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How to build a framework for CRM success

Framework CRM
Topics
What is a CRM framework and why do I need one?
Key elements of a growth-friendly CRM framework
More CRM models: 4 established methodologies to try
Final thoughts

Planning your customer relationship management tactics around a purposeful framework will focus your resources on what matters. As a result, you should see more sales opportunities, increased conversions and higher retention rates.

In this article, you’ll learn the key elements of a robust framework for CRM. We also discuss some established models and best practices to help you forge long-lasting, profitable customer relationships.


What is a CRM framework and why do I need one?

A customer relationship management (CRM) framework outlines your organization’s plan for managing and nurturing customer relationships, including the tools and activities you use to carry that plan out.

Many salespeople and marketers will use a CRM strategy, which focuses on their companies’ wider customer-related goals and objectives. A strategy typically involves mapping your sales pipeline, understanding your ideal customers and determining success outcomes.

A CRM framework is more about the strategy’s practical implementation: how you’ll carry out CRM activities across the customer journey and which tools you’ll use to meet those objectives.

There are several essential elements to CRM and a framework will help you focus activities in each area. They include:

  • Technology

  • Products

  • Service

  • People

  • Marketing

  • Measurement

Salespeople talk regularly about CRM exclusively from a software perspective, but as the above list shows, technology is only one part of the equation.

An effective CRM framework ensures all your organization’s efforts and investments contribute to positive customer experiences.

Columbus found that embedding a CRM system into all teams and processes (i.e., treating technology as one part of a larger framework) made company executives feel more confident in the experiences they delivered.

"On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the overall experience your company provides to its customers?"


When you focus on experience, you deliver more value across the customer journey. That typically translates into increased trust and loyalty, which means more sales and higher retention rates.

For example, by measuring marketing performance, you can identify the most engaging content on your website, then provide more of it to help customers make faster buying decisions. As a result, you’ll close more deals and improve customer satisfaction by ensuring people buy the products they need.

You can also improve customer service by tracking buyer interactions in your CRM program. Identifying inquiry patterns helps refine your product to meet your target audience’s needs better or deliver more helpful information earlier in the customer lifecycle.


Key elements of a growth-friendly CRM framework

Building an effective CRM framework involves making various elements of your business more customer-centric and using them individually or together to deliver better customer experiences.

We’ll run through the key elements we mentioned above to help you build a framework you can use. You’ll also learn how to leverage CRM technology to enable and optimize each element.

Throughout this section, we’ll explore how a fictional web design company might create a CRM framework to give you an example.

Technology

Technology is the glue that holds your CRM framework together. The best tools can inform decisions, streamline processes and provide the metrics required to assess business performance.

Before implementing CRM tech, research the available solutions and choose one that fits your company’s needs.

All businesses have different priorities, but most benefit from the following functionality:

  • Lead management: Organizing, scoring, tracking and assigning leads effectively is the key to shortening your sales cycle, increasing deals and growing retention

  • Pipeline management: Mapping your sales pipeline helps you better understand how customers move through the buying journey so you can encourage conversions

  • Workflow and marketing automation: Eliminating repetitive administrative work frees salespeople, marketers and support staff to work more closely with customers so they can deliver more valuable experiences

  • Reporting and forecasting: Dashboards, reports and other analytics features help users make sense of large volumes of data. The results are informed decisions and more sales opportunities.

  • Comprehensive support: The availability of expert help through a range of channels can minimize disruption when issues arise. Preventing costly bottlenecks improves your bottom line.

For example, a small and busy team at a web design company could save time by using a CRM to automate parts of its sales process. Triggering notifications when a new lead enters or progresses through the pipeline would give team members more control over customer relationships without draining resources.

Products

You must understand what your target customers value to develop products that meet their needs and highlight key features in marketing and sales interactions.

You may have already collected data on this while building or refining your ideal customer profiles. If not, try the following tactics:

  • Customer surveys: Ask loyal customers why they keep buying from you and new customers why they chose your product over the alternatives

  • Online reviews: See how users and industry media outlets describe your product. If you see patterns in pros and cons, accentuate the positives and address the negatives.

  • Social media conversations: Buyers often check Twitter, Reddit and other online communities for unbiased product recommendations. Track their conversations to learn where your products excel and need improvement.

For example, our web design company might learn from reading online reviews that its customers value their websites’ security credentials. Such insight could inspire security-themed marketing content that aims to attract like-minded people.

