Back in the early 1990s, CRM (customer relationship management) software was a niche business, focused primarily on real estate professionals. But Tom Siebel reimagined the industry and unlocked billions of dollars in revenues.

Granted, his company would ultimately get disrupted by Salesforce.com, which was smart to build a cloud-based platform. And yes, the results have been astounding as the company currently sports a market cap of over $50 billion.

OK then, maybe the CRM category is due for yet another iteration? Well, in light of the emerging technologies like mobile and machine learning, this seems like a reasonable bet.

“The average CRM forces users to manually upload leads, cross-reference data streams like email, text and purchases,” said Stuart Wall, who is the co-founder and CEO of Signpost. “Perhaps most onerous, such a system requires users to curate email marketing campaigns.”

This is why he launched his own firm, with the ambitious mission to remove friction by automatically capturing and optimizing every customer interaction with zero effort from the user. It’s essentially about software on autopilot.

Let’s face it, successful companies can no longer just perfunctorily show up online. While a website or app helps with discovery, it does not necessarily generate quality sales, referrals, positive reviews or repeat customers. Marketing and sales are about ongoing interactions.

“Sending out a single follow-up email isn’t enough,” said Stuart. “You have to continually put your business in front of customers in an interesting, non-intrusive and beneficial way. No doubt, it is hard to successfully manage these activities.”

So in this brave new world of sales and marketing, what can a business do? First of all, Stuart recommends eschewing paid services for SEO and SEM until your marketing automation system is in place. Otherwise you will probably waste lots of customer-acquisition opportunities.

Next, you really need to frequently test your campaigns. This can get tedious at times — but the results can move the needle for your business.

What’s more, you should be proactive in encouraging your top customers to post online reviews, such as on Yelp or Google. “Reviews drive search rankings and conversions,” said Stuart. “And 92% of customers read online reviews.”

Something else: It is important to incent customers. “Extend a new customer offer to people who expressed interest in your business but did not come in,” said Stuart. “This ‘last mile’ towards the sale is a big problem for consumer-facing businesses. There’s a big gap between customers who intend to visit your business and those who actually make the trip.”

However, when engaging in sales and marketing campaigns, it is easy to get obsessed with customer acquisition. Yet the result is that your existing customers may get short shrift. So make sure you strike a good balance — putting the necessary time in strong customer retention as well.

 

 

This article was written by Tom Taulli from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.