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Three Steps to CRM Success

Today's post was written by Ryan Toenies, Vice President of Sales at Sonoma Partners.

Prepare. Simplify. Refresh.

I have worked in the CRM consulting space for 16 years, and I have participated in hundreds of CRM initiatives. As I reflect upon the history of these projects, I really boil CRM success down to three main areas: prepare, simplify, and refresh. These three concepts are the pillars for every successful CRM deployment.

The biggest mistake most companies make is they treat CRM as a project instead of a strategy.

Technology projects are defined by budget, timeline, and scope. That might seem like a good idea for CRM, but the problem is that CRM is actually a living, breathing initiative that changes as your customers change. Thus, here are my three strategies to driving success in your CRM deployment.

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Prepare

Picture1 If you spend more time developing and deploying your CRM application than you do preparing for success, it will likely reflect upon your project as a failure. The preparation I am speaking about isn’t just creating a strong project team; it’s actually creating a CRM strategy for your business. The strategy must align with and adopt to your business needs, and you must have buy-in from all individuals within your organization.

Long before you decide on a technology platform, you should have a solid CRM roadmap that aligns to your business objectives. A successful CRM deployment will depend upon your ability to communicate expectations to your company. You should proactively market the value of CRM to your organization gaining support from key business users. Create a CRM campaign that spans the duration of your project and well beyond the deployment. You want to get people excited about how CRM will enable them to be more productive. Focus on how CRM will help achieve the strategic objectives of your business.

Remember that users can be naturally resistant to change, so they will need to understand how CRM will drive positive results for them. You want to make sure to paint a positive picture that shows how a strong CRM system will create raving customers. Raving customers will make a stronger company which will create more opportunities and success for employees.

Simplify

Picture2Far too often I have seen clients try to boil the ocean with their CRM project. The functional specifications document is 100 pages long. The timeline is 12 months, and they layer on complex integration scenarios all in the initial CRM project. The biggest problem with this approach is simple business economics. The business world changes in a matter of months, so the requirements you defined a year ago are probably not going to align with the business needs of today. The second issue with this approach is that if you spend too much time trying to gather requirements, you’ll find that the users really don’t know what they need until they begin using the application. In the world of IT, we call these types of projects the Waterfall development approach. This type of project for CRM does not work well.

I would highly recommend a more agile approach where you deploy CRM functionality in iterations. Create quick and easy to consume functionality to get some early wins. Gain momentum with your CRM project so that users can provide valuable feedback that can help provide guidance for future iterations. At the same time, you can react to how the business landscape is changing and you can focus development iterations on the important tasks at hand.

If you think about the App Store for your iPhone this is exactly how applications are developed. Version 1.0 of an application is released and within a matter of weeks, version 1.1 is updating on your phone. Consumers are used to this type of upgrade process, and CRM should be thought about in the same context. Keep each of these version releases simple and consumable. You do not want to overwhelm users with functionality they don’t need nor have the ability to train. It’s very important that you listen to your users and provide valuable iterations that help them drive success.

Refresh

Picture3Far too often I see companies treat CRM as a project that has a capital funding request and has a begin and end date. The problem with this approach is that CRM is a living and breathing application that needs to change constantly. Business does not stand still nor should CRM. When you decide to embark on a CRM project, you need to make a commitment that this will be an ongoing initiative that needs funding annually. You need to have business owners of the application that are ensuring that CRM is supporting the needs of the ever changing customer landscape.

Companies tend to tear out one CRM application for another product platform because they believe the product functionality isn’t meeting their needs. In most cases, it’s not the application that is failing. In fact, the leading CRM applications have so much functionality that companies are using less than 10% of the functionality that they own. The reason deployments tend to go south has very little to do with the technology and more to do with the lack of vision and strategy for the “ongoing” deployment and support of the application.

The easiest way I know how to summarize this point is as follows: the single most important item to any business is its customer. How much is it worth to acquire and maintain a customer? CRM is the backbone to this simple proposition. Are you going to make a one-time investment to retain a customer for a lifetime? That philosophy simply will not work. Yes, you can treat a document management solution as a one-time project, and you can do the same for your portal solution. However, if you want to acquire and retain raving customers you need to continue to refresh and invest in your CRM application. It really is that simple.

Prepare, simplify, and refresh. If you do your best to follow these three points, you will be well on your way to a successful CRM initiative.

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Topics: CRM Best Practices