Advertisers used to be derided as ‘the hidden persuaders’. It’s a phrase with a long history, but today it’s being acknowledged within the marketing industry that the more direct – ‘buy from me now!’ – approach is too blunt.

Persuasive copywriting is about convincing someone that they want to click on your ‘buy’ button rather than bombarding them with straight-ahead ‘aren’t we great’ messages.

The key principles of persuasive copywriting include, urgency and scarcity, authority, consistency, consensus and reciprocity.

Here are some copywriting tips that go beyond those concepts, and should have a measurable impact on your conversion rates.

  • Identity
  • Try to think of your customers not as a group of people who behave a certain way, but who are that behaviour.

    A poll of American voters tweaked just one question, asking some respondents if they were ‘going to vote’ and others if they were going to ‘be a voter’. After the election there was a 13.5 percentage point difference in voting levels between the two groups, with identity trouncing behaviour.

  • Story telling
  • Forget numbers and statistics and tell a story. Research from 2007 on charity donations for African famine relief found that telling the story of one suffering child garnered donations twice the size of those inspired by statistics on the suffering.

  • Options and honesty
  • People are very cynical about marketing, they think they’re being lied to.

    Show a bit of honesty about any shortcomings with your offering and you’ll get people on your side. Don’t indulge in a feast of negativity and present the upside too, but don’t imagine that if you don’t mention something no-one will think it. Honesty is an attractive character trait and balance is more persuasive than propaganda.

  • People like saying yes
  • Start your copy with a question that elicits a positive response. Research on a Toyota ad found that Democratic voters found the ad more persuasive after watching Barrack Obama speak. Know your audience and get them to say yes.

The people who use persuasive copywriting, reckon that using techniques like these will push your conversion rates towards the 10-15% that giants like Amazon aim for.

Earlier this year LinkedIn, the business and professional social network, announced it had passed the 300 million users mark. Although some have criticised the maths behind those numbers, there’s no doubt that LinkedIn is one of the big boys of the social world. But can it help you with your customer relationship management (CRM)?

Well, LinkedIn would certainly like you to use it in that way, in fact, last year it released a contacts app that is essentially a free CRM tool.

The contacts app makes use of LinkedIn’s clever data wrangling and adds some very nice visual interfaces to allow you to manage and understand all those connections through a single dashboard.

The app was initially a limited release and got good reviews from early adopters from the start. The app offered the chance to integrate LinkedIn contacts with email and mobile phone contacts as well as your calendar.

It’s easy to see how useful this could be as a CRM tool. It reminds you to keep in touch with those who you’ve not spoken to for a while, while information about a new job is a great tool for business to business organisations. Working with TripIt, you’ll be offered the chance to suggest meetings with contacts when you’re in their area.

Even if you haven’t yet been invited to use LinkedIn Contact, you can use LinkedIn as an effective part of your CRM, which is in many ways about communication.

Keeping an active profile is helpful, as is commenting on the changes in your contacts’ lives. Use groups in your sector and check forums for questions that might be useful to you when you’re pitching for business. Don’t be afraid of asking clients to turn a nice email into a LinkedIn recommendation.

Businesses should certainly have a profile page, it’s free. Think of it as you would any other social page and keep it active and interesting.

Social is now a vital part of any CRM system and LinkedIn is likely to become even more important as time goes on.

Where is the pain in your business? Most businesses owners reply “customers” every time!

Whilst it is easier to control things like the accounting, the delivery of stock and the website, your customer base is often unpredictable, want results yesterday will complain at any given opportunity. However, is this really true?

One of the tenants of business is that everything you do needs to be measurable either subjectively or objectively and if it’s not happening you do not have control over that aspect of your business. One common mistake amongst even seasoned business owners is not paying enough attention to their customers and what they are saying and perhaps most importantly – who is saying it.

Tim Ferris in his book “Four Hour Work Week” explains how when he analysed his customers and the complaints, he found that 20% of his customers were causing 80% of the complaints.

His response was to fire them! He found that not only did his profitability go up (less support staff needed to deal with complaints) his staff morale was boosted as well.

So when is it right to walk away from a customer?

There are two main reasons to do so:

  1. If the customer abuses you or your staff in any way. An abusive customer cannot be tolerated and it will definitely affect your staff morale if you do not get rid of them. Eventually you will potentially loose staff and that will definitely cost you money as you will need to hire and train new staff.
  2. A customer is basically losing you money by wasting your or your staff’s time but adds nothing to your bottom line. Having them as a customer costs you money. Obviously they need to be challenged before being cut loose, however, if they ultimately are not willing to pay for your services they need to go.