It’s easy to ask for feedback via email as well. You can use the email addresses you’ve collected and segmented in your CRM system to request responses to a few short questions. Some survey providers like SurveySparrow will even connect to your CRM, integrating and centralizing meaningful insights.

To make this process easier, you can use Pipedrive’s group emailing feature to send the same message to up to 100 leads simultaneously while personalizing each response.

Service

Customers always expect great service. Hyken’s 2023 ACA Study found that almost half (48%) of US consumers believe great customer service is more important than price. Meanwhile, Genesys found that 29% of customers switched brands in the past year due to negative interactions.

Service is about more than fixing customers’ problems. Other key service aspects to build into your CRM framework include:

  • Deliveries: Shorter delivery times work best, but offer various options to suit buyers with different needs and budgets. Sustainable delivery options could attract environmentally conscious customers.

  • Onboarding: For software vendors, onboarding is a second chance to make a great first impression. Get users off to a strong start with personalized tutorials, plenty of practical advice and the willingness to answer questions.

  • Product updates: Increasing the value of an existing product is a reliable way to strengthen relationships. Deliver software updates or develop helpful accessories to boost customer satisfaction.

  • Recommendations: Show you have customers’ needs in mind even after they convert by providing personalized product recommendations

In the email below, retailer Sweetwater recommends accessories that could help a customer get more value from a recent purchase:

Sweetwater


Even if the recipient doesn’t follow up, they know that Sweetwater pays attention to their needs and interests. It’s a classic example of relationship-strengthening personalization.

The web design company could improve retention rates by ensuring an account manager contacts each client at least once a week, whether to deliver progress updates or simply check in with customers. Regular attention makes it more likely the customer will buy again or recommend the brand to friends.

A CRM tool can help you keep track of communication history. For example, in Pipedrive’s Contacts Timeline, you can see when and how you last contacted a customer and keep notes on the conversation. You can then refer to past conversations and help customers feel valued.

Contacts timeline


People

Every CRM framework needs people at its core. You need to focus on pleasing customers, but companies must also enable their employees to build valuable connections with buyers.

Sales, marketing and business leaders can empower their teams to perform well with the following actions:

  • Providing adequate role training: Training takes many forms, so you can pick a style that works for you and your team. You might consider sales or digital marketing courses, online tutorials, sales books or sales events.

  • Offering CRM training: The best CRM vendors offer plenty of training materials to help you maximize your use of their software. Look for online videos, knowledge bases and webinars.

  • Minimizing stress: Too much stress can distract team members from their tasks and reduce productivity in office or remote work environments. Spacious and clean working spaces with plenty of natural light should help, while open communication stops people from burying their issues.

  • Incentivizing outstanding performance: Use a mix of incentives to inspire your team since not all members will have the same motivations for working hard. The traditional way to reward sales performance is with cash commissions, but you could also offer more paid leave, travel opportunities or event tickets.

For example, our web design company might introduce flexible working hours to keep staff engaged and motivated. Team members could work when they feel most productive, meaning the company is more efficient and customers get better returns on their investments.

CRM technology can help team management. Manage workloads for your staff, shift projects when someone has too much to do and automate administrative work.

Marketing

Customers want personalized experiences before they’ve even bought from your company, which is why marketing is a critical part of your CRM framework.

Gartner found that 71% of business-to-consumer (B2C) and 86% of business-to-business (B2B) customers expect brands to know their personal information during interactions.

Here are some ways to deliver personalized customer interactions through marketing:

  • Webinars: Turn customer questions into webinar topics so you can dive deep into real-world problems for precise sections of your audience

  • Online advertising: Segment your audience by demographic data, website behavior and transaction histories to serve the most relevant online ads

  • Email marketing: Use email templates to include recipients’ names and account information

  • Product demonstrations: Tailor each product demonstration to the individual lead’s needs by emphasizing relevant features and qualities

Our web design company could use Pipedrive to segment its clients into groups based on industry and budget. It could then create email marketing content for each group focused on overcoming their challenges.

Email marketing filters


Measurement

Measuring performance regularly is key to your CRM framework since it helps you identify the most effective relationship-building techniques.

You can decide which metrics to use as key performance indicators (KPIs) when building your CRM strategy. A framework is more concerned with how you’ll track the relevant data and what you’ll do with its insights.

For example, Pipedrive helps by presenting the following information in accessible dashboards and shareable sales reports:

  • Customer retention and churn rates: A high customer retention rate shows your strategy nurtures long-term relationships effectively. A high churn rate implies room for improvement.

