How can you know whether or not CMR is important, or even right, for your business? You might start by thinking like Yogi Berra, who once said, “Before you build a better mousetrap, it would help to know if there are any mice out there.” There are some cases where a firm’s customers don’t fit the CMR “trap,” and you won’t find any mice waiting.
One of the measures of potential CMR value to a company is the frequency of its customers’ purchases. Without frequent interaction, it is difficult to maintain the dialog to empower customers. Donald Libey, president of Libey, Inc. and renowned direct marketing and e-commerce prognosticator, gave me some of my earliest lessons in database marketing. He made the importance of frequency clear to me with the example of the builder of bridges across the Mississippi, whose customers contract for bridges about every 100 years. This bridge builder would have little opportunity for CMR.
What else should you consider before embarking on the CMR journey? As is often the case, the answer to this question leads to more questions:
Are you prepared to move CMR to the center of your corporate strategy as a process of learning to understand the values that are important to your individual customers?
Will CMR fit with your business strategy—can it serve your financial and business goals?
Can you get everyone in your company to agree on a common definition of CMR and understand that CMR is not just an advanced stage of database marketing?
Are you willing to give away power to the customer? Can your corporate culture support this change?
What will be the cost of deploying CMR? What will be the cost of not deploying some degree of CMR?
Can your competitors put you at a disadvantage if they empower their customers before you do?
Will you be able to integrate your customer data so that all of the data sources can be used to create a single view of the customer? Can you afford to do it?
Will your IT team be willing and able to find new ways to manage the customer data and make it available on an enterprise-wide basis?
Can you identify the kind of customers that are right for your business?
Will some of your best customers want to be empowered? Will that empowerment add value to their customer experience? Will it add value for your firm?
Will your sales managers, product managers, sales personnel, and others be able to develop customer service strategies and product offerings based on customer needs?
Can you identify what return on investment will be expected from the CMR initiative?
Do you have total commitment from most senior management?
And, finally, will you and your company—and that means everyone in the firm—have the belief in the durability of this customer-centric process and have the patience to see the project through?
If you can’t answer yes to all of these questions, it’s time to close this book and look for a new challenge somewhere else. But, if you’ve responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” to each of these questions, it is worth examining them more closely.