Essentially customers need to go if it hits your staff or hits your bottom line. You have to protect your business and protect your staff.

A webinar is a technology to connect with others via the internet and is a way of offering information on-line via video presentations. The biggest advantage of webinars is that they are extremely cheap to put on (especially compared to on-site seminars).

  1. You Build Relationships Easily
  2. Webinars are a great way for your business to build relationships and trust with a wide audience. If your content is good and you are offering a subject that answers a real problem businesses have, you can get hundreds of people to attend because it is low commitment – they just have to be at a computer or have a tablet or a smartphone to join. One great way to get people to come to your webinar is to advertise on LinkedIn, both through the groups you and your colleagues are a member of and also through paid advertising that is very cost effective.

     

  3. You Close More Sales
  4. It has been shown time and time again those people who take the time to build trust and authority on the internet make more sales than those who do not. Taking the time to present a regular webinar will naturally build your sales as other businesses see what you have to offer and trust you because of your authoritative content.

     

  5. You Create a New Revenue Stream
  6. By holding regular webinars, you will connect with people that you have not connected with before and this will naturally lead you to creating a new revenue stream for your company. There are not that many SME doing regular webinars on the internet and so it is an opportunity waiting for the progressive business.

     

  7. You Assume Less Risk
  8. Organising a seminar costs a lot of cash up front and has a potentially high-risk factor associated with it. On the other hand, a webinar could totally flop and the cash outlay for the seminar is still very small in comparison.

     

  9. You Can Test New Content Quickly and Easily
  10. If you are going to organise a seminar or launch some paid training or film a series of videos for your company, a webinar is a great way to test out the content cheaply. You can follow up the webinar with a survey that will help you judge whether you have the content right or not.

     

  11. You’ll Build Targeted Lists of Qualified Prospects
  12. One of the great things about a webinar is that you get all the email addresses of those people that attend and this immediately gives you a list of self-qualified prospects to market to. Couple this with an autoresponder e-mail series to follow up your webinar giving more great content, and also the opportunity to buy from you and you will have an automated sales funnel.

     

  13. You Protect Yourself From Market Fluctuations
  14. Presenting your company and building relationships can be expensive in the off-line world. However, webinars are a powerful, cheap way to present yourself to the world and even in times of economic stricture, it can still be carried on.

What is eCRM? eCRM stands for electronic customer relationship management. That means everything you do online to nurture your customer relationships.

Many people describe the difference between CRM and eCRM in many different ways. The countless definitions can be quite confusing because we use the same term ‘CRM’ for the strategy of taking care of cusomers and also for the CRM software. The same term therefore stands for policy and technology, and some CRM vendors will argue that you can’t have one without the other.

However, we believe that you do not necessarily need CRM software to be able to engage in customer relationship management – and eCRM.

Why? Because eCRM is simply about taking care of your customer relationships using digital channels – which you’re probably already doing today.

 

Ways to engage in eCRM

Ask yourself the following questions to see how your business might be engaging in eCRM.

  1. Email
    1. Do you keep in touch with your customers via email?
    2. Are you sending promotional email messages to your audience?
    3. Do you evaluate their performance and try to replicate your successes?

  2. Social media
    1. Do you spend time broadcasting your message to a wide audience?
    2. Do you listen to your target market and look for patterns in demographics, behaviour, target market needs etc.?
    3. Do you react to what your target audience says about your brand?

  3. Tracking customer behaviour on your website
    1. Do you test various page layouts and copies and try to work out which ones work best?
    2. Do you use tools to see which pages are most popular?
    3. Do you optimise your website based on this data to enhance your visitor’s user experience?

  4. Capturing new leads
    1. Do you actively seek out new lead and engage with them online?
    2. Do you have a subscription button on your website?
    3. Do you use data capture forms to get new leads so you can nurture them later?

  5. Tracking campaign success
    1. Do you measure success of your individual campaigns?
    2. Do you try to figure out the common traits of your most successful campaigns so you can replicate them?

If you said yes in at least one case, congratulations, you’re engaging in eCRM.

… So why do other businesses spend money on CRM systems?

 

What is the advantage of CRM software?

The answer to this question is rather straightforward: information is power. The advantage of having a CRM system lies in the ability to gather data about everything you’re doing.

The system gathers lots of valuable data for you, such as information about campaign performance, performance of teams & individual employees, etc. By automating some of the most tedious eCRM tasks, you can also get to a much larger audience much more quickly. This means you get to do more things and gain deeper insight into everything you’re doing as well.

 

How can a good CRM system leverage your eCRM?

Let’s see how the eCRM you’re doing without CRM software can be enhanced by using one.