  • Customer lifetime value (CLV): CLV indicates the total value a customer brings to your business over your entire relationship. Strengthening your CRM framework should increase your average CLV, although it may take time.

  • Conversion rates: A high conversion rate shows your CRM framework supports the sales pipeline. It suggests marketers and reps have the skills, tools and processes required to forge strong relationships.

  • Online engagement: Website traffic, social media interactions, email open rates and click-through rates (CTR) all show how effective your CRM efforts are at driving engagement and fostering meaningful interactions.

If you invest in a new CRM application to help improve customer relationships, measure your returns by comparing implementation and running costs with any financial benefits. Look out for increased sales, reduced marketing costs and improved operational efficiencies.

Your CRM framework contains valuable insights and reports about staffing, sales goals and revenue forecasting. Leveraging this data will help sales representatives optimize workflows and improve campaigns.

Our web design company might set out to reduce its marketing spend by holding on to more existing customers (i.e., improving customer retention). It could use churn rate as its primary KPI and track this month-to-month in Pipedrive, ensuring all its CRM efforts contribute positively to broader performance objectives.


More CRM models: 4 established methodologies to try

Our list covers all the key components you need to build a solid framework for continued CRM success.

If you’re looking for more ideas to guide your customer relationship management efforts, you might find inspiration from one of the following established models.

The IDIC model

Management consultants Don Peppers and Martha Rogers developed the IDIC model as a CRM implementation blueprint.

It breaks the relationship-building process into four stages:

  1. Identifying customers and their needs

  2. Differentiating audiences based on their value to the company

  3. Interacting effectively across various sales and marketing touchpoints

  4. Customizing the customer experience

Pipedrive’s features fit this conceptual framework well. You can use the platform to:

  • Collect insightful customer data

  • Segment your audience

  • Track interactions across the customer lifecycle

  • Send personalized marketing messages at scale

Further reading: Learn more about the IDIC model and Peppers and Rogers’ other CRM ideas in the book Managing Customer Experience and Relationships: A Strategic Framework.


The QCI model

The QCI model emphasizes three key pillars of customer management: quality, competition and innovation.

It suggests all businesses aim to:

  • Deliver quality products and services

  • Optimize costs to provide consistent value

  • Invest in innovation to stay ahead of competitors

Considering these points when building your CRM framework can help you make more balanced decisions.

For example, instead of focusing on customer acquisition for quick wins, consider how investing in your product’s development could improve customer loyalty instead of focusing on customer acquisition for quick wins. Product development may take longer, but profit growth will likely last longer

Further reading: Customer management experts and academics Michael Starkey and Neil Woodcock developed the QCI model. They detailed their take on customer relationships in a 2002 research paper.


The Five Process model

Developed by marketing professors Adrian Payne and Pennie Frow, this model identifies five crucial processes for effective CRM.

  1. Strategy development: Developing a clear CRM strategy aligned with business goals and customer needs

  2. Value creation: Creating value for customers through personalized experiences, products and services

  3. Multichannel integration: Aligning various communication channels to ensure consistent and seamless customer experiences

  4. Information management: Managing customer information efficiently and leveraging it to gain insights and make informed decisions.

  5. Performance assessment: Evaluating CRM performance continuously through relevant metrics and feedback to identify areas for improvement

This model is especially useful for assessing and refining existing CRM projects. Use the items above as a checklist to ensure you’re covering all bases.

Further reading: Payne and Frow dive deep into CRM and relationship marketing strategies in their book Strategic Customer Management: Integrating Relationship Marketing and CRM.


The CRM value chain model

The value chain model recognizes the various activities involved in developing successful products and building strong customer relationships. It separates these into two groups:

  • Primary activities like logistics, marketing, operations and services

  • Support activities like technology, infrastructure and human resources, which provide the necessary support for the primary activities to function effectively

For example, your sales and marketing teams generate leads for your pipeline and convert as many as possible into customers. To carry out those primary activities successfully, both teams rely on the support of CRM solutions and effective management.

The value chain model reinforces the idea that all aspects of CRM go together. Stay mindful of the big picture when building your strategy, ensuring you account for all the key CRM elements.

Further reading: Michael E. Porter introduced the value chain model in his book Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance.


Final thoughts

A unified approach to CRM ensures all your key business functions and investments contribute to creating valuable customer experiences that generate the trust and loyalty your company needs to keep selling, stay profitable and grow.

Consider how all these elements contribute to your existing CRM and broader business strategies since aligning them more closely could improve your outcomes.

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