Monday, June 18, 2012

CRM Is a Strategy, Not Technology

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out. James will be joining us at ePharma Summit West July 17-19, 2012 in San Franscico, California.  If you'd like to join James, be sure to register today and mention code XP1756BLOG to save 15% off the current rate!

No, wait. Just because this is going to be about CRM doesn’t mean you need to bring your call to action into the room. This will not be about computers. The problem is that we just see the acronym and not the words themselves. You think you know what CRM is, that it's a big database filled with info about all your customers and it spits out all sorts of insights like what channels each target prefers and what messages they seem to respond to. Except none of that is in the name itself: Customer relationship management. No tech. No servers. No database. No channel preference. It's just a way to manage the relationships you have with your customers. If you owned a bar, knowing what the regulars liked to drink and remembering that Ol’ Joe gets a little maudlin after his fourth – that would be customer relationship management. You wouldn't need a server, because you would know many of your customers by name, by drink, and by story. That's what a good bartender does, right?

So why do we need to inject databases into the concept? When you think CRM, don't think servers and analysts, think strategy. Because that’s what CRM is -- a strategy. It is a way of thinking about your customers to help them have a positive experience, so that they come back for more. It is a system and structure that forces you to put the customer in the center of all your marketing thinking.

Allow me to be specific. You’ve got a target list. Maybe you’ve broken it down by deciles. And you are recruiting everyone on that target list to opt in to your email campaigns. Now, your email campaigns, are they a bunch of emails you send out every few weeks in a specific order? Maybe you occasionally interrupt that order with breaking news about a conference or a label change? Yeah, I figured as much. So what’s that getting you? Are you learning about your targets? No, you’re shouting at them. And worse yet, you’re shouting at them all the same way. The twenty email messages you’ve spent the last nine months crafting and pushing through MLR are to be sent in order, to everyone who opts in, are they increasing your prescription rates? Are they increasing your rep and sample requests? Are they increasing your target’s understanding of your brand? I’ll buy you a drink at ePharmaSummit West this year if you can answer ”yes” to all those questions.

Let’s assume you’ve embraced an adoption path for all your targets, that everyone was either unaware of your brand; aware but ignorant of what the drug does; educated but unconvinced of its value, convinced of its value and prepared to prescribe; or ready to tell other people about their positive experiences with the brand. Which of your twenty emails speaks to which of those audiences? Are you sending your messages in a way that moves each target from one step to the next? Can you confirm that each target has moved to the next step before you send the next message? (Did you notice that every question asked where the customer is? This is what I mean by customer-centered.) This is what CRM can tell you. With proper implementation, it can see that Dr. Smith is aware of the brand (because she went to a conference and dropped a business card in the bowl to try and win an iPad). So it sends Dr. Smith three emails in a row about what the purpose of the drug is. The system knows that after the second email, the doctor clicked the link to learn more and watched most of the eLearning video. This means that our target has moved to the next step, so skip the third ”brand awareness” email and move on to the campaign to get them to request a sample. At the same time, Dr. Jones already is aware of the brand and it's mechanism of action, so a series of messages are sent about requesting samples and formulary information. This is how you manage your customers.

The strategy comes first. We can figure out how to build the database and tracking system later. Here’s the scary part: you can't say that you don't think CRM is valuable because every business tries to manage their relationships with their customers. It's a cornerstone of building a good business. What you may object to is the way that strategy is implemented, but you can't ignore the strategy itself. So tell me: how are you managing the relationships you have with your customers?
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