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  • Writer's pictureMary Anne Thornton

CRM Software and Relationship Marketing: Are They Compatible?

Updated: Feb 24

If you’ve spent any time in your career trying to attract potential customers and retain current customers, you’ve likely used a CRM (or Customer Relationship Management) system. CRM systems can vary in features, tricks, and tools, but the purpose of a CRM system is generally the same, no matter what program you use: to connect with customers.

Martin Gessner of Focus on Force defines CRM as follows: “At its core, customer relationship management (CRM) is all of the activities, strategies, and technologies that companies use to manage their interactions with their current and potential customers” (Gessner, 2021).

So, does using a CRM system align (or is compatible with) the concept of relationship marketing? After all, to build relationships with your customers, don’t you need to know at least some information about them? Of course.

To paraphrase a quote from Daniel Burris, “Information is power” (Burrus, n.d.). To build a relationship with your customers, you need to have someplace to store pertinent information about your customers. Whether large, medium, or solo, most businesses depend on a CRM system; however, a CRM system is only worth as much as you or your employees use it.


I recently read an article from Forbes detailing how you can use your CRM to build genuine customer relationships. In one section of the report, how author Robi Ganguly analyzed the biggest issue with CRM tools resonated with me. Near the beginning of the article, he spoke on the language typically used in CRM systems- “Contact,” “Lead,” “Prospect,” “Opportunity,” etc. Ganguly referred to this language used in CRM as “dehumanizing and embarrassing and questioned whether anyone would speak in such a manner straight to a customer’s face” (Ganguly, 2016). I could not agree more. CRM is much too valuable to cast aside as an impersonal tool. What needs to change is the approach to using CRM. CRM should be nothing more than a catalyst for asking questions and building trust. It comes from simple things like calling your customer on their birthday, asking them about important things in their lives, and showing you care about their needs more than you do about the sale. 

Three ways to build relationships with your customer base using a CRM 

Birthday calls

Birthday calls are a great way to connect with your customers. It is something that can make your customer’s day. I have had many great conversations with customers by picking up the phone and wishing them a happy birthday. I’ve learned which customers love spending their birthday with their families, whose spouse is whisking them away for a birthday trip, and who, while typically hates being reminded of their birthday, lights up at a birthday call from an unexpected source. 

Touch base calls

These calls are great as an “I was thinking about you the other day” check-in. Customers enjoy knowing that someone cares about them enough to call to say hello and see how they are doing. 

Personalized letters and thank you cards

Whether a customer comes in to purchase a product or service, or you had a great conversation with them, a great way to connect with them is a personalized note or thank you. Sending a friendly letter thanking them for their business or mentioning an interesting tidbit they shared shows you are genuinely interested in them and grateful for choosing you, your product or service, and your business.

A CRM system is compatible with a relationship marketing approach, but the right mindset and practice make all the difference. To ensure that your efforts are most effective, you need to find the right CRM for your needs and that you are genuinely building relationships with your customers.

For more information on applying a relationship marketing approach to your business, subscribe to my blog and connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to have a conversation on relationship marketing with you. 


Burrus, D. (n.d.). TOP 8 QUOTES BY DANIEL BURRUS. A-Z Quotes. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from

Ganguly, R. (2016, February 25). How You Can Use Your CRM To Build Real Customer Relationships. Forbes. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from

Gessner, M. (2021, November 1). Why Is a CRM Important? Focus on Force. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from

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