Event Huddle: Customer Relationship Management: Philosophy, Strategy or Tool?

Event Huddle is a series of events, which ignite a debate around hot topics within the events industry. This month, as Director of Events at drp, I joined the panel for “Customer Relationship Management: Philosophy, Strategy or Tool?”. Alongside myself, I was accompanied by some top industry experts. Tim Jenkins, MD of WheelSpinner Consulting, Richard Johns, MD of Realise, and Samme Allen, MD of Sequoia Partnership, who moderated the panel.

In most industries, we are seeing buying behaviours shift from transactional to relationship, and with the vast number of competitors around, customers are looking to build trust and loyalty. But, even with this behaviour shift, research shows that 69% of CRM products have little impact on sales performance and 70% of CRM initiatives will fail over the next 18 months. An ever-important topic we discussed was the way in which we build successful relationships and how CRM systems form part of this.

The importance of relationships

It may seem like common sense, but relationships play a huge part of the long-term success of any organisation; they provide stability, longevity and growth. As Tim mentioned, many key players across various industries have disappeared, been sold, or reduced in size due to purely focusing on instant wins and not focusing on the bigger picture.

One of the main changes within our industry is the buying and proposal process; procurement is no longer interested in receiving a simple sales pitch – they want to be challenged and provided with insight, honesty and integrity. Within my role at drp, we challenge our clients daily. We both have the same goal: to deliver a successful project that exceeds all expectations. We need to be on the same team, therefore we are transparent, open and are not afraid to ask questions.

To be successful within the events industry, customers need to be a part of your journey and we need to be part of theirs. If we can form strong relationships, customers will soon climb the loyalty ladder to become advocates, and this is what we need to aim for.

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Where do CRM systems fit into relationship management?

To start, and as the panel all agreed, a CRM system doesn’t necessarily have to be a fancy, expensive piece of software – it can simply be an excel spreadsheet or a notepad and pen. The well-known CRMs out there such as Salesforce and Zoho do provide a vast number of features that can provide a real benefit to an organisation, but we need to understand what works best for us and, for some organisations, recording customer data and tracking opportunities in an Excel document may be sufficient.

A full-service CRM system has a wide spectrum of features but, in terms of relationships, the panel agreed that we should not fully rely on CRM systems, and instead use them as a tool to gain an insight into the profile of the customers. It can be as simple as including the interests of a key contact so that, when you next get in touch, you already have a topic of conversation. It’s these little touches that often build the relationship.

Another key factor of success is time and resource management. Any organisation, across any industry and sector, must utilise time efficiently, meaning some customers require increased resources compared to others. Failing at this can be detrimental to an organisation, but a CRM system should help you find out where time needs to be focused. Richard mentioned the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule, and it really does need to be accounted for. The rule is very generalised but the concept remains true; 80% of revenue comes from 20% of customers, therefore, by using a CRM to gain insight of customer revenues, activity, volume of services etc. we can get a better insight of who we need to focus on and then improve the overall success of the organisation.

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How does social media play a part in building relationships?

We cannot ignore social media, it’s here and staying. In terms of relationships, social media is probably the most effective channel to gain a true, accurate insight of a customer. We live in a social age and almost everybody is sharing their interests to the wider world, with or without realising.

Tim advises, and we all agreed, that using social media to complete your research and personal profiling should fall as part of your sales process.

  • View LinkedIn profiles – check activity, interests, job history, education
  • View Twitter – check who they follow, their personal interests
  • Google – see if they show up in any articles, publications
  • Check Facebook – if an open profile, again check for interests

I’m not saying you must go to the Facebook page of every person you meet but, by completing this research, you are giving yourself a head start – you’ll be able to trigger conversations on a personal level and start to build trust.

To conclude

To end the event, Samme asked us to provide one piece of insight to sum up Customer Relationship Management.

Richard Johns – Remember the Pareto Principle, some customers will always be more valuable than others, therefore use CRM as a tool to target effectively.

Tim Jenkins – Always have absolute integrity and honesty with the client, this will ensure respect and longevity of the relationship.

Myself – Use CRM systems but know what they are there to do. CRM is a tool to assist when building relationships. Mould to the client and their behaviours.

We must take these three pieces of guidance into account if we want to continually build successful relationships and create levels of advocacy within our customer base.

And if you want to view the panel in full, watch here…

Matt Franks – Director of Events at drp

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