 

  1. Email –Good CRM systems enable you to send bulk emails to any target audience you choose. You’re also able to reflect on the success of every email you’ve sent out by looking at its delivery, open and click-through statistics. Every next of your email activities is then based more on hard data and less on subjective opinions.
  2. Social media – If you choose a CRM system that integrates with your social media, you’ll be able to listen to your audience’s conversation, engage with them directly from your CRM system and measure the overall sentiment of the posts your audience sends out. This way Marketing can manage your brand better, Sales can find new (otherwise hidden) opportunities and Service can identify and resolve issues in record time.
  3. Tracking customer behaviour on your website – Modern CRM systems let you see the journey your website visitors take. Each visit journey gets recorded on the lead’s record and the score they get for each visit is automatically added to their overall score. This makes your lead prioritisation straightforward and means that your Sales people know where to pick up from where Marketing left and stay relevant.
  4. Capturing new leads – With an intelligent CRM system, you don’t need to manually process leads who sign up for updates on your website. Smart CRM systems automatically create new leads from data capture forms. That means you can just drop these new leads into your marketing nurture programme and the software will take care of the rest.
  5. Tracking campaign success – Arguably the most value you can extract from a good CRM lies in the analytics. Within a powerful CRM system, plenty of reports are available at a click and they take just seconds to be created. This way you can see success metrics of all your efforts which lets you enhance the quality of your eCRM in the short and long run.

 

Other tools to improve your eCRM

CRM is not the only tool with the ability to enhance your eCRM. The functionality we’ve mentioned in this article is provided by many other tools, such as Google Analytics, email marketing software, marketing automation software etc. However, we believe that a strong CRM programme should integrate all these tools in one place.

If after reading this article you find that you’re happy with your current eCRM routine and you don’t need anything else at the moment, that’s fantastic. In the future, if you notice that you want more, you know where to go next – get a powerful CRM system that will leverage your effort and help you forecast and improve your future performance. According to Forrester Research, companies who adopt Microsoft Dynamics CRM get an average ROI of 243%. That sounds like something to look forward to!

Podcasting has been around for many years but has not, until recently, made too much of an impact on the ability of a company to get leads and sell.

However, the landscape has changed greatly over the last six months or so, as many high-worth potential leads have discovered podcasts because of the rise of high-profile business and political leaders beginning to podcast.

Also the meteoric increase of use of the smartphone and iPad has led to people using podcasts when they are on the move, in the gym and whilst doing many other activities. It has been estimated that there are 50 Million podcast listeners on iTunes alone, with humour being the largest category followed closely by all business-related topics.

So whilst many more people are turning to podcasts to educate and entertain themselves, the number of people who are creating podcasts is not increasing at the same rate. This means that there is a valuable opportunity for those businesses that choose to grasp it. Even a 10 minute per week tips and ideas podcast on iTunes can reach thousands of people and increase your reach as a business.

An example is Wes Murray’s Essentially Fit (a fitness podcast for the over 40’s). Before he started his podcast, he was doing well with his business, however it has exploded afterwards in the number of leads that he is receiving.

A great content idea is to simply interview other business leaders in your field who are influential. Not many people will turn down the opportunity to broadcast to thousands of people. But any content that engages will build a following. When deciding on your podcast content, do remember it is possible to podcast using video as well as just audio.

A great resource to learn what is needed to start podcasting is the Podcast Answer Man. He has details of everything you need to get started (although he does go a bit high-end, when really all you need is a basic microphone and audacity – a free piece of software).

Customer engagement is the byword for many firms in the modern era, whether they work on a B2B or B2C basis.

The internet – especially the emergence of tablets and smartphones – has made it far easier for people to find out about potential new suppliers and make a switch, so firms need to take responsibility for maintaining relationships with their buyers.

How this is done varies from company to company, but installing a CRM system can give many firms a boost when it comes to connecting with customers.

Gartner recently revealed some of its research on the importance of CRM, ahead of a host of summer conferences on the topic of customer engagement and technology.

Distinguished analyst and vice-president with the firm Michael Maoz pointed out that this is an area that affects almost every company, whether they are operating in the public or private sector.

“However, in most cases, these organisations are not actually engaging with the customer, and instead they have been disengaging for a decade in order to lower costs. Furthermore, relatively few have an enterprise-wide approach to engaging with customers,” he added.

Businesses need to consider how employees, partners and consumers work with each other before planning their strategy, concluded Mr Maoz.

Aligning social, mobile and traditional channels is vital to engagement – CRM can obviously help with this, bringing the different information involved with these platforms together and making it easier to analyse.

