CRM strategy in affiliate marketing is a Customer Relationship Management strategy – a plan that describes how the relationship with customers (and prospects) is maintained. The basic principle is usually to optimally serve the customers and prospect in the most efficient way possible.
Okay, this was just a definition, now what do you do with it, and how can it help your affiliate business?
What position does Customer Relationship Management have in your business?
Drawing up a CRM strategy can help you make the right choices regarding prospect and customer contact. In this article, we will dive into the world of CRM and look at how you determine a CRM strategy and what it requires.
Why do I need a CRM strategy?
It is generally believed that a good CRM strategy can lead to higher customer satisfaction, more leads, and more subsequently, more sales.
The CRM vision is based on recording the correct information from prospects and customers to serve them as perfectly as possible and, therefore, boost the business’s success.
While CRM was originally a digital card catalog to support the sales team, we now see its application for the entire business.
“Successful CRM is about competing in the relationship dimension. Not as an alternative to having a competitive product or reasonable price- but as a differentiator. If your competitors are doing the same thing you are (as they generally are), product and price won’t give you a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage. But if you can get an edge based on how customers feel about your company, it’s a much stickier–sustainable–relationship over the long haul.”–Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corporation
CRM for your business process
Modern CRM systems with an extensive module structure provide support for many purposes. From marketing to sales, from project management to service. Systems that focus on self-employed persons and SMEs often provide for the generation of quotations and the final settlement of an entire customer process with invoicing and after-sales functions.
But, let’s get back to the strategy.
The success of a CRM strategy naturally depends on its implementation. Making plans is fun, but a CRM strategy also includes a CRM tactic and a good operational roll-out. A decisive factor here is the relevant implementation of tools. Therefore, it is safe to say that it’s all about choosing a good CRM system that serves the CRM strategy.
How will my business look like without a CRM strategy?
A focus on managing customers, or rather, the customer contacts are intensive and requires an investment. Thinking about a CRM strategy is not a priority for many businesses.
So, you can opt for a minimal CRM strategy based on a background role for the CRM system, especially if you are in an affiliate marketing business.
A minimalist CRM strategy
This can be a hard one.
When it comes to digitally recording data, I advise purchasing a CRM system and feeding this system with only the necessary data. My CRM vision is simple because, in the affiliate marketing industry, the focus is on operational excellence. Moreover, our market is big, and every client knows it.
The question is, what data exactly you will record and what you will do with that data. But even if that is not enough, it is also a CRM strategy. Namely: through minimal effort and the recording of basic database data, it is easier to track and consult customer information.
Digital card catalog, plus…
In this case, the database serves purely as a digital card catalog with master data. The chances are that this does not contain data such as the customer’s previous activities or preferences. Suddenly, you have a CRM strategy that focuses on narrow customer information focus.
It may be that the customer information is there, but that it is only available in the mailbox and the heads of the account manager.
The downside of this is that marketing must be segmented based on minimal data; a lot depends on the Account Manager’s knowledge of individual customers.
There is less redundancy; if you work together on a customer project or the account manager drops out, no knowledge about the project or the customer is recorded.
CRM strategy based on the 360-degree customer view
You will be surprised, but a CRM strategy based on building a full 360-degree customer view database has been developed.
This strategy is based on a customer-oriented approach in which CRM forms the basis for the marketing and sales efforts. This strategy relies on the optimal use of data to connect the customer journey of the target group.
A lot of attention is given to maintaining the database, and several functions of the systems are used to take maximum advantage of these possibilities.
However, this strategy also has disadvantages.
It takes a lot of work to create, fill, and maintain such a database. Employes from different departments must also learn to work with the system and follow procedures. This is not only about working with a tool, but it is also about the vision of customer focus and how this vision is propagated.
The position of CRM in the affiliate marketing business
A CRM strategy is decisive for the way customer data are handled. The strategy also answers the question: what position does CRM have in the affiliate marketing business, and what do we do with it?
