Building Lasting Relationships: The CRM Process

Building Lasting Relationships: The CRM Process

CRM is much more than a simple business strategy to increase sales; it’s a deep connection between brand and customer. Today, building your brand and establishing loyalty is on the same level as nourishing your own personal relationships. It’s a huge undertaking – something that needs constant attention – for a number of reasons:

  • You need to have a great methodology for both collecting and understanding data
  • You need to be able to leverage your data into actionable insights
  • You should always, always be going beyond the customer’s needs: aka, using UNICORNS

But first, a brief history…

Customer Relationship Management was not always the powerful thing that it is today. CRM is particularly beneficial, as it functions as a multi-channel marketing strategy that allows you to target specific audiences, with the ultimate goal being to generate long-term customer engagement.

If you’re in the depths of CRM just like us, you may have heard of Lester Wunderman. In the late 60s, Wunderman planted the seeds for future marketing tactics during a speech at MIT, in which he officially defined the term ‘direct marketing’. As the years rolled by, and technology boomed, CRM continued on as simple data collection for the marketers switching from their dusty rolodex to the modern day computer. Later, software companies like Siebel Systems emerged; paving the way for the CRM technology we see today. But the programs that spawned from the new technology were in the stone age compared to today.

The data continued to be underutilized, used only to store customer information and subsequently used for post-sale purposes. They were still only scratching the surface of the potential benefits of using 1:1 communications with your customer.

Now, as technology continues to usher in a new age of ultra-connectivity, we’re seeing marketers shift their focus to growing and sustaining customer relationships. Brands are more and more detached from the customer, so the only way to keep up is establishing a relationship. Marketing professionals should be focused — more than ever before — on creating strategies that can connect customers with the brand in a meaningful way.

OK, Caren. I’m on board. But how do I do it?

For starters, you won’t be able to engage in any sort of customer relationship without meaningful data in your possession. This is crucial for today’s marketer, you need to gather this data in order to tailor your communications to specific segments.

Your data collection might look something like this:

  • Hey customer, what’s your name?
  • Hey customer, what are your interests and preferences?
  • Hey customer, how often do you want us to check in with you?

But, as much as data collection can’t be stressed enough, you also need to be using your coveted information positively and properly.

Listening is important in any relationship — especially marketing. With all of this usable data, the customer expects to receive exactly what they desired of you, as they took the time to share their thoughts with you. You need to hold up on your end of the promise by delivering relevant content.

Unfortunately, if you can’t commit to this strategy, there won’t be any relationship to build because you’ll have no customer retention. Why should a customer trust a brand uninterested, and unwilling, to listen to their “likes” and “dislikes”? To put it into context, what if your friends forgot to wish you a happy birthday? That would be both surprising and disappointing, especially since you’ve probably celebrated in the past. Similarly, if a company is unable to use a customer’s information positively don’t expect them to stick around.

What it boils down to is the need for transparency and equality. Treat your customers the same way you’d want to be treated by another person. Customers won’t be impressed by old marketing tactics like mass communication. They want to be treated uniquely, timely and with the right approach.

So, you’re ready to get the ball rolling?

Introducing… The Unicorns!

Behind every great brand staying true to relationship building is a crack team of A+ marketers. Those men and women that care about customer likes. Those curious cats looking to discover more data about their audience. Those marketing warriors willing to go the extra mile to understand how to make 1:1 communications come to fruition.

This is why they’re considered unicorns: they’re the people that make an effort to work with every department — honing in on the best customer experience possible. They’re also the people who are throwing away plain emails and experimenting with creative ways to impress clients.

Want to see what type of CRM marketer you are? Take this quiz.

How your unicorns can WOW your customers

You need to go beyond offering a product, extending the customer relationship lifespan happens by using their habits and interests and matching them to products, not the other way around. A couple great examples of a WOW campaign made by leveraging data:


Have you ever sat down with your Customer Service team to listen to your customer’s calls? If you haven’t, it’s definitely time to start. You need to dedicate some time every once in a while to sit down and to listen to the pain points of your customers, and because you are this A+ marketer, you should be excited about being able to get a subjective view of what your customers are saying about your brand.

By listening to their calls is how the idea of building the Mythbuster campaign for Aeroplan came to mind. There were misconceptions that we wanted to clarify and I only realized this after listening to their calls — a lot of them. That campaign turned out to be one of the most successful in Aeroplan’s history, and it’s still online. All of this came by collaborating with other departments, which is key.


Another great example of going the extra mile is to get access to the reply inbox from your brand, that generic email that customers could reply to. Some companies have customer service taking those emails and replying to them, some don’t even bother doing that. As a marketer you can take that as source of information and from there start an investigation. A marketer is like a good CSI agent.

You get a hypothesis based on your active listening, and then you execute based on the data. Getting access to the reply inbox is how I realized that a lot of members of Aeroplan were asking the same questions — again and again. I decided to take a look at the data and it turned out that a big percentage of members would not connect with an agent over the phone, or over an email, leaving the question unanswered. The action plan was easy: an automated email with the top questions with their answers, right after a member would write to the “non-reply” email address from a commercial campaign. With that email, we reduced the call centre calls by 10% and improved engagement within members.

The secret is finding these unicorns…

All companies have the ability to share marketing tools, collect the same data, and use the same systems. There’s no secret to better segmentation or personalization. There are dozens of resources to help guide companies into establishing best strategies.

It’s the A+ marketers behind the scenes who will help your brand develop long-term relationships. Marketers should leverage tools and platforms as a means to forge new, creative ways to connect with their customers. This is how you turn brand engagement into brand loyalty.

If you can find someone who can take knowing how to do something to actually doing it… hold onto to them because they’ll be shaping your brand in no time.

Here’s your quick guide to staying ahead and becoming a unicorn:

  • Don’t limit your role: learn how to do quick changes in HTML, how to tweak a picture in Photoshop, how to do a quick SQL query to segment your audience. Being agile and nimble has to be your #1 priority.
  • Get involved with everyone in the company: The marketers are not the only ones that hold data. Being well connected with the BI team is key.
  • Sell your idea: You’ll need to support it with numbers; could be a market research, could be a past campaign results, a business case, etc., come prepared and if you believe that your campaign would make a difference, make it happen!
  • Don’t do something that is easily googleable. Your campaign has to be fresh, new and if it’s something that exists somewhere else, then present it in a different way. For example, use an infographic.
  • Be curious: Listen to call center calls, get access to non-reply inbox, do mystery shopping, basically don’t stay still at your desk. Your screen monitor won’t give you the ultimate campaign idea!
  • Connect with your marketing community: Other colleagues from other brands may have the answer that you are looking for, because they may have already done what you are trying to do. Leverage your network!

All of these things are not listed in your job description, and those are some of the things that will make you stand out from the crowd and make your brand unique!

Want to chat with Caren about strengthening your relationship with customers? Reach out to her at

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