6 Steps for Creating a CRM Strategy (+ Free Worksheet)
This article is part of a larger series on CRM.
A customer relationship management (CRM) strategy is an organization’s plan of action to leverage available customer data in order to improve their relationship. Successful implementation of CRM strategy requires reviewing your business strategy, mapping your customer journey, understanding your team dynamics, and selecting the right tools needed to facilitate the implementation.
While it is possible to implement a CRM strategy without using a specialized application known as CRM software, it is not recommended for businesses that want to nurture long-term relationships with customers. This is because CRM systems centralize information about contacts and customer interactions with sales, marketing, and service teams, which allows teams to analyze real-time data and streamline workflows.
Free CRM Strategy Worksheet
If you are in the process of developing your customer relationship management strategy and don’t know where to start, download our free CRM strategy worksheet and use it to take notes while you follow these six steps. It’s a worksheet you can use to list all the elements you need to take into consideration to come up with a sound plan, such as your business goals, identifying your unique selling proposition, and mapping out your competitors.
1. Review Your Overall Business Strategy
Before you can create an effective customer relationship management strategy, revisit your overall business strategy first. This helps you craft a clear vision of the results you want to achieve, which may include growing your revenue by a certain percentage, retaining your repeat customers, and increasing your workforce by 10%.
You must also determine how to execute your plan and who will be part of the process. Below are some elements of a business strategy to take into consideration:
Understand & Write Down Your High-level Business Goals
Identifying and documenting your high-level goals helps you form an effective CRM strategy that integrates with your overall business strategy. A survey report from Clutch found that more than half of business owners do not create sales, marketing, and customer service strategies. Meanwhile, only 15% of those who came up with their strategy documented them, which is likely the reason why only 5% achieved their business goals.
To set appropriate business goals, take note of what you want to achieve within a year through your CRM strategy. Doing this will give you an edge over your competitors.
Here are a few examples of high-level business goals:
- Increase customer satisfaction survey ratings by 10 points
- Boost productivity and efficiency by 30% by the end of the third quarter through the number of qualified leads brought in
- Exceed sales target by 10% at the end of the calendar year
- Increase workforce by 10% to accommodate more customers
- Create a dedicated department for the marketing team
Develop a Unique Selling Proposition
A unique selling proposition (USP) sets you apart from your competitors and tells your customers why they should choose your company over others. Think about what you currently do or offer that similar companies don’t have. A USP is the sweet spot between what you do well and what your customers want, and plays a key role in your entire marketing strategy.
Here are a few examples of excellent USPs:
- FedEx: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” (highlights FedEx’s bold promise to fulfill next-day delivery)
- Tattly Tattoos: “Fake tattoos by real artists” (tells you that they offer temporary tattoos meant to look like real tattoos)
- TOMS: “Shoes for moving forward” (a combination of the purpose of wearing shoes and helping others, as TOMS matches each shoe pair purchase with a donation)
Define Your Value Proposition
An effective value proposition is a statement that summarizes the specific results and value a customer receives if they use your product or service. It is an innovation or a feature intended to make your company more attractive to customers.
Unique selling proposition vs value proposition: A unique selling proposition focuses on a company’s unique qualities and the things that make it superior to its competitors in general. A value proposition, on the other hand, directly highlights how your business could improve your customer’s life or address their specific pain points.
Here’s an example of a good value proposition from sales expert Jill Konrath:
“We help large companies reduce the cost of their employee benefits programs without impacting benefit levels. With the spiraling costs of healthcare today, this is a critical issue for most businesses. One of our recent clients, a large manufacturing company similar to yours, was struggling with how to reduce spending in this area. We saved them over $800,000 in just six months.”
Define Your Buyer Persona
A buyer persona is a fictional character that represents your ideal customer: their likes and dislikes, behavior, and interactions with your brand. Creating a buyer persona helps identify your specific target market, understand what your potential buyers are looking for, and provide your customers with what they want or need. It helps ensure that your sales and marketing campaigns are not wasted on the wrong leads.
