The secret of cross-selling for diversified businesses

CRM Expert and IT Architect


Corporate groups, such as Virgin, Mitsubishi, Johnson & Johnson or Libra, diversify their offerings and aim at market shares in truly diverse industries at the same time (for example, consumer goods, entertainment, and hospitality). Still, being so different by nature, sub-brands are likely to target the same people while satisfying their different needs (say, if the same person is a client of a Virgin health club and a guest at a Virgin hotel, or if they have an account in Tokyo-Mitsubishi Bank and own a Mitsubishi car).

Unfortunately, too often sub-brands are left to build customer relationships on their own. Not only such an approach leads to duplicate efforts (say, the ones for social sentiment tracking), but this way a corporate group loses opportunities to wisely promote their products by encouraging customers to explore and buy more, or to say it briefly, to cross-sell.

If a managing company wants to let the group’s businesses fish for loyal customers more effectively, they should teach them to cross-sell by consolidating each other’s CRM efforts. In our CRM consulting practice, we’ve found out a reasonable solution for the challenge – that’s a central CRM system as explained below.

360-degree customer view for successful cross-selling

Central CRM for a shared access to customer data

As a queen of a corporate group’s Customer Data Land, a central CRM system can gather information about every customer from all the sub-brands and external systems (Google Analytics, Google AdWords or social networks), analyze it, and update customer profiles with relevant details. For now, let’s consider how a central CRM solution can improve the way sub-brands manage relationships with customers.  

  • Seamless brand experience. Cross-selling becomes natural if every purchase of a sub-brand’s product is considered as a step in one customer journey. Instead of pushing a customer to try something, the group’s sales people and marketers offer exactly what customers need and advise as friends rather than sellers. This way, even such trivial things as printed ads in a hotel room can start to cross-sell the group’s products if they offer a rafting tour to a sports lover and spa services to leisure seekers.
  • Precise customer targeting. Drawing on customer data from diverse businesses, sub-brands will be able to select specific customer groups based on the analysis of their lifetime value and purchase patterns (for example, eco-travelers who fancy Chinese culture and food). This way, many cross-selling interactions (for example, e-mails, notifications, ads) can become more personal while still being automated to a large extent.
  • Better channel strategy. Firstly, a central CRM system helps to avoid duplicate efforts to find the most effective communication channels for particular customers (customer segments). This way, sub-brands can use available analytical results to effectively communicate even with first-time visitors (as customers are profiled in the central customer database). And secondly, the parent company can better plan integrated marketing campaigns involving a range of the group’s businesses.
  • Globally managed interactions. As all customer interactions are recorded in a central CRM, sub-brands can establish communication without annoying customers with too frequent e-mails, notifications or calls going out from several members of the same corporate group at once.

360-degree customer view as the core

Simple as it is, everything revolves around how complete customers’ profiles are. Apart from the common socio-demographic information (location, income level, gender, age), businesses will update profiles with more advanced notes relevant to the products they offer (like, for hotel or restaurants it’s the marital status or the number of kids, for travel agencies - preferred leisure activities, for apparel stores - favorite color patterns, etc.). At the end of the day, a lot of quite personal data can appear without irritating customers with surveys.

360-degree customer view in CRM

So, what makes a 360-degree customer profile?

  • Automatic updates of the purchase history across businesses (to spot buying behavior patterns and know customers’ personalities better)
  • Automatic tracking of the brand interaction history (to know whether customers use their loyalty cards and other perks, such as a brand mobile app)
  • Social media integration (to know what customers say about the group’s products, their likes and dislikes)
  • Best practices and valuable insights that sales people spot on site (personal traits, habits) and type into the profile

To make the point clear, let’s consider what valuable information different businesses can bring to the table. Apart from the cuisine preferences, restaurants can let other sub-brands know about customers’ diets (are they vegetarian or allergic to something?), habits (do they smoke?), and even psychology (do they tend to experiment or prefer traditional dishes?). A tour operator or a wellness facility is ideal to research lifestyles – are customers active hikers or relaxation seekers? Department and apparel stores can tell about customers’ favorite colors and styles, preferred smells of perfumes and soap, etc.

Well, now that it sounds like a more solid background for a personalized relationship, let’s move on to cross-selling. 

Straight to cross-selling opportunities

Quite often the 360-degree profiling will be more about personalizing customer experience. For the customer, such personalization will look like an anticipation of their needs and wishes or even feel like belonging to a community where every sales manager at a point of sales seems to be interested in them and willing to help.

Just imagine a combo of a restaurant, a hotel, a department store and a bookstore - all members of the same corporate family. The guest stays at XHotel for the first time but somehow feels at home: the bathroom welcomes them with their favorite shampoo and soap aroma, the book they bought and started reading just before the departure awaits on the table, the hotel bartender serves their favorite coffee and wine.

The true cross-selling begins when the hotel manager learns that the guest is a fan of Asian cuisine and offers tickets to a themed concert or an event held at the group’s restaurant. Or what if the manager guesses they are passionate amateur photographers and suggests a trip around the most picturesque and pristine sights located nearby - the tour crafted by the group’s tour operator? Such examples can number in dozens, once sales people in every business get to know their customers as well as their close friends – all in a matter of minutes thanks to 360-degree customer profiles.

Global team spirit for high-quality manual inputs

Automatic updates of customer profiles based on the analysis of their purchase history (across all businesses) will considerably enrich understanding of customers’ personalities and profitability. That said, manual inputs of the sales people will be still required to reveal the most relevant offerings and timely take action. Sales people should be encouraged to work as a global team and get in the habit of contributing to the central CRM. Every member should understand that the more personal traits they add to customers’ profiles today (like, “a couple spending every anniversary on a remote sunny island”), the more helpful data they will get next time they have to talk to a customer profiled in the global CRM.

On a final note

As with anything worth fighting for, the introduction of a central CRM system is not free of pitfalls. Sub-brands are likely to already own some СRM tools that can differ a lot, which means, the managing company will have to advocate the need of all the businesses to switch to a new tool. In addition, aggregating existent customer data from so many systems is also a challenge. It’s important to be aware of possible duplicate profiles (say, if Jane Watson left different e-mails in the wellness club and a hotel, or if she married and changed her surname) and false merging of different customer profiles with similar data. Still, with a proper attention paid, the mentioned difficulties can’t block the way to cross-selling in a corporate group of any size.

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