This piece is the first of a series of posts, where I explore some of the potential benefits of CRM technology.

The aim is to look at one aspect in each post. I suspect none of what I’m going to be covering is especially cutting edge, but these are things I’ve seen work very well with clients, and may be of value to others.

So, the first area I’m going to dive into is more targeted direct marketing.

I will set the scene with a simple example. We worked with a small services company a few years back. They’d enjoyed some success with some of their marketing initiatives in the past, but revenues had flattened in more recent times.

They did a small amount of email marketing at the time, but this tended to be fairly infrequent because it was time-consuming to assemble lists as data wasn’t centralised, but held in a series of spreadsheets and Outlook Contacts lists.

The campaigns that were initiated weren’t especially successful, largely because they were sending the same message to everyone.

The approach we agreed with them was to centralise data in a CRM system (Dynamics 365 in this case, but frankly it could have been pretty much any CRM platform).

The set up was super-simple, with the main work being to consolidate multiple spreadsheets and contact lists into a single, de-duplicated list of contacts. These contacts were then categorised into one of five ‘buckets’ which reflected the different types of people they marketed to.

Each month thereafter the client used Mailchimp (which had been integrated with the CRM platform) to send out five different newsletters, each specifically tailored to the interests of that ‘bucket’ of contacts.

The results were pretty eye-watering. The mailings consistently threw up a host of new opportunities, many of which turned into significant projects. Within a few months a fairly modest investment in the system had been repaid multiple times.

The principle behind the success is the simple notion that direct marketing campaigns, where the content is tightly aligned to the interests of the recipients, generate more interest than those that are not.

In other words, as a Coventry City FC fan (it’s a long story), I’m more likely to be interested in, and respond to, a communication specifically about Coventry football club rather than, more generally, about football.

Now, I admit that’s not much of a revelation. However, I also note that the plethora of marketing communications I receive are generally not particularly well targeted, and from looking at a lot of client CRM systems, relatively few do targeting well.

So why was this particular client successful when others have struggled?

I think that probably comes down to a few key things:

First, and perhaps most importantly, they’ve kept things simple. They boiled things down so that a person fits into one of five categories. Each category reflects a distinct segment of contacts who have similar interests, attitudes, and behaviours.

So that means there’s one field in the system that needs to be updated.

The problem I see with many systems is there’s a raft of fields that users are expected to update to assist with marketing segmentation. Unsurprisingly perhaps, because there are so many, few are actually updated, and consequently there’s no ability to use the non-existent data for segmentation purposes.

Secondly, the client’s execution of the strategy was excellent. The newsletters were sent out regularly and the content was both visually appealing, well-written, and relevant to the interests of the recipient group.

Not something you can say for everything that drops into the inbox.

I think the take-away from this is that effective segmentation and direct marketing can be a powerful, simple, and very cost-effective way of growing a business.

The challenge is to identify what segmentation makes sense for your business, and to gather the data to facilitate it.

The good news perhaps, particularly in the context of the current economic climate, is that it’s a benefit you can quickly realise without having to splash out on new technology.

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