I believe that for every job, there is a toolbox. And, in this toolbox, there are tools that can be used to achieve success. Some tools are small and take longer to accomplish the task. Other tools are more powerful and achieve results more quickly. But, regardless - they are all tools in a toolbox.
Take, for example, the CRM Toolbox... in some businesses the toolbox is the CRM software package and its many features are utilized to accomplish tasks at hand. In other businesses, those who do not have a CRM software package installed, the toolbox is made up of disparate communication vehicles through which tasks are accomplished. Let's talk about the tools specifically, since the toolbox itself is irrelevant.
The tools in a CRM Toolbox are communication mediums through which the business builds and strengthens a relationship with its customer. They are:
The Telephone: The telephone call will always be the single most efficient and most effective method of communicating with your customers. They always appreciate hearing your voice, especially when the call isn't always about selling them something! Find reasons to talk with your customer from time to time without making a sales pitch... you'll be surprised just how far that effort goes toward their loyalty to your business.
Direct Mail: Often considered the worst communication medium in today's hyper-paced business world. Again, when designed correctly and used to communicate ideas and information that are not always pushing a sale - direct mail is an integral piece of your communication strategy. What, besides the latest new product or "discount offer", can you communicate via a direct mail piece? Letters from the President, Testimonials by other customers, etc. are just a few ideas.
Email: The method everyone loves - rejection doesn't sting quite as much and most feel it's the fastest, easiest way to communicate. It has also become so overwhelming that many recipients delete or ignore emails they perceive are "selling" something. Again, a company must leverage this medium to do the most good possible, which means... at minimum, alternate the type of message communicated through email. Impersonal emails, form emails and other "short-cuts" can be spotted a mile away... Be sure to always add an element of something personal to each form-email you send.
Website: If your website is not interactive, then it can not do much in the way of building a relationship with your customer. However, if you can create a community where you capture their thoughts and feedback, allow them to recommend products/services, engage them in discussions on how to get more out of your products and services - you will win!
Social Networking Tools: LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter... they all have their place, strengths and weaknesses. LinkedIn is an excellent tool for business professionals to expand their sphere of influence, while Facebook and MySpace are excellent entertainment-business tools. At first brush, Twitter appeared to be a tool for the younger generation and entertainment industries, although recently professional service industries have found professional applications for it. These spaces are an excellent forum in which to re-connect with your customers and demonstrate that there is more to your business than just selling!
Blog & Article Posts: Blogging about your business - your whole business - gives your customer an opportunity to learn in bite-sized chunks. And, it's an opportunity for their feedback and, when the content is invaluable, an opportunity for your customer to evangelize about you! Take advantage of the blogging sites and article repositories.
The best CRM strategy utilizes all of these mediums and pushes communication through the channel(s) most preferred by each customer. However, just because your customer says that he/she prefers to receive email, doesn't mean that you cease communicating through other mediums (unless specifically requested) - you just minimize the information disseminated through alternative mediums.
I'd like to hear from you... What tools are in your CRM Toolbox? How are you leveraging today's communication methods to build relationships with your customers?