5 ways to make your CRM project successful

I read a headline somewhere on the internet that a huge number of (other people’s) CRM projects fail.   Having done a large number of custom software development and CRM projects over the years, I thought that I would share some of the things I’ve learned.

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Many articles on the internet are targeted at companies with huge CRM budgets – corporates, rolling out to hundreds or thousands of people – this one is focused more on the smaller end of town where there aren’t million dollar CRM budgets.

While there’s obviously a lot more detail in a successful CRM implementation these five key points have served me well over the years.

1. Why even implement CRM?

Why are you implementing CRM ?  What are the specific outcomes you are looking to achieve from it ?  Do you know ?   Can you articulate them ?

I don’t mean “we want to maintain a 360 degree view of the customer and optimise our marketing outcomes” or other such nonense but actual concrete outcomes you want to receive as a result of your CRM implementation.

These can be as simple as  “we don’t have a shared customer database” or “we actually don’t know who our best customers are” or “everything is currently on paper/in excel“.

If you know what you want to achieve you have a direction and you can make a plan, and you can measure if it’s working.

2. Get Management buy-in

If you are management, you can skip right to step 3 – but in all cases the management of the company need to be on board, and commit to change and to support the process as it moves forward.

There will be users who may be resistant to change, and management need to make sure that this is managed.  There will be challenges – management will have to maintain support as they are overcome.

Implementing a CRM is not just “install, train, done” – if done correctly it is a long-term ongoing strategic process which is continously refined and adds value to your business – and management needs to treat it this way if they are to achieve the maximum value from the investment.

That doesn’t mean forking over money constantly to the CRM vendor or consultant – but rather, keeping an eye on the tools and processes used in the business and what can be done better if the cost/benefit analysis makes sense.

3. Get buy-in from the users

If the people who use the system on a day to day basis buy into the concept they will forgive the inevitable bumps in the road, oversights or mistakes.

We can get the users to buy-in to CRM by giving them some benefit that makes their life easier – this could be as simple as “now I can see data!” through to things like removing tiresome repetitive tasks, automating follow up tasks or easing the production of reports that used to take a long time.

Every user has itches that need scratching – find what’s irritating your users and what would make their lives easier and get it on the plan.   If your CRM implementation is top-heavy with management requirements (“gather me data so I can have reports”) then you run the risk of not having user buy-in and having to enforce the use of CRM rather than users self-police.
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4. Make a plan – but don’t be afraid to adapt

Make a plan and try to achieve some quick wins.  One of my favourite quick-wins is linking CRM to the accounting system:

  • You expose your invoice history to the sales team,
  • You remove duplicate data entry (data from CRM gets transferred back to accounts), and
  • You get efficiency improvements due to not handing bits of paper or email around.

If your planned implementation doesn’t hit all the right buttons, don’t worry – adapt the plan and try again.

5. Take Control

There’s nobody that knows more about your business than you – and while your CRM consultant may know CRM and how to apply it, at the end of the day it’s still your business. The consultant is there to guide you and make recommendations, not to prescribe how you should run your business.

With all my clients, they typically start off asking “is this possible” and “could we do that”.  Given a little time (as little as a few weeks, sometimes a few months) the conversation changes – the client understands the CRM and the possibilities and asks “how do I do this” or “how long would it take you and how much would it cost to do this