It may not be immediately apparent why CRM (customer relationship management) is important to your internet marketing strategy. But it is.

If your customers decide to link to you on their websites, blog about your products, post to forums with a link to your site, review your products and services, or any one of a myriad of different techniques which will increase your exposure and backlinks, then you will see a positive effect on your incoming traffic.

However, in order to do this, these customers need to be regularly reminded of your existence, cajoled into making the effort to link to your site, inspired with ideas and rewards that encourage them to post, blog, write, review, link, sell and so on.

And you need a record of who you have talked to, established an ongoing relationship with, which methods you have deployed on whom to encourage them to take action on your behalf, and so on. It is also a good idea to keep track of which of your customers are loyal to you and make efforts to speak well of your products. These people are very valuable sales epople, and rewarding them motivates them yet further.

However, for this, you need a CRM tool.

The problem though is actually deeper than persuading your customers to act as a virtual sales force. Quite often, SMEs fail to correspond with their existing customers on a regular basis at all. This is the basis of good customer relationship management, and all of us are aware that new customer acquisition is more expensive than customer retention. You need to nurture your existing customers more than you seek to find new ones.

When talking to many small business owners about whether they have email addresses or a mailing list for existing, regular customers, the answer is, often, somewhat predictable.

No.

Nor mobile numbers, Twitters, social networking profile details, or any other, except 19th century means – name and address, and possibly a landline number.

In this day and age, you need to be able to reach your customers, interact with them regularly, and grow those relationships. For many businesses, it is no longer financially viable to do a postal mailing, nor phone each customer regularly, so you need to seek other ways to stay in touch.

As a business, looking to market to your customers, it is vital that you understand your customers, know as many ways to contact them as possible, and use the method that suits them best. All the details about them can be held in a free Open Source customer relationship management application such as Sugar CRM.

You do not need to request all possible contact details, but you should endeavour to discover how your customers prefer to be contacted, and where possible, use that.

Learning about all the communication tools your customers use and deciding which your company could adopt to keep in touch with the majority of your customers may take some time, but unless you understand something of how your customers operate, you will inevitably fall off their radar under the barrage of information available to them in their daily lives.

Once you have this information, you can develop strategies to interact with your customer base, both for sales and for using them to help you with your internet marketing.

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About the author:

Phil Robinson is an online marketing consultant with over 17 years experience in marketing planning, internet strategy and online acquisition. In 2004, Phil founded ClickThrough, an ethical search marketing agency. He gives best practice training for businesses, runs seminars and writes books on digital marketing.