Download our free customer persona template:
Understand the Competitive Landscape
Knowing who your competitors are and how your business fits into the industry allows you to monitor trends, assess your company’s ability to maintain a competitive advantage, and make business decisions based on the situation. It also lets you see how your competitors are conducting their sales and marketing campaigns. Not knowing the competitive landscape puts you at a disadvantage because you won’t know how to compete with them.
2. Establish Your Sales Channels & Sales Processes
Sales channels are the avenues your organization utilizes to distribute your products or services to a market. Some businesses use a business-to-business (B2B) approach while others use a business-to-consumer (B2C) approach. Establishing and ensuring that your sales channels and processes are streamlined means that you can guarantee a good experience for your customers—from making a purchase down to post-sales activities.
Below is a quick comparison of B2C versus B2B:
B2C companies typically sell their products directly to consumers in a process called direct sales. Such transactions can be closed in person or via direct online purchase. In this process, your company handles the product creation, inventory, supervision of the sales process, and hiring and management of the sales team.
Advantages of the B2C model:
- Increased control over the speed of the sales process: Selling directly to customers, as well as handling your own inventory and logistics, gives you more control over how fast you fulfill orders and get them to your customers’ doorstep as soon as possible.
- Opportunity to receive direct feedback from customers: When a customer makes a purchase straight from your website, their details are automatically saved in your database. This gives you the opportunity to ask for their feedback to improve your sales process.
- More control over the selling price: Since you are directly selling from your own channel, you have complete control over the selling price. On the other hand, a distributor or reseller may increase the amount to balance out their operational costs and profits.
Larger businesses benefit from a B2B approach, where they sell their products via resellers, distributors, retailers, or wholesalers. Here, your company does not interact with the consumers, and the resellers get a percentage of the product sale. While this may leave you with less control over the sales process and thinner profit margins, it could also open more opportunities to scale your business and reach more customers.
Advantages of the B2B model:
- Reduced expenses for distribution: Resellers and distributors typically have a wide network of distribution channels and can help you reach more customers, such as retail chains or malls.
- Increased chance for growth via new channel partners: Exposure in established and trusted distribution channels can give you lots of opportunities to be seen and discovered by new partners who might be interested in carrying your products.
Define the Sales Process
The sales process is the set of steps needed to move a prospective buyer from brand awareness to the stage of a closed sale. It is essential to define your sales process because it is crucial for the growth of your business. You can also leverage your CRM software’s capabilities to track a prospect’s movement through the nine stages of the sales pipeline.
3. Map the Customer Journey
The customer journey map is a visual representation or a diagram of a customer’s interactions and experiences with your business across all touchpoints. To map your customer journey, envision your interaction with your company from their perspective—from the first touchpoint, such as a sponsored content or social advertisement, to consideration and actual purchase.
When creating this visual, include your business touchpoints, stages of customer engagement, and the goals you want to measure. Mapping out the journey of your customers helps you identify stages in your sales process that need improvement, which we will discuss in the next section.
Identify Current Challenges
Once you have outlined your customer journey stages, identify the obstacles in each stage that stop your customer from making a purchase. These challenges may include not having a comprehensive frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on your website, limited customer support channels, and generic email marketing that doesn’t fit their interests.
Identifying these challenges in the customer journey map helps to determine what actions you should take to address them. For example, you could revisit your FAQ page to address potential buyers’ questions about specific product features, pricing, and shipping costs or send a satisfaction survey to customers who made a purchase.
Create a Content Plan
For every touchpoint in the customer journey, provide different types of content that support your prospect. It could be a how-to guide or educational e-book that helps a prospect address a pain point. You could also provide product guides, webinars, or ads for customers.
Pro tip: Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to generate and nurture leads. To evaluate if your content strategy is working for you, you can manage and track its performance in your CRM dashboard. This is where you can typically see how each of your content performed based on the actions of your customers—such as clicking links or making a purchase.
