation of your sales process, so you can predict your revenue and anticipate challenges. Each pipeline is composed of several stages that tell you where your opportunity is in the customer journey.
CRM systems allow you to customize pipelines and deal stages according to your team’s specific requirements. Salesforce Essentials is a robust CRM with highly customizable pipelines, making it a great tool that small businesses can use to track their leads and customers.
When creating a pipeline, include all the steps needed to move the contact from lead to customer. These steps may consist of first contact, discovery call, demo, proposal review, and closing.
7. Selecting the Right CRM Software
When choosing the right CRM software for your business, consider a wide range of factors, including pricing, features, capabilities, and integrations. Talk with your sales, marketing, and customer service teams first to determine the capabilities required of the CRM for your company.
Review & Research Requirements
Find out what software your sales, marketing, and customer service teams are currently using and if those tools need to be integrated with the CRM. Ask them if they need additional capabilities or features, such as auto-profile enrichment or higher data storage capacity. Based on their answers, look for CRM solutions that fit those requirements.
Test Drive CRMs
Sign up for a free trial or schedule a free demo to see firsthand what a CRM looks like and how it works. Doing this will give you the chance to experience its features and determine its ease of use. Once you have chosen a CRM, check out our guide to implementing a CRM to facilitate the setup and implementation of the platform.
Creating a CRM strategy is essential in building better customer relationships, growing business revenue, and improving customer experience. In addition, it strengthens the collaboration between your sales, marketing, and service departments. Lastly, it provides your company with metrics and data insights to guide you in creating future business strategies.
For small businesses needing a highly customizable CRM solution to incorporate into their CRM strategy, Salesforce Essentials is an excellent choice because of its strong lead and opportunity tracking capabilities. Visit their website today to sign up for a free 30-day trial, or read our Salesforce Essentials review to learn more about its features, pricing, and ease of use.