CRM managers, like all professionals, are constantly searching for the next step in their career development. As they gain experience, they adopt more sophisticated tools and practices. But what does that evolution look like? And what defines each step in the process? In this white paper, we shed some light on these questions, based on our years of experience working with thousands of CRM managers.

The competitive world in which we live requires us to continuously improve our performance. Whether you are a basketball player or a CRM manager, you are constantly working on improving your craft. The basketball player might focus on her shot, passing and defense, while also looking at the equipment that will provide her the best advantage. Similarly, CRM managers focus on their segmentation, execution and analysis practices, while taking a deep look into the technology they require to be the best at their job.

However, there are no shortcuts to superstardom. Reaching the holy grail is a process, one with multiple levels. For the CRM manager, we have identified the following five levels:

Level 1

What probably comprised the original CRM marketing best practices is now the lowest level in this profession. Marketers at Level 1 are focused on simply sending campaigns to their customers, irrespective of whether customers want to receive them or not. These marketers do not leverage data insights to inform content or audience, and rather send the same message to all customers.

Marketing organizations at this level usually exhibit the following characteristics:

Segmentation: Practices are based on ad-hoc lists, usually focused on a single customer behavior such as, “All newsletter subscriptions.” Customer lists are provided to marketing by external teams.

Execution: Each campaign is scheduled independently and sent with little or no regard for each customer’s journey. Campaigns are sent based on the marketer’s desire to say something, as opposed to the recipient’s desire to hear it.

Analysis: Marketers focus on single campaign vanity metrics such as email opens, or digital ads’ CTR. Customer analysis and preferences are limited to teams outside of marketing.

Technology: Marketers use disconnected, siloed systems to engage with customers via different channels. Manual processes rule the day, and there is little or no coordination of campaigns across channels.

Time to Market: Ideation-to-execution cycles are slow, as data is siloed and marketers are dependent on external resources for many tasks.

Level 2

Testing enters the fray. Marketers at this stage take initial steps towards better understanding their customers and the impact of each campaign on the business. The focus becomes expanding communication with customers across lifecycle stages. However, campaigns are still sent as stand-alone elements of a larger strategy.

Marketing organizations at this level usually exhibit the following characteristics:

Segmentation: Segmentation begins to take into account more than a single attribute. Marketers combine channel data with historical data provided by external teams.

Execution: More sophisticated segmentation enables basic personalization. Marketers begin to use A/B tests and test/control groups to better identify how their campaigns are resonating with their audiences.

Analysis: Marketers begin to use control (holdout) groups to gauge campaign uplift, going from simple engagement metrics to metrics that reflect strategic company goals.

Technology: Basic marketing automation use cases come into play, such as rolling out the winner of A/B tests as part of recurring campaigns. Marketing teams become more aware of available customer data, but it is still dispersed.

Time to Market: Marketer requests for more complex segmentation and analyses lead to even longer implementation cycles. The complexity added by testing leads to greater creative needs and slower deployments.

Level 3

Campaign timing becomes an important factor for determining when to send campaigns to certain customers. The focus becomes planning linear customer journeys that guide a customer down a predetermined path.

Marketing organizations at this level usually exhibit the following characteristics:

Segmentation: Customer-brand interaction history takes center stage in segmentation efforts. Marketers leverage built-in tools to create segments based, not only on historical and demographic data, but also on behavioral data.

Execution: Marketers begin to focus campaigns on more specific timelines, such as post-purchase or customer onboarding. Linear customer journeys are created and rolled out with the support of automation tools.

Analysis: Long-term KPIs, such as customer lifetime value, take center stage. Journey success is measured based on its ability to cause customers to progress through a funnel.

Technology: Multichannel marketing platforms that enable simple (blank canvas) journey orchestration are the main tool used by marketers at this level. Realtime interaction management tools begin to be used by marketers for time-specific events.

Time to Market: Ideation-to-execution cycles are shortened as marketers gain direct access to their customer data.

Level 4

The customer is put in control. Marketing organizations stop thinking in terms of journeys or campaigns, and begin thinking about catering to customer micro-moments. Messaging is driven by customer insights that are derived directly by the marketing team. Customer journeys are no longer marketer-driven, time-specific ones, but rather are customer-led, non-delimited ones.

Marketing organizations at this level usually exhibit the following characteristics:

Segmentation: Multidimensional segmentation is used to create granular segments that represent different personas and moments in a customer’s relationship with the brand. AI-driven recommendations and predictive models are used as part of the organization’s segmentation strategy.

Execution: Customer moments become the centerpiece of marketing efforts, with marketers setting priorities and exclusion rules at the campaign and segment levels. Journeys become fluid and non-defined. Integrated customer data enables message prioritization for seamless orchestration between realtime and scheduled campaigns.

Analysis: Data exploration feeds marketing initiatives, helping to discover new interaction opportunities. CRM contribution and its leading indicators (e.g., customer base coverage, number of segments, number of channels) become the barometer for evaluating marketing performance.

Technology: Solutions that combine unified customer data and marketing orchestration power customer-led journeys. Direct access to customer data is provided with built-in manual exploration facilities and autonomous recommendation engines.

Time to Market: Marketers are completely independent and are empowered with insight discovery tools that dramatically reduce ideation-to-execution timelines.

Level 5

Uncertainty is embraced as a leading principle. Marketers keep up with evolving customers by continuously testing their marketing campaigns and strategies. AI-based orchestration is introduced and coexists with marketer-defined rules. Data insights are used to constantly refine audiences, messages, channels and timing.

Marketing organizations at this level usually exhibit the following characteristics:

Segmentation: Marketers refine multidimensional segments by introducing dynamic elements into the mix.

Execution: Everything is tested, always. Individual campaigns, messaging sequences and entire marketing strategies are all executed as tests, measured against alternative variations and/or control groups. Marketer-defined priorities become redundant, as self-optimizing algorithms are leveraged across the customer journey to ensure the most relevant message is served to each individual customer.

Analysis: Complete marketing strategies are tested against variations and/or a control group, to evaluate their impact on business KPIs and to allow them to autonomously optimize their own performance. Tests are “always on,” with the understanding that “winner takes all” strategies do not render optimal outcomes. Results from tests feed a continuous optimization cycle for all marketing interactions.

Technology: Productized solutions for cross-interaction holdout groups are deployed and leveraged by the marketing team. Multichannel marketing is augmented with autonomous orchestration.

Time to Market: The CRM operation is a well-oiled machine that can execute a complete insight-to-execution cycle in a matter of hours or days, ensuring an ever-growing arsenal of highly effective customer interactions.

Conclusion

For CRM managers, reaching the highest performance level means providing customers with the personalized experiences they demand. To succeed at this goal, CRM professionals must orchestrate interactions across all touchpoints, leverage data at every turn, and find the ideal balance between their experience and AI algorithms.