Your CRM will help you understand your client. But Agile Market Research will help you understand the consumer, the market and your position in it. If you truly want to innovate, look beyond the Consumer Relationship Management horizon.

Companies always mine their data for insights. We piece together how well campaigns are received, what consumers respond to, what they expect and want from us. With online marketing channels, the potential of this data to provide actionable insights has grown even faster than we could predict. Each business now treasures its’ databases, full of insights about the people that matter most. We follow every click, create heat maps, score a lead for how hot or cold they are. Sometimes we can even predict consumer’s needs and desires before they know they have them.

That’s what CRM can do for you. It’s a golden treasure. Through it, we all store data, refine profiles, curate campaigns and convert prospects. But in our scramble to collect and analyse leads’ information, we might be losing touch with wider industry trends, even with our own consumer base.

What we’re saying is this: CRM research is essential but it’s not enough for a successful marketing strategy. Your market research needs can’t be replaced by a database about clients that already know your brand and products.

How much time, money and resources are you ready to spend?

Trying to build a CRM through which you can carry out research as you would through a panel is costly: in terms of time, money, and expertise. In fact, it’s realistically near impossible but most of all senseless to try to make your CRM measure up to the standard set by the market research industry.

A panel is a demanding partner. It needs constant upkeep, quality checks, and statistical analysis to even start making it representative of the population. Another problem is ensuring the quality of your responses. Panel companies curate their panels constantly, making sure they’re not plagued by professional survey takers, rating individuals in the panel and only including those that are demonstrably truthful, deleting inactive accounts, and deduplicating members. Replicating this in your own CRM is going to be almost impossible, which means that CRM will limit the accuracy of the market research you can carry out.

In fact, CRM research and Agile Market Research serve different purposes. Where Agile Market Research can’t compare in terms of analysing and improving customer journeys, CRM research doesn’t stand up to the methodological quality and larger market perspectives of Agile Market Research. The secret is to use both. Complementing each method’s weaknesses and strengths, rather than awkwardly attempting to adapt one to the other, makes a big difference.

Customers’ opinions: Are you ready to burn leads for the sake of your insight?

You should send out surveys to your consumer to figure out if they are satisfied with you. But every time you release a survey to contacts in your database, you’re asking them to put in a little effort for you and your brand. In an ideal world, this communication channel would be perfect: it’s direct, gives people the impression that you actively improve your service and you’re reaching out to those that have an interest in you. What’s more, a CRM also lets you see the consumer’s journey through your website or ecommerce and other important contextual information, which you can use in conjunction with your consumer research.

In the real world, there are a few shades of darkness to this practice. Every time you send out surveys to evaluate your performance, you’ll be shaving away at marketing’s most prized possession: people’s attention. What if you want to send out a promotion, or another important email, but your surveys have ultimately burned the patience of your contacts? There’s only so many times you can reach out to your contact list directly before grinding their gears. The author and Head of Innovation at Zenith Media, Tom Goodwin, captures it well: “I’m pretty sure if I sneeze near a bank today I’ll soon get a text message asking me to rate the bank for sneezeworthyness”.

More importantly, there’s also a limit to who and what you can ask. Obviously your CRM only includes those that are interested in you right now, and you won’t be able ask other consumer profiles. What’s more, neither you nor they are anonymous which means that some might even be reticent to give sincere evaluations, or participate at all. What’s more, you could be giving them the impression that you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re headed as a brand: which is to be avoided at all costs! That’s where the strengths of market research come in, by ensuring the anonymity of your brand and giving you access to national representative samples, you can find out about consumers’ opinions without putting your brand image or the quality of your insight at risk.

Don’t miss out on the most important insights for your business plan

CRM research and Agile Market Research work together. Where your CRM helps you improve your service for the clients you already have, Agile Market Research helps you broaden your horizons. You can review your market’s potential for disruption, keep an eye out on your competitor’s dominance of the market, and always stay one step ahead by making sure your blind spots are covered.

For example, launching a survey to a national representative sample, and launching it to your CRM, will give you different results. Both of these metrics are essential, and both will help you do better business. Because Agile Market Research is affordable and efficient, you don’t even need to plan ahead for it. As you release your CRM research you can model it in an Agile Market Research platform like Zinklar and get even more from the data you collect.

Carrying out research exclusively in your own database can deprive you of a wider perspective on your market. And if you don’t keep an eye out on your competition, or your market’s potential for disruption, you’ll miss out on the opportunities to break out of the mould and define your success.