You don’t need CRM

Customer Relationship Management

“The software world never ceases to amaze me, Watson,” The Effective Detective started out sounding just a tad negative as I entered the room.

“That surprises me sir, considering you were in the industry for so long, I didn’t think anything would amaze you,” I replied, expecting a certain reaction, and receiving it.

The Detective gave me his sideways look before answering, “Droll, Watson. I of course was using a figure of speech. I am well aware of the good points and the warts of the software industry. Rather than belaboring that point, may I continue?”

“Of course sir, what aspect of the software world has amazed you?” I somberly replied, snickering inwardly.

The Detective paused ever so briefly, as if contemplating another verbal jab, but thinking better of it. “One part in particular, Watson, Customer Relationship Management.”

“CRM, sir? I would think that you would be most in favor of CRM giving your attitude towards maintaining contact with prospects and customers,” I exclaimed, with some concern.

The Detective smiled, and I realized he had returned my initial favor, by eliciting a strong reaction from me. Honor having been served, he continued, “Yes CRM, Watson, and yes you are quite correct I am an advocate of maintaining contact with prospects and customers. However, the trend in this part of the industry is to go to vastly overblown and complex systems that ill serve the average user. Both in complexity and in cost.”

The Detective paused to give me my chance to interject, but I was still confused,  so I could only give a meek reply, “Please sir, continue.”

The Detective lifted an eyebrow, and perhaps a slight smile. “Watson, I do believe I have confounded you a bit. Let me explain. One of the mistakes people make is to think if a little data is a good thing, a lot of data is a great thing. This basic misunderstanding is encouraged by the breathless coverage of Big Data. It is true that in some cases masses of data can be useful, but in the case of the average small business, the emphasis should be on fewer key data points.”

“And how does this relate to CRM?” I asked, still a little puzzled.

“In the first place Customer Relationship Management is hardly an accurate term for what most small businesses need, Watson. To deserve such a lofty title as Customer Relationship Management System, a program should not only schedule and track phone conversations, but manage all of the emails you send – both mass emails and individual, coordinate sending out sales literature, note progress through the sales cycle, and provide tools for sales management to monitor and evaluate the progress of their staff.

“The reality is that most of us require the following pieces of information to have an effective follow-up system: A list of who we should call today, notes about the last contact we had, and when should we call them back, and perhaps a few keywords that can be used to search contacts. We used to call the process contact management, before the industry decided we needed all sorts of fancy features, and wanted to save detailed information that most of us can’t get from our prospects, and for the most part, don’t need or care about.

“When looking at your needs in sales, think realistically about what is needed, and how you truly interact with your prospects and customers. I think you will find that you are actually doing simple contact management, not true CRM. Look for the program with the LEAST numbers of features. That will be the one you will truly use,” The Detective paused, waiting for my response.

“So less truly is better, sir?”

“Precisely Watson! Shall we move on?” The Detective responded, ending our conversation.

Why are you limiting your audience?

Oops Word on Big Red Button Correct Mistake“Sir, were we away for a while?” I asked, kicking off the latest conversation between myself and The Effective Detective.

The Detective paused for several seconds before responding, “Yes, Watson, as a matter of fact yes we were.”

“Was there a reason?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.

“Not a particularly good one Watson.” He paused before continuing, “I suppose you won’t be satisfied until I expound on this?” he ended with a sigh.

“Sorry sir, but no, I won’t.”

“You are nothing if not persistent Watson. Very well. Once I decided to include video in the weekly e-zine, I essentially doubled my work. There were my discussions with you, and writing a video script, which is not quite as simple as others might think. Plus I had to actually record the videos which created complications as well. At some point – I don’t remember exactly when – I decided I needed to back away from something, and my discussions with you were chosen to get the proverbial axe.” The Detective paused, inviting me to jump in.

“What changed that we are back with our discussions sir?” I asked, more curious than hurt that I had been ignored for a while.

“Ahh Watson, you have your fans! I was often asked why I wasn’t publishing our talks anymore. It seems that more than a few people enjoy reading over watching video,” he answered. “Not only that, sometimes it just isn’t possible or appropriate to watch a video. In the end I realized I was cutting off a percentage of my audience, just so I could create content the way I wanted to. A classic example of not listening to your audience!”

“Are you admitting to a mistake sir?” I pushed.

“Watson, I believe we have more important issues to discuss, can we move on please?” The Detective shot back, perhaps a bit too quickly.

I smiled. “Always good to recognize the error in your ways sir. I for one am glad to be back, and we can leave it at that.”