4. Select the Right CRM Software
When choosing the right CRM software for your business, consider a wide range of factors, including pricing, features, capabilities, and integrations. Talk to your sales, marketing, and customer service teams to determine the CRM tools that they require. Ask them if they need features, such as auto-profile enrichment, email marketing, or social media management. Based on their answers, look for CRM options that fit those needs.
After identifying potential providers, sign up for free trials or schedule free demos to see firsthand what each CRM looks like and how it works. Doing so will give you the chance to experience its features and determine its ease of use before signing up and paying for a subscription.
In our guide on how to choose the right CRM software, we break down the process into five steps:
Choosing a CRM system needs careful consideration and research, especially since there are dozens of CRM options available—each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
5. Plan for CRM Implementation
CRM implementation is the process of setting up and deploying CRM software, and it needs proper planning to maximize your investment and make sure that the software gets utilized. Things to consider when mapping out your CRM implementation roadmap include evaluating cultural readiness, identifying CRM roles, involving your sales, marketing, and service teams in the entire process, and conducting proper training.
Explore our guide on how to implement CRM in eight steps for more information.
CRM implementation takes planning—from assembling a CRM team to training users and measuring adoption.
6. Define Team Goals & Set KPIs
Setting individual goals for your sales, marketing, and service teams helps set employee expectations and gives them something to work toward. The goals that you establish for these teams should align with your overall company objectives, as each team member’s goal must contribute to the growth and success of the business. To make the process more organized, use the SMART model to guide you in coming up with your team’s goals and key performance indicators (KPIs).
For example, the marketing team’s use of the CRM system must contribute to an increase of mailing list subscribers while the sales team’s use of the tool must generate more high-converting leads. You can also set a goal for your service team to increase the overall customer satisfaction rate, as they have the CRM to help them streamline their communications with your customers.
Establish Key Performance Indicators
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable elements that measure your company’s performance against your set goals and objectives. They could include growth in revenue, net sales, average conversion time, number of contracts signed, and monthly website traffic.
You can track these metrics and generate reports using CRM analytics. A CRM tool like Salesforce can help you track metrics, such as the number of meetings that an agent needs to set to close the number of deals required to hit the quarterly quota. Other KPIs you can track using these tools include pipeline deals, individual sales, conversion time, and lead qualification percentage.
Another provider you can consider is Freshsales, which has strong sales performance measurement capabilities. The system can track a wide range of metrics such as average win rate, average deal size, average sale cycle, sales per agent, and sales by region.
Benefits of Having a Robust CRM Strategy
Maintaining strong relationships with your customers is paramount to keeping them engaged with your business, whether that is turning them into repeat buyers or making them ambassadors of your brand—either way, it helps your business grow. However, creating a CRM strategy is not a simple task, but a meticulous process that requires careful planning and consideration of various business aspects.
Having a proper CRM implementation strategy in place helps you avoid the following scenarios:
- Your CRM strategy doesn’t support your business goals: Your business goals should be your main guide when coming up with a CRM strategy. Reviewing your goals will remind you of things you must consider in the process, such as revisiting your targets, deciding on your sales channels, and profiling your ideal customer.
- Not understanding what your customers want and need: If you don’t map your customer journey, you won’t understand their obstacles when it comes to making a purchase, which will prevent you from crafting solutions to address their pain points.
- Choosing CRM software that doesn’t fit your business needs: A popular or feature-packed CRM doesn’t necessarily mean that it is right for you. Make sure you do your research, involve your team, and sign up for a trial or demo before subscribing.
- Not having measurable goals: The best way to know if your strategy is working is to see if it helps you achieve your goals, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to see how they measure up against the metrics you’ve set to measure your success.
Creating a customer relationship management strategy is essential in nurturing customer relationships, growing business revenue, and improving the customer experience. In addition, it strengthens the collaboration between your sales, marketing, and service departments. It also provides your company with metrics and data insights to guide you in creating future business strategies.