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How to Embed CRM Principles into Your Media Strategy

For the majority of brands, media acts as a key communication touchpoint for their customers. But, all too frequently, media channels are configured solely with the purpose of acquiring new customers, and they sit in isolation from wider comms strategies. 

Consumers don’t see it that way. They believe that every interaction they have with a brand is part of their total customer experience and that includes digital media.

Given the ever-growing martech and adtech landscape, all businesses need to adopt a more personal approach to media, enabled by data. Only by adopting this approach in your media activation can you really start to deliver a coherent and consistent experience for the customer.

In order to navigate this effectively, it is critical to maintain a deep understanding of your customers via the data they share through every interaction they have with you. 

This practice has been prevalent with CRM and direct marketing programs for years, where multiple levels of rules are layered on data to establish with whom to communicate when customers should be approached, and how frequently this should happen.

Embedding CRM principles in your media strategy

This task is big and complicated, and to adopt it fully requires a huge shift for most brands. It’s common for the scale of the transformation to prevent brands from even beginning the journey or, for some, to be paralyzed from action by trying to acquire the perfect set of tools (technology, data, people) before progressing.

For brands to be successful, it’s important to begin with a clear understanding of the key elements required to drive customer centricity through every aspect of their media strategy. Merkle developed the Digital Maturity Framework (DMF) to do just that. 

The DMF provides brands the ability to assess their maturity across the six different pillars identified in the framework, and then identify which areas need improvement. It enables brands to build a step-by-step program to progress through the maturity curve toward the end state while achieving more connectivity with their customers at every stage. It is also the foundation of an effective digital business card that consolidates all the marketing channels and aligns with the target audience’s needs.

Digital media can learn from, and aim for, each factor in order to work more harmoniously toward a total customer experience. It can seem to be a huge goal for some businesses, but there are various steps ― both large and small ― that you can take to immediately begin improving your media’s personalization.

Automation is key to achieving pace and agility to maximize the impact of your media. You should also consider deploying machine learning to set up and optimize fundamental rules that will run in the background and automatically select or withhold communications based on what’s already known about each prospect or customer. Deploying machine learning can create huge efficiencies and generate impactful increases in customer satisfaction by reducing wasted or inappropriate comms.

Your focus should be on owning your own data and maximizing execution in addressable channels where you can, such as within the Google ad ecosystem or Adobe Experience Cloud. While this will only account for a fraction of your activity, non-addressable channels also benefit greatly from having your own customer data. 

Leveraging Technology to Connect Media and CRM 

Executing an integrated customer-centric media strategy relies on the right technology foundations. There are a few key capabilities to prioritize:

  • Customer Data Platform (CDP) provides a unified view of each customer by integrating data from various sources like web, mobile, CRM, sales systems, and more. This complete understanding of customers across multiple channels is essential for tailoring personalized media outreach. Leading CDPs like Adobe Real-time CDP and Segment CDP can help you consolidate data.
  • Predictive Analytics: Applying data science techniques like machine learning to customer data enables more intelligent predictive models for areas like churn, lifetime value, next best offer/channel, likelihood to convert, etc. These insights allow marketing to be better targeted. Tools like Salesforce Einstein Prediction Builder and Google BigQuery ML simplify building predictions.
  • Marketing Activation Platforms bridge a gap between customer insights and orchestrating personalized activations across advertising channels. Key players include Amperity, mParticle, and ActionIQ. Tight integration between MAPs, CDPs, and predictive models closes the loop.

As the digital ecosystem continues to advance, having the ability to execute cohesive customer experiences powered by data is table stakes. Brands don’t need to overhaul systems overnight. But making incremental progress by implementing customer data infrastructure through platforms like those above will enable more agile engagement across paid media.

By using robust analytical techniques on your owned data, like clustering analysis, you can build an accurate picture of what motivates your most high-value customers. Using these techniques will enable you to tailor your media activity toward driving similar behaviors for new customers or existing customers that sit outside of the high-value bucket.


  • Media should be viewed as a key touchpoint for customer interactions and part of the overall customer experience. It should not just be focused on acquiring new customers in isolation.
  • Adopt a more personalized approach to media, enabled by customer data and insights. Understand customers deeply through the data they share across interactions.
  • Apply CRM best practices like rules-based communications that dictate when and how frequently to engage customers. Use machine learning to automate and optimize these rules.
  • Focus on owning first-party data and activating it in addressable digital channels (Google, Adobe). Use analytics on owned data to build customer segmentation and tailor broader media targeting.
  • Automate where possible to enable agility and pacing. Start small if needed vs trying to transform everything at once with the “perfect” stack.
  • Non-addressable media also benefits greatly from applying owned customer data and insights to improve personalization and experience.

As competition for customer attention intensifies across all niches, brands can no longer afford siloed, channel-specific approaches to marketing. Brands need to embrace a unified customer experience where insights and personalization boost awareness, consideration, sales, and loyalty stages. 

The culture change doesn’t happen overnight, but it is time to start that journey before it is too late.

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