“Thank you Watson. It is good to be back. Shall we get back to work?”

“With pleasure sir.”

A Bad Copy

Bad copy or originalThe Effective Detective seemed to be in a particular foul mood this day. As I entered his study I could see him hunched over the keyboard cursing softly to himself as he deleted several email messages.

“Is there a problem, sir?” I asked gently.

“What? Oh hello Watson. Nothing serious, just my daily frustration with a variety of marketers that I respect, doing their usual pitches. I glance at each one to gain insight into their sales letter techniques, but I have decided I need to keep my email box a little cleaner so I now have to decide whether to delete them or not,” The Detective replied, before turning back to his task.

I watched him for a minute or two, noticing the intense look on his face never wavered. Suddenly he smiled for a brief moment as he opened another email, then his face darkened, he clicked on a link within the email, again on the web page he was sent to, then the intense look returned as he went back to more emails. Curious about the change, I interrupted him.

“Sir, you looked so focused, then one of those messages elicited a different reaction. May I inquire as to the content of said message?”

The Detective looked up, seemed to gather his thoughts, then replied.

“Quite so Watson, your powers of observation improve with each passing day.” Not sure if he was being gracious or sarcastic, I did not respond. “The message that you correctly noted caused a different reaction was from a relatively new marketer, whose list I had recently joined. I had high hopes that the lad would be providing some refreshing new insights, but alas, it was merely a pitch… again.”

“I noticed you clicked on a link in the email sir. Surely there must have been something that caught your eye,” I observed.

“That was the unsubscribe link Watson. If the lad chooses to bombard me with solicitations rather than his thoughts, I am better off without his emails,” The Detective explained.

“I’m confused sir, I saw you delete the messages of several of the major lights in the industry, but it was only a delete, not an unsubscribe. How are they different?” I exclaimed.

“Ahh Watson, I hold all of those major lights, as you put it, in high esteem. I can tolerate their sales tactics for a much greater time simply because they have proven themselves to me. There may be new products at some time that do spark my interest. I would like to able to continue to get notices of such products or programs. So I remain on their lists. However, so you don’t need to ask the question, the person I unsubscribed from did not prove themselves to me. They merely assumed since I had expressed enough interest to join their list, I would tolerate their incessant advertising. They assumed incorrectly.”

“I sense a moral approaching,” I said with a smile.

“Perceptive again Watson. Until you have gained someone’s trust and belief in you, don’t go sending steady streams of offers at them. A person needs to believe in you. They want to believe in you. They want to trust you. If you immediately begin pounding them with requests to buy something without giving them some indication that you understand their issues, and their pains, you violate that fragile trust and never give them an opportunity to believe in you. You must nurture before you sell,” The Detective concluded.

“Eloquently put sir,” I said as the Detective turned back to his email review with a slightly dismissive wave of his hand.

What is Content Anyway?

contentI must have sighed a tad too deeply whilst reviewing my email, because I suddenly felt The Effective Detective’s gaze focused upon me.

“Come, come Watson, please explain your plaintive sighs,” The Detective finally demanded.

“Sorry sir, I must be showing my disappointment with today’s crop of emails from various lists we recently subscribed to,” I answered truthfully.

“Interesting Watson, and what is the root of your disappointment?” The Detective asked.

“Well sir, there seems to be a preponderance of advertisements. If I wanted to be sold, I would watch network television or stroll out to get today’s mail. I was hoping for something better in email” I explained dejectedly.

“I see Watson. Perchance are the majority of these advertisements coming from more product based companies versus service?” asked The Detective.

“Quite so, sir! Construction, photography, fine art,” I agreed with The Detective’s analysis. “I was hoping for something different.”

“Understandable Watson. Many of these companies feel they have nothing in the way of information to offer you. They aren’t like one of the many types of coaches that can offer free insights and tips from their expertise that you can apply. Their feelings are of course poppy-cock, but they have them nonetheless,” the Detective paused to see if I would encourage him or try to change the subject. I opted for encouragement.

“Poppy-cock sir? True, I would prefer something other than an ad, but aren’t some of these companies limited by the product they sell?”

“Perhaps in some cases Watson, but I suspect it is more often a combination of not thinking about their audience and a simple lack of imagination,” said The Detective, warming to his subject. “I sometimes feel that we in the marketing field confuse the issue. We constantly refer to ‘content’, which I think many assume to mean ‘useful’ information or tips.

