Look Before You Jump

Kelly Haggard

Updated · Nov 09, 2001

In the competitive environment of today’s business world, companies have to do something different to service their customer database. It’s not always apparent what to do to distinguish your company, but by making the right decisions, you can rise above the competition and increase sales and revenue.

This key step is important as you make plans. Research helps to determine the scope of the project and increase the probability that fewer errors will be made. Inaccurate or incomplete research has been the fall of many great CRM projects, Web included. There are several steps to consider in compiling your research.

The Competition
Find out what the competitors are doing as part of their CRM program. Visit their Web sites and see what options they offer for their customers — current and potential. Are they offering an e-mail newsletter? If so, how often is it sent out? Do they offer customized areas of the site, based on buying preference and customer needs? Is there easy access to customer service areas of the site, including a comprehensive FAQ and technical support area? This information is important to consider as you plan your own CRM program. You don’t want to let your competitors get a leg up on you.

The Customer
Find out what your customers want. Your company will most likely benefit from sending out e-mail updates to your customer database. How often do they want to receive information? What formats do they like (HTML or text-only)? Do they want the site customized for their individual needs or are they indifferent as long as your site is easy to navigate? This information helps you look at what your competitors are doing and evaluate whether or not it is worth your time to implement such things on your site. After all, everything you do on the site is for your customers. Encourage them to rate, in regards to importance, different features you are thinking of implementing on the site. Find out what things are most important to your customers and do that first.

Your Company’s Bandwidth
Many marketers will stop after completing the first two steps of research. This can be a bad mistake. You must look at your bandwidth. If you tell your customer your site will be updated daily and then determine that you don’t have the time, you have violated the code that you set up. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver. Figure out how long it will take to provide all the things your customers want and then determine what you can offer. Figure out how long things take to implement. Know beforehand, based on the resources you have for projects, what needs to be outsourced and what you can do in-house.

The Tools
Before you make those product decisions, research needs to be done. Are you using the best, most effective software for your needs? Is there an industry standard that you should be using? There are many competitors out there for your business. You must step back and look at what works best for your organization.

With accurate research, you are now ready to begin implementation of your CRM program. Research shouldn’t stop though. Be prepared to research the process and the results. Make sure you continue to make the right decisions.

Kelly Haggard is Marketing Communications Manager at Omnitron Systems Technology, Inc.. She has worked in marketing and promotions for over 10 years. With a specialty in Internet marketing, she has launched several successful e-mail newsletters and marketed marketing-leading sites.

Reprinted from internetday.

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