Tag Archives: CRM Software

Customer Relationship Management Failure in VARS, Solution Providers, and Consultant Projects

5 Secrets to Protecting Your Customer Relationship Management Project  

I read a great book a while back, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution“, which I highly recommend. In this book, the authors outline 2 principle things a leader can influence when it comes to producing results; your strategy (or plan) and your ability to execute that strategy. And, contrary to what is taught, the biggest challenge is not developing the strategy but rather getting your people to execute it at the level of excellence you need. In this article, I explore various reasons why CRM software may fail to meet objectives.

CRM for many is a “Wildly Important Goal”. The idea is that CRM helps organizations be more effective and efficient in their day-to-day tasks and assists them in reaching long-term business objectives and goals. However, good processes aren’t usually defined and therefore unknown when effective. They are in some cases nearly invisible. Yet, CRM must fit the organization’s processes, which are in turn driven by the customer life-cycle (Attract, Educate, Engage, Continually Delight). And, that’s the tough thing about CRM Software sometimes for organizations to comprehend. It has as much or more to do with people (before and during) than technology long-term.

CRM is short for customer relationship management, but it’s a whole lot more than those three basic words. From my perspective, it’s a combination of methodologies and software components which help companies (all industries) build relationships with customers through organization, automation, business intelligence, synchronicity, and—most recently—social media collaboration. In essence, when approached with strategy as your compass, CRM should tie together the customer life-cycle and distribute it across the integrated teams and every function of your business.

The Failure Points and Secrets for Consideration in Customer Relationship Management 

In 2014, just over half of executives felt their CRM changes were gener­ally successful. In 2004, 41 percent rated their CRM projects a success, according to the 2014 Merkle study “Custom­er-Centric Transformation: Five Ways to Leading Successful Change.” What’s disconcerting is that assessments of CRM initiatives haven ‘t improved much over the past decades. Having been in the industry since 1997, here are my brief thoughts on why this may still be an elusive goal for many.

1. Have the Leadership to Define Goals and Requirements 1st

Failure Point: I have been involved in hundreds of software selection projects over the years. And, this is common scenario. Organizations are so “fired” up about finding a solution to their problem “the easy button approach” that they do not take the time either internally or via an external resource to define what success means to them for this project. In other words, when posed with the question of whether or not you have achieved success no one truly knows what that means. A little secret, it usually means something different for each stake-holders because requirements were not defined, agree upon, prioritized, and executing the search focused on those goals as your compass.

Secret: It may seem contrary to popular opinion. But, software won’t solve the challenges you don’t know exist. In other words, failure is usually due to a lack of what constitutes success in the first place. If you do not determine earlier on what business problems the CRM system must solve and the requirements needed to achieve them you will fail. Requirements are the foundation of success. They should guide your choice and clarify the “best fit”.

2. Outline Technology Needs Today and Look into the Future 

Failure Point: Technology is always changing. In the last 5 years alone, we have seen a dramatic shift in how software is packaged and deployed. That noted, it is not possible to accurately predict the future performance of your business or organization due to the unpredictable market forces in the world today. CRM systems are designed and driven by technology today. Advancement in technology leads to development of new systems that are more effective than previous models. Businesses are usually caught off guard due to lack of long-term strategies and mechanism to align their operations with the CRM as technology changes. Example: Not factoring Social CRM into requirements due to the changing business to business buying process today.

Secret: A solid cloud based solution, product roadmap, & skilled CRM consultant should help overcome this factor. A CRM system must “jell” with the skills of the organization as a whole today and future. Understanding the CRM platform road map fully even before adopting it is one step used to overcome this problem. This will in turn help you to formulate and successfully implement long-term strategies as well as streamline the adoption process. Additionally, the CRM implementation team needs to go to the ground and interact with other employees. This will help them identify various unforeseen challenges that may hamper the implementation process. Furthermore, interacting with employees will help them determine suitability of the system to the organization.

3. Know the 1st Year but don’t Fail to Budget for Ongoing Support Costs

Failure Point: This is one of the most common problems facing small, medium and large business. The cost of buying and installing a CRM platform, not to mention the cost of training your employees on how to operate it (and the time lost as they are not working at fully speed and potential) is enough to make many companies hesitant to take on the risk.
Secret: First, it is important to consider the total cost of purchasing and implementing the system when preparing your annual or monthly budget. Compare and contrast the cost of using each system before making your final decision so as to choose one that is affordable and in line with your budget. For example, choose systems whose documentation is clear and easy to understand to save money and time during the training process. Budget to continually train your staff. This is huge!

