[Click here to check out Emily Griebel's free BrightTALK webinar on this same topic.]
I’ve been involved with CRM projects for 15 years now. It all started with the 1998 launch of Campbell’s Soup's inaugural online recipe box and outbound email program, Meal-Mail® (still called this today). Just recently, the thought crystallized in my mind that I hate – and have always hated – the terms "CRM" and "Customer Relationship Management."
For a concept that is supposed to be about building a warm, loving relationship with your customers, "CRM" just sounds so cold and unfriendly. It almost sounds like an acronym for a disease. And "Customer Relationship Management" sounds equally impersonal and insinuates that customers need to be managed or supervised. Managing customers is exactly what we are told NOT to do in marketing – especially in today’s world of social media, on-demand TV, smart phone technology and more.
Instead, we should be courting our customers and prospects. Encarta defines courting as, "Trying to gain something such as somebody's attention or admiration by behaving in ways that are intended to attract or encourage it."
This, in my opinion, is the key to a successful CRM program. We as brand marketers should work to gain our customers’ attention AND admiration. We should do this in ways that are intended to attract our customers or encourage them to take a preferred action. Which leads me to believe that the word "relationship" is truly the most important part of CRM. If we treated every prospect or customer like we were in a loving relationship with them, we would act differently, wouldn’t we?
As brands trying to foster relationships with customers, we would be more careful and deliberate with our actions. We would create a loving environment that allows them to grow and change with us. And, on the other hand, if we tried too hard, we would eventually drive them away. Successful personal relationships are those that are open, honest, and flexible. Marketers like us should keep these three words in mind as we develop CRM programs for our brands. That way, we’ll start to treat customers like they wanted to be treated. Not how we think they want to be treated.
So who’s with me? Let’s rally to eliminate the term Customer Relationship Management and start to think about the best techniques for Customer Relationship Fostering, or Customer Relationship Nurturing, or Customer Relationship … (I’m open to suggestions).
Emily H. Griebel, a marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the top marketing firms in the country (including 8+ years at MWC). She now runs EHG Consulting and offers strategic planning services to organizations that can't justify the need for a full-time marketing director. She can be found on LinkedIn or @EmilyHGriebel on Twitter.