Every business has some kind of CRM strategy, although this is not always laid down in great detail. We have thought about how to deal with the customer’s journey, and there is a plan about the business’ optimal organization around the touchpoints in this customer journey.
In this plan, you can also include the way you will extract the most value from the database and translate customer insights into:
- product development,
- marketing and sales campaigns,
- setting up the service organization.
In the process of determining the CRM strategy in affiliate marketing, a natural question arises: what do you expect to get out of the focus on customer relationship management?
What if you end up not changing anything? Where are the opportunities that you don’t see right now? How can you achieve benefits by using a CRM strategy? Where does the initiative lie?
So, how does a CRM strategy fall into place?
A CRM strategy is a central element of the entire business management.
In addition, it is a broad vision of dealing with customers and relations. A broad delegation will have to be involved.
CRM is NOT party marketing.
Neither are sales.
And certainly not only from ICT (Information and communications technology).
When you operate in an affiliate marketing business, working according to a customer relationship management strategy requires the cooperation of multiple methods.
A certain method can drive the project. Think of affiliate marketing as the motive for a CRM strategy. The focus on customer relationship management and the use of CRM software or affiliate marketing software may be the birth of an opportunity, underpinned by a business case.
But, even though affiliate marketing is the driving force behind the project, it will hit multiple departments at the heart of the operation. Involving the right departments in the early stages of the project, therefore, determines the long-term success.
A CRM process is always an interplay between:
- Technology (CRM software or Affiliate Marketing Software, such as Scaleo)
- Processes (what are you going to do and how will you organize it)
- People/culture (which people will work with the software in what way. Is there a customer-oriented culture? Or is there a process-based culture based on operational excellence?)
An example of the coherent CRM strategy:
Let’s say your affiliate marketing business would like to focus more on customer relationship management and will use an affiliate marketing software to build the prospect database. This database forms the basis for marketing campaigns.
One of the key factors is the email newsletters you can send your leads afterward.
On the one hand, the idea is to add value with informative content and, on the other hand, to roll out concrete offers and event invitations via the marketing database.
As soon as the prospect takes action and converts, the idea is that sales will continue to run. In this example, there must be good cooperation between marketing, sales, and the ICT department.
The system must support the process, and salespeople must willingly work with them.
If there is a mismatch in this process, and the policy does not operate in the same CRM strategy and associated tactics and systems, things go wrong.
The prospect suddenly experiences a different type of communication and notices that the sales department has no clue about the previous marketing process (and the information that has already been sent to the prospect).
What does CRM strategy consist of?
A CRM strategy describes the position of the prospect and customers in a business. There is a vision behind this, which is translated into a concrete goal.
This is translated into the three-way division of technology, processes, and people, as we mentioned earlier. Not only does this contain a vision of customer focus, but also very concrete issues that have an impact on the company. Some sample questions that can be addressed:
What tools are we going to store, process, and use the customer data? How does the affiliate marketing software connect to other tools in the organization?
Where is the responsibility of the prospect database? Where is the responsibility for customer data? How are contacts recorded in the systems? What happens automatically, and what requires a human action?
Who is going to enter, edit, and use data? What’s the exact role of the affiliate manager? How does the right structure of the licenses look like? How will people get to know the affiliate network system and be trained to use it?
A CRM strategy checklist
Finally, several handy boxes to check off when it comes to setting up and rolling out a CRM strategy in your affiliate marketing business. Some points that you may not immediately think of or steps that are quickly skipped:
- Who are the key players involved? Are they IT, Marketing, Sales, Service, and the most important key-users representation?
- Has the SMART strategy been drawn up? Is there an agreement about the goals and pre-conditions? Can the CRM strategy be linked to the three pillars: Technology, Processes, and People?
- It is clear who and what it takes to roll out the strategy?
- When are evaluations planned?
- Have you thought about a change in management?
- How will you determine that the CRM strategy was a success?
Answer these questions or discuss them with your management staff, try to develop the ultimate CRM strategy for your affiliate marketing business, and don’t forget to ceaselessly evaluate and analyze your results to continuously optimize your business strategy for best results.