Many businesses in the business to business sector are understandably baffled by the widely bandied phrase CRM. What does it mean?

This neat definition explains it in a nutshell:  CRM is a strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service. Customer relationship management describes a company-wide business strategy including customer-interface departments as well as other departments.

While having an effective CRM system will encompass using software that is either built exclusively for your business or, is an off-the-shelf system that you can tweak, it is only the start of the process. If you want your CRM strategy to be successful you have to create a customer centric organization. There is little point in having clever software if it’s not being used as a tool to enhance the service you deliver to customers at every single communication touch point.

1. Be unrelenting in your pursuit of recording accurate data. Your team must be motivated to focus on the accuracy of the information that is fed into your CRM system. Data must be correct, complete, up to date and legally compliant.

2. Train your staff so they understand the consequences of inputting inaccurate data. They must see the bigger picture and not simply look upon themselves as data entry clerks. Who are they letting down? They have to be able to see the connection, for example, between valued loyal and long-standing customers and recording all relevant data and transactions to the highest standards with the minimum of inaccuracies.3. Augment and enrich your customer data. There is nothing to be gained from loading incomplete, patchy, inaccurate customer data into a brand spanking new system. You are simply automating an ongoing liability. Having your data cleaned and augmented externally and your database certified as being clean, enriched and legally compliant is absolutely critical.

3. Only use high-quality prospecting data. Spending time loading prospect data into your system that turns out to be unclean, inaccurate and in many cases downright illegal is to be avoided at all costs. Only buy or rent your data from a provider that belongs to the List Warranty Register and is a member of the Direct Marketing Association.

4. Incorporate social media contacts. It’s not just consumer faced businesses that are benefiting from engaging and interacting with a new audience online. In the B2B sector it’s happening too. Whilst Facebook may be the social media tool of choice for consumer brands, it’s all happening on twitter for B2B brands.  However, don’t load your social media contacts into your general prospecting pool in your CRM system. They have engaged with you primarily for social reasons so treating them as a ‘sell to prospect’ will go down like a lead balloon.

Look upon your CRM strategy as a business initiative and not an IT project and ensure that the data you load into it results in a blaze of delighted customers and converted prospects.