What is CRM? It’s not the shoes!

by Bob Thompson

Remember those Nike commercials a few years ago? “It’s the shoes!” was used to promote Air Jordan basketball shoes. Now we all know that even a barefoot Michael Jordan is still the best basketball player on the planet. Yet, shoe sales were brisk.

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CRM applications are just like those shoes. Do you need them? Probably. After all, most shoeless people don’t play basketball very well. But shoes won’t make you a scoring machine, and the latest CRM software doesn’t necessarily mean you are practicing effective CRM.

So what is CRM? Think about your favorite small business with a proprietor who you really like. Chances are that business knows a lot about you, and it’s mostly in the owner’s head: your likes, dislikes, buying patterns, personal tidbits (“How’s the golf game?”), etc. If you’re a long-term profitable customer, that’s mentally filed away too, with nary a computer in sight. In a word, it’s personal. And very effective CRM.

Unfortunately, as the Internet geeks like to say, that approach doesn’t “scale.” With larger businesses (even just a few people), there is no collective memory unless it’s stored somewhere, and stored information must be shared with the right people at the right time. Enter computers, CRM software, and the Internet.

However, as my colleague A.C. Ross likes to say, don’t make the mistake of “substituting action for thought.” Before you act (buy and install the CRM solution), think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Targeting and acquiring the right customers? Selling more effectively or efficiently? Improving customer care?

Not sure? Put away your check book until you are. If you do focus on key problems in your business, CRM applications can probably help throughout the relationship lifecycle. Your customers will just keep coming back to do more business, and they won’t really care what “shoes” you’re wearing. Now that’s scoring!