In the blue corner…

by | Jun 16, 2015

It’s like a battle of the giants: In the blue corner we have the mighty Database. And in the red corner we have the awesome, the cutting edge C R MMmmmmmmmm.

If you go to the interwebs favourite and search for a definition of the difference between a database and a CRM there’s reams and reams, usually written by someone wearing beige corduroy. The words are beige and they paint a beige picture. You get my drift.

So what is the difference?

I’ve been pondering this. I’m sure my simplistic view of life and logic processes will incur the wrath of those more technically minded, but that’s the problem really, isn’t it?

People like me with a less complicated view of life want a less complicated answer to this sort of question. I don’t care if it’s technically correct, only that it’s understandable. Is it important to know of the relational properties of the tables? Is it absolutely fundamental to my experience of using the system to understand the underlying architecture?

No, it’s not important.

A database stores data. Any amount from a little bit to a lot. It can link many actions i.e. purchases to a customer. It can link cause and effect i.e. we mail the customer they then bought something. It can also store information about the customer; their name, their address, their age and other stuff like geodemographic codes, wealth flags, lifestyle markers. But at what point does this stop being a database and become a CRM?

I recently spent some time with a new client. They have a system which is used by different parts of the organisation all in different ways. For some the system feels flat and one-dimensional – a database. For others who are using it to actively target individuals, store information about them which they then use to provide a high level of customer support it became an altogether different beast – dare I say it – a tool for managing the relationship with their customers. A CRM.

It’s the same system. The same type of data. Does this mean then, that for all the technical definitions a CRM system is just a database. It’s how you use the information and interact with it that makes it a CRM.

I’m still left wondering what the difference is; this feels like one of those annoying half answered questions. But now I feel as if it doesn’t matter. The key to customer relationship management is how you use the information you have, not what you store it in.

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