A solid customer relationship management (CRM) strategy is essential for optimizing sales and marketing performance. With the right tactics to complement your tools and talent, you’ll be one step closer to outperforming your competitors.
In this article, we’ll explain what a CRM strategy is and how to build one for revenue growth. We’ll also share step-by-step instructions and some real-world examples of successful CRM strategies to help you maximize the value of every buyer interaction
What is a CRM strategy and why do I need one?
A CRM strategy is a company-wide plan for maximizing the value of customer relationships, with the aim of reducing costs and increasing profit. It’s one of three factors that contribute to successful customer relationship management:
Tools. The technologies you use to organize customer data, track internal performance and manage relationships. Pipedrive is a prime example of sales CRM software.
Talent. The people within your business who use those tools to manage data and make revenue-generating decisions. They’re typically members of sales, marketing and customer satisfaction or customer service teams.
Strategy. How you apply your tools and talent to get results and, more importantly, how the execution separates you from your competition.
The right CRM strategy covers many components, from organizing customer data and aligning sales and marketing teams to planning content and tracking its performance. By completing these types of sales activities in a thoughtful, insight-driven way, you can:
Provide meaningful customer experiences at every stage of the buyer journey
Target your marketing campaigns for a better return on investment (ROI)
Easily identify the most valuable sales leads so reps can act quickly
Avoid repeating sales and marketing mistakes
Rather than copying another company’s CRM plan, build yours from the ground up and tailor it to your audience’s needs and business goals. That said, outside inspiration is always helpful ( you’ll find two real-world examples at the end of this guide.)
Why you should refine your CRM strategy over time
Unlike a marketing project or sales task, strategizing never ends. Even when you’re confident in the plan you’ve built, refine it as you learn from every success and failure.
A dynamic CRM strategy will empower you to:
Adapt to changing audience behaviors. Your audience is constantly evolving. Be open to changing how you interact with customers to ensure you are meeting them where they are and addressing their needs. For example, a CRM strategy that relied heavily on SMS communication may have kept contacts engaged 15 years ago, but now audiences might prefer messaging through other channels, such as WhatsApp.
Uncover new opportunities. As you adapt your CRM strategy to fit existing customers’ needs, you’ll open your business up to new audiences too. Say you notice Twitter engagement dropping as the platform evolves. By building marketing strategies for other social media channels, you could target new markets to expand your customer base.
Optimize sales and marketing efficiency. Data should inform all your sales and marketing activities. The more organized that data is, the faster your reps and marketers can act and the better their decision-making will be. For example, if you use automation to populate your CRM system with high-value lead data, salespeople won’t need to spend hours identifying potential customers or prioritizing which prospects to contact.
6 steps for building an effective CRM strategy
A good CRM strategy can have a lot of steps. It can be hard to know where to start and which actions to take.
Clear those obstacles by following this six-step CRM planning process:
1. Review your performance objectives
An effective CRM strategy must contribute to high-level business objectives.
Start by considering what your company wants to achieve (it’s unlikely to be as simple as “selling more products”) and how customer relationships support that. You can then plan specific actions that contribute to the desired outcome.
Say a software company aims to cut marketing costs. Better targeting would ensure they maximize ad spend by reaching the right people (i.e. those likely to get long-term value from the product). A thoughtful loyalty plan would help keep new customers satisfied and engaged. Both tactics would contribute to the wider objective by reducing churn rates.
2. Audit your contact data (and keep it organized)
You probably already have access to useful information on your leads, customers and staff – even if you aren’t using it to inform your CRM strategy yet.
Review your tech stack and identify whether you’re collecting data from the following sources as part of your standard business processes:
When you know where your contact data is and comes from, you can:
Organize it. Make the data accessible to people who can use it to make better decisions. For example, if your website consistently generates valuable leads, start funneling their contact information into your CRM tool so that all sales reps have a ready-made prospecting list. You can do this automatically with Pipedrive’s LeadBooster and Leads Inbox features.
Prioritize it. Highlight the types of data most valuable to your business and stop collecting the stuff you don’t need. For example, if email marketing works well for you, focus on email addresses and anything that’ll help you segment your audience for more personalized interactions, such as demographic data and website activity.
Enrich it. Fill customer data gaps for a clear and detailed view of your audience. For example, you might already have a lead’s name and email address in your CRM. By pulling information from LinkedIn, you could add their employer, job title and location. The clearer the picture, the easier it’ll be to personalize sales and marketing interactions.