4. Realize Disruption is a huge factor in failure 

Failure Point: Not all employees will embrace the change of adopting a new CRM platform. This resistance may hurt the overall performance of your business. For example, some of the employees may feel that the system will expose some of their bad habits to the managerial team.

Secret: A project needs the right leaders to guide the project and keep it on track. Those leaders need to communicate their plans both with executives and end users.Enlightening the employees on the benefits of implementing the CRM system will help to significantly counter the passive resistance and increase employee-adoption rate. Strive to not only convince the team to embrace the change but also create and maintain their enthusiasm and desire to learn more about the system. Communication is key here. When choosing a CRM system, make sure that you not only consider the benefits but also the challenges that you might face during the adoption process. This will greatly help you choose a system that’s easy to adopt and effective in improving service delivery.

5. Right Size Your CRM To Your Needs, Don’t Over Buy 

Failure Point: CRM solutions have been on the market since the 90’s. Through the evolution from contact managers to salesforce automation many features are commoditized. It’s amazing because today new vendors are continually pushing the limits of CRM capabilities. The tribal elders of CRM are working on capabilities that differentiate them from others – like verticalized offerings such as nonprofit CRM or Real Estate CRM, offerings tuned to mobile user first like Salesbox CRM, & others tuned to Social Intelligence like Nimble CRM.

Secret: Make sure the user experiences that come “out-of’the-box” from your CRM vendor are highly intuitive; that they work on the devices and platforms used; and that they don’t impede your productivity in any way. CRM buyers need to remember that more may not be the answer. In fact, more may be detrimental to usage. What I have seen is that extra functionality without merit causes confusion and leads to lack of usage. You need to carefully evaluate vendors which are right-sized for your needs. And, you can’t do that without defining your requirements as they relate to your mission. For more elaborate information on the idea here, please read “Right Size Your CRM by Kate Leggett’s blog on Forester“.

Finally, a bonus. It is critical to monitor and measure the success of the CRM implementation on an ongoing basis. This isn’t a one and done event, but rather an ongoing process, from pre-sales through the many phases of the CRM implementation. Measuring ROI is crucial throughout the usage of CRM. In today’s increasingly competitive market, every size company and almost all industries are becoming increasingly aware of the need for CRM software to help refocus on individual relationships and maximize profitability.

Keeping all of these important secrets (not a secret anymore) in mind may improve your chances of achieving a successful CRM strategy. And, hopefully marshall your team effectively in order to avoid failure of execution. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Looking for a Small Biz CRM tool, a SmartThought review of SwiftPage ACT! Since 1997, I have been working with Customer Relationship Management software. In fact, I remember a time before the term Sales Force Automation, Customer Relationship Management, and even Salesforce.com! If you remember the Rolodex you likely recall the early days as well! We all needed a better way and thanks to many of the pioneers  like Pat Sullivan, the founder of SwiftPage Act!, and Jon Ferrara, the founder of Goldmine, we all have a better way to handle our customers today! In this article, I wanted to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit an oldie but goodie, SwiftPage ACT! Looking to replace this with CRM Software? Yes, I recall with great clarity the day when Act! Software and Goldmine Software ruled the roost in the small business software space. Knowing this, I wanted to take some time to share some thoughts on one of the oldest contact managers in the market, SwiftPage Act! which has grown into a mature sales force automation tool for small business users today. Indeed,  Act! is still considered one of the best-selling contact & customer Manager, trusted by individuals, small businesses, and sales teams to get organized and take the guesswork out of marketing to drive sales results. If you are not familiar with Act!, Act! by SwiftPage helps organize all your contacts, leads, prospects and customer details in one place. It helps market your products and services more effectively, driving sales results while creating customers for life. While it is not the right fit for everyone, I believe that SwiftPage Act! still excels in combining many features which are difficult to find in even some upperclassmen in this space.