It is also useful in a host of different ways, for instance by ensuring that firms can focus on keeping their customers’ information safe.

A well-implemented piece of CRM software can store all this data in one place rather than forcing firms to spread it across a host of areas, meaning that losses or mistakes are less likely to happen.

Emotionally engaging with customers is vital if firms are to succeed in the modern era, Gartner concluded.

Buyers with this kind of relationship “are more likely to complain less, compliment more, buy more and contribute more than those who are not”, concluded the consultancy.

Planning in advance is one of the greatest challenges that modern businesses face. The pace of change that is common across many industries nowadays can generate a host of opportunities for those who are well-prepared; however, it also means that assessing how situations are going to develop is harder than it ever was in the past – which could be where CRM comes in.

What makes this muddled situation even more frustrating for business leaders is that it can often feel as if the holy grail of accurate, predictive forecasting is almost within reach, only to see it fall at the final hurdle due to poor implementation or a lack of analytics talent within an organisation.

The recent hype around big data provides a salutary example. IT experts have suggested that the more information created by consumers, the easier it will become to track their attitudes towards particular products and services.

To an extent, this has proven to be true, with a further expansion in data levels anticipated over the coming years as the ‘internet of things’ becomes more popular and widespread.

However, the reality is that many companies do not have the capacity, the nous or even the technology needed to sift through vast amounts of information in order to find the insight buried in it like the needle in the hay.

CRM can help, but only if it is utilised correctly. Here, Redspire posits some ways in which businesses can take advantage of their CRM system to produce behavioural or analytic insights into their customer base.

Big data integration – is it a must?

As I alluded to above, the enormous cloud of hot air surrounding the big data market is undeniably slightly wearisome but it does not mean that the sector has nothing to offer – far from it.

Instead, businesses need to ensure that they do not buy into the hype surrounding data analytics and instead take a calm, cool-headed look at how they can make it work for their business.

With CRM systems, it’s often best to start simple and then build up your functionality as your team becomes more proficient with utilising the software, so I certainly wouldn’t describe big data integration as a must.

However, if you already have a relatively mature CRM process in place or feel confident that your tech experts are up to scratch when it comes to predictive analysis, integrating big data with customer relationship management can offer undeniable benefits.

The convergence of big data and CRM

Speaking last year, GlaxoSmithKline’s customer relationship management consultant James Parker encouraged firms to invest in big data immediately or risk being left behind.

“There are even larger data sets today [than 10 years ago] and although consumer behaviour is best monitored by the marketing department, the benefits are to the rest of the business,” he explained.

He is among a host of CRM experts who have recognised that the large amounts of information now available to them is making it easier than ever before to use the software to produce accurate behavioural models.

Think of the process as being like making a painting – if you only have two colours of paint, you’re necessarily limited in how life-like a portrayal you can create. Big data has opened up the full palette of shades to analysts, who can now use CRM to produce extremely detailed predictive images.

Benchmarking

Vital indicators such as customer sentiment, retention and cost vs revenue per service call can all be benchmarked through your CRM software – you can then store this information for as long as necessary to gain a clear idea of how well each area is performing, possibly in relation to rival firms or the industry standards.

When obvious trends begin to emerge through this process, firms will be able to take action to improve parts of their operation they know are underperforming, ultimately making any investment that needs to be carried out more efficient.

Multichannel customer awareness

Along with big data, one of the most commonly-identified trends in marketing technology over the last 12 months has been multichannel; that is, the need to engage with customers through a variety of platforms while maintaining parity of voice and tone.

This is challenging, as is tracking the success (or otherwise) of campaigns when they take place across many different channels.

Dealing with all customer touch points means integrating a great deal of information into CRM software, which can be difficult at first – however, this will generally become easier once the necessary functions have been isolated and staff are aware of all the processes they need to go through to input the data effectively.

And the benefits from doing so can be huge, particularly as multichannel marketing continues to go from strength to strength.

CRM: Not a panacea

Ultimately, predictive analysis is somewhat like the holy grail mentioned above, in that it is almost certainly never going to be an exact science.

Economic factors, shifting consumer attitudes and other issues will always mean that firms can find their situation changing unexpectedly.

However, integrating big data analysis with CRM can ensure they are reasonably well-prepared for at least some of the fluctuations that can take place, especially when it comes to areas they can control to some extent such as their own customer base.

This shouldn’t lead to complacency, but instead it should help to make marketers and business leaders aware of any potential hurdles coming up and give them the chance to plan a strategy for vaulting them.