“‘Content’ can be defined as virtually anything that is not an ad. If you are selling art of any kind, isn’t possible that people who buy art might be interested in the creation process?  If you own a restaurant, mix in some stories about how a dish is developed along with your typical offers. Whenever there is a process involved in the creation of a product there is the potential for interesting stories.

“The purpose of regular communication with your tribe is to make a connection, develop a relationship. In our personal lives we regularly make a connection with conversations that span diverse subjects that have nothing to do with what we do for a living. Why should this type of connection be all that different?” The Detective finished.

“Surely you are not suggesting that a plumber should be sending out messages about travel to Europe?” I asked in mock terror.

The Detective smiled, “Elementary, my dear Watson, an article about how plumbing facilities differ between Europe and the United States could be quite an interesting piece! You see, all it requires is a little imagination and thought.”

“I see sir. The issue isn’t so much what you are communicating, but whether it might be of interest to your audience, which allows you to make a connection with them,” I restated the point to ensure I had it right.

“Exactly Watson! Just use a little imagination to discover a connection to your business and you can find an infinite amount of interesting and even fun information to pass on to your tribe. Now, let’s get back to work,” The Detective finished, closing discussion until the next time.

Is that all there is to it?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

The Mystery of The Mixed Message

“I trust you had an enjoyable Christmas sir,” I said, taking the initiative in today’s conversation.

“Quite so Watson, and I trust you had the same,” came the reply from The Effective Detective.

“Thank you sir, but something has been nagging at me since  a previous conversation regarding customer experience,” I replied, steering the conversation to the subject that had been bothering me.

“And that something would be?” asked The Detective.

“Well sir, I understand that each business has its own experience that it can define. Then it must attempt to find a market that wishes to engage in said experience. However, that cannot be the only thing that matters could it?” I queried, extremely curious to see if I had been over-thinking this.

“Ah, Watson, an excellent question, and one that I wish had your, and most likely everyone else’s, desired answer of yes. Unfortunately it is slightly more complicated, but luckily not all that more complicated.

“Woven into the experience is a little nebulous thing called value. Whilst it is critical, in fact paramount, that you find the audience that wishes to engage in your experience, you must provide one that meets their expectations for such an experience, such that they feel, for lack of a better expression, that they ‘got their money’s worth’. This is the value. Not to pick on Walmart… too much… but let us review that experience again. Cheap stuff at rock bottom prices. However, they cannot just stock the shelves with things that do not work at all, or break as soon as they come out of the box. While people do not expect the quality of a high-end purchase, they do expect something functional for the amount of money that they are spending,” The Detective explained.

“So value is quality,” I said, feeling that I understood.

“To a degree, Watson, but not the only component,” The Detective responded, with a slight smile.

“Ah, I am confused once again, what else is there?” I asked dejectedly.

“How do you attach a quality metric to a presentation, Watson? Some of the most informative speakers out there provide fantastic value, yet in a harsh evaluation of their style, they might not have delivered said information in the highest quality speech. Another example would be information products. Not all of them are packaged in the highest quality cases, with studio quality sound and/or video. Yet many provide a great experience and exceptional value to their purchasers. On the opposite end, one could put on a perfect presentation, but not provide an iota of value, which I believe in anyone’s estimation would qualify as failing.

“Value comes into play even with free giveaways and events, because nothing is truly free, we might extract an email address,  and no matter what, the end-user is giving us their time, the single most important commodity of all. Thus value and the experience are intertwined. We must provide an experience that our market desires, but it must also provide value to them!” The Detective finished with his characteristic flourish.

“A difficult concept to wrap one’s head around sir,” I replied.

“Quite.  But one must consider the return on such an investment. That, dear Watson could very well be incalculable.”

The Real Experience

The Case of the Elusive Experience

“Watson, what do you believe to be the ‘Customer Experience’,” asked The Effective Detective, beginning another of our business discussions.

“Well sir, I would have to say that it is related to the service that customers receive. How they are greeted, what happens after the sale, handling of problems, etc.,” I answered.

“Excellent Watson! I believe you have defined almost perfectly what most people believe is the ‘Customer Experience’,” exclaimed The Detective.

“I sense a but… sir,” I cautiously responded.

“How observant of you Watson,” The Detective said, giving me a slight smile that indicated something else was coming. “You are quite right. You see, whilst that definition is 100% completely correct, it is also incomplete.”

“Incomplete, sir? Perhaps I left out a few additional things that can be done in customer service,” I replied, feeling a little bit of confusion.

