In this connected digital world, there are two things a CEO can certainly count on:
- You lose if you’re not leveraging the steady stream of data about your current and potential customers coming at you from multiple sources.
- You’re going to get bombarded with pitches from vendors that promise to collect all that data for you in slick, easy-to-use dashboards (often with price tags to match).
Yes, technology is part of the equation and a tech stack to match that is essential.
But how do you get where you need to be, data-wise, without getting stuck in a bad technology investment?
For starters, most CRM (customer relationship management) technology conversations start at the wrong place – talking about the extensive features and what the platform or technology can do. At the end of the day, yes, a CRM promises to make it easier for you to create the two-way connection with those people who fuel your venture.
It’s important to take a step back and talk about the approach you can use to keep the business objectives of your organization front and center.
In this article, you’ll discover an executive overview of how CRM (customer relationship management) systems fit into your organization, whether you’re a for-profit or non-profit enterprise.
What is a CRM?
In its simplest form, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy is the technology and workflow that lets you hear from your customers, build relationships, and identify continued ways to drive value.
When done right, it shows you details about your customer beyond the revenue (sales) numbers from your CFO. It also pinpoints customers so you can connect with a segment of your customers or with specific customers.
Your CRM gives you the access you need to make that ‘return connection’ to have a meaningful exchange.
Contrary to some leaders’ beliefs, CRMs are not just for the sales teams. When deployed correctly, the provide visibility across the entire organization, giving insight to key parts of the customer journey and experience.
What this means in our companies
In a diner, that connection can be made when the owner of the shop works the cash register. In larger organizations, it can be the summary dashboard you get from your Chief Marketing Officer about website traffic or Instagram followers that turn into customers as a result of a purchase on your ecommerce storefront. You learn what brought them there, what and who they interacted with, and what demographic and psychographic information completes their profile.
But this simple example gets complicated fast – which is why many CRM strategies fail. They’re simply built on all of the widgets and features of a platform, rather than a strong foundation of CRM strategy, selection, and implementation.
As discussed in this HBR article, too often CRMs are used as merely introspection tools (dashboard obsession) rather than tools to create improvement in the sales process and more effectively nurture customer relationship.
From our perspective in helping clients with CRM strategy and technology implementation, it can be summarized into 3 main steps:
- Creating the process
- Selecting and designing the program
- Implementing and putting the system into practice
What to Consider Before You Begin (or Even Shift Your Current CRM Strategy)
Before you start to compare CRM systems, take the time to articulate what you and your team actually need to be able to create a stronger and sustained connection with your customers (of today and of tomorrow).
Creating a CRM strategy based on challenges, goals, and key outcomes will pay dividends from an already powerful platform. In fact, we’ve found in our experience with clients that taking this approach at the front end improves results far in the future.
Start by looking at the data
If your venture is at all digital, then you have data. The question is: Is it useful to running my business any better? Listening to your customers is always valuable, the question now is more, can you hear your customers in all the noise of the data that is available?
Be clear about your customer
It may sound remedial, but ask yourself, “Who is my customer?”
Certainly, you see sales or donor numbers regularly, but take a minute now to step back to clearly articulate where you are. Make a market map of the ecosystem where you operate. Show your customers, as well as the entities that your customer interacts with, that are not in your field. This may include your target personas, the different types of decision makers you work with, influencers of that target audience, and others who impact the overall value chain.
Determine the level of customer that matters most to you
Next agree on a definition of the atomic level of the customer that matters to you.
- Is it an individual person who purchases goods and services from you?
- Is it the company where that person works?
Choose one level of detail and stick to it as you make your next decisions.
Then, consider how your behavior will change when you hear from the customer. What decisions will your team make differently once they hear from the customer?
Pick a CRM technology and deploy it
Once you have thought through and put pen to paper on those questions, bring together your IT, Marketing, Sales and Operations teams and pick a CRM vendor based on the common rubric. (Check out Mike Mills on Technology Lifecycle Management to help you understand how far out on the cutting edge you need to be.)
A few popular CRM platforms you may consider:
However, it’s less important that you shop the platforms, and more important that you have your CRM strategy, requirements, and details outlined prior to looking at demos or exploring the technology integration and implementation.
As you configure the software to adjust to the specifics of your business, be sure to create and configure new workflows for your teams to use the data you’ll get from your customers.
Keep in mind that some of the platforms offer incredible flexibility, which can be a good thing to allow for future growth. But it can also be challenges, leading to analysis paralysis with so many options that it’s difficult for teams to make a decision or stay focused in the use case for their organization.
Implement and put your CRM strategy into practice
Use it. That sounds like an oversimplified piece of advice, but many CRM projects fail because they look at the end result, rather than the process of continual improvement and the goal of increasing use and value over time.
Commit to looking at the data and using it to make decisions.
Go through more than one cycle. A cycle can be one week or one year. The important thing is to go through your entire process more than once. The appropriate cadence to bring together the whole team to hear from your customer might be once per quarter (with the marketing and sales teams looking more often).
If you are an organization dependent on donors, you might find it useful to gather once per month to review the information from the donor management system and to follow up with letters to new and large donors.
What cadence you choose is up to you. The important thing is not to stop. Adjust at each cycle so that it meets your needs.
Taking the next step with your CRM technology
Listen to your customer. Hear them. Make decisions based on what you find. Once you collect the information and filter out the noise, you will be able to connect more quickly with your customers in ways that matter to them and to your business.
Today’s cloud computing and digital marketing tools make it easy to generate and store feedback from your customer. The challenge now is to hear the signal from the customer through the noise, to make sense of the website analytics, marketing email open rates, sales contact management and revenue numbers.
- Create a market map of the ecosystem.
- Take an inventory. What inputs from customers do you collect today? Where do you keep them? Who looks at them?
- Define your customer. What is the atomic level that matters in making better decisions?
- Gather a team of IT and business leaders in your organization.
- Pick a CRM system.
- Use it.
Reach out and schedule a chat with us.