Jerry Bernhart, CRM recruiter, has over 20 years of CRM recruiting experience.

If you’re thinking about hiring a CRM leader, you have either one of two needs: You’re looking for someone to take over and expand an existing CRM strategy, or you’re starting a CRM program from the ground up (or close to it). CRM is a highly specialized function, and hiring one at the executive level can’t be left to chance. It requires the experience and knowledge of an experienced CRM recruiter to evaluate and qualify this kind of talent at the top level.

The VP of CRM is a key leadership role within the marketing department, often reporting to a Chief Marketing Officer, a SVP of Marketing, or in some cases, even the President of the company.  They are a visionary, insightful, and highly analytical specialist who  develops and evolves strategy and delivery of customer experiences and CRM programs.  They are expert at leveraging consumer data to create highly relevant and personalized experiences for customers to drive increased traffic, sales and loyalty. Customer-centricity is their battle cry.

A strong passion for the customer is required and must be strategically managed and applied across multiple disciplines within the organization.  That is not always easy in companies that traditionally have been highly product-focused, and the introduction of CRM often requires something of a cultural shift across the entire organization in order for it to be successful. For example, floor associates at retail stores may need to be incentivized to start signing up members for the loyalty program. Merchandising may need to alter its product mix based on insights derived from segmentation of the customer database, and so on.  Self-starting, creative, hands-on execution, strong collaboration skills, and the desire to bring industry best-in-class standards for customer relationship marketing to the organization are all hallmarks of top performing CRM leaders.

What does a CRM leader do?

The typical day of a CRM leader can include everything from high-level presentations to analyzing data to enabling new CRM technology.

Their responsibilities typically include the following:

  • Build and manage a detailed customer experience/CRM vision and strategy in line with the organization’s customer-centric roadmap.
  • Define and operationalize the enterprise communications strategy, addressing operational excellence, data-driven mindset and operations, continuous improvement, and governance.
  • Provide customer-centric thought leadership and on-going stewardship.
  • Design and deliver CRM programs leveraging consumer data to deliver highly relevant communications and experiences.
  • Oversee loyalty program, including budgeting, program maintenance/updates, communication plans, promotional planning and performance tracking.
  • Serve as the primary business marketing point of contact as it relates to the loyalty and CRM platform.
  • Drive strategy and support execution of customer research and insights initiatives, including quarterly tracker.
  • Drive a data-driven mentality throughout the organization with the emphasis on insight and action.
  • Serve as a resource for Real Estate, Merchandising, and Store Operations teams to share, analyze and evaluate customer data in support of decision-making across the organization.
  • Oversee development, maintenance and socialization of customer journeys.
  • Oversee customer segmentation and customer lifecycle management initiatives.
  • Develop high performing team of strategic business advisors who are performance-driven.

What kinds of skills and abilities does it take to be successful in CRM?  

The list of requirements are many, but these are the basics:

  • Leadership success in developing and executing strategic CRM at the highest level in customer experience, CRM strategy, planning and execution. I typically look for at least 10+ years of directly relevant experience.
  • Strong leadership, team-building, and relationship skills, with the proven ability to lead from within (team, peers, senior executives), and the demonstrated record of networking across organizational functions and with external vendors and support.
  • Strong analytical and communication and skills. Ability to analyze data in order to identify issues, trends, or exceptions to tell a story, drive improvement of results and find solutions.
  • Strong project management skills.
  • Highly creative and organized approach to work, balancing idea generation with actionable execution plans.
  • Highly numerate with ability to use and evaluate data to identify opportunities, drive powerful customer experiences and impactful communications plans.
  • Strong communications/CRM planning skills around customer opportunities and the development of compelling customer propositions.
  • Substantial record of experience in the design, implementation and management of retail customer experience/CRM programs preferred.
  • Commercially focused with the ability to advise on investment planning across marketing activities along with the identification and measurement of customer KPIs and campaign metrics.
  •   Strong knowledge of the market and competitor landscape for CRM and Customer Experience strategy and delivery.
  • Must possess a deep working knowledge of the application of enabling technologies for customer experience/CRM/digital media.
  • Player/coach mindset that generates work product in addition to directing and leading it.  Needs to be able to operate comfortably at the strategic level but also must be hands-on when required to ensure effective execution of all programs, particularly at the early stage.
  • Experience identifying operational issues and recommending and implementing strategies to resolve problems.

If you’re looking for a CRM leader, let us share our latest success stories with brands such as Red Lobster, Total Wine, Shoe Carnival. Tempur+Sealy, The Body Shop, Petsmart, Electronic Arts, Univision, Harbor Freight Tools, Universal Orlando, Orbitz, Wyndham Vacation Ownership, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ameristar, Carlson Companies, Cogensia, and many, many more.

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A proud member of many regional and national multichannel marketing associations, the Minnesota Association of Personnel Services, Database Marketing Institute and Advisory Board of Data University.