By now, you’ve probably heard countless publications shouting the praises of CRM technology from the rooftops — but did you know that CRM systems are more fallible than most sources would have you believe? According to Scott Edinger of the Harvard Business Review, the failure rate for CRM projects is close to a staggering 90%. These failures occur for any number of reasons, a lack of CRM strategy or a poorly devised CRM strategy being chief among them. It’s a sin that businesses of all stripes commit, a fatal flaw that CRM novices and veterans alike fall victim to.
A CRM strategy, in short, sets the direction for your project. It should establish what problems you want to solve for, what your business requirements are, what your constituents need, and what metrics you intend to use to gauge success. Developing a CRM strategy should be the first step of any implementation or deployment and should come well before the research or design stages because it’s critical to the overall success of the project.
What that strategy looks like is largely dependent upon your level of CRM experience. Organizations looking at CRM products and projects fall into two camps: immature organizations and mature organizations. Though it might seem derogatory, “immature” simply describes an organization that is using a CRM for the first time. Since immature organizations are essentially going from nothing to something, they require a straightforward strategy that can be easily incorporated into their implementation project. By comparison, mature organizations are much further along in the CRM lifecycle and have a more complex setup. These organizations already have a CRM strategy, and either need to update that strategy to improve business processes or need to create a new strategy as they replace their existing platform or kickstart a deployment project.
Whether you’re an immature or mature organization, this guide will help you understand the basics of developing an effective CRM strategy for your upcoming project.
CRM Implementation Strategy 101
If you’re about to embark on your very first implementation, you’ve come to the right place; follow these tips to craft a successful CRM implementation strategy.
Set goals for your CRM strategy. It doesn’t make much sense to invest in anything without a desired outcome in mind, so think about what it is that you hope to achieve with your CRM. “Increasing revenue” or “improving customer loyalty” sound nice, but lack specificity. Once you have an overarching goal, break it down into smaller, achievable objectives and build your CRM strategy around those. Figuratively rinse and repeat as necessary.
Understand the difference between data and metadata. Metadata represents your system architecture and the way data is presented to your end users. In simpler terms, metadata is data about data that is used to determine the quality and value of the data you’re feeding into your CRM. Poor quality data leads to poor insights and poor decision-making, which is why metadata is so important.
There are multiple types of metadata, including guide metadata, technical metadata, process metadata, and administrative metadata — however, for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on structural metadata and descriptive metadata.
Structural metadata refers to metadata that is used to organize objects. One example of structural metadata is whether you segment your data by companies, the people who work at those companies (e.g. an Account/Contact model) and/or by consumers (e.g. a Person Account model); businesses that engage in both B2B and B2C selling typically employ both of these models within their CRM. Structural metadata is integral to your overall system architecture.
Descriptive metadata refers to metadata that is used to search and locate objects. For example, you can use descriptive metadata to help determine the quantity of phone number fields on a Contact record. In this example, you would have to decide whether you only needed to track office phone numbers, or mobile phone and fax numbers, too, and consider the downstream implications of this decision. If you intend to one day implement the functionality to send mass texts to your customer base, the ability to target mobile numbers is critical, so that field should be included on your Contact record.
Keep it simple. It can be tempting to build custom objects and fields right out of the starting gate to support granular use cases for your system, but it’s in your best interest to resist that temptation. The best CRM implementation strategies begin with the development of the minimal viable product, which administrators gradually add on to after listening to end user and line of business feedback to support smart growth.
Start by applying this principle to your data model. If your CRM is initially going to be used by your sales team, focus on building the Lead, Account, Contact, and Opportunity objects and save Products, Price Books, Quotes, Contracts, and so on for future releases.
Next, apply it to your record page layouts. Don’t add a hundred different fields to your record pages just for the sake of it. To go back to the sales team example, it might seem like a good idea to add a field for “First Child’s Birthday” to a Contact record page because it can help your sales representatives apply a personal touch when selling, but realistically, this field will go unused and simply add to the technical detritus of your system. When building record page layouts, focus on the basic firmographic and demographic data points that will be critical to contacting and understanding the market potential of your customer data.
It’s also in your best interest to use process automation judiciously. Don’t rush to build automation workflows to update fields, send emails, execute custom logic, and so on. Slowly break in your CRM and give your pilot users the time to adjust to it by building automation workflows for only the highest priority processes to start, such as sending an automated update email to a customer when a new case has been created so that they know when to expect a response.
Think like an end user. A CRM implementation isn’t really complete until you’ve walked through the system you built and inspected everything through the lens of one of your end user constituents. If the system isn’t designed to seamlessly integrate into their day-to-day processes or doesn’t adequately meet their specific needs, it’s time to reconsider your CRM implementation strategy.
CRM Strategy Honors
Compared to immature organizations, most mature organizations are interested in more than just a simple CRM strategy — they want a strategy for their entire technology footprint, of which a CRM strategy is a key component. For example, a mature user might want a strategy that starts by focusing on marketing automation integration and then moves into CRM strategy with sales and quoting. The next stage of that strategy might then extend to the organization’s ordering documents and ERP system, and so on and so forth.
As mentioned above, most mature organizations don’t necessarily need to build a strategy from scratch, but rather revise their existing strategies to ensure that they meet today’s needs, as well as future needs. Make your existing CRM strategy more effective by following these tips:
Think of the bigger picture. Your CRM isn’t a standalone system, but just one piece in the mosaic that is your system architecture. Keep this in mind when developing your CRM strategy and act accordingly: Consider how your deployment will affect different departments within your organization, notify your constituents of impending changes well in advance, and integrate your deployment with other systems in your architecture so it operates seamlessly.
Make sure your data is up to date. Trying to get accurate insights from outdated data is a fool’s errand. When piecing together your CRM strategy, include measures to evaluate the quality of the data entering your system to ensure the overall quality of your data estate.
Keep strategy in focus with documentation. The byproduct of strategy is process. Once you’ve put your strategy into motion, be sure to create detailed process documentation to support future adherence to that strategy and direction.
Create a center of excellence. If not consistently reinforced, constituents can drift away from strategy over time, causing silos to develop. A center of excellence — in this case, a team assembled for the express purpose of providing strategy-related leadership and training and enforcing best practices — can steward end users to keep strategy in focus and their eyes on the prize.
Strategize With VennScience
Working with a consultant can reduce much of the stress and confusion around creating a CRM strategy and put you on track to succeed. At VennScience, we offer two strategy session options to help organizations develop a comprehensive CRM implementation or deployment strategy — one that focuses on deliverables, price, and timeline and one that takes a design phase approach. We work with customers to tailor the approach and outcomes of our strategy sessions to meet their business and technology needs.
If you’re ready to create a comprehensive CRM implementation strategy or technology footprint strategy, contact VennScience today to start a conversation.