Here the top 10 features which make SwiftPage Act! still relevant:

  • Integrated email marketing solution
  • Easy to use interface
  • No limits on the type of data that can be stored
  • Easy to use integrated word templates for communications
  • Opportunity Management is capable
  • Linking between accounts and contacts data
  • Tailoring of the system is easy
  • Integration with Word, Outlook, Gmail clients
  • Business automation with Smart Tasks
  • Your choice of deployment options (Web, Local, Hosted, Synchronization)

Certainly, there is always room for improvement! For example, it needs to incorporate more social selling signals and feeds like Nimble. I have written a review on Nimble and Nimble clearly shines in the area of social selling prowess. However, outside social selling area, it lacks the ability to handle account centric selling needs for the B to B selling environment. It does well with dealing with the “contact” centric nature of the design with the linking of fields but still isn’t the best “account” centric selling tool. These two items may or may not be applicable to you so you will need to decide. In this day of “Cloud Software“, I believe that Act! has still earned the right to be at the table if you are a small business embarking on a journey to find your first sales and marketing software tool. To be sure, SwiftPage Act! still delivers value in the age of the Cloud.   If you would like to learn more, I am a contributing author on TrustRadius. And, you may find a full review by clicking My review of Swiftpage ACT! on TrustRadius here. I will be reviewing more soon! Looking for a Small Biz CRM tool, a SmartThought review of SwiftPage ACT!

Relationships are the most important aspect of CRM Software

CRM Software is all about Relationships!

One of the oldest business adages in the book is that the customer is king. The focus on the customer is for important reasons. They are the engine that propels any company forward. Without interest from customers, the whole business falls apart. In this article, we wanted to explore several facets of CRM Software today which ultimately should help establish and maintain excellent relationships with your customers (particularly repeat customers).

The Many Flavors of CRM Today

Since 1997, I have been working with Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM). Today, the use of customer relationship management software has become even more popular as more businesses realize the usefulness of these tools to develop relationships. There are various flavors and terminology to describe CRM. For example, Social CRM led by Nimble CRM, full featured CRM for Mid to Large Organizations like Pipeliner CRM, & Customer Support Software  from firms like Zendesk are all considered customer management tools.

The Core of CRM 

But, at the heart of all of CRM options should be one basic element. And, that is developing and maintaining relationships with people! Primarily, what CRM should do is allow for businesses to create relationships, nurture them, and help their customers grow. The basic features of CRM should keep track of the interactions throughout all phases of a customers journey with your firm. It stores all of the data about those interactions and helps you to better understand the relationships that you have with your customers. In essence, contact management should begin with a single view of the past, present, and future of your interactions with your contacts.

Social Media

Beyond the basics, Social Media has required CRM to adjust and adapt a bit in recent years. As a result, Interactions with customers via social media platforms is another area for CRM software which enhances relationships. The multitude of social media platforms that are available these days may make it difficult in some respects to track every interaction with customers, but systems like Nimble CRM do help make this process easier. Interacting with customers on social media is now considered the proper way for business to use this medium, so why not log what happens with those interactions? Today, keeping track of a persons digital interactions and “social listening” to your clients before and after they buy is all capable with CRM Software. Here are a few real life scenarios:

  • A Customer Advocate representative looks up a client on LinkedIn while staying right in their web browser session, looks up their respective contact information, calls them, notices that they have been working at the firm a short while, just had a birthday (turned 45, so sad), and then begin to take copious notes on a phone call interaction about a new product inquiry to pass over to sales. They then send out an email to thank them for their time and provide the future client advocate details on your flashy new product. All of this can be done while staying on one screen! Wow!
  • Another example would be recording and viewing the types of products that a particular customer has ordered in this past. And, knowing by looking at their Social Streams that they are asking for advice on twitter about similar products you provide. You engage with them online while working in your CRM tool and connect real-time to address their concerns. You are able to solve their issues in real-time! Wow!

Certainly, this is helpful for sales and marketing opportunities, but also helps with customer service as well. The possibilities are exciting!

Predictive Marketing

As was alluded to above, Customer Relationship Management software can help with marketing as well. Some businesses have automated the process of marketing to customers entirely based on the previous experience they have had with those customers. What does this mean? Simply that the businesses allow for their software programs to tell them what the most likely next purchase is for any given customer. The programs choose this based on the data logged about that customer already.

For organizations that want to go beyond CRM and Email Marketing, you may add in marketing automation software like ACT-On or HubSpot . This additional functions will allow you to be able to enhance your capabilities even further. Rather than trying to guess what a customer may want to purchase next, these software programs allow for the possibility of predictive marketing and progressive profiling that can take the guesswork out of marketing efforts for you.

There are so many ways to use CRM today. And, these are just a few ways in which CRM may play a role in your business today.

Are there other areas you use CRM Software for today? Let us know below. Until then, please keep SmartThoughts in mind.

If you are interested, below you will find an interview with Jon Ferrara of Nimble CRM, a leader in Social CRM today.