“Perhaps Watson, but that is not what I was referring to. What is incomplete is that you refer to the experience only as it relates to customer service. In fact, the customer experience encompasses not only the service the customer received in purchasing, but also what they purchase, how they feel about themselves, and most importantly the emotional response they have to the overall process. When those factors are brought in as well you start to see something about this experience that most people miss.

“When there are discussions regarding customer experience they are almost always rated good or bad based on specific service metrics – ‘was the customer properly greeted in the appropriate amount of time’, ‘were all of their questions handled properly’, and low marks in any of those metrics downgrade the rating. I will admit, there is something to be said for such scientific analysis, other than those metrics tend to be one-size-fits-all, which as you know Watson, I absolutely loath.

“The fact of the matter though is that the customer experience is an overall emotional experience. It is an expectation that the business itself can define, and the customer can choose to engage or not.”

“I am not sure what you are saying sir, an example perhaps?” I quickly interjected, taking advantage of a slight pause.

“Certainly Watson, let me select one that most everyone could identify with: shopping at Walmart. I don’t think I would be stretching things if I said most people do not shop at Walmart for the excellent service they receive. Yet, there is an experience there. It is really quite simple: People go to Walmart to have a wide selection of cheap stuff that they can buy at rock bottom prices. They leave pleased that they have saved money. They do not walk into Walmart expecting a shopping concierge to guide them around the store to help them choose their packages. They do not expect the clerks to enthusiastically greet them or better yet to recognize them, and inquire as to the success of their shopping excursion. No. They expect to find low prices on most likely cheap stuff. That is exactly what Walmart provides, and not much more, and they have been amazingly successful.

“This is why some, albeit not all, existing small businesses around a new Walmart tend to fail. They try to duplicate an experience that their buying power with vendors will not allow. They do not try to design an experience that would attract some aspect of their market. If the market is there for a different experience and it is marketed correctly, one could survive in the shadow of a Walmart, but I can guarantee you Watson, offering ‘better customer service’ will rarely be the deciding factor, there must be an emotional trigger that is more important than price, or whatever it is one is competing against, ” The Detective finished.

“It is never easy is it sir?” I sighed.

“Quite Watson. Simple in its way, but business is never easy.”

A Tactic Gone Wrong

The Mystery of The Narcissistic Newsletter

The Effective Detective was staring at his laptop screen with a look on his face that I knew all too well. His brow was furrowed and his lips pursed as if he had eaten something sour. This did not bode well for our conversation.

“Sir? I am almost afraid to ask what it is you are reviewing.” I ventured, knowing I could not escape so may as well just take the plunge.

“Ah Watson,” The Detective replied,  continuing to stare at the screen, but allowing his brow to loosen a bit and his lips form a slight smile; signs that he was winding up for a lesson. “You are just in time to relieve my frustration before it reached a boiling point.”

“Happy to help sir, and just what is the source of your frustration?” I asked,  feeling slightly more comfortable that the following discussion would be at least relatively calm.

“We’ve discussed tactics versus strategy before, Watson, and you know how my blood pressure rises when I see them done in the wrong order,” the Detective began. “But almost equally capable of producing a headache inducing rise is when they are done in the right order, but the tactic is executed completely wrong.”

“Is there a particular tactic which you are thinking of sir?” I prompted, hoping that the calm would remain.

“Newsletters, Watson, newsletters! An excellent tool to communicate content on a regular basis, but with less pressure than producing multiple presentations during a week such as what we endeavor to do here. However, there is a temptation with such things to stray off into the realm of self-absorption.”


“Talking about oneself Watson! Regaling the reader with where you will be appearing, things you have accomplished, new products you have, or will be shortly releasing. What might be interesting for you (in a self-important way) or possibly to some readers that are close to you, for the vast majority of your readers will border on the boring. If there is one sin you should not commit in marketing, like speaking, it is to be boring.

“But more importantly Watson, the main reason most people will read a newsletter is that they are receiving information that has value to them, although I suppose they could also perceive value in being entertained. Unfortunately, someone talking about their own or their company’s latest accomplishments tends to provide neither of those. If you are going to go to the trouble of producing a newsletter type piece, and perhaps the expense if you produce a hard-copy, then make it valuable to your reader! Provide useful content! After all, you are asking for the most precious thing they have: their time,” finished The Detective with his characteristic flourish.

“But sir, is there no place to share a personal victory or anecdote?” I protested, but quietly.

“Of course Watson, but include it last or sandwich it between useful content. I suppose there might be people interested in such things besides friends and close relations,” admitted The Detective.

“I believe there is room for both, sir.”

“I will concede the point, Watson, let us move on,” said The Detective, ending the discussion.