Improving the customer relationship delivers the best return

According to a survey of the ‘Chartered Institute of Marketing’, many marketers find that Customer Relationship Management operations generate the best results.

It’s an illustration of the fact that more marketers start to understand the importance and efficiency of improving the relationships with their customers but also of a more customer-centric approach.

Probably the results of the survey are influenced by the economic recession and a return to more conservative and risk-free forms of marketing, among which optimizing the return of marketing investment by focusing on existing customers.

Differences per industry

The survey, conducted last spring by Ipsos Mori, shows that 24% of the responding marketers find that CRM-related activities generate the best ROI.

Especially marketers that are active in the industries of financial and other services seem to think so (31% of respondents). Also marketers in the ICT-industry believe a lot in the return of CRM operations (30%).

It’s striking to see that 23% of the surveyed marketers see advertising as the marketing activity with the lowest return. One exception though: online advertising is still perceived as generating a good return.

Customer-centric and data-driven thinking

The survey proves that companies focus more on their customers, especially in the actual economic environment. This is a good evolution as such, although unfortunately it underestimates the impact of other marketing activities, including advertising.

In the end a better knowledge of the customer and a more customer-centric corporate culture (if well implemented) will help companies make a difference with their competitors, thus liberating more budgets for other forms of marketing that are now under pressure.

It’s unfortunate that these forms of marketing are forgotten now, because in a data-driven and purely ROI-focussed environment companies risk to also forget the importance of the brand equity, of reaching potential customers and of innovative and thus more ‘risky’ forms of marketing.

It’s especially unfortunate because most companies today are not able to translate the value of more brand-related activities in valuable metrics (although it is perfectly possible). If companies forget the importance of their brand, under the pressure of immediate results, they risk to lose revenue elsewhere because their brand becomes weaker. Being focussed too much on the existing customer can cause companies to forget longer-term goals regarding reach, acquisition and conversion. And only choosing ‘safe’ marketing investments can take the creative and innovative aspects out of marketing. Higher-risk investments can lead to an unexpected good ROI.

The good news for advertising is that online is still seen as being efficient although it might also mean that online advertising is still stuck too much in its pure direct marketing image.

As always, it’s a matter of balance. But you won’t hear us complain that companies think and work more customer-centric.