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Why Everything About Your Quest for the Perfect CRM is Wrong

Posted on the 22 September 2015 by Shellykramer @ShellyKramer

Why Everything About Your Quest for the Perfect CRM is WrongAs a marketer, sales manager, or small business owner, you would be failing in your duty if you weren’t engaged in a constant quest to find a better way to manage and grow your business. For many, that search revolves around finding the perfect Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software tool, one that will provide the most effective solutions at the touch of a button. But, the reality is that there is NO one-size-fits-all, perfect solution when it comes to a CRM. I don’t care how sophisticated the tools are that you are using, they will never provide you with the strategic advantage you seek. Why? Because, even with all the technology we have at our fingertips, that perfect solution always has, and always will, require human insights to interpret the results and implement the most effective outcomes. That’s right. Advancements in A.I. aside, don’t count us humans out just yet.

The rapid growth of—and perhaps the over reliance on—CRM solutions is reflected in the year over year increase of the CRM software market. The latest figures from Gartner showed that sales of CRM software in 2014 totalled $23.2 billion, an increase of 13.3 percent over the previous year, with SaaS accounting for almost half (47 percent) of that total.

Many purchasers of CRM software, seduced by the smooth marketing hype, expect their new toy to provide all of the answers, perhaps without even having a clear view of what the questions should be. Sure, these applications can do whatever we ask them to do, within their design limitations, of course, but without a clear assessment of what your business actually needs, as well as a well thought out customer centric strategy to provide focus to the end results, these systems often end up creating more problems than they solve.

CRM isn’t just about the tools, it’s also very much about the people. Unfortunately, all too often purchasers of CRM software fail to evaluate their human capital and how capable (or not) they are, or will be when it comes to the implementation of the platform and the use of it moving forward. In engineering terms, it’s a bit like buying a top of the range lathe, giving it to a new apprentice and expecting them to turn out the finished article. However good the equipment, however willing and motivated the apprentice—it just isn’t going to happen without internal resources and the right training. And just because  some random person has time to take on the job does not at all mean that they’re the best suited for the role of managing your CRM and processes associated with that.

So how do you figure out how to get the best out of CRM for your business?

Lay out the strategy. Don’t put the cart before the horse. CRM software enables what should be an already planned and laid out CRM strategy. To develop that strategy, any business that’s planning CRM implementation needs to have an understanding of each customer touchpoint, establish what a successful interaction looks like, and then decide which CRM tools and processes will deliver what they need. The focus of the CRM strategy should be a variety of things, including identifying prospects, ascertaining where they are in their customer journey, scoring those leads, nurturing them, building relationships with them, and helping them along the path to purchase. After the sale, the process doesn’t end, as you need to continue to touch those customers and keep them happy and, hopefully, coming back for more.

Understand the business needs by asking the right people. An analysis of how CRM can help meet the needs of the business is critical to the success of a CRM strategy. The best way to establish business needs is to ask the people in the business, and not just those directly involved in marketing and sales. The whole organization must buy into CRM so, as part of the business needs analysis, the needs and concerns of every department should be considered. Your customer service team, those who deal with customers day in and day out, can provide meaningful insight for you, as can your R&D team and your business development team. You can also ask your customers what they want and need from you and factor that into your CRM program. Incorporating input beyond marketing and/or sales into your CRM program and practices can go a long way to ensuring successful CRM adoption.

Create a CRM project team. Once the business needs have been established, and the strategy set, the project shouldn’t just be handed over to IT for implementation. An effective team (in a small business they might all be rolled up in one key person) should include representatives from customer service, sales and marketing, IT, finance, and any other department with customer contact and/or responsibilities that play a role.

Evaluate the skills of your team. Although the power of the tools that collate and manipulate the data are important, as mentioned above, it’s the people handling the data who will give you the competitive advantage. The technology will do what we tell it to do, the key is to have the talent available to understand the business needs, set up the appropriate parameters, and skillfully interpret the results. The existing skill sets of the team need to be evaluated to gain a realistic understanding of their capabilities. Where there are gaps that can’t be covered by training, go out and hire the talent to make the CRM system do what you want it to do.

Deploy the right tools. None of the above will be of much importance if you don’t then give the talent the right tools to do the job. But there’s a whole world of CRM options out there, so how do you cut through the marketing speak and find out what best suits your needs? Hiring a vendor-agnostic CRM consultant is the absolute best advice I can give. Having an independent practitioner without any connections to any vendors work with you to go through all the steps above, identify your needs, your internal assets, your capabilities and your weak areas, then help you find the right CRM tool for your business can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and ten times that in headaches you won’t have. This consultant often can also work with you on implementation and customization of CRM software to fit your unique business needs, which is also a huge benefit.

In reality, there is no such thing as a perfect CRM. The software will collect, analyze, and store vast amounts of data, and produce endless reports that you can act upon. But unless the implementation of CRM is based on a clear strategy, built on meeting business needs as well as customer needs, and operated by the right people in your organization with the right skills, you’re not going to be happy with your result. And since you can fix that, why not start there.

Bottom line with CRM is that the tools aren’t responsible for your success; it’s the people who use them who do that. What do you think? Do you have CRM implementation horror stories or lessons you’ve learned as a result of being immersed in this process? What is your best advice? I’d love to hear.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

Can A CRM Tool Make Or Break Your Business?
Improving Customer Engagement Strategies With CRM Tools
Small or Midsize Businesses? Without A CRM, You’re Leaving Money On The Table

photo credit: social crm via photopin (license)

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