B2B Marketing Blog

5 Things to Consider Before Selecting a CRM System

Jan 31, 2012 2:30:50 AM / by The Mezzanine Group

One of the most important factors in successful business to business marketing is lead management. For many small-to-medium size businesses that are experiencing growth, there comes a time when tracking leads and contacts through Outlook or Excel simply doesn’t cut it. It’s time to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. The value of a CRM solution is immense – you can better manage relationships with prospects and customers, increase sales through better timing of touches, target marketing communications by customer needs … and the list goes on.

But deciding to implement a CRM is the very easy part. The next steps, planning and implementing, can be daunting. There are so many CRM offerings to choose from – how do you know which one is right for your company?

Too many companies get caught up in the technology and which one is the flashiest, rather than selecting the CRM that is best for the organization given its unique needs. To help, here are 5 simple questions based on our experience seeing dozens of companies implement (and sometime struggle) with implementing a CRM:

1. SET EXPECTATIONS

Know exactly what you want from your CRM system. Yes, you want a CRM that will feed into your bottom line, but exactly ‘how’ will the CRM do that? Perhaps by you may be interested in some of the following:

- Identifying which of your customers are profitable and which are not

- Identifying needs more effectively by understanding specific customer requirements

- Increasing customer satisfaction with better customer service

- Tracking sales performance more closely

- Collecting data to support and direct marketing campaigns

ACTION: Identify and document 3 – 5 objectives for your CRM system. For each objective establish high-level expectations.

2. ESTABLISH A CLEAR OWNER

Someone in your organization has to ‘own’ the process of selecting and implementing your CRM software. The owner of this process must work closely with the key stakeholders and ultimately control the process, to avoid heading down a road of chaos and scope creep.

Also, the owner must know your company and its workflow for all customer-focused interactions which your CRM will touch: how leads come into the company; what happens at each stage; how the work moves from one stage to the other; essentially this owner will be your in-house customer process guru.

ACTION: Assign a project owner, key stakeholders and ultimate decision makers. Establish the roles and communicate them to the organization (by doing this it holds all parties responsible).

3. BE REALISTIC WITH TIMING

Implementing a CRM system takes time (and a lot of patience!) so rushing it is only a recipe for failure. There are so many factors and aspects of the business to consider; the customer, IT, sales, marketing, service, just to name a few. Allow ample time for all people involved to be briefed on the basics of CRM and how it will be implemented throughout the company (or specific areas decided upon).

ACTION: By looking at all aspects of your business, considering other big initiatives launching as well as resourcing, establish a realistic timeframe for implementation.

4. IDENTIFY EXISTING SYSTEMS

Ensure your existing applications and systems will integrate with the CRM system you choose. Look at what applications you want to support, the kind of information you'll want to exchange and data formats required. This step is all about putting key considerations into a nice checklist.

ACTION: Document the existing systems your company uses that will need to integrate into the CRM. If possible, list any relevant considerations per existing system (i.e. how data is captured, format, etc).

5. GAIN BUY-IN ALONG THE WAY

Regardless of the CRM you end up choosing, the critical key to success is that your employees use the system, properly and consistently! Gaining buy-in early on in the process goes a long way and increases usability and in turn establishes a healthy CRM system.

ACTION: Inform all parties that will be required to use the system early on in the process. Communicate how this new CRM system will benefit the company, and identify any changes / impact early on (no surprises!). If possible, create an opportunity for employees to ask questions and voice concerns.

By working through these 5 simple questions and guidelines you will better understand the goals and criteria that the CRM must meet - from both the company and customer side – and then you can begin to research potential CRM solutions.

What ROI do you expect from your CRM system?

Topics: Marketing Tactics