CRM: How it started and what’s just around the corner

Firstly, congratulations on your recent nomination for Top 20 Women in Data. What does it mean to you to be nominated?

Thank you! I am both humbled and honoured. It's always a great recognition to be nominated - the meaning for me comes in the knowledge that it may inspire a future generation of women to go into Data. 

How did you initially get into CRM?

When I entered what would now be the world of CRM, CRM as a 'term' did not exist. Marketing teams - who were traditionally brand - were being told to become more 'measurable' - which meant tracking how consumers were responding to communications, so you could better understand what was being driven for business performance, and if the data allowed, segmenting and testing what performed 'best'. I started my career in Publishing and what was then IPC Media, managing acquisition and retention of subscribers across Country & Leisure titles - not sexy, but those subscribers value their weekly copy of Horse & Hound like gold dust, so it was an excellent platform for growth. 

How have you seen CRM change since you began your career?

Absolutely. We are juggling more balls, CRM is about harnessing technology to better use the data you have, to both predict and respond to consumer habits and changing needs. Technology, data and consumers - all three have evolved a great deal - and will continue to. The landscape of CRM changes completely every 5 years. Today, we have highly capable technology, tracking more data touchpoints that ever before - and consumers that are increasingly aware of their data and expect more in return - GDPR will be another ball. Yet, all that being said... the goal of keeping our ever increasing number of 'balls' in the air is ever permanent. Being able to have a conversation with our consumers at a level personal to them will not change - the growing data set only means you have to look harder to find what's 'personal' to the consumer and know what channel to talk to them on. 

What do you predict for the future of CRM?

For years we've been building predictive algorithms based on what we know, and then tweaking them - soon they will start building themselves. That will be coupled with the need to become fully transparent with our consumers about how and when we use their data - so CRM will evolve into a role that builds brand trust. Going back to technology, and as voice becomes the standard of interaction, we will need to better manage how we store, track and analyse voice data - and return CRM as a 'voice', not as an email or a piece of mail. And of course, data - more data, everywhere. Direct from products - how often they are used and when they are running out... or transplants under the skin tracking emotions. (What data we can use without being 'creepy' is another story). This is not even the 'future', it is 'around the corner'. Whenever I'm asked about the future, the scene from Back to the Future springs to mind, where Marty walks past billboards (outdoor media!) that greet him by name. Today we are marrying precision with CRM, so again, just around the 'corner' will be ALL channels personalised by data we hold, and sharing that with retailers - so the next time a L'Oréal Paris consumer walks past a Boots, why not flash up a greeting on the shop front that invites them in as her red lipstick is running low? 

To date, what’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on and why?

A challenging project is multiple stakeholders with different opinions coming together on what needs to be done - and you are that person tasked with finding the ideal direction! There have been many, and they keep coming. The thrill of challenge comes with the satisfaction of delivery, so I hope there are many more - as this is often where growth is achieved,

What advice would you give to young females looking to begin a career in CRM? Are there any gaps in the market etc?

Genderless advice. If you are focused, detailed and have an enquiring mind, and are not afraid of (at times) being that person in a room always putting the consumer first - looking past targets, revenue, or what the technology can do - welcome to CRM! Be curious and be passionate. Take sideways steps if necessary so you can grasp how a database is built and works, best practice email coding and creative, analytics (inc. incremental measurement) - these are the skills most lacking in those I see - and above all work for someone who you can learn from. Try and bridge both the technical knowledge the role needs, as well as the marketing that consumers respond to - you will frequently find yourselves in conversations with IT or UX - and often challenging what can be done or how long something actually takes! 

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