Big businesses, traditional businesses, the ones that you drive by on the way to Wal-mart or see on Superbowl commercials have operated for years as if they are the ones managing their relationships with their customers. That if they can rank leads and assess opportunities they will somehow know what value each customer brings to their company.
For these folks marketing involves mass messaging. To them, CRM involves measuring those mass efforts. Magazine ads, radio spots, direct mail, telemarketing calls, e-mail blasts, etc. are sent out liberally then sliced and diced and ranked and rated for a decision on the next campaign’s target. Communication between the company and its customer is largely one way with perhaps an e-mail address in small print in case a customer REALLY needs to talk back.
Small businesses operate at a different level. They start with a handful of customers. The relationships are intimate, the conversations are free flowing and organic and fun. The trick is – what happens when a small business starts to grow? When you can’t remember if it was Sally or Anita who said her business is expanding into organics. Or if anyone told Fred that the new feature he requested got implemented? Or if those folks who were your biggest fans at start-up still recommend you to their friends? How do you grow without losing the intimacy?
It all comes back to what makes a real relationship. It’s not just sending out a thousand messages, but listening to the responses those messages generate. Listening to the folks who are walking into your store, or searching Google for your service, or playing with a trial version of your product. Listening to the ones who buy it as well as the ones who don’t. And especially listening to the ones who are telling the world what they think.
The Web, Google and social media have brought what once was an intimacy available only to the local shopkeepers to a whole new audience. CRM is becoming a listening tool. Not just for monitoring your own messages, but for monitoring everyone else’s. When we built BatchBook, we designed it to maintain that intimacy. The customer page tells so much more than the name, address and opportunity rank. It tells you about every e-mail a customer has sent, or blog post they have written, or friend they referred, or t-shirt they received, or complaint they filed. If you want, it can tell you their hair color, or sales volume or shoe size.
As we continue to add features to BatchBook we will always keep that intimacy between a small business and its customer as our guiding principal. Because it is that intimacy with our customers that makes our own business worthwhile.