Relationship Era

The Top 3 Business Priorities in the Relationship Era

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Last month, we surveyed 1,059 business professionals for our State of Customer Management in the Relationship Era research report.

Our goal was to find out who’s involved in building customer relationships today, how team members work together, and where they communicate and collaborate with customers. We also wanted to figure out whether CRM technology is aligned with current business goals.

So, we asked respondents: “What is your top business priority for the next year?”

As their responses rolled in, we started to see a pattern. The highest priorities for companies in 2018 center around three business objectives:

  1. Growing their customer bases
  2. Delivering a better Relationship Experience
  3. Improving team efficiency and productivity

In this post, we’ll reveal the data behind this finding and explore what might be driving these strategic priorities.

Priority #1: Growing Our Customer Base

Four in 10 respondents listed customer acquisition as their number one priority this year, which isn't surprising.

After all, growth and profitability are both long-standing business goals. Most leaders know that they must consistently attract and convert new customers to grow.

But achieving this goal is harder than ever.

In the Relationship Era, companies are no longer in control. Instead, customers are in the driver’s seat—and their expectations have never been so high.

The pace of technological advancement has led customers to expect a constant drumbeat of product improvements and 24/7 customer service across a multitude of digital channels, from email to social media.

Plus, the rise of cloud technology, subscription businesses, and freemium products means that people can now try before they buy and are free to cancel at any time. In this context, if a business can’t deliver on its promises, customers have no reason to stick around.

And, if provoked, they can cause irreparable harm to your company’s reputation.

To win in the Relationship Era, companies must [...] build long-term and mutually rewarding partnerships with their customers

To win in the Relationship Era, companies must go beyond convincing buyers to engage in one-time transactions.

They must build long-term and mutually rewarding partnerships with their customers—a pursuit that starts on day one and continues throughout the entire customer relationship.

To succeed in this pursuit, everyone within a company must be aligned on objectives, strategy, and approach, and teams must efficiently and effectively work together toward common goals.

Priority #2: Delivering a Better Relationship Experience

For three in 10 respondents, delivering a better Relationship Experience is the top goal this year. The thing is, mass marketing doesn’t cut it anymore.

To go beyond one-time transactions and foster lasting partnerships, teams must build stronger relationships with their customers—before and after they convert.

Fifteen percent aim to accomplish this through greater personalization, while 13% think relationship building is the key to retention.

Our research suggests that we’ve entered a new era in which the linear customer journey has evolved into a dynamic Relationship Experience, characterized by many touchpoints across countless channels.

Early in the Relationship Cycle, before leads interact with your team, they engage with your brand across a variety of digital channels. At this point in the cycle, it's important to deliver relevant messaging that's tailored to your target audience. Real-time personalization takes this one step further, referring to the lead by name, calling out where they work or the pain points they face, and setting the stage for a deeper relationship.

For three in 10 respondents, delivering a better Relationship Experience is the top goal this year

After a connection has been established, our research suggests that prospects interact with an average of 3.4 different teams across 6.7 different channels. I say interact because teams both communicate with customers via email, phone calls, social media, in-person meetings, and video conferencing and collaborate with customers via productivity apps, like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Not only are these interactions much less formal, but they’re also much more real. Customers now expect businesses to treat them like human beings, speak to their core values, and engage with them in a meaningful way. This rule applies equally to all companies, regardless of whether they’re B2B, B2C, or B2B2C.

Priority #3: Improving Team Efficiency and Productivity

Two in 10 said their top priority this year is improving team efficiency and productivity—a noble goal for any business.

From organizational silos that result in duplicated efforts to approval bottlenecks that prevent teams from getting work done, inefficient processes have a strong impact on company-wide performance.

Research suggests that, if left unchecked, these problems can cost big dollars. One example is the UK’s National Health Service, which loses £5B per year due to operational inefficiencies. Another example is the 18% of B2B content marketing spend that Gleanster Research says is wasted due to poor processes.

To win potential clients, build lasting relationships, and grow your business, it's crucial to implement efficient and effective processes. But it's also important to choose systems that are designed to work for you instead of against you. In fact, 96% of senior managers agree that smart technology choices drive operational efficiency.

Productivity suites are a good example. The beauty of G Suite is that teams can collaborate in real time from anywhere in the world. Instead of operating like athletes in a relay race, where the baton is passed from one team member to another and everyone must wait their turn, G Suite enables teams to work together toward a common goal. Whether they're outlining a client proposal or building a sales forecast, this tool stack can save your company hours, days, or even weeks. On an annual basis, the cost savings are significant.

96% of senior managers agree that smart technology choices drive operational efficiency

The same can be said about CRM technology. Our research suggests that everyone uses CRM software, regardless of function, suggesting it’s one of the most important tools in your Relationship Stack. Unfortunately, two thirds wouldn't describe their CRM as effective. Rather, 43% say it's tolerable and 22% say it's confusing, hard to use, or frustrating.

What's causing this dissatisfaction? Some CRM tools hold teams back, requiring them to waste hours each day manually entering and updating customer data. In fact, our research reveals that 57% spend "all day, every day" in their CRM. To avoid this fate, it's important to choose a CRM that helps users be more productive through user-friendly design, intelligent automation, and relevant integrations.

Benchmark Your Goals Against These Priorities

Clear priorities help everyone make decisions that benefit the company, which is why annual goal setting exercises are so important. Whether you're the founder and CEO, a member of the management team, or an individual contributor, you have the power to influence your company’s performance. To determine if you’re on the right track, benchmark your goals against these top business objectives, identify any gaps and opportunities, and bring them to your team’s attention.