Wednesday 04 May 2016,

Steve Blundell from Redstone Management Consultancy talked to Bristol’s PM Forum group about CRM, specifically whether it is working, and if not how you can make it work.

We first had a brief discussion about what “CRM” is. It is often hijacked by technology providers and can become synonymous with systems and processes, rather than relationships with real people.  It is about customers and relationships, of course, but Steve posed the question: “Do relationships need to be managed?”  The conclusion was that a better word to describe what was needed was “nurturing”. 

So, if relationships need nurturing, what does this look like?  With ideas contributed from attendees, it was decided that nurturing meant: regular contact, listening, showing interest, finding out about the client and their world, knowing about the small perhaps more personal details such as hobbies or what was happening in their lives. 

Of course, it would be difficult to give this amount of investment and organisation to all clients, so Steve also talked about the need for focusing your efforts on a few clients and deciding which few that would be – not necessarily only those which provide current profitable income. 

One way of deciding which relationships to focus on would be to map the clients firstly against their “attractiveness” to the firm on one axis and secondly along the other axis against the firm’s competitive strength.  Those at the top right would merit full investment in CRM and be in the ‘programme’.  Those at the bottom would need very efficient, arms-length management.  All other clients would fall into the selective investment category and could receive some support with a view to, as appropriate, moving them up to the full programme in the future.

Steve then explored the nature of competitive advantage and how this could be used to build relationships with clients:

  • Using one or more of the 3Es:
    -  Expertise: the brains (we’re clever)
    -  Experience: grey hair (we’ve done this before)
    -  Efficiency: procedure (we can manage it well)
  • Using a combination of the firm’s brand, culture, people, client service, economics and processes to articulate their own distinctive approach to attract and keep the kind of clients the firm wants.

Steve wrapped up by making two key points:

  • The need to move relationships on.  One tool which can help with this is Murray Raphel’s Ladder of Loyalty (at the top of the ladder clients have become advocates), using it to map where your relationship is.  Depending on the stage there will be different marketing and BD activities that will help encourage them to the next step, for instance regular review meetings and account planning will be relevant at client/advocate level whereas credentials and seminars are the kinds of activities which will turn customers into clients.
  • The need for client listening to be two way communication, genuine, not merely a chance to sell more, independent and acted upon.

With some good audience interaction, Steve shared some interesting insights and useful tools around helping to make CRM more effective.

Rachael Wheatley
Associate Partner, The PACE Partners
PM Forum South West Committee