• May 1, 2006
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine


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I've been writing for this fine publication for more than a year now, and I've learned that good CRM techniques and applications can really make the difference between a successful business and one that the IRS reclassifies as a hobby (see April 2006's column). I've also tried to get that message out, in between creative expressions of my twisted mind, to readers of my magazine articles and online news stories. I am now writing my first column as senior editor. I feel just like Charles Foster Kane, only thinner, poorer, and no one will run about trying to decode my last words. Maybe it's because I'm immersed in--nay, deluged by--product releases, case studies, and industry reports every day, but it never ceases to amaze me how many companies out there still don't get it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though: Our Web poll results suggest that many of you get the magazine solely for the pictures. "A sales call is a sales call," many of you answered in a recent poll, and that hits me where it hurts--not only do I cover sales topics in addition to providing guffaws on the back page, but I wrote that poll myself. You people are heartless. This basic disconnect between industry wisdom and user reality got me wondering: Maybe I don't understand how things really work. So I started thinking about whether successful businesses really need CRM. In a moment of Broadway-inspired clarity (go figure), I realized the truth: Businesses don't need CRM, and the example comes from Stephen Sondheim himself. Sweeney Todd did not need CRM. Ignore for the moment that Sweeney Todd, the murderous barber/cannibalism enabler, is likely fictional, and operated in Victorian England. The point is, Sweeney didn't need any of this stuff we say is crucial to business success. (For those of you who don't know, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is a darkly humorous Sondheim musical about revenge, madness, and very smooth shaves. It's one of the best stage musicals ever, and whatever plot points you don't gather here should be filled in for you when you buy the DVD.)
  • His customers were pretty much all walk-ins or word of mouth. Modest prices and a good reputation for skill with scissors and razor were all he needed.
  • A high rate of traffic would actually have hurt his business--too many witnesses, and no means of refrigeration.
  • The less that people knew about him the better, because he was an escaped convict from a prison colony, sent there by a judge with a grudge.
  • PRM wasn't a factor, because Mrs. Lovett, his partner and coconspirator, would have been hurt had he tried to expand to other channels. Plus, she could have turned him in and made up a story about where she thought the meat for her pies had been coming from.
  • Repeat business was not an issue. Quite the contrary: The Todd model relied on...churn, or, perhaps more appropriately, fresh supplies. Does this mean we here at CRM have been chasing the proverbial feral fowl? Perhaps. But consider the example above, and ask yourself if holding back from the magazine's wisdom is causing you to slit a throat or two as well--your own. Contact Senior Editor Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com
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