Wednesday, November 12, 2008
B2B CRM / Branding Model
I was doing some more thinking about a specific B2B CRM and branding model. This relates to a previous post on CRM. I was thinking about how you build an interaction model between the firm and its customers if those customers are businesses. I was also thinking about the function of "branding"--creating consistent communications across all customer touchpoints. A more holistic definition of branding might include all customer interactions, period, including services, products, even non-company-sponsored interactions such as through "key influencers."
The concept, while not earth-shattering, does provide some clarity to the role of branding and CRM in a B2B organization. It also leverages some of the concepts that I've been thinking more about lately, namely the core function of inbound marketing or listening and the imperative of thinking of the company-customer as a decision making unit and not just as a monolith.
Basically the framework divides up the CRM value chain into four parts. Let's stat with Marketing Management. This is the company function, and it is the marketing nerve center where all core decisions are made about the customers and the brand. The functions of marketing management involve product features, packaging, and value proposition; service elements, including all of the myriad post-sale touchpoints with customers; the marketing mix; and of course, segmentation, targeting and positioning.
The marketing management function's decisions are manifested in the outbound marketing function. Using a person as an analogy, this function amounts to "talking." The outbound function should entail communications (TV, radio, email, sales force, partners, etc.); experiences (product experiences; service experiences) and influentials (all of the sources that people listen to--the media, influential bloggers, influential user groups.)
The target of the outbound marketing are the business customers. These must be deconstructed from the firm to the decision making unit inside the firm to the individuals inside the decision making unit. Furthermore, individuals must be understood at the level of both behavior--what they do and attitudes and perceptions about the company and its products--which is of course THE BRAND. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to think of the B2B brand as the collective set of attitudes and perceptions latent in the individuals inside the decision making units at your firm's customers.
Finally, the fourth box is the inbound "listening" activity where your customers talk back to you. There are five primary elements of listening: sampling (tracking studies); chatter (web or otherwise); engagement (two-way conversations); purchase (buying); and loyalty (staying a customer). Generally, these five inbound vehicles paint a holistic view of the health of your company within a company, a DMU and key individuals inside the company.
I like this model because it brings together the core functions of both branding and CRM in a B2B context and provides a framework upon which to hang more complex ideas. It doesn't deal at all with technology (which is key to enabling both the outbound and inbound functions). It doesn't deal with any of the "technical" aspects of marketing, like PR, media mix optimization, etc., but it does allow slots for all of these things. Partner marketing could easily slot in to outbound and inbound, or you could actually build two business customer boxes for partners and end customers. In short, it's just a very versatile framework.