CRM Thought Leader Dr. Jeff Tanner In His Own Words

Dr Jeff Tanner

CRM Strategy—A Data Driven Approach to Conceptual Objectives & Performance Refinements

Jeff Tanner Jeff Tanner, Associate Dean at Baylor University's School of Business and a founding partner of BPT Partners, advises that to develop a successful CRM strategy begin with conceptual objectives, prove and refine your theory in an operational mode, permit the results to hone the objectives in a way that strategy evolves from real-world actions, and then carry on a journey of continuous process improvement.

Key take away points in the CRM strategy discussion with Jeff Tanner:

  • When developing a CRM strategy, Jeff references the well cited advice by his business partner Paul Greenberg that CRM is both a philosophy and a strategy. The CRM philosophy may stem from overarching governance such as described in a mission statement, and should help shape CRM strategy. Jeff advises that traditional business strategy tools and techniques such as SWOT analysis, Porters 5 Forces and portfolio grids such as those from BCG (Boston Consulting Group) or GE, are not necessarily as helpful in the data rich environment of Customer Relationship Management.
  • Every strategy must start with what it is you desire to accomplish. Jeff notes however that research is illustrating that companies are making an accelerated and premature jump from objectives to operational technology deployment—and incurring failure. Instead, once objectives are identified, additional considerations such as what factors influence customer behaviors and actions, and how those factors will influence objectives, need to be fully considered and possibly modeled for understanding and verification. Only then can organizations create the right action plans and trial the right variables to deliver predicted results.
  • Jeff notes that CRM strategy generally requires more agility than most other business strategies. The velocity of change is accelerated with customers and therefore CRM strategies. CRM strategy is ever-evolving and dynamic thereby requiring continuous review among conceptual strategies and operating performance. To succeed in such fluid conditions, begin with conceptual objectives, prove and refine those objectives in an operational mode, and permit the encountered factors and results to then hone the strategy in a way where the conceptual objectives evolve and are influenced by the real-world performance findings—and continue this learning and revision in a journey of continuous process improvement. By building in experimental design controls with isolated or defined variables, you can tease out which results are causal and which are not.
  • In an interesting real-world scenario of leveraging data to forecast predictive buying behaviors, retailer Target discovered a population of products purchased by women who had become pregnant. The retailer also hypothesized that if they were able to capture a women's purchases during her pregnancy, they may further earn her habitual purchases. To begin their discovery, Target began with the date that women identified themselves are pregnant via enrollment on a birth registry. However, these women knew they were pregnant before registering, so the retailer compared the prior 60 day purchases from registration and the customers total purchase history in order to understand what items women purchase when they become pregnant. Once this pattern was identified, Target was able to deliver more relevant promotions and offers to women who have become pregnant.
  • Jeff identifies fear of data analysis as a contributing factor in failed CRM strategies. Sales and marketing staff often pursue their careers as they're not into math and science. Yet solidifying a successful CRM strategy is a data driven exercise conducted by conceptual mapping, testing hypothesis and models, measuring results and making continuous improvements. Fear of big data or technology can inhibit decision makers from fully utilizing their data and their CRM technology to derive successful CRM strategies.
  • Looking to the future, Jeff suggests that the notion of the 360 degree customer view will change with better data driven by better data strategies. He also expects a bifurcation in the market in a way where online ecosystems such as AppExchange empower many small vendors to create niche or micro-vertical solutions which sit atop of major application platforms.

"Consumers benchmark us against their best experiences so their expectations of sellers operate at a much faster velocity than our ability to adapt. What my students benchmark college against is some combination of MTV and Disney [...] Consumers benchmark you against other suppliers who are not your competitors."

— Dr. Jeff Tanner, Baylor University

About Dr. Jeff Tanner

Jeff is Associate Dean at Baylor University's School of Business, a founding partner of BPT partners and an Academic Advisor for Sales Innovation. Baylor was actually the first university to create a CRM curriculum and graduate degree—beginning a trend that has become much more popular since. Jeff is the author of 13 books, including Sales Management, Shaping Future Sales Leaders and Principles of Marketing; top selling books in their respective areas. With regard to CRM strategy, Jeff has created and delivered executive education programs in marketing strategy, customer relationship management, and sales and sales management strategy in several countries over many years.

The next podcast discussion is with Microsoft Dynamics CRM leader Brad Wilson.