Collect more. Once you have a plan for your data and a process for organizing it, you can start collecting with purpose. Incorporate more sources to populate your CRM solution with real-time data that’ll help you reach the right people with the right messages.
3. Refine your buyer personas and ideal customer profiles
Use your rejuvenated data to revisit your buyer personas and ideal customer profiles (ICPs). These two terms mean different things but are both important to your CRM strategy.
An ICP defines the perfect customer for your business on an organizational level, based on factors like budget, revenue, company size, location and any product or service limitations.
For example, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) firm might target US marketing agencies with revenue above $10 million, annual sales software budgets of $20,000–$40,000 and more than 40 employees.
A buyer persona focuses more on describing the characteristics of an individual sales prospect, like their demographics, pain points, location, values and goals.
The SaaS company’s buyer persona could be a marketing manager with a goal to reduce company spending and whose biggest pain point is having inconsistent customer data stored in multiple locations.
ICPs and buyer personas help you and your team understand exactly who you should be talking to at the various marketing and sales touchpoints, and how best to engage them.
4. Map your sales pipeline
A sales pipeline is an organized, visual representation of your sales process. It allows you and your team to keep track of potential buyers as they progress through different stages of the customer journey. For example, the image below shows the pipeline view in Pipedrive, which visualizes users’ different deals and the status of each.
As well as adding a layer of accountability for reps, the pipeline enables sales leaders to collate and analyze data on how well their sales process is working so they can optimize it.
Say the sales pipeline shows that deals often go cold during negotiation. In this scenario, the sales manager or business owner could:
A visual sales pipeline will help you accurately measure the impact of any changes in your CRM strategy. For example, if buyers start moving more quickly toward conversion, it could be that your new marketing efforts are generating higher-value leads.
It’s possible to map your sales pipeline in a spreadsheet (and that’s quicker with a sales pipeline template), but you’ll get much more value from pipeline management software.
5. Define how you’ll measure performance
To gauge your CRM strategy’s effectiveness, measure it against the objectives you set while planning. To do that, you’ll need access to the right metrics.
Identify your key performance indicators (KPIs) early so you can capture all the right data from day one.
If the primary aim of your CRM strategy is to reduce marketing costs by increasing brand advocacy, you need to track customer acquisition cost (CAC), churn rates and customer satisfaction levels. Build a plan for how you’ll record and monitor these metrics, or any others that matter to your business.
All the best CRM applications have helpful sales reporting and dashboard features to save you from processing this kind of data manually.
Real-world CRM strategy examples for inspiration
An effective CRM strategy fits your unique business needs and helps you build unbreakable relationships with your target customers.
However, studying what other customer-centric businesses do to succeed is a great way to gather ideas for your own CRM planning. With that in mind, here are a couple of real examples of effective CRM strategies:
Let’s Do It World turns its vast audience into a fully engaged community
Let’s Do It World (LDIW) organizes and promotes environmental cleanup events and has a huge, global audience to keep engaged. People from 191 countries and territories participated in the organization’s initiatives in 2021 and 60 million people have taken part since 2018.
The success of LDIW’s biggest event, World Cleanup Day, relies heavily on the efforts of partners and leaders across the world. The organization relies on a CRM strategy to ensure these people always feel connected to LDIW and its mission.
LDIW uses Pipedrive to centralize its communication history with all of its community members. It serves as a single source of truth for paid employees and volunteers alike. Integrations with other tools in LDIW’s tech stack, like Mailchimp, minimize the administrative burden of campaign planning.
LDIW’s CRM strategy means that rather than investing time in data cleanup or syncing contact information across systems, the team can focus on what matters: encouraging audiences to participate in mission-critical events.
Accentuate keeps its team informed by centralizing contact data
Centralizing data is a key part of Accentuate’s CRM strategy.
The web design and marketing firm started out using spreadsheets to manage lead and customer information. This meant team members could never get a full or clear picture of their target audiences or where they were in the sales funnel.
Now Accentuate uses CRM software as a central hub for customer knowledge. Since making the switch, the company has increased annual revenue 10 times over.
Storing standardized data in one place ensures everyone is always informed, so sales, marketing and customer service teams can make decisions that contribute to stronger customer relationships.
Whether you’re running a small business or a multinational corporation, a carefully-planned CRM strategy will help you maintain customer loyalty and boost customer retention rates.
The more quality data you capture about your audience, the more opportunities you’ll find to streamline many of your sales and marketing processes.
Align CRM objectives and tactics with your wider business strategy to ensure all teams pull toward the same overarching goal of improving your bottom line.