CRM is back! Anne Bologna, Chief Strategy Officer at Crossmedia USA, is convinced that modern CRM tools will finally enable brands to build real relationships with their customers. Could CRM in fact be the Holy Grail of digital-based advertising?
In this modern era of digital marketing, data and tech have sparked the rise of new platforms and channels that are transforming how brands approach their go-to-market strategies. All of the shiny new toys are hard to ignore and all too often they tend to obscure. CRM is one discipline that is often overshadowed.
Customer Relationship Management? CRM like email marketing? Isn’t that so 1998? Actually, CRM, the 2021 edition, is an engagement workhorse that brings “relationship” back to the practice. Many clients haven’t fully appreciated its power, often to their detriment. This is understandable as it can be easy to be mesmerized by the razzle dazzle of precision targeting of audiences that has been a hallmark of the programmatic ad revolution.
But looking at a year where an entire industry is pivoting towards reinvention necessitated by the imminent sunsetting of the cookie and the mobile identifier, what has been considered “old” just might be “new” again. Now more than ever, it is vital for brands to remember that technology and data can only be useful insofar as it supports and enhances marketing that engages emotionally with consumers as human beings.
An antidote to what ails digital advertising
The boobirds may take exception, but I assert that the modern version of CRM could be applied as a powerful antidote to much of what ails the current digital advertising paradigm. In fact, I would go so far as to assert that CRM very well may be a Holy Grail of modern digital-based advertising. I don’t exaggerate because CRM can be the ultimate 1-to-1 marketing tool if brands allow it.
Even before Google announced its decision to diminish cookies on its Chrome browser and Apple announced its restrictions on the IDFA mobile identifier, our industry was already suffering from the collateral damage caused by data-driven marketing that had become too reckless and intrusive. Think about all the havoc that a cookie-based marketplace had wrought on consumer confidence. The runaway train that retargeting had become was nothing short of cyber-stalking.
But out of the muck comes clarity. Brands like Apple itself, as well as the likes of Etsy, Sephora, Patagonia, and Amazon have all embraced data to position email marketing as one part branding; one part engagement; and one part conversion. Yes, CRM can actually function as a full-funnel endeavor. When I get an email from Etsy, the e-commerce purveyor of handmade vintage craft items—ranging from jewelry and apparel to furniture–, I’m drawn to the message organically.
Facilitating inspiration and discovery
A typical Etsy email will present the reader with a series of screen shots that roll out in a clean, engaging manner. Unlike many digital marketing strategies that try too hard and are clearly motivated by sales and conversion goals, Etsy’s email efforts facilitate inspiration and discovery. What is great about how brands like Etsy deploy email marketing is the powerful combination of creativity buttressed by superior data insights. In the past email marketing, like its direct mail antecedents, were more hammer than artful scalpel. All too often, these campaigns were more spray and pray than thoughtful, surgical engagement. The proof is in the numbers as it often is. Etsy’s Q3 2020 consolidated financial results offer strong validation of its approach. Gross profit came in at $331.3 million, up 156.8% year-over-year.
The curtain will rise
Amazon has mastered the art of using data insights to fuel personalization, and they have one of the most sophisticated CRM infrastructures in the world. They harvest customer purchase data to instantly customize users’ online experiences. Apple uses its ID sign-in to provide bespoke recommendations based on user preferences to make it a powerful tool that drives always-on targeted marketing.
There are many second acts in life and I certainly think that the curtain will rise on CRM as an important digital marketing tool for the next decade and beyond. Companies like Etsy are serving as inspiration. Now that CRM now includes texting, all you need is an email and phone number to build a modern, digital relationship with consumers that are engaging.