Social media was initially considered the preserve of B2C marketing, given that sites such as Facebook tended to be more popular with consumers than they were with businesses. However, the last few years have seen this change, with use of Twitter and other platforms becoming normalised across the B2B sector.

It is still not a core channel for the industry, though, according to a new report from B2B Marketing produced in association with Circle Research.

Only nine per cent of respondents described the use of social media as ‘critical’ to their plans, while 47 per cent called it important. Seven per cent said the channel was of no interest to them.

Arguably, the interest is there but not the capabilities, which underlines the role CRM can play in helping B2B firms update their marketing approach.

For businesses that want to provide a more personalised, engaging approach to their existing and prospective customers, investing in software of this kind seems like a no-brainer.

However, this spend must come with strategic thinking, and the recent report from B2B marketing has warned that social media is still not being placed in this category by many firms.

Only one-third of respondents had a clearly defined strategy, with a worrying 27 per cent still treating social as an ‘ad-hoc activity’.

CRM will not be able to function effectively if it is brought into this kind of environment – a great deal of planning and forethought is vital if companies are to gain a good return on investment.

Some of the key aims highlighted by marketers when utilising social media include a desire to drive traffic to their website, as well as the hope that it will allow them to find new leads and develop awareness of their brand.

If these objectives are laid out and clarified before the integration of a CRM programme, firms should be able to automate some of their social media tasks, freeing up marketers for more creative or directive work.

One of the hot topics of 2014 so far has been data security and the importance of keeping personal information secure. Huge stories such as the ongoing drama over the PRISM surveillance programme have placed this issue at the top of many consumers’ lists when it comes to something they demand from a company, and firms need to be seen to respond or else find themselves left behind by more security-conscious competitors.

However, this places firms in something of a bind; they need to ensure that they keep customer-focused information as safe as possible, but the emergence of big data analytics means that there is more of it than ever before, and the businesses that utilise it effectively can steal a march on their competitors.

Obviously, the solution isn’t simply to ignore the huge benefits big data can offer, particularly as the market matures.

It also wouldn’t be wise to dismiss the valid concerns many consumers have around the issue of information security.

So what can businesses do to take advantage of big data while also meeting their customers’ demands?

Security concerns

A recent survey from the Direct Marketing Association expressed positivity about how the industry is performing but noted that many consumers are still concerned about the use of information.

The authors estimate that direct marketing in the UK grew by approximately 8.6 per cent in 2013, but highlighted the fact that “negative connotations are impacting the market with regard to spam mail, e-mail and nuisance telephone calls being seen as invasive”.

“There are concerns that this will implicate the direct marketing industry by threatening access to the likes of customer database lists. However, it is evident that the personalisation of campaigns, which comes from accessing individual information and personal details, proves to be effective and drives a direct response to campaigns,” the study revealed.

CRM is an important part of managing these databases, as well as keeping the information they involve centralised in one location, thus making it easier to maintain its security and integrity.

The Internet of Things

As the Internet of Things becomes increasingly important and more technology is connected to the web, businesses will have even more data to take on board, meaning the bind alluded to at the start of the article is getting even more pronounced.

Tom Hostler, managing partner at digital agency Poke, recently told Marketing Week that the current situation with the Internet of Things is making many firms conscious of the need to develop their data processes.

CRM can help with this, as long as it is well-integrated and utilised effectively.

The more information a company is taking on, the more it needs to ensure that it can manage it, and having the right software in place is a big part of that.

Mr Hostler predicts that more smart products will emerge over the coming decade, leading to an exponential growth in the Internet of Things.

“Where it gets exciting is when these devices and networks are joined and the data sets can be combined, overlaid and patterns detected. This creates a new era in smart services and insight-driven marketing,” he concluded.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

CRM vendors, as well as the users of their service, need to be aware of the importance of security when it comes to developing their software.

With this in mind, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Trust Centre was set up as a way to underline the tech giant’s commitment to security and assuage any fears buyers might have over the way it stores and structures personal information.

It puts forward a series of so-called ‘online trust principles’ – a commitment to the privacy of consumers, to becoming an industry leader in the field of transparency, to complying with third-party regulations on security and to constantly updating their approach to cope with the changes taking place in the tech landscape.

“We have developed our practices and policies as a result of over fifteen years of experience in providing security for online data. Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle ensures security and privacy is incorporated by design from software development through service operations,” the organisation declared.

Choosing the right CRM provider is crucial for businesses that want to be seen as secure and interested in the privacy of their consumers; those firms that have a strong ethos around this issue, such as Microsoft, will help strengthen that part of their image.

Of course, this is only part of the issue – companies need to take the initiative and ensure that their approach towards data security is proactive, or risk suffering serious reputation damage.